Behind Every Search There’s a Story

First published February 23, 2012 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

This week, I was reminded why I got into this business. The timing was good, because to be honest, after being involved in too many discussions revolving around search budgets and cross-channel attribution models, I had lost touch with what I’d found so magical about online marketing in the first place. But Tim and Daniel reminded me. It’s a story worth repeating.

About a week ago, I was sitting in a boardroom trying to find an “apples-to-apples” comparison for a CMO of a huge company to help validate moving money from traditional brand-building channels into search. We had run dozens of models, compiled multiple spreadsheets, and put together at least six different slide decks. In the process we did our level best to suck all the life out of the exercise, reducing it to a colorless discussion based solely on numbers. We were trying to find that elusive formula that would allow us to compare the impact of a dollar spent on search vs. a dollar spent on TV.

This was a variation of a conversation that I’m sure we’ve all had multiple times in the last year. I guess it was a sign that digital has come of age. We were trying to subject it to the same BS that had propped up TV and print for decades.

However, in the process, we were missing something critical. And I found that something critical on the streets of San Francisco.

When I started in search, I used to get a kick from the fact that thanks to what we did, a small Mustang after-market parts retailer could outrank Ford for keywords like “Mustang parts” and increase its online business by 10 times in under a year, eventually outstripping its traditional brick- and-mortar business, which had been around for decades. Or that a small boat manufacturer in Kelowna, B.C. could rank No. 1 for “boats” and suddenly start getting inquiries from around the world. Online made things possible that had never been possible before. And that was pretty cool.

Those stories are still happening and being talked about. It’s just that they’re not happening at the boardroom tables where I’ve been hanging out lately. But then I ran into Tim and Daniel, and their story restored my faith in online marketing.

Tim and Daniel are just a couple of guys who happen to love their city (San Francisco) and wanted to find a way to afford their sky-rocketing rent so they could continue to live there.  A little over a year ago, they started a bike tour company that takes tourists through the streets of San Francisco, pointing out the little nooks and crannies that give the city its color. They’re both pretty personable guys and the tours benefit from their obvious passion for their subject. They can bring Haight-Ashbury or the Castro to life in a way that no tour book or bus tour ever could. They reduce San Francisco to a street-level, intimate love affair, exactly the way the city should be seen.

Now, as cool as that is, the story wouldn’t be worth telling unless people actually discovered the tour, allowing Tim and Daniel to keep their jobs as guides.

And that’s where the Internet comes in. Right now, their tour is the No. 1 ranked tour on Trip Advisor, with 145 reviews, all of them “excellent.” And so, because of this feedback, they top a very long list of things to do in San Francisco. They probably won’t get rich, but they will keep the business rolling and keep paying the rent. And that’s not a bad outcome for being able to do the thing you love.

I asked Daniel what the impact of the positive ranking on Trip Advisor had been, and he was positive but realistic, “It’s been pretty awesome, but as I keep telling my mom, it’s an algorithm and it might be gone tomorrow. But we’re enjoying it while we can.”

Excellent advice. Enjoy it while you can. And when the big business of search seems to suck all the fun out of life, remember that guys like Tim and Daniel are still stoked about what it can do for them.

That’s why I got into the biz.

The Challenge of Social

First published December 1, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Every quarter, I fill out an online survey about digital marketing trends. One question always shows up: “Are you looking at social as a replacement for search in your online marketing strategy?” I always answer no, and to myself, comment that it’s a stupid question asked by someone who obviously doesn’t know much about online marketing. But now I wonder  — is it really such a stupid question? Aren’t many experienced marketers asking themselves exactly the same question?

The Social Graph (or Network, or whatever you want to call it) should be the single biggest opportunity in marketing history. But marketers are stubbing their toes by the millions in trying to step over the threshold into the golden glow of the online social party. It seems it’s incredibly difficult to figure out.

Search, on the other hand, was easily pigeonholed as a direct-marketing channel. Search was so easy to “get” for marketers that Google turned it into a self-serve model and became the fastest growing company in history as a result.

For marketers, I suspect, the very ease of search has caused it to be considered a limited opportunity. Social, on the other hand, seems virtually limitless. It expands into hundreds and thousands of fascinating, if somewhat cloudy, opportunities to connect with customers. As I said, in theory, social seems like a marketer’s dream come true. But in practice, it’s an unwieldy animal to wrestle to the ground.

