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The marketing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years because of the digitization of just about everything, new consumer behaviors, and competitive pressures.

Today, more than ever, companies are looking to build and nurture personalized relationships with customers to drive increased loyalty and engagement. And although companies' intent to enhance connection points with their consumers has evolved, too often their approach has not.

As few as 18% of customers who are typically reached—even with traditional and digital tactics CMOs consider most effective—are interested in the promoted product or able to buy it, according to an Accenture survey of 500+ CMOs. That means hundreds of billions of dollars spent annually could be spent more efficiently. It's no wonder that less than half (41%) of CMOs said they were "very satisfied" with the value-for-money of their mix of marketing tactics.

The New Approach of Just-in-Time Marketing

However, our research at Accenture uncovered that some companies have taken a page from the playbook of manufacturers, developing "just-in-time" marketing strategies that dramatically reduce their marketing inventory.

They produce only the marketing that's required, at the very moment it's needed; they deliver the right message or offer that targets consumers precisely at a time of desire or latent need.

Rather than focus on mass marketing tactics, these leaders more nimbly produce an optimal amount of marketing content that results in more effective and efficient marketing spend—and positive financial results. In fact, the survey found that just-in-time marketers are three times more likely to beat their peers on revenue growth.

Interestingly, just-in-time marketing organizations are not inherently more digital, and they are not necessarily spending more on analytics. Rather, they are integrating capabilities in a more forward-looking way into their operations:

  • They are responding to direct signals of demand, empowering people closer to the "action" to make decisions.
  • And they are embedding new demand-sensing capabilities into processes.

Characteristics of Just-in-Time Masters

Those that have mastered the just-in-time approach excel across three dimensions:

  1. Customer knowledge: They have the consumer data needed to plan and execute effective marketing strategies.
  2. Channel capability: They have a nimble, multichannel marketing infrastructure to optimally communicate and execute value propositions.
  3. Real-time marketing flexibility: Their marketing mix tailors value propositions at the right price, at the right time, and through the right channels.

Just-in-time marketing masters—who, again, achieve better financial results and outcomes—are also more likely than peers to describe themselves as companies that make minimizing marketing inefficiencies one of their highest priorities.

They are very satisfied with their ability to target in-market customers and to insert the appropriate message at the right time across a range of marketing tactics. And they have more confidence in their ability to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in the future.

Just-in-Time Best-Practices

So what can a traditional marketing organization do to transform itself into a just-in-time master? Here are seven important first steps:

  1. Transform the operation model. The shift from floodlight to laser beam requires changes to the marketing operating model. It needs to be digitally powered, operationally industrialized, and able to support test-learn-optimize approaches. When it is, an organization is able to set up marketing initiatives that are highly responsive to data insights and reflective of changing customer demands and market trends.
  2. Support ongoing planning. Supporting just-in-time marketing capabilities requires continual planning. Measurement frameworks must be aligned so that budgeting decisions are consistent across channels for the varying marketing planning cycles. Why? Because that enables organizations to best determine where and when to spend marketing investments across which assets.
  3. Hone operations. Just-in-time masters glean insights and turn them into actions in days or weeks, not months. Like the shopkeeper of the past, companies need to hone their judgment, and then trust it. That may mean, in many cases, spending less time studying the problem and more time executing, refining, and then adjusting and improving over time. Just-in-time masters put talent and decisions closer to the frontline, then aggregate the insights and act on them.
  4. Become an effective listener. Traditionally, marketers have received feedback through elongated studies such as brand tracking studies performed each quarter. Now, marketers should listen through social media for cues to take immediate action, making decisions based on a combination of insights and instincts.
  5. Rely on extended teams and "as-a-service" providers to gain maturity faster. Companies can more quickly gain maturity in just-in-time marketing by relying on experienced marketing services providers. Embedded in such providers' solutions are capabilities such as digital, customer, and marketing analytics; managing outbound communications to customers and prospects across digital channels; and monitoring of social channels.
  6. Pay more attention to individual reactions and leading indicators. Traditional strategy has provided insights at the broad segment level, and it has shared data in aggregated insights. However, innovation and better performance may come from leading indicators or the "tip of the spear." Just-in-time marketing can provide a way to solve for more individual and specific situations, giving marketers insight into the consumers who could be predictors of where the mainstream will be in the future.
  7. Measure results, and measure again. To stay on top of waste and inefficiency, it's important to take a full view of performance. Just-in-time marketers establish key metrics to benchmark, and then focus on identifying and making necessary improvements. Key metrics include speed to market, cost of quality, number of handoffs, number of full-time employees, and number of hours worked.

* * *

Just-in-time marketing offers Marketing the opportunity to embrace a new approach that reduces marketing waste and drives revenue growth. By investing in the right capabilities, models, and technologies, organizations can transform their operations and achieve a competitive edge in the marketplace.

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Just-in-Time Marketing: Reach the Right Customer at the Right Time

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image of Mark Hosbein

Mark Hosbein is a managing director of Marketing BPO, Accenture Operations, provider of marketing business process services.

LinkedIn: Mark Hosbein



image of Rob Davis

Rob Davis is a managing director of digital agency network Accenture Interactive.

LinkedIn: Rob Davis