Does your business operate in "real time?" What does that even mean?
Business moves fast today. So fast that it can sometimes feel difficult to keep up. However, organizations that commit to creating a process to monitor, analyze, and react to real-time events and feedback can achieve a competitive advantage over those that don't
You'll love this episode of The Digital Exec as we talk with bestselling author and international speaker, David Meerman Scott, about the concept of real-time and how it affects your business.
Michael Reynolds: Great, we’re live. Hey, everyone. Welcome to The Digital Exec, the marketing and technology insights show for business leaders. I’m Michael Reynolds, your host, and President and CEO of SpinWeb. We’re a digital agency and we’re online as SpinWeb.net and, of course, this show’s over at SpinWeb.tv.
I’m thrilled to be here today with David Meerman Scott who’s an internationally acclaimed strategist, speaker, and best-selling author. David, how are you today?
D. Meerman Scott: Hey, I’m good, Michael. Thanks for having me on.
Michael Reynolds: Wonderful. Appreciate your time. So glad to hear it. I’ve got to say, I’m really thrilled to talk to you because I first heard you speak at the HubSpot Inbound Conference in 2012, a phenomenal presentation with about probably 4000 people in attendance. You were one of the keynotes. Awesome presentation. Then I had the privilege of hearing you again at a smaller group for a summit that we held recently last year, so I really love your speaking style.
D. Meerman Scott: Thank you, thank you.
Michael Reynolds: I loved the presentation. I love your material, so I really appreciate it.
D. Meerman Scott: Thanks, and by the way, it was just announced I’m going to do a keynote at HubSpot’s Inbound 2014, and they’re expecting 7500 people this year. It should be good.
Michael Reynolds: I plan to be there. I’m real excited.
D. Meerman Scott: Good. Excellent.
Michael Reynolds: I think we’re a little bit short on time for this. I want to get right to the meat of our topic and then also hear more about your book as well, and one of the themes that you’re very well known for is real time and as we dip into this topic, feel free to tell us a little bit of background about what you’ve done as well, but also, I want to hear more about what real time means, what this concept of real time means as it relates to our audience in the business world.
D. Meerman Scott: My first job was on a bond trading desk. I worked in New York City at a company called Dean Witter. I actually worked in the World Trade Center for part of that time and bond trading is all about instant engagement. If you’ve ever seen any movies or whatever about the financial markets, you know anything about the financial markets, even just some photographs, you realize that these traders, they operate instantly. They operate right now, this second, and if you’re trading bonds, you’ve got millions and millions of dollars on the line and you’ve got to make a decision instantly about something based on the news, based on the pricing of the bonds, and based also on what’s going on in markets outside of the one that you’re actually trading in. What’s happening in Europe? What’s happening in Asia? What did President Obama say today, if anything? What’s going on in the political world? What’s happening as we’re speaking now in the Ukraine? These are things that affect the bond markets.
I was working on a bond desk and soon after that, I left to work in the real-time information industry. I worked for a company called Knight Ridder and I was responsible for creating real-time, instant content, and so what I recognized is that right now, we, every single one of us, you, me and everyone who’s watching this, has the exact same tools on our desktop for free that I had on my desktop that my company was paying tens of thousands of dollars a month for. We can see instant newsfeeds. We can see in real time what’s happening on our websites. We can see instantly what’s going on in the social networks. What are people saying about our company? What are people saying about our products? What are they saying about us? That is absolutely new for organizations.
For decades and decades and decades, we’ve been running our companies as if we are in charge of the communications. We plot out our communication strategy, we think about what we’re going to do when it comes to communicating with customers. We plan things for the future. We do advertising campaigns for the future. We plan a strategy around announcing a new product for months ahead of time, and that just isn’t working in our always-on, real-time world. What that means is that the organizations that are going to be successful going forward are the ones who truly grasp this idea of real time and the tools are easy. The tools are free. The tools are totally available.
The biggest challenge that I see, because I go all over the world talking about this topic, is a mindset shift. That’s the problem. That’s the challenge. That’s what people have trouble with is shifting their mind from one of “I’m in control of when I’m going to communicate” to one of the buyer is in control of when they want to communicate.
Michael Reynolds: A lot of our audience is probably asking right now, and I actually hear this on a regular basis, “Hey, why is this important? Why is it important for me to be reacting and marketing and communicating in real time? Everybody’s busy.” What are the pros and cons and why would the average either small business or midsize or corporate organization care about reacting and marketing in real time?
D. Meerman Scott: Real time, by the way, is a lot more than marketing. It’s sales, it’s customer support, it’s a lot of different things. From a marketing perspective, if you’re thinking about what’s going on in the marketplace right now, that’s the environment that your buyers are living in right this second, so if something happens in the news or something happens in your community or something happens … it depends on what your company does, but there’s something happening right now, that might be the trigger point that somebody decides that they are going to investigate the category of product that you sell.
For example, let’s say, I don’t know, for example, you’re a lawyer, let’s say, and all of a sudden there’s a case in the news in your hometown about an issue that has the same legal ramifications that you’re an expert in. That’s an opportunity because potentially, people are going to say, “Oh, my gosh. I didn’t know I was liable for x, y, z. I run a similar company. I should go figure out how I’m going to be able to have somebody tell me about what my liability might be like,” and that’s the time that a lawyer might be able to sign up 10 new clients, that day.
Tomorrow’s no good because they’re going to be looking for somebody today and that’s when, for example, a timely blog post is perfect because that’s when you say, “Yep, I understand there’s this issue going on in the news and I’m an expert in it and here’s what I can tell you about it.” That’s just an example in one industry. It could be in any industry. It could be global, it could be B2B, it could be B2C, it could be just local. It doesn’t really matter, so that’s from a marketing perspective.
From a sales perspective, when we’re looking for a product or service and we are investigating a company that we might want to do business with, we go to Google, we type in the name of a product category. Whatever comes up is that’s what we’re going to take a look at, and people do that right away. They do it right this second.
I actually bought a bike today. I bought a $5000 mountain bike, and I’d been researching this for a long time, but when I go to Google and I’m ready to buy or when I’m entering the specs of the type of bike I want to buy, I’m ready to do it right now. I might do my research over a long period of time, but then when I’m ready, I’m ready, and companies have to react instantly to that.
I’ll give you another example of this. I’m moving my office space at the end of this month, in the same building. I’m going upstairs to some different office space and I contacted three moving companies and asked for them to get back to me to give me an idea of how much they would charge to move my stuff. I have an incredibly simple move. I’m moving in the same building, one floor up, a little bit down the hallway. I’m a one-person company. A whole lot of books. You can see some of them in the background. I have a desk. I have a credenza. It’s a real simple job. It’s not complicated at all.
One guy got back to me within two hours. Oh, and I sent everybody the same email at the same time. I said, “I want to move. Here’s the date. Here’s what I need to do,” and I sent them four photos of my office. One of the photos is sort of the view that you see behind me right now. I sent them all at the same time. One guy got back to me in two hours. Said, “Real simple job. It’s going to take four hours. Here’s the price.” Another guy got back to me the next day and another guy got back to me two days later. Guess who got the business. It’s simple. It’s simple. This is a simple thing. It’s a little tiny move. It’s going to cost me less than $500. I don’t have time to screw around to figure out how I’m going to save 20 bucks by playing one guy off another. The guy who got back to me the fastest is the guy I want to do business with because that’s the one I figure is going to come to my office on time and is going to serve me well. That’s the way it works. That’s just simply responding to a real-time email.
What if somebody reads a blog post that says “I did business with this company and I had bad service and here’s what happened,” and they’re telling a story about how they had terrible service with your company? You’ve got to react to that instantly. You’ve got to react to that right now, this second. You’ve got to leave a comment on that blog post and say whatever’s appropriate. “Hey, I hear that you had an unfortunate situation with my organization. I want to apologize for it. I’m going to look into it and make sure I get this solved right away. Thank you very much for taking the time to write about this,” or whatever’s appropriate.
That response may not be appropriate in all situations, but the fact that you respond quickly gives you tons and tons of points and you still haven’t even done anything to solve the problem because you’ve shown that you care, but most organizations don’t do any of these things that I just talked about. From a marketing perspective, they’re not out there in front of what’s going on in the market. From a sales perspective, they’re not out there in front of their sales opportunities, and from the customer support perspective, they’re not out there in front of supporting customers. It’s a real simple change. It’s a mindset shift and it’s one that provides incredible value.
Michael Reynolds: It does make sense. You made some really compelling arguments for doing this, and you’re right. A lot of businesses don’t pay attention to this and I kind of wonder as we talked, I’m a real process-driven person. Especially as an inbound marketing agency, we’re very focused on process, and I often wonder is there a point when we can over process-ize things and end up not being able to react as quickly or react in real time, or is it possible to process-ize the strategy in real time as well?
D. Meerman Scott: I think that the bigger your company gets, the more process you need. I run a one-person company. It’s pretty easy for me to be real time. An email comes in, I respond. If you’re running a smaller company like all of the moving companies that I contacted, for example, are small companies. They’re local businesses or they’re franchise of a larger business. They’re all located within 15 miles of where I’m sitting right now. They have a half dozen trucks and maybe 20 or 30 guys. They’re simple businesses. There’s no reason whatsoever that all three of them couldn’t have gotten back to me within two hours, and then I would have played them off each other and it would have taken a minute, and I would have made the decision, but they didn’t. One guy got back to me in a timely manner. The other two didn’t.
I think if you’re running a huge organization, if you’re running a Fortune 500 company, it gets a lot more difficult, but that doesn’t mean those organizations can’t be real time, they just have a more difficult process of creating a real-time environment. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re running a smaller business, yeah, you’ve got to have some process, I suppose, but there’s no reason at all that you can’t do the things that we’ve just talked about.
Michael Reynolds: Makes sense. I definitely want to get to your book here in just a minute as well because it sounds really interesting, but before we do that, I want to wrap up with what are some of your top two or three or four tools that you would recommend organizations start adopting to react and communicate in real time as you described? Are there some tools out there that are really approachable, free or cheap?
D. Meerman Scott: Sure. Absolutely. For monitoring what’s going on in the news, I love just simply Google News. It’s news.google.com and I go to, personally, go to Google News probably three or four times a day. It’s one of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning. I go downstairs. I get a cup of coffee. I go up to my office. I have an office in my home, too. I go to my home office. Follow up news.google.com and I see what’s happened overnight. It doesn’t happen every day. It doesn’t even happen every week, but once in a while, there’ll be a story that I want to blog about instantly, that moment. I have to blog about it right now.
An example, in fact, was this week. I watched the Academy Awards, the Oscars, and I loved the fact that the host, Ellen DeGeneres, did a real-time tweet. I don’t know if you watched the telecast, but she used her mobile device, her smartphone, went into the audience, snapped a picture with about a dozen actors in the picture, and then tweeted that out on Ellen DeGeneres’ Twitter ID, and it became the most retweeted photo ever. I thought that was really cool and it was an amazing example of real time. The reason I say that is because television is classic one-way, classic non-real time. It is real time in the sense you could be watching a live telecast like I was in the Oscars, but it typically is not an interactive thing. She instantly made it interactive, instantly made it something that other people could participate in, so I wanted to blog about it.
I blogged about it within a couple of hours after that happened. The next day is too late. I blogged about it in a couple hours after it happened, and that was an example of a piece of news where I had felt like, based on what I do for a living that I should comment on it, so Google News, news.google.com.
We talked about email. You already have email. You already have an email client. It’s just a matter of managing that inbox more quickly. That’s fairly simple.
For something like customer service, there’s a number of different tools. I like Google Alerts, and that’s simply a way that you can create an alert in Google that will send you an email when a particular word or phrase appears. I have a Google Alert set up for my name and the reason I use my middle name in my professional life, David Meerman Scott, is because I’m the only David Meerman Scott in the world, so therefore, if something hits Google Alerts and it says David Meerman Scott, I know it’s about me and not somebody else.
I also have all the titles of my books in Google Alerts, and guess what? Every one of my book titles is a phrase that I knew would not generate false hits at the time I wrote the book, so The New Rules of Marketing and PR did not exist as a phrase when I first started using it. Real-Time Marketing and PR did not exist as a phrase at the time I started to use it. Newsjacking as a word did not appear as a word that was in significant use at the time that I chose it as a book title. My most recent book that comes out this week is titled Marketing the Moon, did not exist as a book title when I started to use it. Same thing with Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead did not exist, so the reason partly that I do that, I choose book titles that are unique to me, is that if I get a search result on it, I know that, at least in the early days, it’s only about me.
What happens after time, and this is particularly true of the word newsjacking, is that lots and lots and lots of other people are using the word newsjacking. When I first started newsjacking, no one else was using it. Now there’s well over 100,000 hits for newsjacking on Google, so it’s a lot more than just me, but that’s cool. People are talking about my idea. I’m very, very happy with that, so Google Alerts, very, very important. It sends you an email whenever you’ve got a hit on one of the words or phrases that you want to watch.
The other thing I use regularly is called TweetDeck. It’s just the way that I manage Twitter. It’s a real-time Twitter application that I use to find out what people are saying about me, my books, and what-not.
Michael Reynolds: Great. Thank you, David. Appreciate it. You’ve got to tell me about this book as we wrap up here because the title alone fascinates me and I ordered my copy today, so it’s on the way.
D. Meerman Scott: Thank you for that.
Michael Reynolds: It’s called Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program. This sounds fascinating. I read the description and tell me a little bit more about that. Is it more of a historical account? Is it something that business professionals can incorporate some of the principles into their marketing as well? Is it both? Tell me [crosstalk 00:18:07].
D. Meerman Scott: Yeah, it’s sort of all the above. I have this weird hobby. I collect artifacts from the Apollo Moon Program. I actually have items that have been used by the astronauts as they’ve flown to the surface of the moon. I actually have one of the best collections in the world of this material. I also probably have the best collection of press kits from Apollo contractors and NASA that were issued during the Apollo Moon Program, so it is a weird, esoteric hobby that I’ve got.
I’m a space geek and a marketing guy, and so I’ve always thought that the selling of the Apollo Program to the American people is the greatest marketing case study in human history. Imagine the idea that NASA together with the contractors that were part of the Apollo Program were able to convince the American people and, by definition, the government to commit 4% of the budget of the American government for a project over the course of an entire decade; 4% of our budget for a decade to put 12 guys on the surface of the moon. That is the most audacious and ridiculous concept you could ever imagine. Let’s spend 4% of our budget, billions of dollars, to put four guys on the surface of the moon, and we did it, and no way would it have happened without marketing. That’s a story that’s never been told.
There’s been thousands of books on the space program and our Apollo Program. None of those books have ever talked, done a focus on this marketing idea, so I did this book with a co-author whose name is Rich Jurek who’s also a marketing guy and a space geek, just like me, that weird triangulation of marketing and space, and we interviewed more than half of the guys who walked on the surface of the moon. We interviewed more than half of the guys who traveled to the moon, but didn’t land on the surface. We interviewed people from NASA who worked in the Public Affairs Department. We interviewed people from the contractors who worked in the public relations departments of the contractors. That’s like Raytheon and Boeing and IBM and companies that worked on the Apollo Program, and we also interviewed journalists who covered the program at the time from places like Reuters and the New York Post and other media outlets.
The book is full color. It’s sort of what people would describe as a coffee table book. It’s big. It’s hardcover. It’s a beautiful design, published by MIT Press. Gene Cernan is the last man to walk on the moon and he did the foreword to the book, and we’ve sold movie rights to Robert Stone. Robert Stone is an Academy Award nominated filmmaker and he’s had four films premiere at Sundance. He’s now working on the film version of the book which will come out and it takes quite a few years to do a book, but the film version will come out some number of years beyond here.
It’s interesting because I’m the guy … We just got finished talking about real-time instant communications. I’m the guy who is known for the future of marketing. I talk about what you should be doing now that you’re not, the future is here today kind of ideas. I’m pretty well known in the marketplace as being someone who pioneers a lot of ideas around marketing, things that didn’t exist before. Newsjacking is a great example. Newsjacking, by the way, the art and science of injecting your ideas into a news story.
I thought that it was a real radical idea to have the guy who is always writing about what the future is and what you can do now that’s new to look back 45 years and do a marketing history, and not only just doing a text book that’s all black and white. It’s a full-color, fully illustrated, coffee table style book. There’s tons of things that marketers can learn and that we can be fascinated by about how marketing was done 45 years ago and how we pulled off this audacious project of sending people to the surface of the moon and the truth is that it was a marketing triumph as much as it was a technology triumph, so there’s a lot of lessons in there that we talk about that people can learn but in a fun way. It’s a cool book to look through.
I didn’t do the packaging. I’m not a book designer, but the guy who did it was phenomenal. He did phenomenal work.
Michael Reynolds: I can’t wait to read it. It’s available on Amazon, and I ordered my copy today actually, and …
D. Meerman Scott: I appreciate [crosstalk 00:22:57].
Michael Reynolds: Absolutely, and our show notes will link to it there and if our audience wants to find you online, you’re at DavidMeermanScott.com, correct?
D. Meerman Scott: Yeah, you might also want to link to MarketingTheMoon.com as well as the Amazon link. Yeah, on DavidMeermanScott.com, on Twitter I’m DMScott, that’s D-M-S-C-O-T-T. I have another place you can go to find a special book. It’s called World Wide Rave, so just go to Google, type in the phrase, “World Wide Rave” and maybe Michael, you’ll put it in the notes. That’s a book I wrote a couple of years ago. It came out. It’s a regular book. It was a regular hardcover book, and I convinced my publisher to make it completely free on all the e-delivery mechanisms, so you can get it free on Kindle, you can get it free on iPad, you can get it free on Nook, you can get it free as a PDF. I don’t make a requirement to have you give me your email address to get any of that. Of course, you have to have a Google account and an iPad account and all that. I don’t see that stuff, so this is not something I’m using to try to sell something to people. It’s a completely free gift to you, a completely free book called World Wide Rave, so that might be something to check out my ideas.
Michael Reynolds: Wonderful. We’ll certainly do that. David, I really appreciate your time. It’s been great. Like I said, I cannot wait to read your book. I cannot wait to see you at Inbound this year, and can’t wait to continue following what you’re up to, so thank you so much for the conversation today, David. Thank you.
D. Meerman Scott: I appreciate you taking the time to interview me, Michael, and when you do see me at Inbound, make sure you stop by so that I’ll make sure that we have a chance to sit down and to grab a coffee or something.
Michael Reynolds: Wonderful. Will do. Thanks, everybody, for joining us. See you next time.