To some digital marketers, it may seem a little odd that I'm writing about ZMOT - especially since I've written an earlier blog on its effect on mobile responsive web design. However, at least once a week I have a conversation with a digital marketing manager who has not yet heard of ZMOT. I'll explain why it's an important concept here...
The idea was first written about in 2011, in Google's 'Winning The Zero Moment of Truth' - a chunky yet free ebook readily available to download. However, the notion was actually born earlier than that - in 2005 - when Procter & Gamble invented 'FMOT' - 'The First Moment of Truth': defined as the first point at which a shopper comes across a product on the shelf. Pretty much the point of purchase or failure for the product.
Today's Marketing Model
Google actually pronounces it 'Zee-Mot', which is evidently up for grabs depending on how British you are (for me, it's all about 'Jay-Zed' and 'Fifty-Pence'). Google suggests that there's an entirely new model in play, due to the advance in mobile technology and consumer behaviour online.
So now, prior to the 'First Moment of Truth', comes ZMOT - the 'Zero Moment of Truth'.
So what is it?
Google's Definition of Content Marketing
Well it's actually a pretty cool campaign idea and useful way for Google to market the concept of content marketing.
Gone are the traditional days of direct marketing and advertising. Halcyon days whereby some relatively simple media planning would result in marketing stimulus driving consumers to purchase without passing 'Go' or collecting £200. The world of digital is, as we very well know, a little more complex than that nowadays.
According to Google, in 2011, consumers used an average of 10.4 online sources in order to help them make an informed decision (it was 5.3 in 2010, so you can imagine what that figure looks like in 2014). Of that number, 70% of them looked at product reviews before making a purchase. As previously highlighted in our article about the rise of mobile search, consumers are also combining their television viewing with high levels of mobile use - often during the advertising breaks.
So if, as a brand, you're not active within the 'Zero Moment of Truth' (i.e. you don't have any useful offsite content), then you're entirely less likely to have a share of voice within the ZMOT. But is having content enough..?
Google is making wholesale changes - Panda being a massive and obvious example. The old-school SEO concept of using links to rank is effectively dead, and if you're not careful you could wind up with a nasty Google penalty and a one-way trip to the Google version of the Phantom Zone. This isn't really news. Regardless, Google penalty recovery is currently BIG business for leading SEO companies. As it goes, I won't be entirely surprised if, in the near future, Google re-evaluates the way it looks at links from apparent bone fide blog sites too. So with all this in mind, perhaps we should consider that since Google writes the rulebook, and Google wrote a guide on ZMOT, shouldn't we as digital marketers make every effort not to ignore it? Here's the thing: many brands and digital marketers still are.
6 Tips to Get you started in considering your brand within ZMOT
1. Carry out a content audit.
Evaluate all content you currently have on - and offsite. Categorise it in terms of what strategic value it could have and what place it could have within a structured content strategy.
2. Define a content and SEO strategy.
Whilst you will likely already have the former, a recent survey by Hubspot and Smartinsights demonstrated that 56% of the organisations surveyed did not have a defined content marketing strategy. In fact, the poll running on our home page right now shows that a staggering 68% of Fist of Fury site visitors don't have one. Create one. And consider that it will go hand in hand with your SEO strategy. Remember that Google is looking at regularity, engagement, links, popularity, citations and social proof - that's all in addition to properly managed technical SEO. There's a lot to consider when creating an effective content strategy.
3. Put yourself in your customers' shoes.
Sounds simple doesn't it? But how often do we actually do it? People buy based on decisions made by people just like themselves, so the way to kick off your content marketing is to define personas within your audience. What do they look like and what do they behave like? What makes them tick and thus where do they go for their online research and online entertainment? Define those outposts and seed your content there. And always be realistic about what you want your customers to take away from your content, versus what they actually want and are willing to share.
4. Stop advertising at people!
Seriously though... Since the dawn of time, SEO and and advertising media people have been trying to exploit new technology platforms in order that they can turn what was a perfectly lovely social technology solution, into a opportunity to shout at consumers. Here's the thing: Thanks to ZMOT, consumers are making their own informed decisions. They're bouncing around the net on multiple devices and at lightning speed. They know what they're looking for - they merely need online confirmation as to what they can buy and where it's available. They're no longer easily fooled and cannot be patronised. So don't try! Oh and don't ever pay for links. It's a fool's errand and it will ultimately bite you on the arse. Invest your time in quality inbound links from your content. It will take more time, but it will be worth it. Remember that Google doesn't like spam links - even from so-called genuine blog sites.
5. Your brand is more important than ever before.
Thousands of brands are currently polluting the internet with sub-standard content, because they've been told that the only way to rank is to have content. Incorrect. Quality content is what's required. Content that is engaging; entertaining, inspiring, or educational and informative. Your content has to tell a story about your brand - fill in the gaps for consumers. Ultimately, what it comes down to is brand trust - just as it's always done, funnily enough. What's equally important is that the customers' experience upon bouncing from offsite to onsite content is consistent and credible. If a consumer finds your brand via seeded offsite content only to be met with an inconsistent or untrustworthy and credible brand experience, they will bounce from your site (within 3.8 seconds according to today's stats) and you won't see them again (one of those other 10+ sources will hook them instead).
6. Exploit the 'Second Moment of Truth'.
So they've found you via an outpost, they've come to your site, and they've bought your shit. Well done for getting this far!! Job done eh? Nope...
You've turned a lead into a prospect and a prospect into a customer. But ask yourself just how loyal your customers are, or how easy it will be for them to forget your brand the next time they're in the ZMOT. They're now in the funnel, and if you have a strategy to turn these customers into delighted customers, then give them a digital platform in which to express their delight. They will become digital advocates for your brand - adding positive reviews and content about your brand to the Zero Moment of Truth. Of course, it might make sense to evaluate just how great your customer experience is, before letting them loose on the internet to share their brand experience. Food for thought...
7. Evaluate, define and redeploy.
Just because you've got one content campaign right doesn't mean you'll get them all right. And if you don't keep a close eye on your analytics, you will never truly know what content worked and what didn't. Evidently once you know which types of content drive prospects into customers, it stands to reason that your ZMOT strategy should contain more of such content! Redefine and redeploy...
Hubspot have a rather natty graphic that defines some of this in very simple terms. They call it 'the Hubspot methodology'. If you take away nothing from this blog, you can snaffle this.
As with many marketing practices, you can choose to read a fistful of blogs, or read some books! Google's 'Winning the Zero Moment of Truth' is available to download for free here. So don't take my word for it - take the word of the guys who own this playing field outright. They make the rules and we have no choice but to play the game. That aside, it's well worth a read. Happy trails...
If you're interested in chatting more about how to create quality content for your brand, click on the link below.