The Journey of Truth: A “How-to” for Business Growth

By Michael Impastato | 11.27.13

The Zero Moment of Truth ensures the customer is ready and open to choose your product.

There are numerous “How to” books espousing methods to grow business, gain new customers and generally beat the competition. Typically they utilize examples of high profile and successful companies to illustrate the value of their approach. But can these concepts be translated to other businesses? Beyond the difficulty of implementing a new strategy is the question of if the approach can be translated from one company to another, one industry to another, or even one channel to another.

Each company, industry and channel has different dynamics and challenges. What works in one may not, and often will not, work in another. Can strategies developed for consumer buyers translate to ink buyers? Can the strategies used by global consumer products companies really be applied to the ink (or printing) industries?

In 2005, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) initiated a company-wide campaign to its employees and suppliers around the concept of First Moment of Truth (FMOT). The concept P&G wanted everyone to understand was related to that moment in time where the consumer looks at the shelf in the retail outlet and chooses a product for purchase. This activity of choosing a product takes between 3 and 7 seconds for the consumer. P&G contended that this was the FMOT for the consumer, a point in time where the buying decision was made and product (and business) success or failure was determined.

P&G needed to win that FMOT, and have the consumer choose its product out of all the choices on the shelf. The product had to immediately grab the attention of the consumer and convince the buyer to purchase the product. It’s important to win the FMOT for any consumer products company (CPC), as 66% of new products launched into the market fail within two years. The cost of developing and launching the product is huge; and success is often dependent on winning the FMOT. P&G spent significant time educating its employees and supply base around the importance of the FMOT, and has ingrained the FMOT as part of its corporate culture.

But P&G didn’t stop there with its philosophy. Beyond FMOT is the Second Moment of Truth (SMOT), when the consumer first experiences the use of the product. The SMOT must deliver the “promise.” It must fulfill the consumer’s expectation of the product and its performance; its value.

The FMOT and the SMOT are two completely separate events. Where the FMOT is the initial sale and often based on the impression of the product, the SMOT is based on the actual delivery of value and is important to the continuing success of the product. Winning the SMOT ensures the consumer will repurchase the product and will be a repeat customer. It allows the CPC to build an enduring relationship and equity with the consumers of their product, or service. Winning the SMOT protects your customer from the temptation represented by competitive products and competitive inducements to lure the customer away. Winning the SMOT ensures future success and a long term relationship with the customer. This is the base of volume on which new sales can be built to grow and expand the business.

Zero Moment of Truth

Recently an additional concept has been added to this “Journey of Truth,” It is called the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). The ZMOT are the activities which takes place before that FMOT, to ensure the customer is ready and open to choose your product during the FMOT. It is the pre-conditioning and positioning which a company must do to ensure that during the FMOT the customer is open minded about choosing your product, or even better, has a positive feeling about your product.

The ZMOT can happen in a number of ways. It’s about the brand and reputation of the company more than it is about the product. Every supplier promises great products and services. If the customer trusts the company and sees the company in a positive light, they are more inclined to have an open or positive view of the new product during the FMOT. The ZMOT gives you an edge during the critical FMOT when the purchasing decision is made. If you win the ZMOT it improves your probability of winning the FMOT. But, if you lose the ZMOT, it may make it impossible to win the FMOT.

The Journey of Truth from ZMOT to FMOT to SMOT has become an incredibly important concept for P&G as well as for many other CPCs. A great deal of effort and attention is given to being successful throughout the Journey of Truth. It may be said that the Journey of Truth is where success will be won or lost for the consumer product companies. But does this translate to our industry? Or, is it just another “How to” that makes a good story, but doesn’t fit when transferred to another industry?

FMOT and the B2B World

Over the last several years, I have been intrigued by the concept of FMOT, but only recently did I started thinking about how this can be applied to other industries. Whether we sell inks, or any of the many different consumables and equipment used in the printing industry, we can still see some application for the Journey of Truth. We may operate in a much smaller world than the CPC, but the concepts of the Journey of Truth can be just as relevant.

For a business to business (B2B) industrial supplier, the FMOT is the awarding of business either through an RFP process or other processes which results in the actual ordering of the product. A lot of effort may go into that FMOT for a B2B supplier, and it often takes much more than the 6 or 7 seconds a consumer may take to make a purchasing decision. A great deal of information and data is collected during the decision making process and finally a decision is made.

Often that decision is made in a very competitive environment. Information and data from a number of competing companies may be collected and compared when making the decision. Unlike the consumer FMOT, the B2B supplier’s FMOT of truth may also include an actual trial of the product to ensure fitness for use. But in either case, the decision is made based on the impression of value which will be obtained from the purchase. In the FMOT we have a limited time to make our case and convince the buyer that the value they will receive from our product is superior to what can be received from competitors. We may do a good job on those activities involved in the FMOT. We may be complimented as having a good presentation and fast response to the RFP.

But, in the B2B world we have one more hurdle to face: minimization of risk to the buyer. This is no different than the risk issue for a large consumer purchase. If you are selling a car, you must convince the buyer the purchase has a minimal risk. Car manufacturers may do this with quality ratings, consumer testimonials, warranties, etc. We have to do this also, often using similar methods. We win the FMOT by convincing the buyer we have a superior valued product or service which can be purchased with minimal risk. Minimizing the perceived risk is key to the FMOT. The purchase decision could be career altering for the buyer. The buyer must believe the risk/reward is tilted in their favor.

