Fishing for compliments with real-time marketing on the web
BY DOUGLAS ELDRIDGE
Customer Experience (CX) is a hot topic right now. There are countless articles online about the buyer’s journey, the customer’s journey, the customer experience and how vital these topics are to today’s business climate. As the “Age of the Customer” progresses and consumers have more power than ever before, they have to scream from the mountaintops about their dissatisfaction (or, more preferably satisfaction) due to the ease and the ability of moving their business elsewhere, so every department within an organisation should consider themselves customer-focussed and resolute to solving every problem satisfactorily. The process begins before a customer has even become a customer, and that’s why marketing is where CX begins and why communicating on your prospects’ terms in real time is key.
When a prospect finds that they have a need for something they have entered the customer-experience journey, whether they know it or not. Even before a prospect is aware of solutions or companies that can provide those solutions, they are as much a part of a customer experience as the person who is actually a paying customer. If a prospect realises they have a need and is already aware of your reputation, then that is either all the better for you or all the worse. They likely won’t choose you because they’ve heard of you, but they certainly won’t choose you if they’ve heard of you for the wrong reasons or, worse yet, if they’ve never heard of you.
‘Real-time marketing’ is a fancy term, but it is often not as fancy as marketing technology vendors would have you believe. The truth is, all marketing is real-time. When you press ‘Publish’ on your blog or give away a brochure at an event, that’s happening right now. When someone reads a piece of evergreen content that they found via a related keyword search they’re reading it in real time. As a company your reputation precedes you, and your marketing team is the gatekeeper of your reputation.
Considering all of your marketing efforts as real-time will help in the long run, and marketing, especially online marketing, is a long-term strategy. However, relevant content is only part of a real-time strategy. Let’s take a look at what real time also means today and a few solutions to communicate in actual real time.
Real-time marketing is marketing to the right person at the right place at the right time. There are tools and strategies available to help with all three efforts. Orchestrating them is what makes real time effective. The evolution of real time has been as brisk as any technology, and while real time used to be mainly a social media effort, it is now a means to actually communicate right now. Beacon technology and geofencing, for example, actually make it possible to market to people who are in a particular location at a particular time.
Beacon technology is widely used in stores to alert patrons of offers on a product that they’re near or to offer coupons when they walk by certain items. Geofencing allows marketers to market to people in a geographical Wi-Fi zone, so that when someone enters a retailers parking lot they can already start sending notifications to customers or, better yet, can even fence an area around a competitor and give yourself a competitive advantage. These are both true real-time marketing techniques, and while they require significant strategy and infrastructure to properly pull off, this is what companies in the retail space in particular should be aspiring toward.
Social media was the original real-time marketing technique. On February 2013 the Oreo Cookie brand’s social media managers looked ingenious with their “You Can Still Dunk In the Dark” real-time campaign. The power went out during the Super Bowl at the Super Dome in New Orleans. Due to a tightly orchestrated team working in a war room environment, they were able to deliver a tweet that was retweeted 15 thousand times in the first hour after it was published alone and is still famous over five years later. Today, that tweet would likely compete with a thousand similar ones.
While social media has become a noisy place for marketers, it has evolved into a real-time platform for customer service. When someone opens a pack of Oreos and finds the cream centre missing, their tweet, which is sure to be seen, will be directed straight back to Oreo. By having a team of professionals ready to offer apologies and discounts, brands have a fighting chance of staying ahead of the storm that even a small mistake can cause.
Has social media moved from the marketing department to the customer service department or has marketing moved to customer service? The answer is both. Today, everyone in a company doubles as a marketer. Both consumer and company are armed with a set of tools to communicate together in front of a mass audience. It used to be that if a customer problem wasn’t solved satisfactorily the aftermath would go no further than a strongly worded letter and ranting to immediate family and friends. Today, a consumer can let their entire network of present and former friends along with throngs of followers they’ve never met know exactly how they were treated, even if it’s not that exact.
Perhaps even more dangerous to companies are consumer reviews which are weighted more heavily during consumer research than anything a company can produce. Consumers can review a company on various sites on the internet and it doesn’t matter who they interacted with or what their circumstances are, if they are unhappy it’s more likely that a consumer will submit a review than if they are happy. By thinking of every interaction as a real-time marketing campaign, whether you are in customer support or product engineering, the reputation of your company will be sound.
Getting everyone on board with this real-time marketing strategy is easier said than done. It’s not as easy as just telling everyone to interact politely (although if common sense prevailed and everyone did it would solve some issues), an ability to implement any marketing strategy requires the proper tools to pull it off. Since the entire company is involved with customer experience, unifying software that de-silos a company is necessary. Everyone in every department should have access to the same information and be privy to the broad, overarching marketing and communication strategy so that they can feel confident that they are delivering the right message at the right time.
That does not mean that the legal and logistics departments should use the same software. It also doesn’t mean that a mass email is adequate. What it means is that beginning with marketing technology, which should begin with a means to manage content, a company should be able to integrate relative software together no matter which department owns it. For example, marketing is most closely aligned with sales and customer support, but they don’t all need the same information to do their jobs well. Customer support needs more product-specific material while sales needs more high-level content. Customer support needs a customer-supporting platform that will allow them to track tickets while sales needs a CRM. Marketing, in the middle, needs to be able to communicate with both. An integration that supports all three, and ideally more, is therefore required for a truly unified and unsiloed customer experience.
Real time is the right time for stellar customer experience, but the methods, tools, and strategies are all over the place. By thinking of every marketing strategy as real-time and starting with tools that unify a company before expanding into tools that allow for real-time communications, you’ll set your company up for an excellent customer reputation.
Douglas Eldridge has worked in marketing/communications since 2003. He has worked for both global communication and software companies as well as start-up marketing agencies including Revenue River Marketing, PR Newswire, Agilent Technologies and censhare AG.
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