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The Baltimore Ravens may have hoisted the Super Bowl trophy, but theirs wasn't the only win celebrated from that night.

When the lights unexpectedly went out at the Superdome, cookie maker Oreo proved itself a nimble player on the marketing field. Its social media team sped to action, posting a tweet accompanied by a Twitter ad with a lone Oreo cookie and the message, "You can still dunk in the dark."

It was seen by thousands all over the world, generated more than 16,000 retweets and more than 6,100 favourites on Twitter.

This is what marketers call real-time marketing, and it's about responding in real, or near, time with timely and relevant messages that resonate with audiences.

Oreo wasn't the only brand to take to real-time marketing at the Super Bowl game. Tide and Motel 6, for instance, also jumped on that bandwagon and, even if they didn't generate the same level of response, they still capitalized on and benefited from the exposure.

For small businesses looking to take advantage of this trend, here are four ways to use real-time marketing to be relevant and timely to boost a brand and drive sales leads.


Newsjacking, as I discussed in a recent column, is about figuring out ways to inject your company into breaking news to generate media coverage for your business, build more awareness and create more credibility.

To inject yourself or your business into the news, you can either provide a product or service to a cause that just made headlines and is relevant to your business, or you can offer your expert opinion about a hot topic to a news source covering the story. Both are great ways to generate interest in you and your business.

Focused engagement

Oreo certainly reached the masses with its social media marketing. But an even better way for small businesses to be timely and relevant is to focus on the audiences they really want to reach. One way to do that is to create segmented lists of those who make up your target market. Listen to them and build a relationship by responding to their comments and questions.

A great example of this is a sport-supplement company I work with that developed such a list. To be relevant and timely, the company's owner provides his Twitter audience with helpful information, builds relationships by talking about whatever is the topic of discussion of the day and even extends special offers.

The key to his success is that he has built a targeted list of engaged followers that he can get to know and communicate both ways with in a timely manner.

Early adopter education

If you are in a business that often sees new versions of products or innovations released, another way to be timely and relevant is to be the first to market and offer education to early adopters who want to know more about these new releases.

Offer free white papers and training videos and, as a follow-up, provide the opportunity to take part in a paid training course.

For example, one of my IT clients generated business by training early adopters on new products released from Microsoft Corp. It was able to jump in early, learn the tools and provide help to software developers and project managers who wanted to learn more about using them.

Be a speaker with the right material

Keeping on top of and sharing information about changes in an industry is a great way to gain a lot of attention for your business.

Become an industry speaker and look for trends, new legislation or potential threats as possible focal points for a presentation. If you are timely and relevant with your presentations, you will build an engaged audience, which can turn into potential leads and sales. If you are like most small businesses that need a little hand in connecting with their marketplace, look to associations and chambers of commerce to help promote you and your speaking opportunity to their membership.

These four activities are all examples of real-time marketing and will allow a small business to leverage the two most powerful elements that drove Oreo's success – being relevant and being timely.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Ryan Caligiuri is the founder of Ryan Caligiuri International , a growth consultancy focused on developing programs that generate credibility, competitive advantages, leads/demand and new revenue streams for small- to medium-sized enterprises. Mr. Caligiuri is also the founder of The Growth Network a mentoring program that teaches entrepreneurs and marketers best practices, frameworks and strategies to become business growth generators.

Engage with Mr. Caligiuri on Twitter .

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