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ZMOT is the Stupidest, Most Brilliant Idea Ever!

Discussion in 'Websites, SEO, SEM, Display, Social, Marketing' started by ed.brooks, Nov 27, 2011.

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  1. ed.brooks

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    My friend Larry Bruce posted “Why ZMOT is BS” onto a number of sites. Of course this immediately drew the ire of the ZMOT advocates. I contend both sides are right, and also wrong.


    What is ZMOT?

    ZMOT is a concept that Google came up with a few years ago. Their VP of US Sales, Jim Lecinski, recently wrote an eBook titled “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth” describing the concept. It appears as though the aim of ZMOT was to convince marketers of what used to be thought of as impulse items, that their buyers were doing research before the purchase in a way they had never seen before. Here is what the Consumer Behavior models look like:

    Consumer Buying Process.jpg





    Why ZMOT is stupid – for automotive marketers

    ZMOT starts, using as a foundation, the 3 step behavior model in place for decades when folks bought cheap impulse items… and then adds a fourth step. The problem is that the process for high-involvement items (like cars) was documented by folks who dedicated their lives to the study of consumer behavior decades ago as well. Hundred of textbooks, thousands of pages have been dedicated to this study. It is already well defined and was NEVER the 3-step model; it’s always been the 5-stage model. ZMOT takes it a giant step backwards from the Five Stages of Consumer Buying Behavior for a number of reasons.


    Here’s an example of where ZMOT can lead us astray; ZMOT advocates view much (all?) traditional advertising as “Stimulus”. But very little automotive advertising is actually “Stimulus”. Stimulus is the billboard you drive by on the highway that makes you think “Yeah, pizza does sound good tonight”. Most automotive billboards, on the other hand are designed with a strong branding component rather than stimulus. They are also in place to raise awareness of the dealership after a need has been recognized – to add the dealership to the customer’s consideration set. Branding can be a big factor in the high-involvement Purchase Decision stage. Having a strong brand can tip the scales in your favor at ‘ZMOT’.


    With high-involvement products it’s almost impossible to spark the need, but advertising can be very influential in the Information Search and Alternative Evaluation stages. The ZMOT folks see traditional advertising as Stimulus because the ZMOT model starts with Stimulus (many times external) – the automotive buying model doesn’t. It starts with recognition of a need (almost always internal). While much of the automotive buyer’s research is done online, the factors that contribute to the Purchase Decision aren’t limited to the Internet. The strong brand a dealer has created offline will come into play at the online ZMOT.
    So here’s the problem, ZMOT’s foundation is the wrong buying process – the buying process for chewing gum, pizza and pantyhose, one that goes from Stimulus to Purchase Decision. It’s added a step for sure, but when you’re marketing a car dealership at a high level, your foundation needs to be more advanced.


    If you look to the 5-stage model, you’ll see that traditional advertising isn’t inherently a bad thing, but you’ll understand exactly how it influences consumers. That said you’ll also recognize the vital importance to a consistent branding and cohesive messaging.


    Here’s Jim Lecinski, when asked if he thought ZMOT changes the buying decision:
    “No, ZMOT was an attempt to catalogue, characterize and give a sticky name to the behaviors that we are seeing from consumers. What is new on a consumer-behavior front is that consumers who used to use this Zero Moment research model to inform their buying decisions only around high-ticket or so-called high-involvement products -- white goods, cars or travel -- are now so comfortable with and reliant on that behavior that they are now applying it to what you would call everyday items.”


    Consumers have always followed a much more advanced model with auto purchases.


    Why ZMOT is Brilliant

    Way too few folks in the dealership world have a strong foundation in marketing. The birth of the Internet hasn’t helped. It’s focused dealers on the First Moment of Truth, the Purchase Decision. Whether we call it conversion, a lead or an “up”, we put all our focus on one stage. ZMOT delves into how we should be looking at all 5 Stages (or 4 if you wish to use the ZMOT model). If you do focus on the entire process, you WILL sell more cars. I’ll still contend that the Zero Moment of Truth is nothing new, but I fully agree that the more attention paid by dealers to the traditional 2rd and 3rd stages (ZMOT), the better off they will be.


    And ZMOT is brilliant because it does just that. If a catchy little acronym is what it takes to get dealers to pay attention to the entire process – the entire cycle – then the dealers will be the winners.


    This little eBook from Google and its advocates have sparked dealers’ interest in Consumer Behavior. Marketing, at its core, is about so much more than where you spend your money – it’s about having a better understanding of your consumer. ZMOT may well be the most important thing to happen to automotive marketing in a long while.


    The Solution

    Use the ZMOT concept to wake your dealership up but don’t base your entire marketing plan on an eBook written by the guy Google has in charge of selling you AdWords. Dust off your old marketing textbooks and dive into them. If you’ve never actually studied marketing, take a class or two. Do some reading. Study concepts like Purchase Intent, Awareness, Branding, Consideration Set and the like. They will serve you well in your quest to win the ZMOT.


