This is article is primarily for those who are running Ed Tech companies, want to, or are interested in marketing. If you are putting most of your Internet dollars into lead generation and advertising, you are barking up the wrong tree.
Marketing is the use of communications channels to drive sales.
In their free book, The Zero Moment of Truth, Google quotes Bob Thacker of Gravitytank:
Engagement with the customer today isn’t just pouring a message down on their head and hoping they get wet.
It really is understanding that you must be present in a conversation when they want to have it, not when you want to.
The old marketing model consisted of three steps:
- Stimulus: something prompts a person to want to purchase a product or service; this could be an advertisement, an email, or a piece of direct mail. Its primary purpose was to generate leads, which could then be converted into sales.
- Shelf: the person goes to wherever he or she goes to purchase the product or service, finds it, and makes the purchase. The purpose of marketing was to make it attractive for the person to buy; product packaging plays a major role, as do brochures and sales aids.
- Experience: customers use the product or service; it works; and they are happy. They become loyal customers, and hopefully recommend the product to others through word of mouth.
Proctor and Gamble, probably the giant of consumer marketing, called the second and third stages (Shelf and Experience) the moments of truth. Specifically, finding the product and going through the purchase process is the first moment of truth (FMOT), and using the product and enjoying it is the second moment of truth (SMOT). If either of these fail, the brand has lost a customer. And, the moments of truth generally lead to word of mouth, so failure often has even larger repercussions.
What has changed today?
- Stimulus: the person still might get prompted by an advertisement, and this might be on the web or through some other means.
- Online Research: Instead of going out to buy, approximately 84% of potential buyers do research on the web, looking for reviews, comments, or sending out inquiries on social networks.
- Shelf: based on information the person selects the outlet or store and product.
- Experience: the person uses the product or service, and whether it works or not, they become part of the word of mouth network, whether live or online.
This new step, online research, is becoming known as the zero moment of truth or ZMOT.
Online advertising is relatively ineffective as a stimulus for action (it was 8th; the first four were ads on television, mail, articles in newspapers or magazines, and ads in newspapers or magazines).
However, with 84% of potential buyers doing research, online search was the most likely place to research products (the next three were: talking with acquaintances, looking at the product in a store, and online comparison shopping).
What do potential buyers look for online?
- More information about the product
- Similar products that might also meet the need
- Experiences others have had with the product and the other solutions; their SMOT becomes potential buyers' ZMOT
- Offers, discounts, and coupons
What they want to know is:
- How can I save money?
- How can I save time?
- How can I improve my life, job, or results?
And they want to hear it from people who are just like them. Superintendents want to hear what other administrators say, teachers want to learn from other teachers, parents of elementary school students want to hear what other elementary school parents have to say.
Not only are they going to look for this information on your website, they are going to use general search, paid search, blogs, youtube, and social network sites to find similar people who have written, blogged, commented, tweeted, or made videos about the products and services they are interested in.
If potential buyers can find satisfying information about your product at the ZMOT, you'll likely get the sales, if not, you've lost it.
How do you find out if your ed tech company is competing well in the ZMOT?
- Does your site come up in the top third of the first page as you start typing your company name or product into a search engine?
- When you type in searches based on the problems you solve, what comes up about your product?
- What comes up when you type in a search for "[your product name] review" or "best [your category]”?
- What questions do people ask about your product or category, how easy is it to find your answers to those questions?
- What do people most want to know when they are considering purchasing products in your category? How does your product come up when they ask those questions on search engines? Do you have landing pages that pose and answer those questions?
- Where can people find how to videos about your product(s), and how easy are they to find?
- Are most people staying on your website for at least a few pages, or do you have a high bounce rate?
- What happens when someone with a mobile phone lands on your website; how is their experience?
Yes, ed tech companies still need to concern themselves with lead generation, sales, and customer satisfaction. But the social web has opened up a fourth front, the ability of potential buyers to easily research products, and the ability of customers to easily participate in product conversations. If your company can effectively market in this new environment, it should be poised for growth.