3 principles of realtime interaction in an Always On culture

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realtime marketing

It’s remarkable how quickly the Always On culture has established. It’s insinuated itself within our lives to the point people often remark they cannot remember what they did or how they coped before it. Social and Mobile are, of course, at the heart of its meteoric rise. The adoption of both as ‘must-haves’ in our lives has changed the way we, as individuals, behave.

As a consequence it has also changed our expectations. Urgency and immediacy are the expected norm. Like much in modern life we want things now. The big difference is that the new channels have given the consumer a voice. The relationship between brands and people has changed. The message – controlled by the brand – has now become a conversation, with the individual exerting more influence than perhaps is comfortable for brands. Brands need the individual. They must work together in collaboration. And that’s not the future, that’s now.

Shifting the approach

So, if the behaviour of the comsumer has changed, has your brand adapted and followed suit? Sadly, brands are often hippos to the consumers’ gazelle when it comes to changing behaviour. Look at mobile: consumer use has reached a hygiene level and many brands are still discussing the need for a mobile-friendly site.

What’s needed is a shift in thinking from top to bottom through your organisation. We can’t keep doing things the old way.

Here are three principles to consider…

1. Understand the moments that matter for your audience

Success in business stems from having a clear idea of who is your intended audience and what need your product or service fulfils. That concept extends throughout your company whether it’s Sales, Marketing, product development or customer service.

Regardless of your department, you need to answer the questions: Who, what, where and when? Who is your customer? What do they need/want? Where will you find them and when do they need you?

To be particularly effective in this ‘Always-On’ culture, you have to understand the moments that matter for your audience – when is it they need your product or service (or those of your competition)? If you can deliver at that time, you’ll develop / strengthen the relationship between the customer and your brand. Likewise, fail at that moment and the customer will be gone.

Let’s consider Product. In this case, for an insurance company. As the brand I may think that I should simply replicate my desktop site onto a mobile site, complete with its homepage sales messages. However, as a consumer visiting via my phone, am I there to buy a new insurance policy? Maybe, but unlikely – it doesn’t strike me that that is something I’d want to research on a small phone screen.

So as a brand setting it’s mobile strategy, I need to think about what my customers are likely to want in the moments that matter and prioritise the appearance and functionality accordingly.

If I’m already a customer, the moment that matters to me would be an emergency situation, such as a burst pipe, where I want to be able to use my phone to quickly find your telephone number, be able to access my policy details and maybe even a simple way to file a claim or record the damage. I don’t want to find a site unoptimised for mobile that requires me to hunt for a support number and with no help information easily available.

 

2. Anticipate & Prepare: Realtime is too slow

Real time is too slow. Your response is a reaction to something happening and this can take time. The gap between the event and your response can often determine the success of your activity. This applies to responding to a comment in social media, content marketing, your promotional mix or product functionality. So it becomes more about anticipating what your audience wants  – and when – and then being ready to answer the call when the moment that matters arrives.

For instance, if content marketing is part of your strategy you’ll want to be aware of and prepared for the conversations you know will be happening – Oreo’s set up for the Superbowl is a great example of the big pay-off of anticipation and preparation. You’ll need to determine which of those conversations are relevent for your brand to participate in. However, more importantly, you need to be prepared for the conversations you don’t know are going to happen. They will be the true test of your planning, structure and resources. Can you react in time?

An example:

Within minutes of the Pope resigning earlier this year, Jobsite.co.uk (my employer) began to see tweets linking the brand to the news (i.e. jokingly wondering if the job would be advertised on Jobsite).

Firstly, it was great to see our brand-building work paying off by being mentioned, but also it presented us with three opportunities:

1) to engage with our existing social community

2) to produce sharable content that’ll reach a wider audience

3) an opportunity to generate valuable social signals for the search engines to help our rankings

With the help of our agency iProspect, our team produced a spoof job ad advertising for the role, but using modern business language (i.e. ability to build a global strategy, whilst recognising local differences, strong negotiation skills, office with a view, use of a company car, etc.).

From the news breaking to posting the ad on our blog was about 3 hours. It would’ve been quicker if I hadn’t had to deliberate over whether it was right for the brand to have a little fun with a religious subject. Which illustrates a key point about being prepared – yes, you need ideas people, creatives to produce assets, a clear and responsive sign-off process, but you also need to have a clear idea of what you’re comfortable doing with your brand. How do you want to behave and how you want to be perceived?

To answer my Pope question I referred back to one of my own principles: I won’t take advantage of or mock someone else’s misfortune, particularly when someone has lost a job. However, in this case, the outgoing Pope resigned by choice and we weren’t ripping religion, so I was comfortable to sign off the creative.

