“Build it and they will come” was the mantra in the nascent Web two decades ago. This unbridled enthusiasm commercialized the Internet and disrupted the human experience beyond all recognition. Much has changed in the intervening years, and expecting products to market themselves is surely a recipe for disaster.

Marketing considerations and technologies are now woven into the very fabric of business, and marketing mindsets permeate company cultures. Marketing has moved to center stage, and nonstop, real-time demands have pushed us into an era of what we call atmospheric marketing.

In a way, the early Web was a victim of its own success. It tied the world into a truly global economy with increased competition and shortened product life-cycles. We now talk of minimally viable products, iteration, agile planning, and scrum — terms that weren’t in the business lexicon 20 years ago. And no matter how fast we move, we have trouble keeping pace with rising customer expectations.

Alongside that, impatience is the hallmark of our hyper-connected age with its omnipresent connectivity. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the typical human attention span plunged from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013, and is now shorter than that of the average goldfish. To paraphrase a famous public-service ad about the dangers of drugs, “This is your brain on a steady diet of digital media.”

Customers now expect real-time response and situational awareness. To delight them, you must extract very personalized insights out of expanding clouds of dynamic and often unstructured data.  You must use this knowledge to create a user experience with a magical prescience — one that anticipates their wants and needs.

The process must be self-improving, so your recommendations get closer and closer to the mark even as the volume, velocity, and variety of data increases. Embracing this philosophy will help you aggregate, synthesize, and harmonize masses of chaotic omni-channel data into a 360-degree customer composite in real time.

Don’t give marketing short-shrift

Unfortunately, many emerging, venture-funded companies continue to give marketing short shrift, as witnessed by “why startups fail” lists. A lack of sufficient or appropriate marketing is featured prominently on most of them. Too often, startups focus initially on just products and markets. They seem to regard marketing as a lot of pomp and circumstance, not something that can make or break a product. Marketing is seen as a luxury that can be added later — maybe when they can afford a dedicated marketing staff that is augmented by an external agency.

Instead, startups should take a very holistic and even engineered approach to marketing. This means building marketing into their businesses from the ground up, starting at the early “buzz concept” stage. They must make it an indelible, defining component of their company environment and customer experience.

Startups that fail to embrace real-time atmospheric marketing are forfeiting a big advantage. While big, established brands struggle to retrofit their operations to the new marketing realities, agile little startups can embrace a marketing culture and build marketing into the very foundation of their businesses. Startups have the disruptor’s advantage of being able to design systems for real-time personalization from the beginning, and they can personalize based on “the now” rather than “the yesterday.”

Established companies are held back by what are typically batch-processed, backward-looking technical architectures and data flows, which leave them spending precious time and resources trying to piece their Humpty Dumpty of customer and visitor data back together again before being able to deliver a personalized experience. Startups, on the other hand, have the ability to build real-time data platforms from the ground up, keeping all of this data together from the time of creation, and weaving that data together with offline data using next-generation, cloud-based platforms.

Startups need to think of marketing as an essential part of the very air they breathe. Its presence doesn’t ensure success, but its absence is deadly.

To provide an optimal customer experience, today’s startups need to envelop customers 24/7, hack their minds and behavior patterns, adapt marketing messages on the fly, and respond in the moment with omni-channel engagement. It is false economy to think you can put this off.

There is no brand too small or too new for real-time, atmospheric marketing.