The SMOT is after we have ramped up our product with the customer and the customer is now in the process of repeat buying. The SMOT of truth is not in fact a “moment.” It is the continuing repeat experience the customer has with your company every time contact is made, and every time the product is used. It is our collective organizational responsibility to ensure our customers’ experience is positive. If we can make those experiences positive, we win the SMOT. By winning the SMOT we minimize the opportunity of our competitors. By winning the SMOT we ensure our customer has no reason to entertain competitive offerings. Or, when the inevitable RFP takes place, they do not see enough value, or see the risk as too high in making a change to a competitive product.

In general, we recognize the importance of both the FMOT and the SMOT. We may not call them by these terms, but offering value to a customer, reducing the risk for change and delivering the promised value are well understood precepts for success in any business.

Everyone in your organization has responsibilities for the FMOT and SMOT. The sales and technical groups may lead the activities during the FMOT, but the entire organization is deeply involved with the SMOT. Every interaction is an opportunity to prove to the customer they made the right decision during that critical FMOT. It is through the efforts of the entire organization that you win (or lose) the SMOT, and build that long term relationship which pays dividends year after year.

But, what about the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)? For consumer product companies, it is a bit easier to understand how they compete for the ZMOT. They develop brand awareness and equity, advertise, send out coupons, start a buzz on social media and leverage positive experiences with their other products along with a number of other activities which pre-positions them positively in the mind of the consumer. So when the consumer is at the shelf during the 3-7 seconds of the FMOT the consumer already has some positive supporting evidence which helps them make the buying decision, and the FMOT is won.

It’s not as easy to see how this applies to the purchase of ink (or other printing press consumables), but it is just as important for a B2B supplier as it is for P&G. If you don’t win the ZMOT, you likely will not win the FMOT, where the business is awarded. The company who is successful in winning the supply contract likely had already won the ZMOT.

Winning the ZMOT is easier if you are the incumbent supplier because you have the history and relationship providing evidence of the value of your offer. To win the ZMOT as a non-incumbent supplier is very difficult.

We often hear after business is awarded, “they really didn’t want to change suppliers.” Winning the ZMOT as a non-supplier may be difficult, but not insurmountable. To be successful on the ZMOT as the non-incumbent requires more planning and creativity. The work must start months or even years before the FMOT. It can’t be initiated at the last minute, or during the RFP process, if you want it to be successful. Sales needs to tailor a long-term program of value building and relationship building at the account, and marketing must build the company brand so that the potential client sees your company as a market leader and your technology as capable of meeting their requirements. In the eyes of the buyer there are only two things that add value. The first is lowering the buyer’s cost and the second is expanding the buyer’s business. Nothing else adds real value to the buyers operations.

If growth is important, than a key part of your growth strategy needs to be a multi-faceted approach to winning the ZMOT. Without winning the ZMOT, it will be difficult to improve your ability to close new accounts.

You need a well thought out, coordinated plan to win the ZMOT. The plan has to have two approaches, one of which is sales driven. The sales portion of the plan is focused on building those valued relationships and cultivating trust among the key decision makers at key accounts. The second portion of the plan is marketing driven. The marketing portion works at a higher level developing visibility and trust in your company’s brand equity. Your marketing approach must be customized to your organizations strengths, resources, and long range plans. Here are a few marketing activities to be considered for inclusion into the ZMOT plan.

• Build an email data base of targets so focused information can be directed

• Develop a pipeline of valuable content which can be disseminated in alignment with the plan.

o Market related updates.

o Trouble shooting guides.

o White papers on technical subjects.

• Coordinate high visibility involvement in trade association activities. Leverage participation to identify and promote your company to targeted accounts and the industry in general.

• Advertising.

• Industry event sponsorships.

• Magazine articles published in trade magazines.

• Press releases of pertinent information.

• Upgrade your web site to make it easier for people to find valuable content, and make sure you populate your web site with valuable content, and refresh it on a regular basis.

• Develop a weekly (or monthly) newsletter with links to interesting and valuable industry information. Utilize publicly available content which can be linked to in order to minimize the resource requirement of developing new content.

The key is “value oriented” visibility, which is planned and coordinated with a specific purpose. These are only a few ideas of what could be done to support the battle for the ZMOT which would put you in a better position to be successful in the FMOT and grow new business.

Behind the ZMOT is the concept that sharing “valued content” will build a relationship. An on-going relationship can build trust over time. And once trust is established, you position yourself to be successful during that FMOT. In the world of industrial B2B selling, that means being successful on the RFP and being awarded the supply contract. We need to give some thought to the idea of the ZMOT and how we pre-position ourselves for success. We may not be a P&G, but it doesn’t mean we can’t utilize the Journey of Truth to grow our business and improve our customers’ experience.

I hope this has given you something to think about and shows that in our B2B world our marketing challenges may not be much different than those faced by the large CPCs. In our individual businesses we may not use terms like Zero Moment of Truth or the Journey of Truth. But, to be successful we need a specific and well thought out plan for pre-positioning our company favorably in the minds of prospective clients; being competitive in our offering of product, service and price; and continuously providing the promised value. These three elements must be coordinated and supportive to your overall business strategy. Doing so will grow business with new customers, and stabilize customer turnover with your existing customer base.

Michael Impastato is a 30-year veteran of the ink industry. He has held positions with Flint Group in manufacturing, R&D, marketing, national account management, sales, regional management, and strategic planning. Mr. Impastato was the 2006 Printing Ink Pioneer Award recipient for the National Association for Printing Ink Manufacturers. 

Mr. Impastato has been a very active member of packaging related trade associations. He is the immediate past chairman of the FTA and past treasurer and Executive Committee member of the Flexible Packaging Association. Mr. Impastato has authored numerous articles for industry publications. As a frequent speaker, he has presented papers at numerous industry forums and conferences, and his articles are frequently published in trade magazines. Mr. Impastato has been a frequent contributor to Ink World magazine.