Episode #170: What is Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth”?

We’re well into the 20th century, so why are so many marketers stuck in an outdated broadcast marketing mentality? Today we kick off a multi-part series where we’ll look at the marketing plan of the future (well, the present, really), and why you need to shift your thinking from a broadcast focus, to a conversation focus. It’s all about the “moment of truth” — that point in time when consumers make a choice about your product or service. Welcome to 2022!

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Yeah, heading into the New Year, some vim, some vigor. This is the first podcast of 2022. 2022 – amazing. I was talking to someone the other day – 2022 – that sounds like that was a science fiction date. When did that become the actual year? 2022. So a couple quick things. We’re going to do a new series, starting today, on how to write a marketing plan in the 21st century. I figure we’re 22 years into the 21st century, probably a good time to actually figure out how to write a marketing plan for it. So we’re going to be doing this for a while, it’s going to be great. I’m really excited about it, I get this question a lot, sort of forming some of my own opinions and ideas about it as well. And we’ll kind of head into it. And we’ll see where we go. We’ll start today on framing it and how to think about it. And you’ll know by the end of today’s podcast, if this is something you want to keep following, because you’ll either agree or disagree with me. And if you disagree with me, then you know, you’ll listen to something else. If you agree with me, I think we’ll have some fun.

So I’m also wearing a fisherman sweater. This is an authentic Irish sweater, quick history on what these things are. So each fisherman sweater has got a different pattern on it. And so say this Conn family pattern is unique to the Conn family and different patterns are unique to other families. And the reason for that is that these are an early form of identification. So if you know anything about Ireland, you know that it’s an island, and it’s in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and a lot of Irish make their living fishing. And fishing in Ireland is a reasonably hazardous task. Because you’re in open ocean most of the time, very little protected water. So people fall overboard, their boats capsize, accidents happen, storms occur, etc. And so when this happened, in the early days, bodies would wash ashore. But by the time a body washed ashore, it had been in the ocean for a while. And it was nibbled and eaten and desiccated and destroyed in various ways and was very difficult to identify the victim. So along comes the fisherman sweater, which, in addition to being warm and cozy, also is a form of identification. So if a body washes up on the Irish shore, they can’t really tell who the body is, but they can still pull the sweater off. And they can say, hey, this is a Conn family sweater. Anybody of you in the Conn family missing somebody? And you know, someone might say, Yeah, Grad’s been out for about a week. I haven’t seen him in a while. And then they know what that desiccated lump of human flesh on the shore is. So that is the short, quick history of Irish fishermen sweaters. I’m wearing it today because it’s ridiculously cold in New York City, and I’m just doing my best to stay warm.

So let’s talk a little bit about how to write a marketing plan in the 21st century. I think this is a really super-duper interesting topic, because the marketing plan’s structure hasn’t changed much in 100 years. And you know, there are a lot of marketing geniuses out there who will read a marketing textbook and think they know how to write a marketing plan. And what is sort of interesting, is there’s some kind of core basics to the classic marketing plan around market and audience and objectives and tactics to go about it. I’ve written quite a bit of stuff on how to how to write a P&G recommendation, they’re available on my blog, in fact if you just google “how to write a P&G recommendation”, my article from a few years ago now is the top result. So great source of information there and there’s nothing wrong with any of that stuff. But times have changed. You know, things are different. And I actually think that the classic marketing plan structure is fundamentally flawed, because it reflects a time when there was essentially a single channel of communication. And that was broadcast. And so the classic marketing plan sets a set of goals and objectives in an audience centric way around personas. And then essentially arrays a group of broadcast tactics to communicate the message.

And this is fundamentally flawed today for a few reasons. One is that we don’t need personas anymore. There’s a podcast somewhere in the last 175 podcasts where I rant on at length about personas; personas are meaningless in the modern context because we can know somebody’s individual tastes and desires and interests and themselves as well. We don’t need to create a fake persona to go after that anymore. And people who do that are doing that in a broadcast mindset. As well, in the broadcast mindset, you tend to list tactics; you’ll do your media building blocks, you’ll have TV and radio and print and billboard. That’s how you go about it. And obviously, there are a lot of other, more compelling, interesting, and important ways to reach people today. And so this broadcast centric model of marketing plan creation is still with us. And in fact, one of the things you’ll hear me talk a lot about is this movement, as we’re moving from the 20th century to the 21st century, we’re also moving from a broadcast mentality to a conversational mentality. And that broadcast to conversational mentality change is reflected all the way through everything that we do, including the way we would write a plan.