    The core foundation of your ZMOT efforts should be the proven Five Stages of Consumer Buying Behavior and not the behavior of folks buying bubble gum. From what Jim Lecinski says, he based ZMOT on the consumer behaviors that have always been at play with auto sales, he just dumbed it down a little for folks selling gum. Go back to the original material on which he based ZMOT. (he does have a Masters Degree in marketing, he knows what he’s talking about)


    And one last bit of advice: Don’t just optimize for the sale, optimize for the research.
     
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  3. joe.pistell

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    My oh my Ed, what a deep dive in ZMOT. This post is so good, I'm re-reading it 3x, and trying to catch up with you. You mentioned the 5steps but you never itemized them.

    IMO, EVERYONE is missing the DISC* jewel in this study... You included ;-)

    *DISC = Does It Sell Cars
     
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  4. ed.brooks

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    Joe, I'm sorry, I included the five stages in the graphic, but not in the body. Here they are:
    1. Problem/Need Recognition
    2. Information Search
    3. Alternative Evaluation
    4. Purchase Decision
    5. Post-purchase Behavior
    DISC is indeed the only thing that matters. A more thorough knowledge of consumer behavior and motivations will help a dealer sell more cars. It also goes to the heart of my problem with ZMOT. For example, many of the ZMOT folks seem to view the value of an advertisement only by its ability to drive a customer to a website - totally discounting the ad's ability to increase brand awareness and purchase intent.
     
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  5. joe.pistell

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    Ed,

    Google's ThinkAuto conference on ZMOT introduced me to John Ross, CEO of Shopper Sciences. There are few people who's words & observations Rock my foundation and throw my work into hyper-drive. IMO, John Ross is to ZMOT, as Dale Pollack is to the Used Car Industry. Were talking rare, world class talent.

    My post on John Ross is here http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f43/pricing-strategy-oejust-tactica-1895-5.html#post15411

    I took a screen shot of one of his slides, annotated it and included it on that post.

    Simply put... Of all of the "touch points" A shopper makes in their journey, none influence the final decision more than the visit to the dealership.

    Granted, if your stimulus and ZMOT blows, you'll never see the up, but, from my seat, visibility is a separate marketing task. Once visibility is in place, My John Ross/ZMOT lesson is that if the visit to the dealership is the consumers strongest influencer, then all ZMOT content needs to put all of my shoppers "un-answered worries" to rest (is the sales rep pushy, is the dealer reputable, will the manager be there for me if the car I buy is a junker, what's the warranty, if my credit is fair, will they screw me... Etc)

    There are dealers out there now that communicate this message very well. SuzukiofWiticha.com, auctionDirectUSA.com, carsense.com, carmax and others. The winds of change are among us, enter in…the Game Changers.

    This is how I see ZMOT.
     
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  6. ed.brooks

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    You nailed it Joe. I'd add however, that getting them to that dealership is visit is tougher and tougher. The last data I saw had dealership visits down to 1.8 per shopper. Simply put, the short list is getting shorter. Being on the main drag and having your inflatable gorilla on the roof no longer guarantees that the customer will stop in and give you an opportunity to dazzle them.
     
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  7. john.quinn

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    Tougher and tougher, Ed? Or easier and easier for the stores that "Get It?"
     
  8. ed.brooks

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    I'm still sayin' tougher and tougher. Here's why; I asked myself 3 questions. Here they are with my answers.
    1.) Is the number of shoppers increasing?​
    NO​
    2.) Are consumers likely to start visiting more stores per purchase?​
    NO - in fact the number of store visits could continue to shrink​
    3.) Is the number of dealers that "Get It" increasing?​
    YES - The number is still too small, but it is absolutely growing


    To me this means one thing, the stores that get it today had best not become complacent. If you don't continue to 'up your game', you'll be on the losing side of the equation in no time.
     
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  9. john.quinn

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    D

    Ed, with all due respect, #1 is just plain wrong -- there are more people and therefore more shoppers. I'd also disagree with # 3.

    Now, are there as many as 2007? No. But the bar has been reset and the SAAR will continue to increase until the next reset. Remember, there are also quite a few less dealers out there now, too.
     
  10. ed.brooks

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    JQ - I'll admit #1 varies with the economy and the seasons and gas prices, but it's percentage increases and decreases. We don't all of a sudden have twice as many car buyers in America.

    As for #3, you really don't think the number of "Get's It" dealers is increasing? If you're right, that really saddens me.
     
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  11. john.quinn

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    Well, maybe by percentage more Get It, because many that didn't lost their shingle. But as I read through even recent posts on this very forum -- dealers out their paying for ILM and CRM, or no CRM, and making efforts to increase 3rd-party leads and signing their databases over to Edmunds..... Ooooof. I have to wonder.

    I think a lot of dealers are Buzzword Savvy -- but do they REALLY get it?? I dunno... Good topic for a conversation though.

    But I do agree with you that even the ones who do Get It cannot become complacent -- the Next Big Thing is here -- and it's "Pull."
     

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