A Real-Time Mind-Set for Marketing

by   |   May 21, 2013 4:19 pm   |   0 Comments

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott

When I speak with executives around the world about social, many think of their kids’ Facebook or Twitter and what you had for lunch, deciding that social is frivolous at best and a dangerous time-waster at worst.

But social business is not just about social media. In discussing enterprise marketing strategy, I recommend not using the word “social” at all and instead substitute “real-time.”

An immensely powerful competitive advantage flows to organizations with people who understand the power of real-time information.

What are people doing on your website right now? Has someone just praised you on Facebook? Panned you on Twitter? Published a how-to video about your product on YouTube?

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Executives understand real-time. And they are eager to implement real-time ideas.

Conventional vs. Real-Time
The conventional business approach to marketing favors a campaign (note the war metaphor) that requires people to spend weeks or months planning to hit targets. Agencies must be consulted. Messaging strategies must be developed. Advertising space and time must be bought. Conference rooms and refreshments must be prepared for press conferences. Do you serve them sushi or sandwiches?

The real-time mind-set recognizes the importance of speed. It is an attitude to business (and to life) that emphasizes moving quickly when the time is right.

Three Tactics for Real-Time Engagement

1. Connect with customers now.

Finding ways to interact with customers on a regular basis and in real time is something of an art form. But if you have the right creative approach social media can now make communication instant, easy and free.

Albion Cafe in Shoreditch, London, sends a tweet (@albionsoven) when baked goods come fresh and hot from the oven. Example: Fresh coconut cake.

Locals subscribe so they know exactly when to pop over.

2. Develop a real-time communications policy.

Develop an effective code of real-time communications and proactively embed it throughout your organization. Guidelines mean employees know they have the freedom to communicate in real time when the opportunity arises. Train it, demonstrate it, discuss it and review it until this becomes second nature to everyone. Have your people internalize it as deeply as the instincts that tell them when it’s safe to turn left at a traffic light (or right if they’re Brits).

IBM’s code is called “Social Computing Guidelines.” The purpose is to provide rules to help employees engage the marketplace and customers in real time—effectively and responsibly.

“A big part of being engaged in the community is feeling comfortable with what you can say and what you can’t say, so we wanted to establish the boundaries,” says Tim Washer, who headed social media for IBM when the guidelines were developed. “If you identify yourself as an IBMer, then you need to adhere to the guidelines. The guidance we offer is that, if you give perspective on a topic that has something to do with IBM, we want you to speak as an IBMer.”

3. Enable real-time technology.

To support real-time business, you need technology infrastructure every bit as sophisticated as a financial trading floor. When well-integrated into an appropriate technology backbone these modules work together to feed the dashboard that your marketers, PR professionals, salespeople, and executives use every day.

Developing a real-time mind-set is not an either/or proposition. I’m not saying you should abandon your current business-planning process. Nor do I advocate allowing your team to run off barking at every car that drives by. Focus and collaboration are essential.

Large Organizations Need to Work at It
The more people you have in an organization, the tougher it is to communicate in real time. In a command-and-control environment where no action can be taken without authority, without consultation, without due process, any individual who shows initiative can expect to be squashed.

The challenge is to develop a new balance that empowers employee initiative but offers real-time guidance when it’s needed—like a hotline to higher authority.

In a real-time corporate culture everyone is recognized as a responsible adult.

If you’re the leader, and you want to cultivate a real-time mind-set throughout your organization, tear down the command-and-control mentality. Recognize your employees as responsible adults. Empower them to take initiative.

Real-Time Leadership
If you’re the leader, and you want to cultivate a real-time mindset throughout your organization, tear down the command-and-control mentality. Recognize your employees as responsible adults. Empower them to take initiative. Give them opportunities to hone their communication skills, give them clear guidelines as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Scale and media buying power are no longer a decisive advantage. What counts today is speed and agility. While your competitors scramble to adjust, you can seize the initiative, open new channels, and grow your brand.

David Meerman Scott (Twitter: @dmscott) is a marketing strategist and the author of several books including Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now.

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