Marketers can now personalize messaging for consumers in ways that weren’t possible just a few years ago, but keeping communications relevant can be a challenge. To ensure efficacy, marketers need to reach customers “in the moment” and address an immediate need they are experiencing. Understanding these needs at each moment is no simple task, but traditional real-time marketing provides a solution — one where ad messaging itself is created and deployed simultaneously.
As part of PostFunnel’s Nuts and Bolts series, we’ll delve into the world of modern Martech to shed some light on tools and best practices being used by you — our fellow marketers — in your day-to-day strategies. Every month, our experts will sink their teeth into another aspect of this fascinating field, hopefully inspiring you to elevate your business through smart marketing.
What is real-time marketing?
Real-time marketing – in its traditional form, and not the trigger-based martech meaning – is advertising or marketing communications created in the moment before deployment. While truly traditional marketing uses outbound techniques and pre-defined campaigns to reach target audiences, the essence of real-time marketing is to act on-the-fly to deliver immediately relevant messaging and offers.
In practical terms, this kind of real-time marketing makes use of (a) customer-driven and (b) event*-driven data to create content that reflects an immediate context.
(* – “event” in the real-life occurrence meaning, and not the “data-first” one)
Customer-driven messaging uses market research to deploy personalized offers for specific customers in real-time. For example, if a customer has children, real-time marketing could offer dinner promotions for family restaurants or back-to-school deals in August (combining it with a specific trigger that will send a push/SMS/email campaign once the consumer “did” something is where the modern “real-time” comes in). In 2019, most marketers manage customer-driven messaging using automated processes that precisely target receptive customers.
Event-driven messaging, in this context, is content created in response to a current (real-life) event or breaking news. One of the most famous examples occurred when Oreo tweeted out an in-the-moment response during the Super Bowl’s 34-minute power outage. This single tweet generated widespread attention from Super Bowl audiences, highlighting the potential for social media to resonate with customers. Unlike customer-driven messaging that relates to specific offers, event-driven messaging works best for high-funnel brand-building.
Why is traditional real-time marketing important?
In both customer and event-driven formats, this form of real-time marketing is one of the most dynamic ones available.
When it comes to customers, old-fashioned marketing uses market research to generate customer profiles that reflect a broad customer audience. Thanks to modern technological capabilities, market research can be far more precise and target the “audience of one” within an exact moment.
In terms of events, real-time marketing can be far more reactive than traditional advertising. While brands previously created messaging in advance of major sporting events or film releases, our delivery capabilities are so advanced that it’s possible to react in a matter of seconds. This dynamic lets brands respond to unexpected events or create new messaging for planned campaigns that didn’t unfold as expected.
What tools and resources are needed to support traditional real-time marketing?
This kind of Real-time marketing generally requires fewer resources than a regular advertising campaign. While most customer-driven initiatives will require some degree of data collection and management, most deployments are innately tied to social media delivery systems. These platforms let brands spread messaging organically to the broadest possible array of users and — as a bonus — are commonly integrated with existing all-in-one marketing suites.
Some useful examples of marketing tools that support lead generation and social deployments include:
- Hubspot, thanks to its complete marketing suite that features built-in social media tools.
- Socedo, for its ability to link social media profiles with pre-defined buyer personas.
- Audiense, which can discover and track audiences for lead generation purposes
What are the benefits of real-time marketing?
When your event-driven messaging is both well-written and well-timed, it can have seemingly limitless viral appeal, generating high engagement and brand awareness in the process. Oreo’s Super Bowl post is a prime example of a simple piece of real-time marketing content that spreads organically in the right circumstances.
Precise audience targeting
When customer-driven messaging is delivered in “true” real-time, it ensures that personalized marketing is even more relevant to the user. Time-based deployments are yet another tool to reach your customized “market of one.”
Increases brand reach, awareness, and authenticity
While real-time event-driven messaging is generated on the fly, there isn’t always a need to tie it to a specific product or service. Instead, marketers benefit when they can extend their reach to create high-level awareness of a brand. After all, an on-the-fly deployment approach combined with real-time relevance can develop a sense of authenticity that might be disrupted by an immediate sales offer. By extending your reach, however, you gain new followers who can be targeted by customer-driven messaging at a later date.
What are the challenges of traditional real-time marketing?
For all its benefits, this form of real-time marketing is not always easy to adopt and implement. Many challenges exist that can create obstacles for an unprepared marketing team.
Customer-driven messaging requires extensive data access and infrastructure to know which offers will be the most relevant for a given customer. For most businesses in 2019, this takes the form of an automated pipeline that checks customer information from a database to create personalized content. Unfortunately, the algorithms powering these systems can backfire spectacularly, such as when one automated campaign congratulated a user of a pregnancy that hadn’t occurred.
Needless to say, human context and oversight are still important considerations alongside data management skills.
Matching marketing with inventory
If you’re running the marketing team for a clothing brand and red dresses are in this season, it stands to reason that you should promote red dresses. But, this only helps your brand if they have red dresses to sell. If there isn’t enough inventory to match real-time demand, you risk frustrating and losing potential customers.
Brands that sell physical products should consider linking real-time deployments to inventory whenever possible to assure customers that an offer is valid. Failing to do so defeats the purpose of relevant messaging.
When event-driven real-time marketing succeeds, it succeeds on a grand scale that trends with global audiences. Unfortunately, this level of engagement is quite rare. The previously-mentioned Oreo Super Bowl post, for example, was lightning in a bottle that many brands tried to replicate the following year. Unfortunately, without a blackout event to rally around, none of the efforts were especially memorable.
At its best, event-driven messaging creates an immediate high-funnel impact, but you can’t rely on it for long-term value. Marketers should ask themselves when a thoughtful and considered deployment is more appropriate than a quick and responsive message. In the former scenario, real-time marketing might not be the appropriate answer at all.
In a world where smartphone and web technology let us reach customers anywhere, true real-time marketing is a natural development. Yet as our Nuts and Bolts series implies, real-time capabilities are just one tool available to modern marketers. As we move into a new decade, marketers will need to utilize each strategy to leverage the full potential of diverse global audiences. The only question is whether we are up to the challenge!
Join us next month for our final Nuts and Bolts where we’ll look ahead to the potential marketing innovations of the future.