So, I have a slightly orthogonal and potentially controversial way of thinking about writing a marketing plan. But I’m going to throw it out there today and let’s have that discussion. So I’m going to talk about something I’ve talked about before, which is ‘zero moment of truth’. While we’re talking about it, you may want to bring it up on your browser; go to ‘think with google.com’, ‘think with google.com, forward slash, zero moment of truth. And zero moment of truth, or ZMOT, is something that Google rolled out more than a decade ago. And it’s based on an idea that was originated by Procter & Gamble, around first and second moments of truth. And then they’ve added this, and they’ve built it up quite a bit. And I’ll talk about that for a second. But before I describe it all and get into all those details, what I’m basically going to be proposing is that you take a zero first and second moment of truth structure to your marketing plan, and think through audiences, not from a persona basis, but from a mindset basis around those moments of truth. So that’s how we’re going to build this thing out over the next several episodes as we talk it out, so this should be kind of fun.

So let me just talk about ZMOT for a second. So originally, P&G, Procter & Gamble, created this model of first moment of truth and second moment of truth. And the basics of it are – the first moment of truth as a consumer occurs in the aisle, so in P&G’s context, the grocery aisle. While you’re standing in front of an array of, let’s say, detergents, you’re making a decision on which one to buy. And part of this was in a little bit in response to people at our agencies and other folks who would say, “No one really cares about detergents. No one’s talking about detergents, that’s not something people talk and discuss in bars”, that kind of idea. I would beg to differ. I actually talk about them all the time, but I get it, most people don’t. But the point we would make is that while people may not talk about them on a day-to-day basis, for the moments that they’re standing in the grocery aisle, deciding which one to buy, it is the only thing they’re thinking about. Let me say that again, right, they’re standing in the detergent aisle, in front of, let’s say, 10 different detergents. At one point it was 50 but it’s fewer these days. You’re deciding what to buy. That’s the only thing on your mind. And what people often forget is that the human brain is a single core processor. Multitasking is not a real thing for the human brain. Multitasking is something that a computer can do, can run multiple processes at the same time, but not the human brain. The human brain can only consciously manage one thread at a time. You can switch, so people when they say multitasking, it’s actually fast switching. And there are some subconscious functions like breathing and stuff that are occurring. And that’s potentially the multitasking thing but from a conscious, thinking standpoint, the human brain is a single core processor. So while you’re standing in the detergent aisle, looking at detergents, the only thing that you are thinking about is what detergent to buy.

That’s the first moment of truth. When you make a decision, you’re going to make that decision based on a variety of inputs and ads and comments. And the number one reason why people buy the detergent that they buy, you know what it is, can you guess? It’s what my mother used. Or in my case, it’s where I got my first job. Anyway, so that’s the first moment of truth.

The second moment of truth is when you use the product, and I’ll stay with detergents for a second, just because I worked in that category for a long time. And people sometimes wonder why Procter & Gamble spends the billions of dollars it spends on scent research every year. Well, that second moment of truth is pretty important. And how do you judge that your clothes are clean? You can look at them and there’s certainly sometimes very specific stains that you’re trying to remove. And you can see that they’ve been removed, etc. But typically, with a general load of clothing, the way you tell it’s clean, is you smell it, and it smells clean. And so a good scent that makes your clothes smell clean, will create a second moment of truth, which is “Oh, that smells great. I love that. I’m going to buy that detergent again”; first and second moment of truth.

The zero moment of truth, which Google introduced, their idea is that before you’re in the grocery aisle, and originally the ZMOT work was actually targeting against CPG companies, before you’re in the aisle, you’re researching the product in advance – online. I’m going to actually read this off their site. Whether you’re shopping for cornflakes, concert tickets, or a honeymoon in Paris, the Internet has changed how we decide what to buy. At Google, we call this online decision-making moment, the zero moment of truth, or simply ZMOT. ZMOT refers to the moment in the buying process when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase. And this is absolutely applicable to B2B as well. You think about sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra and TrustRadius, those are all recommendation sites and review sites that people use to make decisions. And there are many specific types of sites in specific industries, like health care, and others where reviews have become very important. People use them religiously to think about B2B tech decisions as well. And so step one in a 21st century marketing plan is: understand your zero moment of truth triggers, your first moment of truth triggers, and your second moment of truth triggers. So let me talk about Sprinklr. I know Sprinklr pretty well.

