There’s a lot of noise doing the rounds about real time marketing (RTM), even in B2B circles which are renowned for obsessing about complex and lengthy purchasing timelines. So, what relevance does RTM have in a segment that is invariably playing the long game?
Well, quite a lot if you look at it like I do. Which is to say that RTM is basically: “crisis management with a friendly face”. Think about it, RTM relies on four things: 1) Planning 2) Infrastructure 3) Deployment and, perhaps, most importantly: 4) Proposition.
In an issues management situation (industrial accident, litigation, redundancies etc) all of these four elements are factored in – usually well in advance. But while in crisis mode you’re preparing in the hope that your hard work will never see the light of day, in an RTM situation the very antithesis is your objective (i.e. going viral).
Planning for a negative or positive scenario essentially involves the very same steps – but usually with a different set of resources (people, channels, messaging etc). What both situations have in common is usually the time span, which is usually quite short – irrespective of whether that was the intention or not.
That’s not to say RTM has no place in B2B – far from it. The advent of our multi-media, multi-device, always-on lifestyle (work and play) means that your audience consumes information in shorter, quicker bursts. In B2B, white papers have been overtaken by eBooks and management briefings. Slide decks have been sidelined by infographics. And even mass-scale, industry conferences are feeling the pinch from smaller, shorter, boutique events.
So, it’s worth bearing in mind your RTM campaign will have a limited shelf-life – you need to know when to turn off the tap as well as when to turn it on. The danger, of course, being that your innovative, creative and gorilla RTM campaign later turns out to be a tired parody of itself. Nobody likes to hear the same joke twice in quick succession (or at all), so ensure you have enough material (content) in different forms (channels) as appropriate your audience and their wants and needs.
Select your channels very carefully indeed. In PR, it’s common to release a holding statement to a ‘friendly’ media outlet in the hope that the message can be better controlled as it reaches the public domain, rather than edited out or mis-represented in a heart-stopping, audience-grabbing headline.
In RTM, you want to reach as many people as quickly as possible. Brands therefore lean towards quick deployment channels such as social to achieve this, but don’t always have the critical mass of follower/friends/connections to get it viral before the campaign runs out of steam. That’s poor strategy and is usually an outcome brought about by under-investment.
More importantly, it’s a sign of desperation and your audience (internally and externally) will see right through it – in real time.