The goal of marketing is to strengthen your company’s bond with your customers — both existing clients and new consumers within your target audience.
But marketing initiatives have historically been one-sided. You put your billboard, poster, or other ad out into the world based on what you think will resonate with your audience, and you wait and hope those efforts turn into sales or conversions.
The era of waiting and hoping is coming to an end. You don’t have to yell into a void and hope anymore. Instead, you can use real time marketing to turn marketing initiatives into two-way conversations.
Modern technology has made it possible for brands to monitor consumer responses to marketing initiatives and then adapt campaigns and assets based on those responses. And the best part? This process of sharing, observing, and adapting translates to significant growth for marketing teams and businesses as a whole.
What exactly is real time marketing?
Real time marketing is the process of monitoring consumer responses to marketing messaging and materials (such as blogs, web pages, and social ads) and then adapting in real time. Real time marketing means being able to make changes on the fly based on how your clients or users are engaging with your marketing campaigns.
Why most businesses haven't adopted real time marketing yet
Although real time marketing has been around since at least the ’90s, many businesses have yet to adopt this strategy. There are three main reasons why:
- Pivoting marketing strategies quickly is challenging because marketing decisions often require approval from multiple stakeholders; even the adoption of real time marketing as an overall process requires stakeholder approval.
- Businesses don’t have the tools to view real time analytics, or they lack the tools required to actually make changes in real time.
- The idea of real time marketing makes people uncomfortable — largely due to a misunderstanding about how real time marketing works.
Real time has become the go-to mode of operating when it comes to everything but marketing. We use real time traffic data nearly every time we get in a car. Real time video chats are standard meeting venues for business partners from different cities and time zones.
But a study conducted by the CMO Council revealed that just 7% of marketers are able to “deliver real-time, data-driven engagements across physical and digital [marketing] touchpoints, and only 5 percent say they are able to determine the bottom-line impact of these engagements.” Fewer than 1 in 10 marketers are leveraging real time marketing. And it’s time that changed.
How real time marketing fosters growth
Real time marketing fosters an adaptive environment where your team’s capabilities and tech abilities can flourish.
Growth is a result. It’s not something you do; it’s something you achieve. Real time marketing breaks large scale growth into manageable parts, so that you can master each one independently. And when they come together they make a beautifully composed symphony.
Enables incremental optimizations
When you conduct real time marketing, you make small changes, updates, and optimizations regularly. You continually nurture and tinker with your assets instead of setting them and forgetting them.
When many people think of marketing activities, they think of complete website overhauls or massive campaigns that take a lot of time. And when these same people picture “real time marketing,” they believe it means packing all of the work required for complete overhauls into a fraction of the time. This misconception understandably causes many marketers to be afraid of, or feel overwhelmed by, the idea of real time marketing.
But real time marketing isn’t about packing six months’ worth of work into one day; it’s about supplementing your major campaign initiatives with small steps you can easily take each day. Real time marketing helps teams think about growth from multiple angles. Instead of just completely redoing image layouts or adding whole pages, teams learn to look for smaller changes, like shifting a call-to-action box or tweaking language.
“Real time marketing helps teams think about growth from multiple angles. Instead of just completely redoing image layouts or adding whole pages, teams learn to look for smaller changes, like shifting a call-to-action box or tweaking language.”
Take your website, for example. When you start a business, your website is one of the first things you build. And it’s so important to you — it’s how you present yourself to the world. But once that site is launched, many people just forget about it, or, at the very least, they don’t nurture it continually. Updates become daunting once-a-year projects.
With real time marketing, teams can approach growth in a more holistic way. An incremental adjustment that we recently tested out here at Webflow involved overlay opacity. We hypothesized that the background behind one of our CTA boxes was too distracting, thus reducing conversions.
For a small sample of viewers, we eliminated the background noise and then monitored responses to this small adjustment for several days. This small shift produced statistically significant results — and actionable insights on small visual changes we could make to create a clearer user experience.
Massive companies may not be able to move quite as quickly as a startup can, but real time marketing makes it easier for companies of all sizes to improve their agility.
Smaller businesses and startups can use real time marketing analytics to make changes and perform A/B testing daily. Say you own an ecommerce clothing company, and you’re trying to gauge the value and effectiveness of product videos across your website and social platforms. Using a real time marketing strategy, you could display four different video edits, each to a quarter of your visitors, and monitor responses in real time to quickly see which format is most effective.
Midsize companies may want to test out ideas in more controlled groupings. At Webflow, we typically trial marketing initiatives with just 10% of our user base at a time. And we use timeboxing to control the duration of our trials. Controlling launches this way empowers your team to pitch more creative ideas and makes it easier to get stakeholder approval.