Here’s just one example of the challenges inherent in mapping the online social landscape.  Pitney Bowes felt there was tremendous potential in social to foster deeper engagements with its customers, building long-term loyalty. But rather than jump headlong into it, Pitney Bowes decided to test its assumptions through a survey of those customers first. The result? Social may not be all it’s cracked up to be:

“These findings will give decision-makers pause for thought,” the report (from the survey) stated. “Businesses can be forgiven for getting swept away by the hype of surrounding social media and wanting to invest in such activity as soon as possible. … But results show that those businesses tempted to lead with such techniques will quickly find themselves out of step with customer thinking.”

So why is social so awkward to leverage effectively? I suspect it’s because the exact same things that make social so promising also make it incredibly unwieldy to manage.  It’s part of our lives, which means we’re engaged, but what we’re engaged with is rarely what an advertiser wants to talk to us about.

Marketers get caught up in the concept of participation rates and usage. Facebook has one of the highest reaches of any online property, second only to Google. Alexa estimates that almost half of the total Internet user population (about 49%) uses Google regularly. Facebook is just behind at 43%. But if we look at time spent on site, Facebook comes it an about 25 minutes a day, compared to 13 minutes a day for Google. If we were using engagement as an indicator of marketing potential, this would have us salivating like a St. Bernard over a fresh bowl of kibble.

But the reason I don’t trust engagement as a metric is that it doesn’t consider intent. And intent is the key difference between social and search. The reason search excels in marketing is that it’s all about intent, and what’s even better, it’s about identified intent, neatly labeled by the search query. In the history of marketing, it’s never been easier than this to intercept a motivated buyer.

I don’t mean to minimize the value of a well-managed search campaign, but compared to other channels, it’s pretty difficult to completely flop on a search campaign. The same is not true for social. To illustrate, let’s step back and look at this from another point of view, one that removes some of the hyperbole that surrounds online social.

Let’s say you’ve just decided to sell your 2007 Honda Civic. As you’re backing out of your driveway, your neighbor flags you down and asks you how you like your Honda, and if you know where she could buy a good used one? From your perspective, this aligning of the planets seems too good to be true, but it’s similar to what happens on a search engine millions of time every day. It’s the power of alignment with purchase intent.

But let’s take a different tack. Let’s imagine that as you drive down the street, you see that one of your neighbors is having a party. In front of their house, there are at least 12 cars parked, including four Hondas. “A-hah, “ you say, “a perfect gathering of potential Honda buyers, with at least 33% of them showing a preference for Hondas” (note: if this is what your internal dialogue actually sounds like, you should consider an extended leave from work). You ring the doorbell and begin to work the crowd. The only problem is, no one came to the party to buy a Honda. Not to mention the obvious question on everyone’s mind: “Who the hell invited you?”

If your goal is to unload your Honda, I know what scenario I’d be betting on. It almost seems ludicrous that we’re even considering Scenario B as a substitute for Scenario A. Yet, every three months, I get that survey asking me if I’m thinking about it.

I know — it doesn’t make any sense to me, either.

Don’t Typecast Search as “Direct”

First published September 29, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

We should have taken it as a sign of things to come.

The panel I was moderating at OMMA Global, with the highly provocative title “The Evolving Role of the Search Marketer,” was in a tiny room that seemed to be an afterthought of whoever planned the meeting space layout in the Marriott Marquis in New York. You actually had to walk through another, much larger room and go through a door tucked in the back corner. If one of the show organizers hadn’t been personally guiding me, I might never have found it.

The second sign was equally hard to miss. Outside the “secret” door to my session was a small standard that indicated that this was the “Direct” marketing track.

Okay, relegated to the back closet and in a track that restricted search to being a “direct” channel — so far things didn’t bode well for the insightful voyage of discovery I was envisioning.

Nevertheless, we forged ahead with a very enthusiastic audience (who were no doubt glad to just have found the session) and a very seasoned panel of search veterans (Rob Griffin, Havas; Dana Todd, Performics; Michael Verghios, Mindshare; Scott Brinker, ion Interactive). And we weren’t five minutes into the session before we started talking about search being pigeonholed as a direct channel.

