There is a precise moment in your marketing efforts when a customer becomes your customer — and it's not the moment he or she completes a transaction. It's the moment you win his or her trust.
This moment usually happens online, and it's in full control of the prospective buyer. It's call the Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT, and you can win that moment by dominating content marketing. Here's how.
It wasn't that long ago in the history of sales that a traditional pitch would have worked on the best of us. When we needed a product or service, we'd visit a store or an office and rely on the information we received from a salesperson to help us make our decisions.
This is no longer the case. Rather than turn to a company's sales reps right away, we first turn to Google and initiate the Zero Moment of Truth.
The ZMOT is the exact moment a consumer goes online to research — including reading through search engine results, social media pages, news sources, emails, etc. — and find answers before making a buying decision.
Essentially, Google has helped facilitate a new buyer mentality that drives consumers online for independent information instead of in stores for the old-fashioned sales pitch. Now by the time someone is ready to make a purchase decision, she's already self-identified her problem, what her possible solutions are, and what alternative options are available. When she speaks with a sales team, she's nearly ready to make that final decision.
And you’ve experienced this, too. When your bathroom floods, the first thing you do is search for “local plumbing companies." When you’re planning a family vacation, you search “best family travel destinations.” And, most commonly, when you want to know whether your aches and pains are signaling a severe and horrifying disease, you go to WebMD, right?
You know what the Zero Moment of Truth looks like in the eyes of the consumer. But this is how companies can approach it.
Companies that employ a marketing strategy that embraces ZMOT are aware of these potential consumers, what their pain points are, and what their next steps will be: online research. By creating content for each stage of the journey and offering valuable solutions, you'll attract consumers to your company and earn their trust. From there, it's only a matter of time before you can convert into a new customer.
Just because consumers are heading online before talking to your sales team doesn't mean you can repurpose your old sales pitches into published content and expect to drive results. Overly promotional content that serves you before it serves your audience will only hurt your brand. To win the ZMOT, you need this kind of content:
It might seem like there's too much to get "right" here, but if you can hit all three targets, the end result is worth it. Buyers seek different information in different stages of their buyer’s journey; no one wants a comparison sheet when he or she is still trying to figure out what the problem is in the first place. Each stage is different, and your content has to meet the needs of your audience at each stage of their journey.
Your task is to determine what, specifically, they're looking for in each stage of the decision-making process and where they're turning to find it. This data will help you craft your action plan.
Your job is far from finished when you hit "Publish." If your content can’t be found on search engines, social media, or the email inboxes of your leads, it might as well not exist at all. When searching online, users usually go with the first few results, so you must optimize your content and use a variety of distribution tools to deliver it to your audience.
Consumers go online to find answers, and the company that provides the most complete answers has the best chance at winning the consumer’s trust. So, every single piece of content that goes live on your digital marketing channels must fit into this category.
If it’s not helping anyone, it’s fluff, and you shouldn't waste your time on it. But if your article is answering a question, go all in, and be the best resource you can be. If you provide all the answers, the consumer might not even need to search any further; he or she may have already found a trustworthy partner.
The difference between being helpful and annoying with your content lies in consumer intention. If a consumer doesn't have the intent to buy, sales-oriented content — or even an innocent demo offer — can quickly drive him away. And if he doesn't want to buy now, that doesn't mean he won't want to in the future; you just have to nurture your consumer with educational content so when he's ready to buy, you're the company he thinks of first.
Shameless self-promotion can always be done through advertising; content marketing is a long-term strategy that builds customer trust and awareness. You make the final choice.
Winning the Zero Moment of Truth is an important goal, but achieving it doesn't have to be complicated. By creating content that helps your consumers answer the specific questions they went online to research (and optimizing your content strategy to ensure they find it), you can become their trusted resource — and the company they choose to buy from.
Larisa Aslanyan is a marketing coordinator at Waypost Marketing. Waypost, a certified Google Partner and a Hubspot Certified Agency Partner, is an inbound marketing agency focused on developing and managing strategies designed to increase leads, conversions, and sales for clients.