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ZMOT, and what it means to B2B marketers

The way we buy things has changed fundamentally, and B2B marketers need to account for ZMOT. Here’s how you can get started.

ZMOT cover

One of our fabulous customers (the kind who send us cool stuff in the middle of the night) shared this with us the other day: www.zeromomentoftruth.com. Call it ZMOT.

It’s an excellent eBook produced by Google about the moment(s) of research you do before the moment when you actually buy something (the first moment of truth, or FMOT).

What is ZMOT and what do buyers do during ZMOT?
They google, of course. They learn about their choices online, read reviews, watch videos, etc., etc., etc. To big brands like Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola and General Electric (who are quoted heavily), the new mental model defined by ZMOT has attracted a tremendous amount of attention.

Research undertaken by Shopper Science indicated that ZMOT was even more influential on purchases than the original stimulus that starts a purchase decision, and the first moment of truth.

Arguably, ZMOT carries more importance for B2B markets than it does for B2C markets, as the larger the purchase the more time for pre-purchase research. Correspondingly, GE’s CMO Beth Comstock describes the relevance of ZMOT to their business.

We find this ZMOT, it applies to all of our customer bases, whether you’re buying a jet engine, a refrigerator or a credit card. It really does apply both in a consumer and in a business-to-business context.

Rightly, many would say that Google’s taking credit for the weather here. That is, people have been researching purchases for as long as people have been making purchases. But that’s really not the point; the point is that this research is far more successful, rich, pervasive, immediate and constant than ever before.

And, in both consumer and B2B enterprises, this simple point has still not sunk in. The game is now online, and – while it’s not the only game in town (the fundamental market need, the moment of purchase and needs fulfillment are still there) – without a focus on inbound SEO, great reviews and rich content you’re not even playing.

Here are Google’s seven ways to start winning at ZMOT, which I’m tuning to our B2B purposes.

1. Put Someone in Charge
Google predicts the rise of a new title in all major brands: Director of ZMOT (just like the many companies that followed Proctor & Gamble’s move to establish a director for FMOT in 2005). Only the biggest B2B brands have even a remote chance of searching for a VP – ZMOT any time soon. But any B2B brand that doesn’t give someone a focus on early digital engagement is missing a trick. This person should be sitting in on the biggest discussions, and pushing you to consider ZMOT in your buyers’ eyes.

2. Find Your Zero Moments
Basically, you need to find out when people start researching the kinds of solutions you’re selling and what questions they key in to Google’s search field. This is marketing’s first lesson, applied to the digital age. At ZMOT, it’s not your story; it’s their story. You’d better make sure you fit in there. Start by finding the most popular terms in your category, then address people using those words on your site.

3. Answer the Questions People are Asking
Great anecdote from the book: When Obama’s administration was trying to push through the health bill, they found that “what is in the health care bill?” was the most common related question people were entering in Google. So they wrote a post called, you guessed it, What is in the Health Care Bill. What happened? Until only recently, that post appeared first on Google’s search results for that phrase. Apply that to B2B? Answering your prospects’ questions directly and unswervingly is what your blog can be for.

4. Optimize for ZMOT
Two basic keys here: 1) Create engaging and sharable content yourself. 2) “Iterate, iterate, iterate,” says Lisa Gevelber, a director for marketing at Google. “Data beats opinions, and that’s a key rule for mobile, desktop and any other ZMOT campaign. Try something new, track results closely, then crank up what works and turn off what doesn’t. That’s the beauty of online: You can change and fix things in a flash.” Please, B2B marketer, thou shalt not fear failure. Try things. You’ll be surprised what works.

5. Be Fast
I quote the eBook here” “You can’t go in with the classic mindset of the big annual marketing plan with roll-outs planned 12 months in advance. You have to be faster and more flexible than that.” For B2B markets, this will often equate to federated marketing (that is, empowering and encouraging people throughout the organization to do marketing-shaped things, be it tweeting, blogging, talking at events, what-have-you).

6. Don’t Forget Video
This speaks for itself. With that said, don’t just talk into a camera for three or four minutes. Draw something. Walk and talk. Use props. Set up a little Q&A. Keep it quick. Film an action or event. Just don’t expect crowds to swarm around your talking-head footage. You can be more creative than that. Really, you can.

7. Jump in
B2B marketers generally have a long way to go in terms of ZMOT. The learning curve’s steepest at the beginning, so get in there. As Avinash Kaushik of Google says: “Fail faster”.

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