In the beginning, we search marketers had no qualms about the “direct” label. As advertisers began demanding more accountability for each and every ad dollar, we were perfectly positioned to benefit from the budget migrations. Dollars poured into search, propelling Google to glowing financials quarter after quarter. We proudly evangelized the measurability of search, eagerly thrusting forth dashboards with a laser focus on ROI.

And it worked. We rode the wave through most of the last decade. Even when the economy ground to a screeching halt in 2008, search bounced through with nary a scratch, due largely to its credentials as the most effective digital direct channel. While marketing budgets as a whole were slashed, search budgets either stayed the same or grew marginally, thanks to the continuing inflow at the expense of other channels.

But somewhere in the midst of that giddy party, someone should have whispered in our ear, “Be careful what you wish for!” It’s like the actor who gets typecast in a role — just as Michael Richards seems doomed to be stuck in Cosmo Kramer’s persona, we may never shake the “direct” tag. We’re stuck at the direct marketing table –quite literally, in the case of the latest OMMA conference.

But, as we discussed in our session, that shuts the door to the huge potential of search to connect and inform all manners of marketing. Increasingly, consumer intent is playing out across a digital landscape and search is the “glue” that connects many of the dots. If search gets a seat at the strategic table, we can provide vital input into consumer behavioral trends, budget allocations and attribution models, targeting strategies and much more. Search remains the clearest crystallization of buyer intent available at any time in marketing history, anywhere. That’s what made it such a phenomenal direct channel, but its potential reaches beyond that. Its power remains only partly tapped as long as it’s considered solely a direct tactic.

Here’s one example. Prior to the recession, Google and other engines were struggling to break out of the direct box by commissioning research showing the branding power of search. My company did some of this work for them. We created search scenarios and then used standard branding recall metrics to measure brand lift. Sure enough, we found significant lift with effective placement on a results page. But the problem was that we were using the wrong yardstick. We were trying to measure search using metrics pioneered in other, less efficient media.

The true power of search, when it comes to branding, is positioning a brand in a critical place during the key consideration process. As buyers, we use search to help us compile a mental list of options to consider. If brands are present and prominent, they’re not only included, their credibility as an option is enhanced. But if they’re not, even if the buyer is aware of them, they run a real risk of being dropped from the consideration set.

We shouldn’t have been measuring search as a branding channel on the same footing as TV or magazines. It’s not. It’s actually even more exciting than that. Search is positioned at the critical branch in the decision path, where it can either significantly amplify the effects of those branding channels, or wipe out all their efforts in one fell swoop. That’s how potentially powerful search is.

But we may never get the chance to tell that message, which must be heard at the planning table where the overall strategies are drafted. You won’t hear us, because we’ll be over here at the direct table, somewhere in the back corners of the Marriott Marquis.

Is it Time to Relabel ” Marketing?

First published September 15, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Last week, I asked the question, “Is the word ‘search’ the right label for what we do on Google, Bing, Yahoo and other engines?” When Internet search debuted in the early 90s, it was probably pretty accurate. But today, the concept may have passed the label by.

And, if that is true, then the same is probably true for “search marketing.” The main gist of my argument last week was that the word “search” implies the expenditure of a significant effort with no guarantee of a successful outcome. But today, more than ever, we look to these engines to connect us with information and functionality. We want to “do” things when we click through to the other side of the search results.

I also said that it was difficult to find any one label that covers all our intentions when we turn to a “search” engine. In the beginning, when the Web was one large bucket of ill-formed data, “search” worked as a universal label. But that’s not true today. Now, the Web is becoming increasingly structured, and a search engine that excels at bringing order to unstructured data often falls disappointingly short when it comes to actually getting stuff done. In trying to be the universal Swiss Army Knife of the Web for many common tasks, Google (or Bing) doesn’t do any of them particularly well, we’re starting to find.  For many tasks, a dedicated and specialized app often does a far better job of meeting our expectations.

Again, this starts to define the conundrum currently facing search marketers. When the label we used was “search,” our job was simply to make sure our sites were “found.” Within the parameters defined by “searching” (to explore in order to discover), our job was straightforward: reduce the exploration effort required on the part of the searcher by moving our sites into a more “discoverable” position.

But what if we substitute some of the other labels I suggested last week for the word “search”? Suddenly, our job becomes much more complex.

