Marketing Strategy

category ➞ Marketing

Image: Google ZMOT Marketing Strategy Framework by Google, Inc.

"When creating a marketing strategy, it is not always clear where to begin. This resource provides you a framework to help ease the process."


Creating a marketing strategy from thin air involves hours or days of intense thinking. Successful marketers know they must approach this process with care, but it is not always clear where to begin.

Some strategy approaches amount to throwing a handful of tactics in front of random passersby in hope of generating interest. Then, the marketer discretely peers out from his or her hiding spot to watch who takes the bait. Probability laws indicate this approach will be successful now and then (it just may take a billion tries.)

However, unless your organization has stacks of money earmarked for your marketing budget, hidden in secret vaults buried beneath the foundation of your offices, a much more efficient approach is to build your marketing strategy on top of a framework. That is the gist of what I present here.

You will learn about a marketing strategy mental model, how digital marketing fits within this framework, and see the different information flows impacting your organization. These suggestions are applicable to all marketing areas, including B2C and B2B.

Got your coffee? Ready to get started?


Why you should read this.

Misconceptions occasionally surround the concept of marketing. The American Marketing Association (AMA) has an "official" definition it adopts, yet I would simply say marketing facilitates the exchange of value between your organization and your customers.

It is not a sales function, per se, though very often it directly leads into your sales process. Instead, trust is the cornerstone of good marketing. This trust between you and your audience can build to a fiscal outcome. However, trust is hard fought and easily lost. And where people are involved things can get tricky:

We're entering an era of reciprocity. We now have to engage people in a way that's useful or helpful to their lives. The consumer is looking to satisfy their needs, and we have to be there to help them with that. To put it another way: How can we exchange value instead of just sending a message?

Kim Kadlec » Johnson & Johnson, Worldwide VP, Global Marketing Group

This quote from Ms. Kadlec originates within Google's Winning the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) ebook by Jim Lecinski. Anybody interested in marketing should read it. It outlines a marketing strategy mental model first developed by Proctor & Gamble then later modified by Google to reflect modern consumer habits. Digital marketing strategies should first be held against this model to determine potential effectiveness. Understanding what this model implies for you forms a basis for the discussion below.

Marketing Strategy Mental Model

Understanding a framework from Google and Proctor & Gamble.

Modern B2C and B2B consumers have largely decided whether or not to purchase your product (or email your salesperson, visit your store, donate to your nonprofit, and so on) before ever engaging with you Further, it has also been shown that entire businesses are beginning to approach the requisition process with a consumer mindset.

Take a moment and consider that.

As marketers we must engage with every consumer in a meaningful and authentic way before ever knowing a name. And to do that, we must be present in those channels where our target audience resides:

...the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011...[These] range from TV commercials and magazine articles, to recommendations from friends and family, to websites, ratings, and blogs online.

Google/Shopper Sciences » Zero Moment of Truth Macro Study, U.S., April 2011

10.4 sources of information seem extreme until you consider the first results page of an online search often includes 10 or more possible choices. And this is only one step in the mental journey from need realization to purchase! Google's 'Zero Moment of Truth' (ZMOT) mental model takes this into account and provides an excellent framework for developing your marketing strategy:

Google ZMOT Equation

ZMOT describes the consumer journey with four discrete steps.

Stimulus. This is the trigger causing your target audience to realize an unmet need. The trigger could include stimuli such as Facebook advertising, online reviews, direct mail, news articles, brochures, or anything else that flips the mental switch. At this stage your brand must present something compelling enough to cut through the noise.

Zero Moment of Truth. This is everything the consumer will do leading up to an imminent purchase decision. Here, the journey could include talking with friends, social media interaction, online search, brand website visits, reading online reviews, reading brand email, watching videos, or utilizing other resources that provide information or entertainment value. The consumer is asking, "Will your product save me money? Will it save me time? Will it improve my life?"

First Moment of Truth. This step comes just before the consumer transacts with your brand. He or she might be standing in your store, talking with your salesperson, looking at your displays, adding items to an ecommerce shopping cart, signing up for your service, or doing any other pre-transaction activities. Now the consumer is asking, "Have you answered my questions to my satisfaction? Am I sure I want to do this? Can I see myself in a relationship with your brand?"

Second Moment of Truth. Finally, the consumer purchases your product and reflects on the entire experience. Is he or she satisfied? Disappointed? Will your customer purchase from you again? Many people will readily express these sentiments, influencing other people at the Zero Moment of Truth. For example, your customer might voice these opinions in a social media community or an online review.

