Marketers all over the world are engaging in content marketing because that’s what works via the channels people use today, whether they’re mobile, digital or social media. Content marketing means providing useful, relevant information to target audiences wherever they are taking a few minutes to browse, surf or seek entertainment.
What many marketing organizations forget, however, is that the “when” is just as important as the “what” and the “where” in content marketing. If you take too long to produce content, you’re delivering brilliant material long after the last viewer has departed. Think of it as that regretful moment you think of a perfect come-back three hours after an argument has ended.
In a recent article for Huffington Post, Abbi Whitaker invoked Apple’s legendary marketing guru Regis McKenna’s definition of “real-time marketing.”
“Writing about the trend in Harvard Business Review in 1995 — long before the emergence of social media — McKenna suggested that close communication between brands and their customers, driven by technology, could dramatically increase the pace at which new products are developed and radically improve their adoption,” she wrote.
So how do you do “real time” content marketing? Clearly, marketers need to know how to effectively use today’s communications channels (which change frequently) and think about their relationship with customers in new ways. It’s not about producing clever Tweets related to current events on the spot. It’s helpful to think of “real-time content marketing” as a strategy that’s based on getting useful information into the hands of customers — and prospective customers — before they even know they need it, according to Whitaker.
“That requires personalization in real time, or at least something close to real time,” she wrote. “What’s the customer’s history? What are they doing at this very moment? Are they signed on as members or are they just visiting the Web site? It requires delivery of personalized messages shaped to meet the needs of the customer, wherever in the customer lifecycle they may be.”
Marketers should be asking themselves, how can we deliver powerful content to target audiences or customers right now, in this moment, when we know what’s going on with them. What is the customer shopping for on the Web site? Has a warranty just expired? Is there a power outage in his or her area? What’s the best opening to use in approaching that customer? And who should be the eyes that watch? Analytics can help, but real humans are required.
“To be effective, real-time content marketing requires a live presence that’s paying attention,” wrote Whitaker. “It requires a shift from the broadcast kind of thinking where a message is fired into the market, then goes out for a long lunch while waiting for customers to respond. It may even require empowering staff members to make faster decisions more often on behalf of your customers.”