Why just-in-time trumps real-time for marketing efficiency
As content marketing ramps up, brands weigh just how timely they really need to be.
Real-time marketing is exciting because it's reactionary, but it can also be rife with pitfalls. These days, marketers are just as likely to bypass opportunities to tweet about whatever topic is blowing up the Internet today, instead opting for a more measured, although still timely, approach to engagement.
Just because a marketer can deliver a real-time message, this doesn't mean it should, especially if the content doesn't provide value and is unwelcome. A more efficient alternative might be to figure out when a consumer is most receptive to ads and build a strategy around this. Ultimately, it's about recognizing that with consumers now connected throughout the day, timing gains influence as a marketing tactic, challenging brands to pull meaningful insights from data.
“Every marketer wants a winning campaign, but the true competitive edge comes in playing the long game. That means understanding your customers better — in the moment and in general — and staying aligned with them as their behavior evolves,” Scott Swanson, CEO, Aki Technologies, told Marketing Dive. “Data is key here, but today it’s simply not enough to have tons of audience and customer data. The marketing advantage — whether it’s real-time, just-in-time or any-time — comes from embracing a data framework that allows you to continually build on your data and transform it into real customer insight and value.”
Just-in-time vs. real-time
Most marketers are familiar with the concept of real-time marketing, which is used to describe taking advantage of events like the Super Bowl or Oscars, news items or even M&A activity within an industry to create content and social media outreach in order to insert a brand into the conversation about the ongoing event.
The problem with real-time marketing is that it is forcing marketers to pour significant resources into creating content without a clear sense of the payoff. Accenture suggests focusing more on creating content on an as-needed basis to drive engagement might be a better alternative. The consultancy refers to this as "just-in-time marketing," which is highlighted in a recent report, “Building the Just-in-Time Marketing Organization." The benefit for marketers is more-efficient marketing.
"Our research found that marketing companies are vastly overproducing marketing content that underperforms instead of really targeting and focusing on delivering marketing that works," Rob Davis, Managing Director, Accenture Interactive told Marketing Dive. "In fact, companies that are already involved with just-in-time marketing capabilities, on average, had higher revenue growth than their peers. According to our report, 82% of companies engaging in just-in-time marketing report large efforts to minimize marketing inefficiencies in comparison to their peers at 49%.”
The shelf life of content
Accenture’s just-in-time marketing concept is somewhat different from what marketers have been calling real-time marketing, but the two are similar. Swanson said real-time tactics such as taking advantage of major cultural events like the Super Bowl are still valid as long as the marketing tie-in is logical and valid.
The key issue Accenture emphasized in the report is marketing has changed where overproduction of advertising content is now wasteful because, in what the report described as “awareness marketing,” the shelf life of content in terms of consumer relevance is much shorter than it once was.
The advice for marketers is to avoid overproducing broad brand awareness content, and instead use just-in-time marketing in order to produce “only the marketing outputs that are required, at the exact moment of customer need or latent desire, with the right message or offer that will generate a sale.”
The best content marketers, according to Accenture's research, have a couple of common characteristics including not separating digital marketing activities from traditional marketing within the organization and taking control over marketing tech. One commonality is a certain level of integration and alignment. By not separating marketing departments between digital and traditional, organizations foster integration within marketing as a whole (and ideally with sales as well). Taking control over technology within marketing doesn’t mean going outside the purview of the CIO or IT department, but instead means that CMOs and marketing department become more aligned with CIOs, IT and even business intelligence.
“When we talk about just-in-time marketing, it is not just about minimizing waste content and marketing production, but also improving the quality of the content produced," Davis said. "Essentially, creative and thoughtful content paired with efficient marketing operations can be a huge growth-driver.”
The mobile influence
The growth in mobile adoption — and the user data that comes with this — is one reason why real-time marketing increasingly seems both enticing and unwieldy.
“Mobile hasn’t changed real-time marketing as much as it has expanded its definition," Aki Technologies' Swanson said. "With mobile devices, marketers can engage in real-time events at a much more granular scale. Movie premiers, trips to the grocery store, tax season, graduation; mobile gives marketers the ability to be more precise about what events, experiences or moments they can interact with. Data around details like weather conditions and pollen count can be layered in to provide more context for a given moment.”
While mobile data offers marketers the opportunity for customer-driven relevancy, it also challenges marketers to be more strategic as to when they try to reach consumers.
“When an ad’s not welcome, the odds of engagement diminish significantly — those impressions only serve as a drain on campaign ROI," Swanson said. "To avoid burning campaign dollars, marketers need to know when consumers will be most receptive to their ads.”
Ultimately, any approach that emphasizes efficiency in an increasingly complex marketing ecosystem is moving in the right direction. Accenture's just-in-time marketing reflects many of the same core values that smart marketers have today, like a commitment to customer insight, flexibility in both strategy and infrastructure and the prioritization of analytics, per Swanson.