Google weighed in on this topic last year when it published an excellent e-book titled, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth. The e-book was written by Jim Lecinski, Google's Managing Director of U.S. Sales & Service, and it is based on an analysis of Google's voluminous data regarding internet searches and on primary research Google commissioned.
The primary message of Winning the Zero Moment of Truth is both simple and profound. Lecinski writes that the traditional mental model of marketing contains three components.
- Stimulus - Typically, this is an advertising/marketing message such as a TV/radio/print ad, a direct mail communication, or an e-mail marketing message.
- First Moment of Truth - This is the moment at which a consumer stands in front of your product in a store or views your product in an online store and decides to buy. . . or not. For many B2B companies, the First Moment of Truth is not when a prospect decides whether or not to buy. Instead, it is when a prospect registers for one of your white papers or webinars, or when a prospect accepts a meeting with your sales rep. In B2B, the First Moment of Truth is that moment when a prospect decides to identify himself/herself and engage with a company. . . or not.
- Second Moment of Truth - This is when a buyer actually uses a product or service and is happy/delighted/satisfied. . . or not.
Lecinski argues that the development of internet technologies and the explosion of online information have added a new moment of truth to the traditional model, what he calls the Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT. The ZMOT occurs after the stimulus and before the First Moment of Truth, as shown below.
The ZMOT is where potential buyers take initial steps to learn about the products they may be interested in purchasing. Most of this research is performed online, via web searches, anonymous visits to company websites, reading online user reviews, and, increasingly, through social media. Whatever you sell, whether it's complex industrial equipment or sophisticated computer software or marketing services, your prospects will form their first impression of your company and what you offer at this moment, the ZMOT.
This has two major implications for B2B marketers. First, it means that a prospect's first impression of your company and your products or services will be based on the content that you publish. And second, it means that if your content doesn't pass the "ZMOT test," you may never be given the opportunity to create a relationship with a prospect, much less make a sale.
What about your online presence? Can your company be found when potential buyers search online for information about the products or services you provide? If a prospect visits your website or your Facebook page or your blog, what kind of content will he/she find? Will it be self-promotional content that's mostly about your company? Or, will it be content designed to demonstrate that you understand your prospects' problems and that you have the requisite expertise to help solve those problems? Will your content pass the ZMOT test?
The old saying is absolutely true: You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.