In the blog “Fasten Your Seat Belts: It’s Email Marketing at Warp Speed,” we described how email marketing is undergoing a sea change in response to the fast-moving real-time opportunities that are presenting themselves on the Internet. However, research shows that a lack of skills and tools is preventing a majority of marketers from conducting real-time campaigns.
Neolane and the Direct Marketing Association conducted a recent study to gauge marketers’ views and preparedness for real-time marketing. In the study, 77 percent of respondents said they believed real-time personalization was crucial, but 60 percent said they struggle to personalize content in real-time.
This, said Neolane’s Patrick Tripp, points to the fact that, while marketers want to engage with real-time marketing tactics, they cannot achieve this objective today.
The barriers that marketers said prevented them from conducting real-time marketing were:
- Complexity of systems required
- Access to real-time data
- Data privacy
- Having training in place
- Hiring the appropriate staff
Neolane’s data jibes with that of other observers. Vernon Niven of NeedTagger, for example, also sees a gap in marketers’ real-time marketing skills. Not many organizations are experts at turning real-time social data into personalized marketing and selling actions, says Niven. The problem, he explains, is that in most companies today, social data is not being mined in a systemic way to generate sales, leads and customer satisfaction. Instead, most of it is still stuck in analytics for market research, branding, PR and advertising.
Andy Roy of Experian also sees technical and data-gathering barriers that are preventing marketers from effectively conducting real-time marketing campaigns. Real-time marketing requires delivering personalized messages in response to different prospects’ interests and personas. This type of sophisticated interaction management is perceived by marketers as very technical and complicated, says Roy. In addition, he says, getting even small bits of useful customer-specific data is cumbersome.
Nova Spivack is another who sees real-time marketing as too sophisticated and cutting edge for most organizations. Keeping up with the deluge of real-time conversation across so many channels at once is a huge challenge, he says, and making sense of so much change in real-time is even harder. Even harder still is intelligently engaging with the Internet stream in real-time. New tools and techniques are needed to monitor, analyze and respond in real time, Spivack notes.
Spivack categorizes markers’ maturity level according to three stages. Weekly marketing is stage one, daily marketing is stage two, and real-time “now marketing” is stage three. Stage-three marketers are able to monitor, make sense of and engage intelligently with the Internet stream in real-time. “Stage- three marketing organizations are incredibly rare today,” says Spivack, “but they are coming.”
Andrew Eckland on ciceron.com is also skeptical about marketers’ ability to execute successful real-time campaigns. Like Spivack, he sees brands unprepared to monitor, analyze and respond to the torrent of content that’s being generated each and every minute. Moreover, organizations are not focusing on real-time marketing by putting their top thinkers, planners and execution people on the job, he says.
Real-Time Marketing Advice
Typical of the formulas pundits are offering for success in real-time marketing is Keith Messick’s four-step process on Mashable:
- Get your team and process in place
- Identify the high-level communities relevant to your brand
- Monitor the space closely
- Start generating high-quality, quick turnaround content
However, as the experts above point out, putting the tools and teams in place to perform these actions is more easily said than done. Vendors, meanwhile, are rushing to provide new tools to meet the need for real-time marketing.
Vernon Niven of NeedTagger explores in detail the current state of social media monitoring and marketing tools, concluding there are no adequate tool sets for big data mining, analysis and personalized targeting that real-time marketing requires.
“Some of my colleagues in the software industry might argue that we already have this system of record – theirs – but I disagree,” says Niven, adding, “We’re not there yet.”
A race is underway to develop these tool sets, says Niven, pointing to Oracle’s acquisitions of Eloqua and Collective Intellect and Salesforce.com’s acquisitions of Radian6 and ExactTarget/Pardot as signs that the integration of marketing automation and social media monitoring tools is occurring.
“It will take time for these products to be integrated,” says Niven, “but it’s pretty clear that real-time demand generation platforms are on the way.”
Among the vendors engaged in the real-time marketing arms race is Topsy, which also contends that traditional processes and supporting tools are not up to the task. “Brands need integrated team structures and streamlined processes that help them get messages to the right audience in real time,” says Topsy.
Thus, we see success in real-time marketing requires an organizational and technical foundation. Those marketers able to put the real-time pieces in place and become adept at the practice will win business and outpace competitors.
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Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz