Most marketers recognize the need to prioritize inbound marketing. Whether it involves an exciting travel offer presented on the homepage of a booking website, a message about new mortgage rates on the screen of an ATM, or optional phone upgrades presented during the discussion with any call center (“For English, press 1...” type of conversation); the goal is the same. Companies need to leverage customer attention to offer them something of value and relevance at a specific given time.

Customer attention is one of the most valuable aspects of any inbound marketing initiative. Unlike outbound communications, your organization will struggle less for customer attention. It will also reduce the risk of losing your communication through spam folders or getting deleted. In inbound marketing, the customer comes to the marketer; indirectly giving you and your organization the chance to leave a mark. At the same time, the customer is unknowingly giving you valuable data through their behavioral and browsing patterns as well as their search criteria.

With all this being said, it is important to note that offline batch analytics are still very relevant when making a good number decisions in marketing. When studying a customer, it is always important to look at their past behavior. It is primarily with this information that a marketer can determine relevant offers ahead of time by segmenting the customer into corresponding categories.

However, by not properly setting up a channel for inbound marketing initiatives and a corresponding real-time decision engine, marketers are in danger of losing massive amounts of first party data. If the inbound channel lacks proper marketing capabilities, then communicating with the customer is effectively broken. If the customer’s actions cannot be analyzed and acted on in real-time, then you run the risk of providing irrelevant offers and will essentially fail when addressing the customer. An offer that may have seemed applicable a few hours ago may no longer relevant later.

Naturally, one might question why every single organization does not use real-time offers for all their inbound channels. Simply visit an e-commerce website, log in or create an account, put the products you want into your shopping cart, then empty the shopping cart and log out. Often enough, even after completing all those steps, there will be no immediate response.

So how could something so important not be used on every website? The answer is quite simple: getting it right is not always easy.

Along with the obvious benefits, there are many challenges with a successful real-time inbound marketing channel implementation. There are technical limitations, such as the time limitations the marketing systems have to respond with relevant offers (often below 1 second). Customer error can also play a big factor in the success of a marketing channel. For example, low-quality responses or missing information on customer profiles make it difficult for the real-time decision engines to work properly. Just with these simple aspects, basic scenarios get quite complex once everything is accounted for.

Let us look at the examples provided at the beginning of the article and see how companies can easily miss out on some of these crucial marketing opportunities.

  • Travel offers can quickly grow out of proportion with over thousands of possibilities for every destination.
  • The screen of an ATM has very limited space to squeeze more offers and extremely basic interactions to generate specific information. Not to mention the security requirements needed to work with such a sensitive system, makes it difficult to extract certain information.
  • The interface of the call center operative can only be as responsive as the person using it. This sometimes creates very straightforward interactions where the window of opportunity to market anything is just too small (an offer for a phone upgrade would be quite useless if the customer is calling to complain about billing issues).

Unfortunately, to properly address every single case, each one needs to be checked on a individual basis. Sound road maps and deployment plans assist when managing implementation and scope-based risks. Involving key players from across each layer of the organization can help solve interface complexities. Creative solutions provided by technology experts, both internal and external to the company, will collectively address functionality and other technical challenges.

Nevertheless, inbound marketing channels have great potential when implemented correctly. You will have a reduced number of offers presented to each customer, leading to lower customer fatigue. More accurate targeting of relevant and personalized offers will lead to higher adoption rates. Finally, a careful study of behavioral patterns will allow relevant follow-up campaigns to acquire, retain and upsell. All of this is driven by leveraging collected data that has been sitting at your doorstep.