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DMA:2011 Recap – The Real-Time Revolution

Date: October, 2011 --

A survey released by the US Direct Marketing Association at its annual conference in Boston gives us an insight to the next big thing: real-time marketing. This particular report analyzes some 400 marketers’ responses to a survey seeking the latest information and insights around a company's ability to react to consumers in real-time.

According to the study, three different trends are emerging and overlapping, enabling real-time marketing to occur. First, the amazing tools that businesses may use to "listen in" to social media provide insights into consumer's wishes and aspirations and enables marketers to modify their marketing approaches and messages in near real time.

Second, data-gathering tools and marketing management software programs have developed to the point of sophistication where the marketer can quickly gather, interpret, and react with great insight and targeting ability. Where once it took a month or two to begin to modify the message in the direct mail piece for a follow-up action, it is now possible to modify the SEM campaign and the key word spends on nearly a moment's notice, not to mention the call center scripts.

Third, according to the study, the marketing profession, or at least those who are engaged in real-time marketing, has "adopted a mindset that embraces speed". From a point of view of a company's operations, the fact that personnel feel the urgency to react rather than to reflect is an important aspect of real-time marketing mastery.

How common is this practice? The survey discloses that some 55% of respondents execute real-time marketing. In short, speed is becoming a priority in marketing execution. Some companies have invested heavily in this, as disclosed in the presentation at the DMA conference by PepsiCo, which described their social media "mission control" which is in operation 24 hours a day to monitor, participate, and react to events in various social media. (Don’t panic and feel compelled to do this, by the way. PepsiCo has annual sales in excess of $57 billion.)

In a similar vein, 55% of the respondents said that they have employees who are dedicated to social media monitoring, PepsiCo being perhaps one of the more extreme examples.

Speed of response is important although companies seem to lag a bit in this area. Listening does not always seem to become action. Only some 7% of respondents react with marketing activities in less than an hour when something significant occurs in a social media venue. Some 19% react within a day and 23% within a week. Some 51% do not adjust at all to social media feedback.

An interesting example of “indirect response” grew out of the now infamous “United Breaks Guitars” movie on YouTube, where a professional musician posted a very funny movie in which he sings the story of United Airlines employees destroying his Taylor guitar and then providing him no help or compensation. 

United took a week to respond. Taylor Guitar company responded within 6 hours with a YouTube video of the President and CEO telling the public that it was a shame the guitar was destroyed since airline passengers had a Federal right to take their guitars with them on board the aircraft! Who knew? The airlines aren’t about to tell you this.

Part of the reason for this lack of reaction may well be that most companies have not determined how to make money from social media. Only 14% of respondents said that they had done so.

In part this may be a failure to invest in some of the new analytical tools, as reflected in the fact that 58 percent of respondents do not have the ability to instantly and automatically assess and segment customers on the basis of personal or business information. Clearly, some investment must be made to create that capability.

Which media worked the best for data capture in real-time? Surprisingly, 53% of the respondents said email is the best with social media listening a close second at 52%. Cookies are used quite widely and 42% of the respondents said these provided important real-time information, despite being the recent target of privacy watchdogs in more than a few markets.

Our take away from this survey is that automated real-time marketing is still in process of development and will take more company learn-up time and investment to become a norm.

There are three parts to real-time marketing: social media engagement and data capture, automated data analysis, and targeted bespoke marketing response. While currently sophisticated real-time marketing is the province of major companies, primarily the brands, amazing tools for data capture and analysis are becoming more accessible and within reach of smaller companies.

The future for this practice looks extremely bright. However, don't forget that we're talking about major amounts of data and the need for accurate and timely delivery of messages to your customers and prospects. If you don't hit the target, you get a zero. Data Services will help you keep your scores up.

For a copy of the survey report, go to “Real-Time Marketing’s Moment.” 

We’d like to thank all our old and new friends/colleagues who visited our booth in Boston. Be sure to check out Data Services’ Events Calendar to stay up to date with our presence at future events and Contact Us to get in touch and/or schedule a meeting.