Large corporations with multiple stakeholders can use the same control methods (percentage of rollout and timeboxing) as midsize companies to reduce their risk when trying out marketing initiatives. And marketing teams at companies with multiple stakeholders that simply can’t move as quickly could use corporate microsites or lower-traffic URLs to test out initiatives.
Real time marketing empowers businesses to respond quickly to current events or unexpected challenges — in addition to empowering teams to pivot faster and try out more creative ideas. It lets you put things out into the world that might be half-baked because you can continue refining them after they’re published.
For example, when COVID hit, the team here at Webflow knew we could serve a lot of businesses that might be struggling with digital representation. So, we offered Webflow for free for three months. We built a campaign around this and launched it in a matter of days—because we knew we had the flexibility to make changes as needed. The campaign was ‘good enough’ to start with, but not perfect and we knew this.Once we launched the site, we determined what elements were missing based on user interactions. We added a connection to our Webflow Experts program, which helped business owners with less technical expertise link up with Webflow pros to get assistance. When you’re faced with a pandemic — or any number of real-life situations where you want and need to be there for your customers — that agility and flexibility to learn and adapt on the fly is vital.
Get started with real time marketing
To get started with real time marketing, you need real time analytics and a process that enables you to adapt based on those analytics.
Monitor analytics in real time
These two analytics tools will help you understand exactly what’s happening in your customer’s journey, from their first interaction all the way through to retaining. You’ll be able to monitor responses to your marketing initiatives in real time using these software solutions.
1. Google Analytics
Google Analytics gives you a foundational understanding of how users are interacting with your website: where traffic is coming from, which pages are driving in the most views, and much more. Think of this as your jumping-off point for real time marketing. And since Google Analytics is free, businesses of all sizes can use it to monitor engagement.
If you’ve built a website using Webflow, connect Google Analytics to your project by going to your project settings and clicking on “Integrations.” There, you’ll find a direct link and step-by-step directions to link your Webflow project to Google Analytics.
Ahrefs is a powerful keyword and backlink monitoring tool. If your marketing initiatives involve search engine optimization (SEO), Ahrefs will help you identify keyword opportunities, gauge your domain authority, and understand what your competitors are doing. If you’ve never used Ahrefs before, this information guide is a great place to get started.
There are numerous other tools we’ve found useful to monitor and inform how we adjust our marketing approaches on the fly. These include Amplitude, Tableau, Pendo, and others, but what’s key is finding tools that give you real-time behavioral insights on a micro-level. In other words, get yourself a set of tools that not only tell you how much traffic you’re getting but also tell you specifically what people are doing on your website (or in your product) so you can assess their actions and adjust that experience accordingly.
Adjust marketing based on your findings
Once you’re set up with software such as Google Analytics, Amplitude, or Ahrefs, you can begin testing out small changes and tracking user response to those initiatives. Here’s the process real time marketers follow to adjust marketing initiatives:
- Understand your baseline. Make sure you have a foundational understanding of your metrics. If you’re running an SEO campaign, for instance, you should get a sense of your blog’s pageviews, organic traffic, and conversions. Find out which of your blogs are bringing in the most organic traffic and which aren’t performing that well.
- Make a hypothesis. Based on your findings from step 1, form a hypothesis about why certain assets are performing better than others. Using the same SEO campaign example, let’s say you notice that your top-converting blogs have CTA buttons that are a brighter color, which makes them more visible than lower-converting blogs. You might hypothesize that CTA boxes that stand out visually would drive more conversions across all of your content.
- Test out your hypothesis. Based on the hypothesis above, a real time SEO marketing team would pick one to three underperforming blogs and adjust their CTA box to be brighter and more easily visible upon scrolling.
- Draw an informed conclusion. Look at your analytics in real time and see if your hypothesis was correct. If these new CTA boxes have a positive effect on conversions, you can conclude that your hypothesis was right. If not, you can restart the process from the beginning and try out a new hypothesis.
The beauty of real time marketing is that if something doesn’t work, you can always go back to what you had before or simply stop your testing. So, don’t be afraid to fail. Try new things. Be curious.
Always be optimizing
Real time marketing empowers teams to be more creative, push boundaries, and achieve growth in new ways. And not all of this growth comes from A/B testing. You can also use real time insights to further your impact when a particular asset is performing really well.
Say you have a blog post that really takes off, and you reach the number one position in search results for a high-volume keyword. You see that this post, which closes with a link to another article on a related topic, is bringing in a lot of organic traffic. You could choose to link to a trial page or add a demo signup instead to capitalize on the organic traffic you now have coming in.
Real time marketing empowers businesses to always be optimizing. And it’s a no-brainer for businesses that believe it’s more disappointing not to have tried than to try and fail.
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