The response to that post was fantastic. We had more shares of that post in the first few days then we had for all blog posts over the previous 12 months. To top it off, 77% of the traffic to the blog post came from new visitors to the site, so we’d succeeded in reaching in the new audience.

 

The principle of anticipate and prepare also extends to your advertising mix. Are you prepared for what happens after your audience see your advertising?

Take TV advertising for example. Your ad appears on screen – what happens next?

Whilst TV is often used as a tool to raise brand awareness, it can prompt realtime action.Depending on what you’re selling this can be difficult in the space of an ad break.

So you have to anticipate and prepare.

1) Can your audience find you? Make sure your web address is in your advert for starters. Bear in mind though, people don’t always type in the URL directly. Sometimes they will do a brand, product of keyword search. With competitor bidding allowed on Pay-per-click you can’t just rely on being no.1 in the organic listings for your brand name. You also need to be in the first paid slot. So make sure you’re using day parting on brand term campaigns, giving you 100% visibility for a period after your ad airs.

2) Once the visitor lands on your website, do you make it easy for them to achieve their goal or have a process in place to capture their details for future activity?

3) Is your site mobile friendly? Increasingly consumers will be visiting via mobile devices – what will they see? Is it usable?

4) Anticipate they won’t have time to purchase / sign up to your site before their programme re-starts, so deploy behavioural retargeting to reach those that did not convert first time around.

 

3. Bring value to a customer at a receptive moment

Value = answering a question, providing a service, providing escapism (i.e. a game or humour)

Receptive moment = at the right time rather than realtime

The absence of value for the customer makes your interaction spam, noise or frustrating, and doing it at the wrong time can be instrusive.

Providing customer service via social media is considered a best practice no-brainer, even if its still not actively happening in many companies. However, according to a consumer privacy study by Netbase and JD Power there is perhaps a disconnect between what businesses think should happen and what the consumer wants. The conclusion of the study was:

Consumers find social listening intrusive…except when they don’t.

It’s obvious when you drill down that us consumers are fickle creatures, who clearly want things our own way – in part, a result of the empowering nature of social.

The study showed:

  • 51% of consumers want to talk about brands without the company listening in
  • 48% want companies to just listen in to improve products
  • 64% want brands to respond to social comments only when spoken to

So you’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That’s why it’s important to understand what your audience needs and provide value at the right time.

Another Jobsite example. We monitor and engage via a product called Radian6. One Easter I’m standing in line at Starbucks playing with my phone as I wait. I open Radian6 and see a jobseeker venting on Twitter about our service. There are several tweets getting progressively worse about the jobs we’re sending her aren’t in the right location and she’s ticked off.

On a normal day our customer service team would respond and fix the problem. But its Easter and I don’t want to leave it, so I respond back to her, calm her down and promise we’ll fix it when the office opens on Tuesday. She was appreciative and said something that stayed with me “thank you, I just wanted someone to listen“.

As it turns out, she hadn’t actually told us where she wanted to work, so it was easy fix to remedy the situation. This became a win for us because we’d anticipated the need to monitor, we engaged at the moment that mattered and we provided value by listening and delivering on a promise.

Away from social listening, another good example would be National Rail Enquiries.

They know that travel can be frustrating – customers are sensitive to delays, cancellations etc.  – so they’ve developed a number of realtime services that are there at the right time to make the experience better. This includes a mobile app, a text service, a phone line and social media updates.

Personally, I use the mobile app to plan journeys – even when sat in front of my PC – it’s just quick and simple. I use it on trains and on stations – it can be quicker and more informative than the departure boards.

National Rail Tunnel Damage

Interestingly, they even share photos of damage to tracks and tunnels with customers via Facebook. Brands usually prefer to hid defects in their service, but in this instance I believe it’s done to make the delay more tangible for customers. If you can see why a train is late, you may be more understanding of the situation. Whilst National Rail Enquiries can’t make the trains run on time they can at least keep their audience informed in the moments that matter to them.

Your happy customer

Times are a-changing. You can’t just rely on your advertising budget to win new customers. The one way broadcast is on the decline. You’re now part of a conversation. Are you ready for it?

Remember, know who your customers are and what is important to them. Know how you can help. Be ready for that time. Look for the moment they need you and then deliver.

photo by: wwarby
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Gary Robinson is a UK digital marketer, who fell into this tech world by accident and decided to stay and play. That was 1999. He's still here. His current loves are conversion optimisation, mobile and tinkering with new technology. He also has a fondness for coffee.

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Posted in Business Performance, Customer Experience, Mobile, Product Development, Social Media

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