Let’s start with “connection.” In this case, buyer s already have an idea that the right online destination exists, so they also have a preconceived notion of what they would find there. In game theory, this is called “expected utility.” In this case, our job is not simply to make the site easy to find, but also to make sure it’s a relevant match for our prospect’s expectations. If it isn’t, we may capture the click but miss the conversion. And that puts a whole new spin on search marketing. To understand how to create a “connection,” we have to understand what happens on both sides of the click: pre-connection and post-connection.

This requires us to delve into our prospect’s “frame of mind.” Again, the words used here provide a clue for what’s required as a marketer. A “frame” colors our entire view of things. There’s even a term for it in psychology: the “framing effect.” It’s categorized as a cognitive bias, which means that our frames determine our reality. To be successful “connection” marketers, we have to be familiar with our prospect’s “frame” of reference. When we are, we can provide a relevant and persuasive post-click path.

But “connection” wasn’t the only alternative label I proposed. What about “action” or “fulfillment?” Again, both ask us to substantially stretch our horizons as a marketer.

“Action” is an even more determinant label than connection. If we’re looking to take “action,” each step interposed between the end goal and the prospect is another level of frustration. Here, our job as “action” marketers is to remove as many of the steps as possible between intent and action. Actions are usually well defined and specific. We should be equally as specific in the alternatives we provide our prospects. Our calls to action should be a clear invitation to “do” things.

“Fulfillment” is a little tougher nut to crack. To be “fulfilled” can take several forms. Is there an emotional component? How would the prospect define “fulfillment”? Is the post-click result a step towards fulfillment, or does it take a prospect all the way there? A successful “fulfillment” marketer should be part psychologist and part clairvoyant.

Given the challenge we have in even attaching a label to what it is we do, it’s no wonder that recent analyst reports are all reporting a common theme: the best search marketers are expanding into other services. We’re expanding beyond “search” into “social,” “mobile,” “local,” “display” and other channels. It’s not so much that “search” is passé, rather it’s that “search” isn’t really the right label anymore. I’m not sure that “social” or “local” are any better. Personally, I think the perfect word, whatever it turns out to be, should clearly identify “why” people are online rather than “what” they’re doing online.

What’s in a Word?

First published September 8, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

I served for six years as a director of the Search Engine Marketers Professional Organization. Every six months or so, we’d get together to talk about the future of the organization. As you can imagine, the future of an organization catering to industry professionals is inextricably linked to the future of the industry itself. So, our conversations weren’t so much about the future of SEMPO as they were about the future of search — and by extension, the future of search marketing.

Every time we embarked on this task of joint navel and crystal-ball gazing, we ran smack dab into the same dilemma: How do you define search? What is search? Should it even be called search any more? Esther Dyson, among others, thinks the term “search” may have outlived its usefulness. Perhaps “connection,” “fulfillment” or “action” has a better connotation. At least these words imply there’s something of substance on the other end of the search. They hint at successful outcomes. When Microsoft debuted Bing, the company sought to differentiate the product by calling it the “Decision” engine – “Bing is a search engine that finds and organizes the answers you need so you can make faster, more informed decisions.”

For me, words are important, so in trying to define the future of our industry, the words we choose to represent the concept tell us something about our feelings towards it.

Let’s start with “search,” the generic label we currently use: to “search” is to attempt to discover something. We search for a needle in a haystack. We search for a missing child or a runaway fugitive. We search for the truth. All seem to indicate an expenditure of significant effort but no guarantee of success. Given the state of the Internet when search engines debuted, it was an apt moniker. But today, that’s no longer the case. Today, I suspect, we launch almost every search with a clear expectation that somewhere out there, the information we seek exists. All we need is the right connection to it.

Given that, perhaps a “connection” engine is a better choice. To “connect” is to link known entities. Unlike with “search,” when we use the term “connect” we know our objective exists and we’re just trying to find the shortest path between points A and B.  The word better captures the navigational usage of search, which accounts for a huge percentage of total queries. I’ve used the term myself in the past when I’ve said that search is the “connection” between intent and content.

