Real-time marketing isn’t just about being ready to jump during the Super Bowl blackout (Oreo) or Ellen’s Oscar selfie (Samsung). It's about building an infrastructure within marketing that allows a brand to respond to consumers—whenever, wherever, and however it’s appropriate—in a way that is both relevant and timely.
Organizing for real-time marketing also means having the tools, teams, and partners that can use up-to-the-minute data to evaluate programs and optimize marketing spend, according to Ben Locke, director of business intelligence at LivingSocial.
“It means being able to interpret data and take action based on the results in real-time,” Locke told CMO.com in an exclusive interview.
|Adobe's Super Bowl war room.|
Real time is a strategy that needs to be built into everything marketers do, said Matt Rozen, group manager for the corporate social media team at Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company). Special events, however, can call for more aggressive outreach.
For example, heading into the Super Bowl this year, Adobe, like many marketers, was thinking of ways to fit the brand into the big game’s Twitter conversations. Adobe wanted to talk to real-time marketers—the people in war rooms trying to be clever on Twitter in real-time—so the company set up its own newsroom with social media managers, creatives, copywriters, and others.
However, the team’s very first tweet had a typo in it, which spurred all sorts of chatter. In response, Adobe sent the following tweet:
Typing fast happens, especially in war rooms. pic.twitter.com/Uz3B9eAXP0— Marketing Cloud (@AdobeMktgCloud) February 3, 2014
The team then spent game time rummaging through Twitter feeds and coming up with content on the fly around commercials and what marketers were doing on their social channels. “We were actually responding to the Twitter activity being created by marketers,” Rozen said.
For example, in response to Chobani's Game Day ad, @AdobeMktgCloud tweeted:
But no matter how “on the fly” a company's real-time efforts might appear, real time takes a lot of preplanning.
“Organizing for real-time marketing takes 99 percent preparation and 1 percent of actually marketing in real time,” said David Berkowitz, CMO of the agency MRY. “The infrastructure, processes, protocols, goals, and trust all need to be established well in advance if there’s going to be any long-term success.”
Adobe’s Rozen said that while one-off efforts are great for some extra engagement, ultimately real-time marketing is an ongoing strategy, not a tactic.
“Organizations need to be set up to be able to identify and then quickly react to the ongoing, real-time discussions happening online,” Rozen told CMO.com. “This type of monitoring needs to take place, not only during events such as the Super Bowl, but every other day of the year.”
Building A Real-Time Infrastructure
LivingSocial began to adapt its infrastructure and processes for real-time spending and strategy changes almost a year ago.
“At the beginning of the year, we set budget and ROI goals,” LivingSocial’s Locke explained. “The budget and returns are based on our expected marketing spend distribution. However, in real-time marketing the expected returns in channels change quickly and our strategies have to adjust.
“You may choose to miss some of your goals or underspend in certain channels, so that you can exceed other goals and spend over budget,” he said. “To manage those decisions, you have to set up a process for continuous communications to ensure management is up to speed on how much and where you are spending.”
For LivingSocial, the first step to becoming truly real-time was developing a real-time dashboard for the marketing team. The company moved from a weekly report to this real-time dashboard, which helped it quickly identify returns on marketing spend.
At the same time, LivingSocial moved away from a last-click attribution model to a multiclick attribution model. Once the company had its tools and new attribution methodologies working in real time, LivingSocial revamped its reporting to management and set expectations.
“We dynamically manage the process and ensure we communicate strategy changes,” Locke said. “We have weekly meetings with our CMO and send out a weekly update to the entire senior team. Having a tool that enables real-time decisions and clear communications was the key to our successful transition to working in real time.”
Adobe also has taken steps toward transitioning to real-time strategies. Its social media command center, dubbed the Customer Listening Post (CLP), allows for real-time social-media monitoring and plays a significant role in the company’s ability to analyze, assess, and act on opportunities for continuous experiential improvements. Other brands, such as Dell, Gatorade, and MasterCard, have similar initiatives in place.
MasterCard's Conversation Suite.
Tips For Success
According to Michael Brenner, head of strategy at NewsCred, organizing for real time means breaking down organizational silos. The core participants need to think and act like editorial teams.
“Real time becomes the deadline and the motivating force to drive efficiency across process that was previously more aligned to the bureaucracy than to the audience,” Brenner told CMO.com.
Having an individual team responsible for real time marketing is passé, MRY’s Berkowitz added. The reality is, the entire marketing team must be real-time.
At LivingSocial, the real-time marketing team is ultimately the entire marketing team, which is comprised of subject matter experts in each marketing channel (SEM, display, and mobile) and members from the data science and business intelligence teams. Locke said that it is a true collaboration among people who understand successful strategies in various marketing channels and data analytics experts. Marketers need not spend too much time optimizing the day-to-day, he advised, because then they lose sight of longer-term strategies and objectives.
Brenner’s tip to marketers is to organize content production in a way that matches the way people consume information online. Real-time is a just a natural evolution that results from becoming customer-focused, he said.
“The data and the insights point us in the direction of producing what our audiences want, when and how they want it,” he said. “And it's up to us to give it to them. [Otherwise], we risk losing our share of the conversations that are relevant to our brand to other, more nimble sources and competitors.”
Read what the Twitterverse is saying about real-time marketing: