We’ve uncovered a select group of “just-in-time (JIT) marketing masters” who are more adept than their peers at reaching a greater share of in-market customers with the right message at the right time.
[setting the scene – what can marketers do in light of the fact that marketing is obsolescing ever more quickly?] Companies therefore need to think differently about the purpose of their marketing and how to fashion it to be as effective and efficient as possible - a new paradigm we call Just in Time Marketing. Rather than overproduce broad awareness marketing that underperforms, Just in Time Marketing means producing only the marketing that’s required, when it’s needed, targeting the right consumer with the right message or offer that will convert a sale. [optional note 1 on inventory] Companies create a good deal of intangible, virtual inventory, and at great expense: the inventory of marketing awareness that’s stored in consumers’ minds but which fails to persuade them. Marketing campaigns that create favorable impressions but don’t lead to purchases are analogous to crates of unusable or unsellable product that incur creation, storage and maintenance fees while gathering dust. Just like physical inventory that risks spoiling or becoming obsolete while stacked in a warehouse, excess marketing inventory yields few long-term returns. Indeed, Accenture’s survey research bears out that consumers are less influenced by branding than ever before. They are more willing than in the past to switch among products and services in the same category. In other words, unfocused branding investments – like boxes of excess products – are less likely today to have any future impact on sales. [optional note 2 on inventory] Marketing inventory isn’t a new phenomenon. After all, nearly a century after he uttered it, department store founder John Wanamaker’s lament about wasting half his advertising money remains just as quotable. What’s different today in the digital age is that marketers can now hope to better manage their waste and excess – especially in light of the myriad new tools they have at their disposal including social media, customer analytics, and mobile platforms.
[setting the scene – a more detailed history of the evolution of the “Just in Time” concept] To ultimately destroy the carrying costs of marketing inventory, marketers will need to first take a lesson from manufacturers: [History of Just-in-Time marketing]: In the post-World War II ramp-up of mass manufacturing, many companies relied on designing products for broad appeal, long-term planning, and overproduction – all in the service of achieving economies of scale. The result? A constant stream of excess inventory, which in turn led to increased waste, reduced flexibility, reduced responsiveness to rapid shifts in demand, and a high level of product defects. [Shift away from maximal production ] Japan, though, rebuilding after the war, could not count on strong domestic demand to justify maximal production. That led some organizations (notably Toyota) to implement Just in Time (also called “lean”) approaches. [optional note] Toyota executive Taichi Ohno found an analogy in Western-style supermarkets that pointed him towards this doctrine. Just like a grocery shelf is restocked only when it needs to be replenished for immediate customer demand, so too could manufacturing organizations produce only what was necessary to meet the end customer’s needs. In contrast to historical manufacturing principles, Just in Time endeavored to keep inventory at a minimum by producing only what customers demanded, at the right time, to the exact specifications requested, and to the highest level of quality the customer required. As inventory dwindled under the Just-In-Time approach, practitioners noted increases in final product quality and decreases in manufacturing waste. [Understanding Just-in-Time in the context of marketing]: Like mass manufacturing in its heyday, marketing organizations often produce massive quantities of content – which, if it’s “unconsumed” by targeted customers, can be considered excess inventory. Unsurprisingly, this results in similarly negative effects on the final customer experience: unwelcome marketing, reduced responsiveness to rapid shifts in customer desires, and high levels of defects in the final customer experience.
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Becoming a just-in-time marketer What can a traditional marketing organization do to transform itself into a just-in-time master? Here are a few recommendations. Hone operations. Sharpen operations and train people to execute quickly; to react smarter and more nimbly; to glean insights and turn them around in days or weeks, not months. Like the shopkeeper of the past, learn to hone and trust your judgment. This is what marketing is about today. It’s important to spend less time studying the problem and more time executing, refining, and then adjusting and improving over time. Put talent and decisions closer to the front line, aggregate the insights and act on them. Become an effective “listener.” Traditionally, marketers have gotten feedback through elongated studies—brand tracking studies performed each quarter. Now, marketers need to listen through social media for cues to take immediate action (e.g., to notice a problem with a product, or notice an opportunity because of customer dissatisfaction with a competitor). Organizations need to become more comfortable making use of unstructured data and making decisions based on a combination of insights and instincts. Solve for leading indicators not just for the masses. Set the unit of analysis at individual interactions along with a broad campaign approach as a means of achieving total quality among customer interactions. In a mass reach marketing world marketers have tended to solve for the average or for the masses. But innovation may come from leading indicators or the “tip of the spear.” JIT marketing can provide a way to solve for extremes—new products or variations of a product. So marketers have two jobs: solving for the masses today but also solving for the consumers who are predictors of what will be the norm in the future.
Research points to a new
era of just-in-time marketing