What’s the dominant trend in marketing right now? Personalization. It’s the ability to identify customers and prospects, and capture enriched information on each individual to develop a deeper profile.

I believe there’s another major evolution right around the corner, which I call “marketing in the moment.” And no marketer can afford not to seize the opportunity.

From building the brand to building a relationship

To elaborate on this concept, let’s think about the evolution of marketing. Not long ago, companies were able to rely on the strength of their brand and on marketing to the masses. Marketers devoted most of their effort to building the brand. Consumers recognized “Coke,” for instance, and bought it.

Then Coca-Cola recognized that not everyone wanted a traditional Coke; some preferred caffeine-free, others wanted low-calorie and sugarless. Marketers began to differentiate their buyers, segmenting the different target audiences, tweaking the product offerings and the message and the advertising channel.

Today, marketers have refined this approach to the point of individualized interactions – because they can. Digital technology offers enormous power to capture and analyze behavioral data for deep insight into each customer’s intents and motivations.

The next wave: knowing when to engage

The idea of marketing in the moment is to deliver exactly the right message to a single individual – at exactly the right time. That’s not a green light to bombard the consumer at every moment, but instead to identify the right moment to have a discussion.

For example, if I call my bank to complain about an overdraft fee or report a lost ATM card, the representative would be ill-advised to pitch a product while I’m in that negative frame of mind. The rep doubtless has a few data points about me, and knows that I am currently considering remortgaging my house. But the context is wrong for trying to engage me in a discussion about refinancing.

Delivering instant response

The emerging model of customer engagement is known as “empathy marketing,” where the objective shifts to becoming empathetic to the individual. A key aspect of being empathetic is timing. There are moments in everyone’s life when they are open to influence and value information that meets their needs in that instant. And those needs change very fast.

To return to my banking example: I can do a Google search for information about refinancing, and very quickly identify a few companies I might do business with. Within seconds, my smartphone will buzz with a response from one or more of those sources with interest rates and terms.

If that information arrives the next day, it’s too late. Consumers today expect immediate gratification. They expect it not only for major financial decisions like this, but in their everyday activities: where to grab a pizza, get cash at an ATM, buy a Mother’s Day card, catch a screening of the latest 3D movie.

The three essential pillars for marketing in the moment

How is it possible to meet these expectations? Putting it simply, there are three fundamental pillars.

First is the ability to collect and analyze huge amounts of data and convert it to actionable insight. Since consumers use multiple channels to engage with organizations, the second pillar is to maintain a strong, consistent presence in all key marketing and commerce channels for a seamless customer journey from one channel to the other. This involves building a consolidated view of the customer across all relevant touchpoints to discover the customer’s real-time intent, and what information that person needs to move forward in the journey. The third pillar is the ability to work collaboratively within your organization to effectively manage and qualify leads, measure results, and make midcourse adjustments to your strategy on the fly.

Digital solutions designed for SMBs

Enabling this approach is what we call a digital core, which combines transactions and analytics on a single platform. Instead of relying on multiple applications for different processes, a single platform centralizes your customer data—CRM, financial information, and so on—and brings in external sources as well. Everything is connected: internally, marketing campaigns, sales data, and customer payment info, for example; and externally, the web, social media, and the Internet of Things. Powerful tools allow you to analyze and visualize enormous amounts of data to gain the type of insights I’ve described here.

While this approach may appear out of reach for small and midsize businesses, there are in fact digital solutions available – and economically accessible – that allow you to seize the marketing moment. And advisors are at the ready to support you with evaluation, implementation, industry-specific functionality, and ongoing services.

This blog was originally published by the Digitalist Magazine.