You must ask yourself if your marketing strategy covers all these steps. The traditional model of push marketing and blanket advertising is no longer wholly sufficient. They are one possible element of an overall plan. To maximize success your brand must be very accessible, very compelling, and very authentic. As Mr. Lecinski points out:

If consumers will do research online for houses and health care, they'll also do it for Band-Aids and ballpoint pens.

Jim Lecinski » Google, VP of U.S. Sales & Service

Now we have a very solid framework for understanding marketing strategy and can begin to add specific marketing programs into this mental model.

Integrated Marketing Strategy

Fitting digital marketing programs into the ZMOT model.

The diagram below shows how your target audience might take the ZMOT journey. It could involve activities like searching your company forum or reading an online review of your brand. This diagram is highly simplified and varies by consumer, but it serves as a starting point for layering in your marketing programs.

We should also mention business experts have written libraries of best practice material for each subject area presented in the diagram. It is beyond the scope of this discussion to bridge into that material, but the Internet has a wealth of resources.

Here is one example of how your ZMOT marketing ecosystem might look:

Marketing Strategy Ecosystem

We see here all the elements of the ZMOT model: Stimulus, Zero Moment of Truth, First Moment of Truth, and Second Moment of Truth.

After the initial stimulus, a consumer spends time researching your brand. He or she decides to initiate your sales process (i.e. enters your location, talks with your salesperson, submits an RFP, uses your ecommerce shopping cart, and so on) and becomes your customer. Your new customer reflects on his or her accumulated experiences. Then, wanting to share those experiences, your customer creates content that goes back into the ZMOT cycle influencing the next consumer who takes the journey.

What you just read is a perpetual process:

This is the new digital shelf. Consumers arrive there, 24 hours a day, ready to engage. They're anybody's to win or lose. The opportunity is incredible; are you ready for it?

Jim Lecinski » Google, VP of U.S. Sales & Service

Now we have both a suitable marketing strategy mental model and an idea how to layer in marketing programs. You might take comfort in knowing few experts get everything right on the first pass. This is why continually optimizing your strategy is crucial to achieving positive results.

Optimizing Your Marketing Strategy

How information sources feed into marketing strategy optimization.

A marketing strategy is like an engine: there are numerous moving parts that require periodic maintenance in order to propel the entire framework forward. Optimizing your marketing strategy is that necessary maintenance.

When you set your marketing plan in motion, it generates data. When your competition sets their plans in motion, it generates more data. Additionally, the processes internal to your organization generate data. Each source can be analyzed in turn and combined into a valuable reference for directing your operation.

This is how that information flow appears:

Marketing Strategy Information Flow

Having processes in place to convert raw facts and numbers into business intelligence (known as BI) and competitive intelligence (known as CI) is critical. Operating without this information amounts to guessing your way to the right answer. Sometimes you will be correct, but far more often, you will not.

An example of how business intelligence might play out is with social media. Let us say you want to create a social media community in order to enjoin brand advocacy. Part of the community building process includes listening to what people are saying about you and your industry in order to know what kind of content will be valuable to your target audience. Business intelligence captures that data and converts it into a content recommendation for your community manager.

An example of how competitive intelligence might factor into your marketing strategy is with domain registration. When an organization registers a new website URL, it creates a record. Tracking these registrations could inform you that a competitor will soon launch a new service that directly competes with one of yours. If you have this information ahead of time, you can immediately increase your marketing budget allocation around your service to downplay the launch of the competing service. In this way you retain your share of voice. Competitive intelligence brings together many different data points to give you an edge.

As with the marketing programs discussion, business intelligence and competitive intelligence are deep topics. The work requires a combination of tenacious logic and the correct tools, as well as time to distill this information into a usable format.

Now, at this point we are equipped with a ZMOT marketing strategy mental model, an idea how to layer in marketing programs, and a broad understanding of the strategic information flow impacting your marketing programs. These concepts are the foundation that will help you compose a comprehensive marketing strategy for your organization.

Wrapping Up

Although this story has an ending, yours is just beginning!

Here we are at the end. You made it! Have you finished your coffee?

You just read about the 'Zero Moment of Truth' (ZMOT) marketing strategy mental model developed by Google and Proctor & Gamble. You read how digital marketing services fit within this model. And finally, you read how data from both your organization and your competitors' organizations can be harnessed into an effective marketing strategy.

This is a lot of ground to cover. As discussed earlier, there are libraries written on each one of these subjects, and the material presented here should be viewed as a starting point. I hope you found this discussion helpful! Now, in the words of Seth Godin, "Go make something happen."