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Some thoughts on real-time marketing

An immensely powerful competitive advantage flows to organizations with people who understand the power of real-time information

Gone are the days when you could plan out your marketing and public relations programs well in advance and release them on your timetable. It’s a real-time world now, and if you’re not engaged, then you’re on your way to marketplace irrelevance.

“Real time” means news breaks over minutes, not days. It means ideas percolate, then suddenly and unpredictably go viral to a global audience. It’s when companies develop (or refine) products or services instantly, based on feedback from customers or events in the marketplace. And it’s when businesses see an opportunity and are the first to act on it.

Caught up in old, time-consuming processes, too many companies leave themselves fatally exposed by flying blind through this new media environment. You don’t have to be among them.

A real-time mindset

The real-time mind-set recognizes the importance of speed. It is an attitude to business (and to life) that emphasizes moving quickly when the time is right.

Developing a real-time mind-set is not an either/or proposition. I’m not saying you should abandon your current business-planning process. Nor do I advocate allowing your team to run off barking at every car that drives by. Focus and collaboration are essential.

I’m not saying you should abandon your current business-planning process. Nor do I advocate allowing your team to run off barking at every car that drives by. Focus and collaboration are essential.

The smart answer is to adopt a both/and approach, covering the spectrum from thorough to nimble. Recognize when you need to throw the playbook aside, and develop the capacity to react quickly.

Real-time business

• Act before the window of opportunity vanishes.
• Revise plans as the market changes.
• Measure results today.
• Execute based on what’s happening now.
• Implement strategies and tactics based on breaking news.
• Empower your people to act.
• Move when the time is right.
• Encourage people to make wise decisions quickly, alone if necessary.
• Make swift inquiries, but be prepared to act.
• Quickly evaluate the alternatives and choose a course of action.
• Get it done and push it out, because it will never be perfect.
• Respond to customers on their time frames.
• Engage with media at the moment they need your input.

Real-time business planning process

The conventional approach favors a “campaign” (note the war metaphor) that requires people to spend weeks or months planning to hit “targets.” Agencies must be consulted. Messaging strategies must be developed. Advertising space/time must be bought. Conference rooms and refreshments must be prepared for press conferences. Do you serve them sushi or sandwiches?

In planning ahead, marketing and PR teams commonly look back. What were we doing five or six quarters ago? What happened at the trade show last year? In doing so they ignore what’s happening right now, today, this instant.

It’s a comfortable way to work, following the plan and the process. Just do what’s expected and there is no risk of getting in trouble. By contrast, responding to events in real time is uncomfortable; it requires quick thinking and taking risks.

So why bother?

• Because now events unfold light years faster than a conventional campaign can deal with.
• Because your nimble, real-time-oriented competitor may snatch a huge opportunity from under your nose before you even notice it’s there.
• Because your company will look out of touch and clueless when a crisis hits and you have nothing to say for a whole hour.
• Because one single customer, whose broken guitar your people neglected, may rock your world.

For more, check out my latest book: Real-Time Marketing & PR

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One Comment

  1. Camille Coles
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Smart organizations have moved even faster than reacting in real-time. Instead, more and more leverag the power of predictive analytics to forcast and reap best possible outcomes of likely future scenarios. E.g. Optimisation of price and resources.

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