So in Sprinklr, the zero moment of truth is a pretty interesting thought process. Because if you think about it, most people that come to your website in B2B have already decided to buy the product. There’s a great Gartner stat that 60% of first-time visitors to your website have already decided to buy, not to find out more, to buy. So that’s why Drift and technologies like that are so important because they allow you to connect your interested buyer to a salesperson using tools like Calendly, and stuff like that really, really quickly. So they can start to get that process going. Because if you maybe lose the momentum on that, it can be a problem. So that means a lot of people are doing a lot of research about products before they get there. So at Sprinklr, people going to G2 Crowd, seeing some amazing, amazing reviews and a lot of them, they’re going to Capterra, they’re going to TrustRadius. They’re also going to the analysts. They’re going to Gartner. They’re seeing Sprinklr rated as a leader in the Magic Quadrant. They’re going to Forrester, seeing Sprinklr rated as a leader in the Forrester waves. They’re going to Constellation seeing their analyst reports on Sprinklr and where we’re leading and where we’re making great changes for customers. And people will use those analysts’ conversations as a way of framing what they’re thinking about buying. And then they’ll also talk to influencers. And they’ll see there’s a lot of influencers in the category. People will go on Reddit. Karma Labs is a new Reddit service that helps you figure out how to work with Reddit, I would recommend it very highly. And they will look at Twitter. And sometimes they’ll throw a jump ball out there. “Hey, I’m thinking about buying a new CXM solution. Who would you recommend?” Well, people throw, “A unified CXM is really the way to go these days, you may want to take a look at Sprinklr”, you can see all that kind of stuff out there. And really understanding that flow and that interaction is critical to understanding how to propel your brand, because that lives in this world of the organic. Think of organic as the hardpacked snow of the ski run that you want to create. And you’ve got a number of different organic motions. I’ve just talked about influencers. I’ve talked about review sites, I’ve talked about analysts, you can also have content creation that people are using and downloading and finding. You’ve also got employee advocacy. This has been a huge secret weapon for us at Sprinklr. We have 83% of our employees, posting more than two and a half times a week on how much they love Sprinklr and telling different Sprinklr stories all over LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook, etc. That’s a super powerful way to get people engaged and involved. There’s a really great story we have this week on Prada who’s using our unified CXM platform to transform the way they deliver customer experience and to drive their digital transformation to become a 21st century fashion house. A very cool story and some of the work that Prada is doing right now is amazing. Their co-design work with the Adidas is actually quite, quite stunning. Take a look at that. You can only look at it in the Adidas app, which is super-duper clever.

So I kind of keep spinning this out. So as you think about this, most marketing plans don’t actually start where I’m starting right now. In fact, many marketing plans ignore these inputs or think of them as different teams or different groups. But this is where most of your traffic is going to come from. And it’s certainly where your most qualified traffic is going to come from. So that is your zero moment of truth. Think that through. Okay, so I’m going to put a bow on this for today, we’re going to come back to first and second moment of truth. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to keep going on the Sprinklr example and talk about first moment of truth which will take us into the aisle that you want to put people in as they think about it, and that’ll be in the space of programmatic display, Search Engine Marketing, SEO websites. We’ll talk about the owned properties. All we’ve talked about earned right now at the beginning and zero moment of truth; we’re going to talk about owned quite a bit more. And then we’ll talk about the experience that people have with the product and how you get them into a product led marketing motion, trial motion, and product use motion. So it’ll be our second moment of truth and we’ll get to that as well. But for now, I think we’re going to stop and hope you enjoyed our first podcast of the year. I actually really liked doing this, wanted to put this down on paper for a while. And I think it’s kind of a cool way to do this by doing it on the podcast. So for the Unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and I’ll talk to you … in 2022 … next time