In the digital world, things are constantly in motion; change is the only constant. Information is disseminated at an incredibly rapid pace. Where once people waited for the evening news or morning paper to process the events of the day, in the Information Age, we possess the means to become, more or less, instantaneously self-aware.

And the Web is perpetually “on”; it never stops.

For companies and organizations that exist (even partially) in the digital space, near-term responsiveness is key to long-term success.

Let’s Define Our Terms

Responsiveness is a broad term, of course. Sometimes, when dealing with, say, shifting regulations or other major market changes, a business’ “responsiveness” can be determined by long processes, sometimes even taking years to grapple with.

For our purposes, I’m discussing responsiveness in the sense of identifying a news story or current event that would be of direct interest to your audience and furnishing relevant content for a defined marketing benefit. Thus, this kind of responsiveness is concerned with stories or events which are inherently perishable.

Maybe there’s a product recall on which you can shed some light or which affects you directly. Maybe there’s a new piece of software changing the nature of your industry. Maybe a new law is passed that fundamentally alters how you do business.

If we’re being honest, we’re talking about legitimate excuses to publish and syndicate blog posts, send emails, Tweet, and engage your audience, generally.

From responding to a negative (but reasonable) Tweet from a customer, to humanizing your brand by allowing staff to share pictures of an office birthday party on Facebook, to actively protecting your audience’s interests with a helpful email when a crisis hits, successful digital marketing is defined by its ability to swiftly adjust to changing circumstances of all kinds.

Beware the Paralysis of Analysis

They say you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Unfortunately, there are plenty of internal corporate marketing departments that miss a lot of shots this way. To highlight this point, I’ll discuss a situation once encountered.

We had a client whose entire corporate culture was very data-driven. And that, of course, is a great thing. Information is power, and you can’t put a price on understanding your audience.

But this reliance on data and analysis had a tendency to slow potential growth by sacrificing good ideas on the altar of ‘The Process’, frequently resulting in projects rendered to users tardy and uninspired.

On one occasion, there was an outreach opportunity to respond to a massive security breach on the Web by reassuring customers their accounts were perfectly secure.

Long story short, our recommendations of an educational, timely, and (we hoped) valuable email alert for customers were hemmed and hawed over, passed around to various departments, hit with a fatal, irradiating dose of analysis, and resulted in a delayed, hamfisted, sales pitch rather than an organic, helpful gesture.

It’s Called a ‘Window’ of Opportunity Because It Closes

Now, don’t get me wrong, here. Again, it is essential to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and to whom you’ll be speaking–being cautious and deliberate isn’t a bad thing.

However, if the client and the agency trust one another and share objectives, the client is often served best by empowering (and consequently holding to account) the ideators of content to get out in front of things and take action before the brand is pegged as laggards to the real-time events unfolding every second on the internet.

That time, incidentally–between being responsive and being late to the game–is typically measured in minutes and hours after news breaks–not days.

Opportunity vs. Opportunism

On that project, initial indecisiveness allowed the paralysis of analysis to set in, but ultimately, the project was given the green light to proceed.

Now, a new problem had presented itself: the email copy was gradually being contorted from its original character and made dissonant from its simple, original goals. It was becoming creative-by-committee, with messaging fractured and unfocused.

Ultimately, it wasn’t nearly as successful as it could have been, due to a lack of responsiveness. The inability to respond to events in a timely way can drastically reduce a campaign’s effectiveness, but it can also end up hurting a brand more than helping it.

See, there’s a public relations and online reputation management side to this that must also be considered.

Our clients’ email wasn’t just mediocre in its execution, it was also late! We watched as competitors and other companies jumped at the chance to address this problem as a logical avenue for helpful communication and productive outreach.

With each hour that ticked by and each targeted piece of copy that was altered, the initial objectives were diminished while the potential perception that we were jumping on a fearmongering bandwagon grew.

It was kind of agonizing to watch, to be honest: since no customers were actually affected by the breach, and the copy became more salesy and sanitized, the greater was the impression we were using the threat of identity theft as a transparent excuse to push products. Yuck.

By the time the email was sent, an opportunity to build brand trust looked more like a groan-inducing form of opportunism. Big difference.

Thus, poor responsiveness can actually change the nature of your campaigns. Help is only helpful if it arrives on time.

Is Your Marketing Responsive Enough?

Digital marketing–like life in general–is largely a question of timing and preparedness.

Running campaigns that are nimble without being frenetic, concerned without being alarmist, and available without being pushy is key to fostering greater brand trust. Fall short on those things, and your efforts may have the exact opposite effect you intended.

Is your marketing keeping pace with changing conditions in your industry? Is your responsiveness what it should be? Sign up for more digital pointers from Kaleidico.

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