Episode #171: A New and Improved “First Moment of Truth”

Grad Conn

January 20, 202218 min read

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Part 2 of our deep dive into the sprinklr marketing plan where we explore the “First Moment of Truth,” the point in time when a potential customer first encounters your product. In today’s episode we’ll dig into this classic marketing touch point, and then transmute it from the grocery aisle to modern channels. Plus, a quick detour into the world of SEO and SEM.

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I guess I should start talking, right Randy? All right, ready? Ready. Hey, welcome to the Unified CXM Experience grooving out to the Ride of the Valkyries. It’s Grad Conn. I am the Chief Experience Officer, CXO, at Sprinklr. If you’re watching this on video, so we are now actually broadcasting these in video form as well. So if you are watching me on video over my right shoulder, just right behind me, you’ll see a teddy bear sitting on my wire stand. That is the bear I have had since I was six months old. That bear has seen a lot of adventures and has been with me through thick and thin. And we will do an entire podcast on Teddy at some point. But just to kind of preview that or preface that a little bit, Teddy has a repaired nose and paws courtesy of my grandmother. He has jammies, courtesy of my mom. And he is wearing a little collar. And that collar was the collar that my first cat, Punky, had. So there’s a lot of emotion packed into that teddy bear over there. And he’s been recently brought back from Seattle where he was very well cared for by Suzy, who I’m very grateful to. And I bought Teddy a brand new-to-me suitcase to bring him home like a gold brick. So anyway, we’ll have some fun with that later. But you’ll notice him watching over the episode and he doesn’t like something he’ll tap me on the shoulder. So that could be a moment of weirdness if you’re watching on video.

All right, so today we are talking about the first moment of truth. So we started this series. Basically, we’re talking about how to build a marketing plan. And this applies to B2C or B2B, I’m going to probably put a B2B spin on it today, just because that’s the world that I’m inhabiting right now. But you know, we’ll kind of throw some B2C components in there as well. But basically, the zero moment of truth is when people are researching online, and looking to third parties, and other authorities to understand what they should buy. There’s a great stat from Gartner, from the latest Gartner marketing symposium, that 60%, six zero, of your first time B2B website visitors have already decided to buy your product. Most of these B2B websites are written like you’ve never heard of them before. But in most cases people are coming to buy. So think about Drift, Calendly, products like that, make sure it’s easy to get in touch with and talk to your sellers. First moment of truth we’re going to talk about today is essentially standing in the grocery aisle. So we’ll get to that in a second. And the second moment of truth, which comes tomorrow is going to be talking about how we experience the product for the first time. And in that product experience, how we think about wanting to buy, use, and enjoy that product again. So that’ll be really interesting. The whole, the whole second moment of truth is critical, because that’s where people make long term decisions about the product. So let’s come to the first moment of truth. So let me give it a bit of an origin story. I’ll talk a little bit about where it started from. And then I’ll delve a little bit into SEO and SEM and some of the things you want to think about in terms of ‘creating the aisle’.

So it started with Procter & Gamble, who did the first and second moment of truth. And the Procter and Gamble context was, I’m standing in, say, the detergent aisle. I’m standing in the detergent aisle, and I am deciding which detergent to buy. And so there had been or has been sort of a long-standing bias amongst the agencies that Proctor & Gamble works with that detergent’s not that interesting. And so we remember, as a brand manager, seeing ad presentations from agencies with polar bears, and all sorts of different characters and all sorts of different sort of gimmicks in them, because they thought that the product was inherently not that interesting. So they were trying to create drama outside of the product. And that’s a concept at P&G. We used to run something called the storyboard seminar. I actually ran it a few times. It’s a concept called ‘irrelevant drama’, about drama that doesn’t have anything to do with the product itself that’s meant to drive interest in the ad. And Bill Bernbach, who I think in some ways led a creative revolution that has created some dysfunctional behavior by agencies and creatives, but he himself, I think, had the right intentions. He had this great comment, I love this, when he said, “If you want to have someone stand on their head, in the middle of an intersection, you’re probably going to get some attention, but unless the product that you’re advertising is a new change purse that keeps coins in your pockets even when you’re upside down, the attention you’re drawing is irrelevant.” So find drama, for sure. But do it in a way that’s relevant to the product benefit, not just a way to get attention. And I think you all know what I’m talking about. We’ve all seen this. So in the sea of irrelevant drama, part of what we would try to coach the agencies on is that, while most people wouldn’t talk about detergent in a bar, you know, present company excluded. I mean, detergent is very interesting; the way it’s made, how it works, the history of it, where it came from. Super interesting. Randy, can we do a show on that?

Sure. I’ll add surfactants to the list.

