What is Real Time Marketing?

uberpedicab2At this years SXSW in Austin there were many interesting themes and announcements. Google Glasses (Awesome), Dave Grohl hating the name of his own band (whatever), and using Uber to pay for pedicabs (when it worked). There were also a whole bunch of apps (Thread being the most useful, and Hater being my favorite). But, for me, the theme that seemed to come up in multiple panel discussions this year was Real Time Marketing (RTM).

Now RTM isn’t new, we’ve been talking about it since the 90s, though as digital and social marketing has evolved so has its meaning. More than a decade ago it referred simply to strategies and tools for targeting consumers via CRM with contextual offers. I would argue that then the term “Real Time” was a bit of a misnomer. Success was limited by the accuracy of the data acquired or provided by the consumer and there was little opportunity to keep that data fresh over time or interact.

Today, when we talk about Real Time Marketing we’re really talking about using digital and social media to engage in conversations with customers and brand advocates in the moment. It’s not easy to do well and the web is filled with examples of brands tripping over each other and their customers’ sensibilities. However, there are plenty of standouts including the dated standard bearing Old Spice Campaign with Isaiah Mustafa as well as more recent efforts with Oreo and the Super Bowl, and my personal favorite Chicago Cabbie (@chicagocabbie). Boy do I wish he had been in Austin.

As brands strive for authentic conversation, there is no more prevalent source than direct communication via social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc). The best part being that engaged consumers are delivering their attention to brands rather than having them fight over it. The opportunities for serendipitous consumer engagement are limitless. For example: I mentioned that I was unable to get a cab using Uber while I was in Austin. The app simply told me time and again that no cabs were available. This was particularly frustrating when I tried to get a pedicab and I could see available pedicabs (but could only use my credit card to pay them through Uber). This could have been the end of my interaction with the brand, but then I received the following email.

UBER

Did this get me to my location any faster? No. Did it make me feel a bit better about the brand and likely to use them again? Absolutely. More importantly, this entire interaction was automated!

Whether brands are using RTM to engage potential customers on their own terms or to not lose a customer after a less than successful interaction, marketers have never had more avenues for communication at their digital fingertips then they do today. Finding your audience and taking proper advantage of the right tools at the right time, now that’s a conversation for another blog post.