Sunday, April 22, 2012

Can You Win the Zero Moment of Truth?

Regular readers of this blog know that I write frequently about how new buyer behaviors are driving far-reaching changes in what is required to make B2B marketing and sales effective. In my view, this is the single most significant issue facing B2B marketing and sales professionals.

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.
A.G. Lafley, the former chairman, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble, has written that the best brands consistently win both of these "moments of truth."

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.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

For Great Marketing Content, Focus on the Jobs Prospects Need to Get Done

The first step to creating compelling marketing content is to understand what your prospects are trying to accomplish when they purchase products or services like those you provide. Most buyers, particularly business buyers, don't purchase a product or service because they want that product or service itself. Instead, when they become aware of a job that they need to get done, they look for a product or service that they can "hire" to perform the job. Theodore Levitt, the legendary marketing professor at the Harvard Business School, captured this concept in a memorable way when he said, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole."

In The Innovator's Solution, Clatyon Christensen and Michael Raynor provide an interesting example of hiring a product to get a job done. A fast-food restaurant chain wanted to increase sales of milkshakes, and it commissioned market research to better understand how to accomplish this goal. The most surprising finding of the research was that almost half of all milkshakes were purchased in the early morning. The milkshakes were usually the only item purchased, and they were rarely consumed on the premises.

The researchers found that most of the morning milkshake customers were people on their way to work. They faced a long commute, and they needed something to make the drive more interesting. In addition, while they weren't necessarily hungry when they bought the shake, they knew if they didn't eat something, they would be hungry by mid-morning. Most of these customers also faced similar constraints. They were in a hurry, they were usually wearing their business clothes, and they only had one free hand.

These customers sometimes "hired" other foods to fill their morning needs, but most of the alternatives had significant disadvantages. Bagels got crumbs on their clothes, bananas were eaten too quickly to last for the whole commute, and breakfast sandwiches made their hands and the steering wheel greasy. It wasn't so much that these customers "liked" milkshakes better than bagels or bananas or breakfast sandwiches, but milkshakes were better than these alternatives at performing the job the customers needed to get done.

It's not hard to find examples of this idea in the business world:
  • No business owner really wants accounting software, but many buy such software because they realize they need to generate invoices faster, know how much they owe to vendors, and understand how well their company is performing financially. Accounting software enables them to perform these jobs more efficiently than a manaul bookkeeping system.
  • No business owner really wants property insurance, but most will purchase insurance because they know they need to protect themselves financially in case of a fire. Insurance is the best-available tool for performing this job.
  • No business owner really wants a company brochure, or a direct mail campaign, or for that matter, a website, but many will invest in those things because they see them as effective tools for performing the job of increasing sales.
As businesspeople and marketers, it's easy for us to forget that most potential buyers aren't really interested in our products or services per se. What they are (or can become) interested in is what our products or services can help them accomplish. Our products or services are simply the means to an end, and this fact should determine the primary focus of our marketing content. To use Levitt's analogy, our marketing content needs to be more about quarter-inch holes than about quarter-inch drills.

To create such content, you have to know what jobs your prospects are trying to get done, why those jobs are important, what happens if those jobs don't get done, and what issues or problems can prevent prospects from performing those jobs. The answers to these questions will provide the basis for your marketing content.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Marketing in the Age of Consensus Buying

The conventional wisdom among marketers and sales professionals is that the fastest and surest path to a closed sale is to identify and create engagement with the economic buyer - the individual who can actually make the decision to purchase your product or service.

Both marketers and salespeople know that most B2B buying decisions now involve more than one person, especially when a significant purchase is on the table. They also understand that it's important to communicate with "influencers" as well as the ultimate decision maker. That being said, the economic buyer remains the primary focus of most marketing and sales activities. One example of this focus is that many companies still use the traditional BANT criteria (Budget-Authority-Need-Timeline) for defining a qualified sales lead, and the "authority" component of BANT is the authority to make the purchase decision.

As it turns out, though, taking a direct approach to the economic buyer may not be the most effective strategy. Research by the Sales Executive Council of the Corporate Executive Board shows that when decision makers (economic buyers) are evaluating purchases, the single most important criteria is widespread support for the proposed supplier/solution across the organization. In other words, what the decision maker really wants to know is that a proposed purchase has the strong backing of his/her team.

Consensus buying is not, of course, a new phenomenon. Wise economic buyers have always sought input from their colleagues, especially when they are one or two steps removed from the use of the product or service under consideration. Consensus buying has now become the norm because leaders recognize that stakeholder buy-in is needed for the successful implementation of any new solution.

In The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson argue that the emergence of consensus buying has far-reaching implications for sales effectiveness. They contend that sales reps have traditionally viewed stakeholders in the prospect organization as sources of information. In the traditional selling model, sales reps gather information from stakeholders and use that "inside" information to fine tune their presentation to the economic buyer. Dixon and Adamson argue that a new sales model is emerging in which information and insights flow from sales reps to prospect stakeholders. These insights are designed to build broad stakeholder support for the proposed solution and provide stakeholders the information they need to evangelize the proposed solution with the economic buyer.

The emergence of consensus buying has implications for marketing as well as sales. Most importantly, it means that marketing must create content that speaks to the concerns and needs of all the stakeholders who will influence the purchase decision. Marketing is just as responsible as sales for creating engagement with all significant buying influences.

The second implication of consensus buying is that marketers can't afford to target lead generation campaigns too narrowly. We now know that targeted, more relevant lead generation programs are more effective that the "spray and pray" campaigns of the past. Targeting is important, but you shouldn't exclude influencers from lead generation programs, even if you have a good idea of who the economic buyer is. Other stakeholders can provide a valuable initial contact with the prospect organization, and their support is essential for a successful sale.