The ZMOT continued: More from Jim Lecinski

Last week, I started my conversation with Jim Lecinski, author of the new ebook from Google: ZMOT, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth. Yesterday, Fellow Search Insider Aaron Goldman gave us his take on ZMOT. Today, I’ll wrap up by exploring with Jim the challenge that the ZMOT presents to organizations and some of the tips for success he covers in the book.

First of all, if we’re talking about what happens between stimulus and transaction, search has to play a big part in the activities of the consumer. Lecinski agreed, but was quick to point out that the online ZMOT extends well beyond search.

Jim Lecinski: “Yes, Google or a search engine is a good place to look. But sometimes it’s a video, because I want to see something – I want to see it in use, show it to me. Then – your social network. I might say, “Saw an ad for Bobby Flay’s new restaurant in Las Vegas. Anybody tried it?” That’s in between seeing the stimulus but before the shelf – in that case, making a reservation or walking in the door.

We see consumers using sort of a broad set of things. In fact, 10.7 sources on average are what people are using to make these decisions between stimulus and shelf.”

A few columns back, I shared the pinball model of marketing, where marketers have to be aware of the multiple touchpoints a buyer can pass through, potentially heading off in a new and unexpected direction at each point. This muddies the marketing waters to a significant degree, but it really lies at the heart of the ZMOT concept:

Lecinski: “It is not intended to say, ‘Here’s how you can take control,’ but you need to know what those touch points are. we quote the great marketer Woody Allen, “Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up.” So if you’re in the makeup business, people are still seeing your ads in Cosmo and Modern Bride and Elle magazine, and they know where to buy your makeup. But if Makeupalley is now that place between stimulus and shelf where people are researching, learning, reading, reviewing, making decisions about your $5 makeup, you need to show up there.”

Herein lies an inherent challenge for the organization looking to win the ZMOT – who’s job is that? Our corporate org chart reflects marketplace realities that are at least a generation out of date. The ZMOT is virgin territory, which typically means it lies outside of one person’s job description. Even more challenging, it typically cuts across several departments.

Lecinski: “We offer seven recommendations in the book and the first one is “Who’s in charge?” If you and I were to go ask our marketer clients, “Okay, stimulus – the ad campaigns. Who’s in charge of that? Give me a name,” they could do that, right? “Here’s our VP of National Advertising”

Shelf – if I say, “Who’s in charge of winning at the shelf?” “Oh. Well, that’s our VP of Sales” or “Shopper Marketing.” And if I say, “Product delivery,” “Well that’s our VP of Product Development” or “R&D” or whatever. So there’s someone in charge of those classic three moments. Obviously the brand manager’s job is to coordinate those. But when I say, “Who’s in charge of winning the ZMOT?” well, usually I get blank stares back.”

If you’re intent on winning the ZMOT, the first thing you have to do is make it somebody’s job. But you can’t stop there. Here are Jim’s other suggestions:

“The second thing is you need to identify what are those zero moments of truth in your category? Know what those zero moments are. Identify them. Start to catalogue what those are and then you can start to say, “Alright. This is a place where we need to start to show up.”

The next is to ask, “Do we show up and answer the questions that people are asking?”

Then we talk about being fast and being alert, because up to now, stimulus has been characterized as an ad you control. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a study that’s released by an interest group. Sometimes it’s a product recall that you don’t control. Sometimes it’s a competitor’s move. Sometimes it’s Colbert on his show poking a little fun at Miracle Whip from Kraft. That wasn’t in your annual plan, but now there’s a ZMOT because guess what happens – everybody types in “Colbert Miracle Whip video.” Are you there, and what do people see? Because that’s how they’re going to start making up their mind before they get to Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up their Miracle Whip.”

Winning the ZMOT is not a cakewalk. But it lies at the crux of the new marketing reality. We’ve begun to incorporate the ZMOT into the analysis we do for clients. If you don’t, you’re leaving a huge gap between the stimulus and shelf..and literally, anything could happen in that gap.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished in Mediapost’s Search Insider July 28, 2011