This is both an exciting and treacherous time for real-time marketing. It's exciting because the playbook is being rewritten daily, as the availability of data increases the opportunity to connect at just the right moment in the just right manner with just the right people. That said, it's also a treacherous time because do any of these things with blunt instruments, and brands risk coming across as invasive, insensitive or just plain stupid.
RTM Success in 2014
The fact that both of these examples are from long-existing quick service restaurants is not accidental. These two brands see social media as a battleground for the hearts and minds of Millennials, an essential target. In fact, the broadly defined fast food category is a treasure trove rich with RTM success stories, including several from Taco Bell, Starbucks and McDonald's. Notably, both McDonald's and Taco Bell have teams dedicated to listening for complaints in real-time and feeding this information back to the store level to address issues as they occur.
RTM Success in 2015
As part of my presentation during this week's SMT webinar on RTM, I shared this ridiculously over-simplified acronym for how to approach RTM in the world of maximum data. R = relevance, T = teamwork and M = emotion, with the overall mission of helping brands prepare for spontaneity. That notion of preparation, by the way, is over-arching. RTM success is anything but a random stroke of luck. As golfer Greg Norman put it, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."
R = Relevance
Success in RTM is dependent on the brand's finding a relevant reason to enter a conversation. When a brand can't find that connection, then the efforts typically fall flat, being perceived as inauthentic "newsjacking." Authenticity, by the way, is earned, not given - brands can't just be witty once and then go back to the hard sell. Denny's is a great example of a consistently witty brand that seems to be in-the-moment all the time.
Importantly, another R to consider is Restraint - just because you can say something, doesn't mean you should. Given more data and the opportunity to be relevant, getting a bit too personal can come across as just plain creepy.
T = Teamwork
RTM is best played as a team sport. You'll need a newsroom (or an agency partner that has one) to listen for relevant happenings. You'll need a clever copywriting team to develop responses. Customer service needs to be involved, because there is no point in approaching RTM without operational real-time customer service. You'll need an analytics team to monitor what's working and what's not, plus software to provide real-time alerts when problems arise. As a whole, the team needs to rehearse, practicing the whole process from identification to response to follow-up response. Importantly, the team should also rehearse a disaster, following a written plan of attack.
M for eMotion!
The point of all of the above is to make a connection with a prospect or customer that is way out of the ordinary. Even something as simple as responding to a customer complaint in real-time is an emotional experience. Keep in mind that the complainer is often very, very angry. Empathy is paramount in this situation.
The brighter side of RTM is surprise and delight. While we humans always appreciate a free gift or a helping hand in a moment of need, there's nothing like a quick laugh to brighten one's day. Sure, data can play a role here, but only in so much as it identifies the opportunity and measures the impact of the connection made. The ultimate success of RTM remains dependent on the subtle determination of what is funny versus what is inappropriate, what is relevant versus what is superfluous.