As Seth Godin said in a recent podcast, for the past 50 years, marketing is advertising. Advertising is where the stimulus lies. At the risk of oversimplifying, we can see that under the traditional model of marketing, marketing is like a magical black box where advertising is the input and sales are the output. If you see marketing from this perspective, then you will concentrate all your effort in tweaking the parameters of this black box in order to increase its ‘conversion rate’ (see 6 secret tricks to seize the competitive advantage for your e-store) of turning visitors into buyers.
But no matter how hard you tweak this black box, your conversion rate will always be very miniscule (say 0.5% to 1.5%, according to industry standard) because it is the same for typical online businesses. Hence, you need massive number of visitors (say from hundreds of thousands to millions per month) to make even a modest profit. As a small business owner, this is an unrealistic expectation, especially if your online presence is relatively new. Hence, it is very easy to give up and be tempted to wind up the online arm of your small business (or let it lie dormant).
Obviously, there must be a better way. Enter ZMOT…
With the new model of marketing that incorporates ZMOT in the process, you will have to do things differently. Most of the free Internet business blogs you see on the Internet talks about measuring and boosting your online business’s ‘conversion rate’. Conversion rate, by its very nature, is all about statistical probability. The problem they are trying to solve is therefore, an optimisation problem. For you, if your numbers are small, there’s nothing to optimise in the first place. So, a lot of all these free information you see on the Internet wouldn’t apply to your small business. So, what should you do?
My advice, especially if you are starting out, is to concentrate on building up the ZMOT moments for your future potential customers. To do that, you have to be prepared to invest in a substantial period of time to build up your authority and brand online before you can expect to enjoy the first-fruits of your online sales. This is something I had said before in “If you build it, they wouldn’t come, unless…”. Building up your authority will also include networking diligently. Regarding networking, I wrote in “Internet marketing techniques alone will not get you ahead of the pack”
So, please make the effort to network. Yes, it is time and energy consuming, but if you don’t do that, your business cannot reach its full potential. And remember: your network of relationships is your competitive advantage that cannot be easily whittled away by your competitors.
When you have accumulated substantial amount of authority and trust on the Internet, you are just a search away for those who don’t know you yet. That will be the ZMOT for them, which will set the stage for the next step of the marketing process.
All these activities will not bring in revenue to your business upfront. But they are vital for the long-term growth of your business. You will know you have reached the holy grail of marketing when you can just tell your prospective customers/clients to “google” your name/brand if they want to find out more (and you can be proud of the search results).