Many businesses wrestle with the notion that they do not have the marketing and analytics power to execute real-time marketing campaigns. In large part, resistance to real-time initiatives stems from the common misconception that all real-time efforts are reactionary. There is a persistent fear among marketers that real-time operations are an unachievable standard that many companies are not equipped to handle. This is especially prevalent among companies that lack a large, dedicated marketing staff, which is common for small businesses.
Often times, SMB owners wear many hats within their companies. In these cases, the owner is responsible for leading the marketing department; a big undertaking for a person that likely lacks the time, expertise and resources to establish real-time marketing campaigns.
Despite these roadblocks, small businesses can easily embrace real-time marketing with strategic planning. That’s because real-time marketing is actually a technical practice that marketers can anticipate and plan for. While marketers should always strive to respond to consumers in real-time, much of the necessary analysis can happen well before interaction occurs with help from triggers and programmatic execution. With proper preparation and data, small businesses can bolster their campaigns with real-time capabilities that better engage consumers.
Here are four proven steps for real-time marketing success:
Step One: Create a Marketing Plan
Before marketers ever connect with customers, they need to know who their typical prospect or customer profile is, what messaging they will deploy and how they are looking to engage with their audience. By understanding your most loyal customers and segmenting them according to demographics and online behaviors, marketers remove much of the guesswork from real-time capabilities. Creating a helpful marketing plan starts with knowing who you are marketing to.
When marketers understand their target audience, they can remove a good deal of the noise that clutters real-time social channels. Marketers that track these attributes online and overlay B2B and B2C data gain an even deeper understanding of their customers. This means that they can achieve stronger interactions with the consumers that matter most.
Step Two: Define the Sales Funnel
After locating the best customers, marketers have to be intentional about determining each prospect’s position within the sales funnel. However, to do so, marketers have to first define what their business funnel looks like.
To create the sales funnel, marketers must ask themselves what the typical buying cycle looks like for their customers. How long after visiting the site do they make a purchase? How many points of contact does it take to actually get them to go to the site in the first place? Consumers who are at-market should be treated differently than those who are not.
Additionally, every line of business within a company requires a unique sales funnel. Once the funnel has concrete structures, marketers can begin to place target audiences within them, altering messaging and channel preferences accordingly.
Step Three: Plan Your Creative Strategy
With the sales funnel defined, marketers should then create content to support every stage of the funnel. This creative strategy should include mediums like email, display ads, direct mail, search engine marketing and landing pages for remarketing efforts.
Creative content should serve to motivate prospects to the next stage of the funnel. For example, marketers can motivate customers that have abandoned their shopping carts to complete their purchase by sending them creative content, such as a promotional coupon.
Step Four: Reach out in Real-Time through Multichannel Campaigns
The work does not stop once a marketer has established creative for all stages of the funnel. In order to fully leverage today’s communication networks, marketers have to develop multichannel campaigns that interact with consumers at many touch points. By looking at the results of previous campaigns and identifying which channels performed best for each type of customer along the funnel, marketers can reach the right prospects, with the right content, at the right time.
Marketers should use retargeting to engage consumers in real-time, even after they have left a retailer’s site. Here, display ads or emails can extend your content beyond initial interactions. Do not forget about direct mail, either. Although direct mail is often overshadowed by digital avenues, it actually has the highest open rates and impression value with consumers.
The key to real-time marketing is preparation. Foresight is invaluable, and marketers should have their strategy in place well before then. If this is not possible, do not hesitate to partner with a third-party vendor for support.
Successful real-time marketing can help businesses large and small get to the next level of business growth. With a little forward thinking and a structured method for responding, any business can better understand target audiences, track sales cycles and implement real-time marketing campaigns.
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By Amit Khanna, President of Small and Medium Business Solutions at Infogroup.