When a news story breaks, where's the first place you turn for information? You probably check your social media feeds, then search major news outlets for a brief blurb about the situation. No matter what the nature of the event, you can be sure that some digital channel will have up-to-the-minute reports on the story's latest developments.
"The world has become more real-time," said Amit Avner, CEO of media-buying automation platform Taykey. "Twitter and Facebook ... move at real-time speed, both as communication channels and as news consumption applications. Breaking news typically appears first on social media before hitting traditional news streams, but media channels are increasingly adapting to real-time as well, providing shorter and more frequent news updates."
While the digital media industry has evolved to cater to the real-time, 24-7 information stream consumers expect, traditional marketing models have yet to catch up. People are now used to briefer, quicker and hyper-relevant content, but marketing is still largely planned in advance, Avner said.
"Real-time marketing can have a significant impact [by] delivering content of higher relevance at faster speed," Avner told Business News Daily. "It's an approach to marketing that's better suited for today's audiences and better performing for brands."
To truly understand how real-time marketing works, you may want to change your perception of what "marketing" entails. Email blasts and social posts that capitalize on a developing news event by making it relevant to your company can certainly be effective, but that's not the only way to use real-time communication to your advantage. Simple social media interactions with customers can be a great opportunity to make an instant impression. [Read related article: Best Social Media Marketing Solutions for Small Businesses]
"Consumers today ... have the ability to have an open conversation with the brands," said Aris Kefalogiannis, founder and CEO of Greek food product retailer Gaea. "Real-time [interactions] help you to narrow your message and enhance your conversations with customers in the most efficient way, while ... jumping deeply into each customer's unique needs. Consumers seek this dialogue with brands and tend to stay loyal to the companies who can offer this experience."
Real-time marketing isn't just a byproduct of the digital world, either. It can actually take the form of a much older, less-frequently considered form of "marketing": face-to-face conversations.
"Face-to-face interactions with customers ... get your product into their hands immediately, and you get to receive honest feedback from the people who can make or break your business," said Malcolm Stogo, founder of dairy-free dessert company DF Mavens. "We live in a very fast-paced world. Consumers want everything now, making real-time marketing a must-have for any successful business. In a world of reality TV shows and instant everything, businesses need to be ready to deliver the goods and deliver them quickly."
To make real-time marketing work for you, here are a few best practices to keep in mind.
Keep the messaging relevant and appropriate. As with any marketing campaign, you need to find the "sweet spot" of personalized relevancy. If your message is too broad and generic, consumers will see right through you. If it's too narrow and niche, you risk alienating some of your customers.
"What is relevant and important to one consumer segment might be irrelevant or even a deterrent to another," Kefalogiannis said. "Prioritize your consumer segment and create campaigns that will aim to the right consumers, without demotivating other consumer groups to join the brand."
Simple is sometimes best. Complex campaigns with too many layers can get lost in the noise. Instead, Stogo advised keeping your real-time marketing initiatives simple, but creative.
"You need inspired, creative ideas and efficient execution," Stogo said. "The campaign does not have to be super complex in order to work. It just needs to grab people's attention. Product sampling is a great opportunity for real-time marketing. When a customer is able to [try] the product before they buy it, they have a chance to figure out that they like it before investing any money."
Make it a priority. Social media was once thought of as a "nice-to-have" marketing strategy. Today, it's 100 percent necessary for business success, and Avner noted that real-time marketing is going down the same path.
"Real-time campaigns should be a part of any marketing plan, whether it's for display, video, social or mobile," Avner said. "Real-time [is a] very effective way to target today's audiences. However, it's one of the first things to go when budgets are cut, which means campaigns suffer diminished relevance and overall effectiveness. Marketers must invest time in understanding how real-time can pay off, and not treat it as 'something we do sometimes.'"