How to Succeed in Real-Time Marketing

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The rise of both social media and mobile devices has enabled marketers to easily interact with customers in real time, but successful real-time marketing requires effective use of the massive amounts of customer information that can be gleaned from all channels. Petouhoff identifies two types of marketers: brand marketers and analytics marketers. Brand marketers are responsible for the creative side of the campaign; analytics marketers use data to determine the best ways to engage customers. Petouhoff emphasizes that teams need both kinds of marketers to be successful.

The key for marketers is to realize which area they excel in and focus on that, she says. And getting marketers to pay more attention to data in general is essential: “The technology [for real-time marketing] is there—now we just have to get marketers to really be excited about the data.”

Clint Poole, vice president of global marketing at Lionbridge, offers a suggestion. “[Go] beyond the one-way broadcasting of content, promotions, and offers, and [get] into having the tools to watch your customers and identify the behavior when they might be open to a conversation, and [get] down to the one-to-one outreach,” he says. “That’s what social teams are learning how to do—get away from broadcasting and use the tools at their disposal to see when a customer might be open to engagement and engaging them directly.”

To have the information necessary for successful real-time marketing, marketers need to gather data from all digital platforms to create well-rounded customer profiles. March says that crafting these profiles requires effective data sharing between channels, and Smith emphasizes that because customers are constantly bouncing from one channel to another, companies need systems that are not limited to a single channel. Meghann York, director of product marketing at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, adds that customer preferences are often changing in real time, and businesses need systems that can capture those constant changes to deliver relevant content back to customers, also in real time.

The ideal of real-time marketing is that consumers “don’t notice they’re being marketed to—as far as they’re concerned, they’re looking for something, and lo and behold there it is,” Smith says.

Poole suggests that businesses create content maps of the buyer’s journey that indicate what buyers expect on a company Web site, in a mobile experience, in a social experience, and even in an offline experience. He adds that in real-time marketing, customers are often looking to take some kind of action—the customer may be having an issue with a purchase or reservation or may simply be seeking additional information. Poole emphasizes that if marketers respond to these requests with generic content, it defeats the purpose of having a real-time, one-on-one interaction with a customer.

“Buyer behavior has changed—they’re driving the conversation on social channels [and] forcing marketers to react,” Poole says. “The brands that are doing [real-time marketing] understand really well what the overall customer experience looks like and they’re literally mapping it out—what do [customers] want on our site, what do they want from live agents, what do they want on social, and what do they want in promotions and email—they’re studying it and measuring it; they’re testing hypotheses, and they’re constantly learning.”

Product and content recommendations were one of the first ways in which companies interacted with customers in real time. Now, marketers need to be looking for ways to bring that personalized Web content to every available platform, creating a seamless experience for customers. One way is to use data from one platform to inform interactions on another platform. “A really valuable engagement with a consumer has to be cross-channel. You have to use the information you see in one channel as input into what you deliver in real time on the channel that the customer is actually on,” Smith says.

“As a customer visits you, you want to be able to deliver some suitable message—having that driven by things that are picked up on other channels is one of the best practices in the market at the moment,” he adds.

This is easier said than done. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have immense volumes of data that can be overwhelming—for this reason, companies need to use tools that filter out the important content from the noise. Smith also adds that auto-responding to consumers on social channels is a bad practice. Real-time interactions require a human at some level, and those people need easy access to the content that matters. Furthermore, companies often measure the wrong things on social media: Smith notes that in the past, companies have measured engagement on social media by counting things such as likes and comments, as opposed to using those channels to engage directly with consumers.

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