How ZMOT- Ready Are You?

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If you haven’t read Google’s piece on ZMOT, you should - it gets pretty close to being a must-read in this space. Now, granted, Google produced it and it pushes their goals forward as a company - make of that what you will, although many of their core observations are valid. For those of you who haven't read it and are curious about it, the basic premise goes like this:

ZMOT in a Nutshell

The Traditional Purchase

1. A few years back, a car purchase might start with a TV ad, or stimuli. 
2. Then, you’d have your First Moment Of Truth (FMOT): the moment you see the car at a car dealer’s station. 
3. You’d have your Second Moment Of Truth after the purchase, your experience while using the car. 

The FMOT isn’t just for cars. It’s for cereals, mugs, consumer electronics or enterprise servers. P&G studied the FMOT very closely, as there’s a critical relationship between the purchase and the seven seconds after a shopper first encounters a store shelf full of products. Rightly so, they put someone in charge of that experience.

The New Purchase

1. Today, you might still see an ad for a car.
2. Before you go to car dealer, though, you’ll conduct a search about the car. This is the Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT); the act that takes place before you see the car. 
3. As with before, you’d go to a car dealer for your FMOT- but you’re equipped with far more information.
4. You’d have your Second Moment Of Truth using the car, and you might review it. For the people who will read your review, that is their Zero Moment Of Truth.

ZMOT is driving a lot of change in consumer behavior, changes that marketers should pay attention and respond to. Social reviews matter more because of ZMOT. Videos matter more because of ZMOT. Landing that page 1 result for your web site matters even more because of ZMOT. In fact, just about anything that can come up on the search results page matters more now - in a survey, 84% of shoppers said searches helped shape their decisions. Two years in, ZMOT is more important than ever to pay attention to.

ZMOT and Marketers

When Google talks about ZMOT, it talks about the shift in the way people buy things - but not in the accompanying shift, the shift in the way organizations try to cope with the new landscape. What’s been brewing for a while in marketing and sales is that traditionally separate roles have been converging.

Converging is really too peaceful a term. Tim talks about the lines blurring in this Monetate piece, and it’s less like two rivers flowing into the same stream, and more like five herds of bisons crashing into each other - the carcasses are all over the place. ZMOT and other megatrends, like the rise of social media and always-on mobile computers, the proliferation of big data and the ability to serve contextual information on the cheap, are driving industries towards a new breed of marketers.

Search-centric professionals, the ones who network well and understand what it takes to create a search-friendly information architecture, have had to learn more about what happens after the search click-through. User experience specialists, the ones who understand testing and conversion rate optimization, have had to learn the search engine marketing crafts, and get people to pay attention. 

SEOs, CROs, inbound professionals, content marketers, marketing automation analysts, lead generation specialists - the different roles handled by different departments are all blending into the new age marketer. This new breed still carries specializations in one or two of those crafts, but is agile enough to handle the pressure created by the rest of the fields.

ZMOT Conflicts

Many marketers talk big game about how good usability and CRO practices are good search practices anyway, and there’s really no disconnect between the user experience analyst and the search professional. That’s just not true, or at least, it’s not true everywhere:

  • Great usability analysts are wonderful at cutting down content, except what the user needs to find information after the user lands on the site. Great search professionals understand the case for unique content related to a topic, which may not necessarily help visitors when they are looking for a specific product after they have already landed on the web site.
  • Good usability analysts would want to limit the left navigation and the information architecture to seven or so main items for memory-related reasons; good SEOs might want the left navigation elements to cover the 12 most popular search terms in their space.

There are many more potential conflicts, but the gist is that it’s not always easy to balance the needs of getting the user to a web site, and making the web site usable for those who get there.

Who Owns ZMOT?

ZMOT ultimately belongs to whoever in marketing has the ability to balance the visitor’s needs with the business’s goals. For a digital-first company, this would be CMO. For many others, this might be the head of search, who needs to also be trained in UX and CRO. For others yet, this might be the CRO professional, as long as his or her inbound skills are current.

The important thing to note is that somebody needs to be in charge of ZMOT, and that person needs to have cross-discipline training.

ZMOT and the CRO Professional

If you’re a regular here, chances are you’re from the conversion side of things. ZMOT entails some guidelines to the way you work:

1. Think about the “before conversion” activities more. A key skill in the usability toolset is understanding the visitor needs, and then helping them get it. Well, ZMOT is really that - except that it begins before they land on your web site. Brush up on your keyword research skills for the search page, follow through with your traffic analysis, and finish strong with testing.

2. Answer questions. This entails looking beyond your web site. What are the questions your prospects are asking? Where are they trying to get those questions answered? If they are asking those questions on and while you are retooling your landing page banner, a competitor will answer that question for them.

3. Think about conversion across channels. How is your YouTube presence faring? How many of your visitors there engage with you or move one stage down in the sales funnel? By many estimates, YouTube, not Bing, is the second most used search box after Google. You need to pay attention to it - along with Slideshare, Yelp, and other review sites, video sites, and channels. You need to be where your prospects are, not where you are comfortable.

4. Deal with intent differences between channels. That having been said, they are not going to jump from watching your video straight to your shopping cart. Make sure you have different success metrics on the various channels, and account for what they are trying to do. On social media, your success may be engagement and getting your messaging to have ripples; on video sites, your success may be education and early stage lead nurturing; on your web site, your success may be late-stage leads and sales.

5. Manage dirty data.There are no two ways about it. A multi-channel, multi-device world is a messy place for a conversion analyst. On your web site and your main social media presence, the different tools track different things in different ways. Add videos, forums, and review sites to that equation and you have a pile of data that you cannot reconcile. Make sure that you keep the data action-oriented, and even with all the differences, you’ll maintain your sanity. 

6. Grow your collaboration skills. ZMOT is a team sport. It’s where UX experts, PPC guys, SEO gals, video creators, inbound specialists, and CRO professionals converge. It’s played best when goals align, even when craft-specific nuances might cause debates.

You don’t have a say in whether or not ZMOT takes place. It’s already here. The lives of your prospects have changed. They want to have the conversation at a time and channel of their choosing - your choice is really whether you’ll try and be there.  And if you do decide to try and be there, note the tips above -with ZMOT, it helps to have someone in charge, and it helps to have a plan.