Okay. surfactants. I think this would be a great end of the week, some super punchy, maybe exhausted, maybe just close to year-end or something like that. Who knows? And, and I’ve just got to like, just ramble for a few minutes. Surfactants roll that bad boy out. Anyway, so most people, though, I would agree, don’t talk about surfactants in a bar. But for the 20 seconds, or 30 seconds, or 15 seconds, whatever that number is that they’re standing in the grocery aisle, looking at the wall of detergents, it is the only thing they’re thinking about. Let’s say that again, for the moments that the person is deciding to buy your product, it’s the only thing they’re thinking about.

This is the first moment of truth. And in that moment, they make a decision to grab your product. So there’s a book called Marketing Warfare. It’s by Al Ries and Jack Trout and it was originally published in the 1980s,1985 maybe. There’s a 20th anniversary edition out now which looks pretty interesting. That was published earlier in the 21st century. They also wrote the book Positioning. And if you’ve read the book, Play Bigger, which is the sort of hype book of the moment in the B2B SaaS space. Play Bigger is essentially a rewrite of Positioning. And the core concept of Play Bigger, Positioning and Marketing Warfare is that don’t think about your competitors. Don’t think about who you’re opposite of, think about the territory that you occupy, within the mind of your customer. Because customers don’t think so much in opposites, and they don’t think so much in competitive terms. They think in terms of what does the brand stand for. And one of the examples that they use liberally in Marketing Warfare is 7Up and they actually worked on that account and did the original Uncola positioning. And what they knew is that Coke and Pepsi occupied dominant hills within the mind of the customer and 7Up at the time did not. It was just another soft drink.

Now it would be pretty tricky to topple Coca Cola, and its traditional values, and Cola and Pepsi and its’ sort of modern values, and It’s a Cola from their positions. But you could create a new hill and that new hill was the uncola hill. It’s not a cola. That’s why it’s good. It’s freshing. You know, it’s sweet and it’s clear, like 7Up positioned itself as something different. They have moved away oddly, from that positioning over the last decades. But it was extraordinarily successful in the 70s and 80s. And so they use that as an example of how to create a new hill that creates new preferences. Because I would say it’s occupying the hills in the customer’s mind that’s important, not trying to be, you know, anti this or anti that; you’ll see these kinds of things spring up in companies where they’ll get all excited about a competitor and they’ll want to go after that competitor. Very dangerous, because it distracts you from the mission of what you want to establish uniquely in the mind of your customer. Very hard to resist, though, I mean, people get super excited about it and unfortunately while Marketing Warfare was a really sticky name, they sold a lot of books, it was very successful positioning for Al and Jack. I think it’s gotten misinterpreted by people to think of marketing as, you know, actual war against a competitor. So the very thing that they were railing against is the very thing I think they’ve created more of, a kind of interesting irony. By the way, no, that’s an aside, I’m not going to go there. I was going to talk about the song Irony. So is it really irony?

So going into this topic of first moment of truth, when you’re standing in the aisle, something occupies a position in your mind, you’re looking at the different products on the shelf, and you choose one, that’s the first moment of truth. Now, in the online world, in the B2B world, your aisle is a little bit different. It’s your website, could be a social page, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, but it’s going to be some kind of presence in the metaverse. And so let’s talk about the website. Let’s kind of focus on that for now. Because that’s pretty common. So if you think about your website, and you think about the first moment of truth, what is the way that you think about positioning the website? And what is the way that you get people to your website? And then how do you optimize around that first moment of truth to make sure that there’s preference in people’s minds. So this is going to take us into some interesting categories. We’re going to talk about SEM, we’re going to talk about SEO, we’re going to talk about content marketing. And we’re going to talk about contact tools on the website itself. So we talked a little bit already about the fact that people have already decided to buy your product when they come to your website. So could you please make it easy to get in touch with somebody; it’s amazing how many B2B websites in particular, go on and on about the product, and you don’t know how to talk to somebody. And in many cases, you’ve already decided to buy it. And so there’s a lot of work that can be done to sort of optimize against making sure that it’s easy to get in touch, making sure that it’s easy to talk to somebody. The second thing is, how do you get people to that site with the right perspective. So we talked a lot about analysts, about review sites, and about influencers; that was in our zero moment of truth. Another thing that’s quite important is Search. And because people are researching products in advance, and so when they’re doing Search, they’re going to typically land on those three things I mentioned a moment ago, particularly the review sites, because they spent all their time and energy optimizing for Search. So that’s kind of their specialty so that people land on their pages. But you want to make sure that you become a search magnet as well. And so SEO becomes really important. And one of the best ways to drive SEO is to make sure that you are building a really good content marketing strategy so that you’re able to make sure that the content that people are looking for is on your site, shows up in search results, and then they can find it and understand more about, not just your product, but ideally, the category. The people who’ve done this best are people like Marketo with the definitive guides, LinkedIn, they’ve done some incredible guides, essentially, any clients of Scorch, which is an amazing agency in St. Louis, they tend to have content that people go to because it defines how to work in the category, not just how to work with their product. So go deep and go heavy on that. No question.