But even “connection” implies a certain statelessness. While it better captures our intent than does the verb search, I don’t know if it adequately represents the dynamic and participatory nature of our online activities. Whereas the verbs we used to use to define what we did online implied passive observance — “look,” “browse” and “surf” (I never did get that one, but at one time using it made you sound uber-cool) —  we now “book,” “post,” “comment,” “”tweet,” “buy” and participate in dozens of much more active ways, using more active verbs. Where once we went online to seek and consume information, we now want to “do” things.  We expect to do things. And so we use Google or Bing to find the right tool to allow us to do those things. That’s the rationale behind suggestions like “fulfillment” (to carry out, to satisfy or to develop to full potential) and “action” (something done or performed). Certainly, for some search tasks, calling Google or Bing an “action” engine would be a more appropriate description.

For some tasks — but not all. And that’s the problem we kept running into when we tried to define what search is. It’s tough to keep in any one box. It tends to be squishy and amorphous. And it has the habit of expanding into the ever-developing niches and crevasses of the online landscape.

So, was Bing right to call itself a “decision” engine? Is that the missing label that encapsulates all we look for in an engine? Do we need something to help us make better decisions (to compare and choose between alternatives)? It’s at least as good as “search”, and probably better, because it takes it one step further. It makes the assumption that the information about the best alternatives will be served to us by the engine.

While you might think this is just a frivolous exercise in semantics, I disagree. I think this question speaks to something fundamental in the evolution of search. We use words to label concepts — and when the labels no longer fit, it’s because the concept itself has changed. If we have trouble applying a word to something, it’s probably because we think of it in a different way than we used to. I believe this is true of search. And if we think of “search” differently, it means we must also think of “search marketing” differently.

Until next week…

The ZMOT Continued: More from Jim Lecinski

First published July 28, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Last week, I started my conversation with Jim Lecinski, author of the new ebook from Google: “ZMOT, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth.”  Yesterday, Fellow Search Insider Aaron Goldman gave us his take on ZMOT. Today, I’ll wrap up by exploring with Jim the challenge that the ZMOT presents to organizations and some of the tips for success he covers in the book.

First of all, if we’re talking about what happens between stimulus and transaction, search has to play a big part in the activities of the consumer. Lecinski agreed, but was quick to point out that the online ZMOT extends well beyond search.

Jim Lecinski: Yes, Google or a search engine is a good place to look. But sometimes it’s a video, because I want to see [something] in use…Then [there’s] your social network. I might say, “Saw an ad for Bobby Flay’s new restaurant in Las Vegas. Anybody tried it?” That’s in between seeing the stimulus, but before… making a reservation or walking in the door.

We see consumers using… a broad set of things. In fact, 10.7 sources on average are what people are using to make these decisions between stimulus and shelf.

A few columns back, I shared the pinball model of marketing, where marketers have to be aware of the multiple touchpoints a buyer can pass through, potentially heading off in a new and unexpected direction at each point. This muddies the marketing waters to a significant degree, but it really lies at the heart of the ZMOT concept:

Lecinski: It is not intended to say, “Here’s how you can take control,” but you need to know what those touch points are. We quote the great marketer Woody Allen: “‘Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up.”

So if you’re in the makeup business, people are still seeing your ads in Cosmo and Modern Bride and Elle magazine, and they know where to buy your makeup. But if Makeupalley is now that place between stimulus and shelf where people are researching, learning, reading, reviewing, making decisions about your $5 makeup, you need to show up there.

Herein lies an inherent challenge for the organization looking to win the ZMOT: whose job is that? Our corporate org chart reflects marketplace realities that are at least a generation out of date. The ZMOT is virgin territory, which typically means it lies outside of one person’s job description. Even more challenging, it typically cuts across several departments.

Lecinski: We offer seven recommendations in the book, and the first one is “Who’s in charge?” If you and I were to go ask our marketer clients, “Okay, stimulus — the ad campaigns. Who’s in charge of that? Give me a name,” they could do that, right? “Here’s our VP of National Advertising.”

Shelf — if I say, “Who’s in charge of winning at the shelf?” “Oh. Well, that’s our VP of Sales” or “Shopper Marketing.” And if I say, “Product delivery,” – “well that’s our VP of Product Development” or “R&D” or whatever. So there’s someone in charge of those classic three moments. Obviously the brand manager’s job is to coordinate those. But when I say, “Who’s in charge of winning the ZMOT?” Well, usually I get blank stares back.

If you’re intent on winning the ZMOT, the first thing you have to do is make it somebody’s job. But you can’t stop there. Here are Jim’s other suggestions:

The second thing is, you need to identify what are those zero moments of truth in your category… Start to catalogue what those are and then you can start to say, “Alright. This is a place where we need to start to show up.”

