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Capitalizing on the Local Marketing Advantage

Without question, consumer decision-making processes have changed. In its 2011 booklet, Zero Moment of Truth, Google raised some eye-opening questions about how consumers consume and marketers market. Clearly, connectivity has changed buying habits and marketers

must take note.

In the Google booklet, author Jim Lecinski defines the “Zero Moment of Truth” or ZMOT as “that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service (or potential boyfriend) you’re thinking about trying or buying.”  However, that doesn’t mean that everyone should run toward facilitating the so-called ZMOTs. In fact, many marketers should concentrate on ensuring ZMOTs never occur in the first place. This is especially true for marketers whose products and services can be procured locally or impulsively.

For the local marketer, the words “start learning” are the critical juncture in that definition. Learning is most often not the sought outcome. In contrast, a stimulus-response action with limited thought engagement is the objective. If I operate a Tide Dry Cleaners location, I don’t want anyone within my trade area grabbing a laptop or mobile phone to figure out a destination for his or her laundry needs. I want the response to the stimulus of dirty clothes to be a visit to my Tide location. I need a Local Moment of Truth–a fast, local resolution to my need–not a Zero version or a First Moment of Truth, where I’m deciding between options. I want the power of my location and the emotional attachment the consumer has to my brand or service to displace any notion the consumer might have of launching a discovery process.

Winning Through the Local Moment of Truth

A local marketer’s success, including those marketers with a number of local markets, is largely about winning the Local Moment of Truth and eliminating the need to search in the first place. So how does this happen?

Local marketing can happen when an individual is nowhere near the local business at decision time.

First, be familiar. Searching happens when there is unfamiliarity with a product or service or its value. For the local marketer, this simply means making sure your brand is known through signage, community/neighborhood involvement, business networking, word-of-mouth communication and any and every other form of awareness generation. It also means that to be worthy of awareness through the products, service, friendliness and business ethics offered, the core business practices create emotional connections between the local business and its customers.

Second, become preferred. Preference is earned not acquired. The First Moment of Truth has long been held as that moment of decision between one or more choices, such as when the customer stands at a retailer’s shelf and selects one specific brand over a household brand. The Second Moment of Truth occurs when the choice of brand is being used at the buyer’s home and satisfaction or dissatisfaction follows. Earning preferred status is the result of consistently winning the Second Moment of Truth. And strong preference eliminates the need for a searching for alternatives.

Third, provide a search alternative. Midwesterners know there’s simply no better antidote to a hot, humid summer day than a Route 44 Cherry Limeade from a Sonic Drive In. But as big of fans as they may be, most individuals only know a handful of Sonic locations. When the Route 44 stimulus happens outside those areas, Sonic risks losing that customer to a competitor via search. The minute someone grabs their cell phone and starts to search, Sonic’s loyalty is put at risk, not just for that $5 purchase, but conceivably for many purchases to come. To combat this, Sonic needs to occupy not only the individual’s mind but his screen, as well. Instead of a GPS search, Sonic needs the person to access a Sonic app that keeps them safe from the search-enabled competition.

Fourth, rethink local. Local marketing can happen when an individual is nowhere near the local business at decision time. For example, a person may not be aware of a Radisson Hotel near her home. And that doesn’t really matter. When she is looking for a local hotel, it is for a hotel that is local to where she is going to be, not where she is. Simply stated, local marketing is not just about where people are located, it is also about where they are going to be. A woman doesn’t need a search discovery process to “start learning” what she already knows. She knows that the Radisson brand means a great night’s rest and a refreshed start to an important day. To eliminate the risk of a search-enabled competitive offering, the corporate marketer must circumvent it via the Local Moment of Truth, e.g., the customer’s preference in the context of where her location will be.

Fifth, be consistent no matter where local is. Corporate marketing managers of distributed marketing networks (e.g., branch offices, chain retail stores, authorized dealer networks and franchises) understand the challenges of ensuring hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of local marketers around the globe to deliver a consistent, common brand strategy and message. H&R Block is an example of a company that does this well. Using a distributed marketing management platform,  H&R Block and its local marketers synergistically deliver a consistent customer experience whether the local office is found in New York or Kansas.

Key Lessons

As Google’s Zero Moment of Truth booklet shows, consumer habits have changed. Change always equals opportunity and with the right moves, local marketers can be well positioned to make the most of it. Local marketers–whether corporate marketers with a local presence or front-line marketers–should aggressively seek to displace the need for a search with Local Moments of Truth, those moments when the local relationship simply averts thoughts of any alternative. ⎯

John Thomson is president and CEO of Saepio, a leading provider of marketing technology for corporations with distributed marketing networks. He can be reached at

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