What is ZMOT and What Does it Mean for Churches?

I recently finished reading a free Google eBook called ZMOT: Zero Moment of Truth. And while I was reading it for business purposes, I couldn’t help think about what it means for churches.

Here are some notes from the ZMOT:

For companies, the first moment of truth is when a customer grabs a product off a shelf to purchase it. It’s all about placement and price.

But today, there’s pre-shopping, something Google called the Zero Moment of Truth. It’s a young adult who checks out user reviews before making a purchase or a new mom who asks her Facebook friends what baby formula they use, or a hotel shopper who searches for “Best Hotel in San Francisco” before skipping the description and diving into the user ratings.

Consider these stats:

  • 70% of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase.
  • 20% of Google searches are on a mobile device; and for LOCAL searches, the number jumps to 40%. Mobile is not the future – it’s already here.
  • The average shopper uses 10.4 sources of information to make a decision.
  • YouTube is the second most used search box on the Internet.
  • The worldwide average for product reviews is 4.3 out of 5. “Negative comments add authenticity,” says Dave Reibetein.

People begin their research online and their research looks more like a conversation. Friends, strangers, websites, and experts all weigh in. People now think about thinking about buying something. If you’re not visible online when people are doing their homework, they will find others who are. The Internet is the new 1-800 number, and it’s been set up for you even though you didn’t ask for it.

Audiences are asking three things about your product: Will it save me money? Will it save me time? Will it improve my life? None of those questions have to do with the product – all three of them are about the person.

Here is what this might mean for churches:

1. Its’ time to stop sending postcards and start creating conversations. I’m actually a fan of traditional marketing (I wrote a free ebook on how you can get more people to visit your church), but it’s not enough. We need to figure out how to leverage user reviews, social interaction and feedback. When someone in the community says, “Hey, I’m thinking about taking my teenagers to a church…where should I go?” that’s a Zero Moment of Truth.

We need to teach church members how to have normal conversations with people. Just like they would recommend a gym, they need to recommend their church – no pamphlets or tracts are required. We need to remember that Word of Mouth is the best way to spread a message, and utilize traditional forms of advertising and outreach as supplements.

2. We need to talk about benefits, and not features. A feature is about us – a benefit is about them. And while your website, logo, brand, ministries, services and mission might be compelling, most people think of themselves and their situation first. So you have a student ministry – how will that benefit my 10th grader? So you do a mission trip – how will that help me? So you have good music – what do I care?

People who are considering attending a church are asking questions, and I don’t think they have to do with a statement of beliefs or who is the chairman of the Finance Committee. If someone is thinking about visiting a church, they want to know what the pastor is like, they want to know what their kids are going to do and if they are going to have a good time, and they want to know if the people are friendly.

Features make your church sound impressive. Benefits get talked about.

3. We need to deploy more resources to video and search. We can have fancy live video websites, but if YouTube is the second most searched box on all of the internet, we need to get video to where people are. And I’m not just talking about 45-minute sermon videos. Highlights, recaps, testimonials, baptisms, etc. all need to make their way online.

Churches should use Google’s Keyword Tool to see what people are searching for online and then engage in conversation and add their voice. Pastoral Blogging isn’t dead – a Pastor could use this tool to talk about what people are talking about.

And in all of this, we need to understand that people are accessing this information on MOBILE DEVICES. Whether it’s a responsive website, video encoded for YouTube, or a church app, you must think mobile.