The next is to ask, “Do we show up and answer the questions that people are asking?”

Then we talk about being fast and being alert, because up to now, stimulus has been characterized as an ad you control. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a study that’s released by an interest group. Sometimes it’s a product recall that you don’t control. Sometimes it’s a competitor’s move. Sometimes it’s Colbert on his show poking a little fun at Miracle Whip from Kraft. That wasn’t in your annual plan, but now there’s a ZMOT because, guess what happens — everybody types in “Colbert Miracle Whip video.” Are you there, and what do people see? Because that’s how they’re going to start making up their mind before they get to Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up their Miracle Whip.

Winning the ZMOT is not a cakewalk. But it lies at the crux of the new marketing reality. We’ve begun to incorporate the ZMOT into the analysis we do for clients. If you don’t, you’re leaving a huge gap between the stimulus and shelf — and literally anything could happen in that gap.

Marketing in the ZMOT: An Interview with Jim Lecinski

First published July 21, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

A few columns back, I mentioned the new book from Google, “ZMOT, Winning the Zero Moment of Truth.” But, in true Google fashion, it isn’t really a book, at least, not in the traditional sense. It’s all digital, it’s free, and there’s even a multimedia app (a Vook) for the iPad.

Regardless of the “book” ‘s format, I recently caught up with its author, Jim Lecinski, and we had a chance to chat about the ZMOT concept. Jim started by explaining what the ZMOT is: “The traditional model of marketing is stimulus – you put out a great ad campaign to make people aware of your product, then you win the FMOT (a label coined by Procter and Gamble) — the moment of truth, the purchase point, the shelf. Then the target takes home the product and hopefully it will live up to its promises. It makes whites whiter, brights brighter, the package actually gets there by 10:30 the next morning.

What we came out with here in the book is this notion that there’s actually a fourth node in the model  of equal importance.  We gave the umbrella name to that new fourth moment that happens in between stimulus and shelf: if it’s prior to FMOT, one minus F is zero, ‘Zero Moment of Truth.'”

Google didn’t invent the ZMOT, just as Procter & Gamble didn’t invent the FMOT. These are just labels applied to consumer behaviours. But Google, and online in general, have had a profound effect on a consumer’s ability to interact in the Zero Moment of Truth.

Lecinski: “There were always elements of a zero moment of truth. It could happen via word of mouth. And in certain categories, of course  — washing machines, automotive, certain consumer electronics — the zero moment of truth was won or lost in print publications like Consumer Reports or Zagat restaurant guide or Mobil Travel Guide.

But those things had obvious limitations. One: there was friction — you had to actually get in the car and go to the library. The second is timeliness  — the last time they reviewed wash machines might have been nine months ago. And then the third is accuracy: ‘Well, the model that they reviewed nine months ago isn’t exactly the one I saw on the commercial last night that’s on sale this holiday weekend at Sears.'”

The friction, the timeliness and the simple lack of information all lead to an imbalance in the market place that was identified by economist George Akerlof in 1970 as information asymmetry. In most cases, the seller knew more about the product than the buyer. But the Web has driven out this imbalance in many product categories.

Lecinski: “The means are available to everybody to remove that sort of information asymmetry and move us into a post-Akerlof world of information symmetry. I was on the ad agency side for a long time, and we made the TV commercial assuming information asymmetry. We would say, ‘Ask your dealer to explain more about X, Y, and Z.’

Well, now that kind of a call to action in a TV commercial sounds almost silly, because you go into the dealer and there’s people with all the printouts and their smartphones and everything… So in many ways we are in a post-Akerlof world. Even his classic example of lemons for cars, well, I can be standing on the lot and pull up the CARFAX history report off my iPhone right there in the car lot.”

Lecinski also believes that our current cash flow issues drive more intense consumer research.  “Forty seven percent of U.S. households say that they cannot come up with $2,000 in a 30-day period without having to sell some possessions,” he says. “This is how paycheck to paycheck life is.”

When money is tight, we’re more careful with how we part with it. That means we spend more time in the ZMOT.

Next week, I’ll continue my conversation with Jim, touching on what the online ZMOT landscape looks like, the challenge ZMOT presents marketers and the seven suggestions Jim offers about how to win the Zero Moment of Truth.