Now, the thing about SEO is it’s a little bit like a greyhound race. So I’m not a supporter of racing dogs. I have a beautiful dog who’s very speedy by the way, but I would never ever think of racing my dog and, and typically the dogs that are raised are greyhounds. My brother had a couple of greyhounds for many years when he was a professor in Amherst, and they’re beautiful dogs, he had rescues that had been on the track. And the way that greyhounds are, trust me, I’m going to get to my point here. So just stay with me for a second here. The way the greyhounds are raised, is they put them on a track, and then they have a mechanical device, which is a sort of a pole, and at the end of the pole is a fake rabbit. I’m sure at some point it was a real rabbit, but thank god, it’s now a fake rabbit. And then that fake rabbit is activated, and the pole moves around the oval track, and the greyhounds chase the rabbit, and that’s how they get them to race. And of course the greyhounds never catch the rabbit. No matter how fast they go, the rabbit can always go faster.

So SEO is a little bit like being the greyhound. You’re the greyhound by the way, yeah, you’re the dog in this scenario. And the rabbit is, you know, SEO, you’ll never ever catch it. You are always working on it. So never think of SEO as something that you’re ever going to be complete on but something you have to always work on and keep optimizing. What is also important is to make sure that you don’t chase SEO, it’s important that you build the right content. and build the right product story and build the right image for your brand that you think is correct. And as opposed to chasing keywords, it’s very dangerous to do that, because they’ll change, algorithms change, and competitors change. And if you’ve built a site optimized for a particular point in time on SEO, it’ll be irrelevant in the future. If you optimize your site for your products, and your positioning and story, it’ll be evergreen, so you’ll always be fine. So that becomes important.

Now, the sort of sister to SEO is SEM, Search Engine Marketing, and Search Engine Marketing, I feel like people don’t take it as seriously as they should. The beauty of Search Engine Marketing, particularly in B2B is it’s very intent based, I’m searching for something because I intend to buy it, because I’m interested in it. So that level of intent or that high level intent is very compelling. And so anything that’s intent based, is something that you always want to flex towards, because that’s someone who is looking for what you have to do. Now, the cool thing about SEM as well is that if you think immediate building blog terms, SEM is the highest converting tactic typically. And there’s a limit to it, there are only so many searches that people are doing against a certain set of terms. So you actually can maximize your SEM spend, and then go on to the next tactic. Now, I don’t know if we’ve talked about media building blocks before, but it was a concept that originally originated, that’s right, grammar there, but it originated, that’s better, it originated in the 1980s. And the idea was, do as much as you can with your most efficient media tool, and then move to the next thing, depending on the size of your budget. So typically, TV would always be the most efficient, because it’s both a very good reach and frequency vehicle. And then you’d get to print depends on the kind of campaign and the category, but you know, print in terms of magazines, and newspapers, or billboards, and then you’d see radio, sometimes radio before print. And then you’d see outdoor, typically, it would come in last, and then you’d see really weird stuff like, you know, shopping carts and stuff like that. And so that media building block concept is something that’s been a little bit lost. But I do think we should bring it back. And I would always start with SEM, maximize the spend on that, and then start moving on to things like programmatic display. Right now, I would say that people have a tendency to do programmatic display earlier than they should, and they’ve not yet fully spent the SEM budget. Part of that is because the visibility of programmatic is higher. And it’s always more satisfying to the management of the company to see their ads and say, “Aha, those are the ads I’m looking for”, versus the more invisible nature of SEM, and all the stuff we talked about in the zero moment of truth.

This political balancing of doing stuff that delivers results, but it’s not as easy to see, and doing stuff that people can see, the tricky part of marketing is like the political part of marketing. If you’ve got a really good CEO, if you’ve got a really good team that really understands what you’re doing, you can usually stay with the stuff that delivers the results. But you know, if you’ve got a team that’s like, “I want to see the thing, I want to see the rank”, then you’re going to have to make sure you sort of flex to that as well. And so think about the sophistication of the team you’re working with and deliver what’s both emotionally satisfying for them and satisfying for the business.

This is a key learning that I have had over the years. So that’s kind of the first moment of truth. I’m standing in the aisle and your aisle could be a website, your aisle could be an actual aisle, or your aisle could be on Amazon. And there are many ways of thinking about how to influence people in that first moment of truth. But the key thing is go back and read Marketing Warfare and Positioning. And think about, ‘What is the battle you’re really going after?’ and the battle is in your customer’s mind. And your competitors are not battling against you. They’re battling for a piece of property in your customer’s mind. If you don’t own a hill inside the customer’s mind, when they come to your aisle, they won’t know how to think about you and they won’t prefer you. So you’ve got to own that property. So, I think that was pretty fun. I enjoyed that episode actually. It was a kind of a fun way of thinking about aisles and websites as being sort of common, and hopefully there’s some good ideas and lessons there in terms of how to think about both drive traffic and drive leads to your website. So for the Unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, your host, and Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr. And that’s it for today. I’ll see you … next time.

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