There has never -- ever -- been a better time to be a marketer. We’re living, breathing proof of a paradigm shift in which the value of what we do has shifted from fluffy ‘brand-building’ to revenue generating machine. Imagine what ‘60s advertising icon Don Draper would say if he could see us today.

We spend just as much time storyboarding as we do crunching numbers. We’re champions of both left-brained and right brained powers. Technology fuels our creativity, and our creativity provides a feedback loop into the technical systems we’re designing.

The most pivotal marketing opportunity has been the shift to real-time communication. According to a recent Evergage survey, 76% of marketers surveyed are using real-time marketing today, and 88% of marketers consider it to be important to their 2014 plans, with 35% reporting that it is very or extremely important.

Reach the right audience with the right message at exactly the right time.

That’s the marketer’s mantra -- it’s no wonder that marketers are investing heavily in real-time targeting strategies. But it really has been a long and windy path to getting here -- a period that has spanned decades, not months. Here are some key transitions that the marketing world experienced and why real-time technologies are leading the charge:

Transition 1: From ‘Spray-and-Pray’ to Deep Customer Connections

The early days of the Internet were jam-packed with ‘win a free iPod’ scams, email spam overload, and obnoxiously flashy banner ads.

Marketers and advertisers thought they were rocking it. The reality? They were annoying the heck out of everyone.

Consumers turned on their spam filters, set up pop-up blockers, and conditioned themselves to ignore ads. Banner blindness became widespread. Marketers were left wondering how to pick up the pieces and win back their audience’s trust.

Finally, they realized something profound -- consumers want brands to care about them. The concept isn’t rocket science, but companies who ‘get it’ are on to something big.  As Rishi Dave, former director of marketing at Dell puts it, today’s consumers are ‘entirely self-directed.’

The smartest marketers are the ones who empower these natural customer journeys.  Real-time takes this concept to the next level -- by giving audiences the information they need when they’re most likely to need it.

Transition 2: From Guess-Work to Actionable Data

If you’ve ever watched Mad Men, you know that the earliest days of marketing were based on rigorous creative planning. Decades ago, this process means assembling your best and bright teams, evaluating historical performance, and pioneering new opportunities.

It was a lot of dart-throwing, and more often than not, marketers were operating with very little direction.

Today, the mindset is completely different. We’re heavily dependent on data for guidance. We set up  elaborate systems to monitor each and every consumer touch point.

When we make a ‘guess,’ we’re actually operating with some of the smartest statistical minds and most compelling evidence on our side.

It’s this access to data and dedication to ‘optimization’ that makes real time marketing possible. We can reach consumers on an individual level -- and meet their needs -- based on information that we know and can trust.

Transition 3: From Selling to Storytelling

Marketers have done a great job identifying ‘power words’ that sell. The problem, however, is that ‘selling’ doesn’t generate sales. Brands are realizing that the more they self-promote, the less audiences are willing to listen.

It’s natural human psychology -- just think about it. When you meet someone new at a party or conference, you’re most engaged when that person asks you questions and genuinely wants to learn about you.  The minute that person starts self-promoting, you’ll be turned off. You’ll tune that ‘arrogant jerk’ out and probably make fun of him/her.

The most successful and compelling brands are the ones that listen as much as -- if not more than -- they talk.

That’s why real-time marketing is so important -- your messaging is based on a specific customer feedback loop. Instead of advertising, you’re listening between the lines and responding to an exact need.

Your Thoughts

After reading this post, you’re now convinced that (1) marketing is about relationship building and (2) technology amplifies those natural human connections in real time. The time to be a marketer has never been more rewarding.

Now it’s your time to chime in:

How has your organization responded to these key paradigm shifts? Where have been the biggest gains, and where are you looking to improve? Let us know how we can help you. Leave us a comment, and share what you’ve learned.