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Learning #2 - The 7-11-4 Rule

By Junxian Lee, CPO of GoodWhale

🚀 Modern path to marketing: Zero-Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and the 7-11-4 Rule

I was chatting with my head of marketing at my new startup, GoodWhale (👍🏻🐳 haha), just a few weeks back. We just hit a milestone in our product development and it was high time for us to firm up our go-to-market strategy.

To give some context: GoodWhale is a financial education platform that helps people learn about investing and growth in a fun and engaging way. Our primary target audience is the growing pool of career professionals, who are interested in investing but often don't know where to start. We are a B2C platform and it is thus necessary for us to have a perspective on how modern day marketing funnels and flywheels work. My head of marketing and I discussed the very same topic I will be touching upon here - ZMOT and the 7-11-4 framework.

🤔 What’s Happening?:

The transformation of the digital sphere has had an immeasurable impact on the dynamics between consumers and brands. Central to this transformation is a notion that has captivated business strategists and marketers alike: the "Zero-Moment of Truth" (ZMOT). This phrase, birthed by Google, encapsulates the pivotal moment a prospective buyer takes to the internet to research about a product or service before deciding to purchase, as well as the context with the brand that was built prior to this. In navigating the myriad possibilities of this concept, the 7-11-4 rule emerges as a guiding light for digital marketing aficionados across the globe. These buzzwords have been instrumental in shifting the paradigm of consumer behaviour, and every modern and digital business needs to be aware of their implications.

🧐 ZMOT: The New First Impression

The age-old adage about the importance of first impressions holds true in the traditional marketing paradigm. However, the dawn of the digital age has brought forth a precursor to this: before consumers physically step into a store or engage directly with a brand, they've already formed an impression through their online investigations. This encapsulates the essence of ZMOT.

An eye-opening study from Retailing Today unearthed that a staggering 81% of consumers embark on an online investigation before committing to a purchase decision. This isn’t a fleeting glance but a deep, analytical exposition that might encompass perusing reviews, comparing products, viewing videos, and more.

Here's an arresting revelation: An earlier study conducted by Google back in 2011 illuminated that shoppers, on average, consulted 10.4 sources of information before finalising a purchase. This marked a dramatic increase from the 5.3 sources consulted in 2010, within a mere span of a year. And this was already a decade ago. This swift escalation over a short period highlights the ballooning significance of ZMOT in the modern day consumer decision-making process.

🔍 Origins and Evolution of ZMOT

The term "Zero Moment of Truth" was popularised by Google, referring to the period in the buying process when the consumer researches a product, often before the seller even knows they exist. This is a deviation from the traditional AIDA model of Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action.

To provide a clearer picture, consider the three key moments in the traditional purchasing journey:

  • Stimulus: This is where the buyer's journey begins. At this stage, consumers become aware of a need, typically triggered by external stimuli. These stimuli could be advertisements, word-of-mouth recommendations, or even personal experiences, like noticing a pair of worn-out shoes or feeling hungry.

  • First Moment of Truth (FMOT): This occurs in the store when a consumer sees a product on the shelf. It’s that split-second moment when they decide whether to make a purchase.

  • Second Moment of Truth (SMOT): This happens when consumers use the product, determining if their purchase was a good one.

  • [Additional]

Third Moment of Truth (TMOT): After using the product, consumers provide feedback and share their experience, influencing other potential buyers.

ZMOT inserts itself before all these moments. It captures that crucial time when consumers are secretly weighing their options, armed with the power of the internet.

🎯 Importance of ZMOT in Today's Digital Landscape

  • Informed Consumers: With smartphones and constant connectivity, consumers have the world's information at their fingertips. They can quickly check product reviews, compare prices, or read expert opinions. As such, many purchasing decisions are already formed before stepping into a physical store or interacting with sales representatives.

  • Digital Trust: Consumers often trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. A BrightLocal study found that 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

  • Shift in Advertising: Traditional advertising methods are becoming less effective. Now, the onus is on brands to be present where consumers are researching, mainly online, and to provide valuable content that aids the decision-making process.

Acknowledging ZMOT is merely scratching the surface; the real adventure begins in effectively harnessing its potential. This is where the 7-11-4 rule unveils a structured pathway:

📦 Unpacking the 7-11-4 Rule

The 7-11-4 rule is a simple and effective sales and marketing strategy developed by Google that can help businesses engage more customers and win more business. The rule suggests that a buyer needs 7 hours of interaction, across 11 touch points, in 4 separate locations before they make a purchase.

The 7-11-4 rule works so well because it cultivates familiarity between your brand and the customer. When there’s at least seven hours of content about you out there, across eleven moments, in four locations, it starts to form a strong sense of familiarity between you and your customer.

💡 Fun fact: According to Unicorn Studio, the average person spends around 6 hours and 42 minutes online every day. This means that businesses have ample opportunities to engage with their customers online. However, with so much content available online, it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd.

The 7-11-4 rule provides a neat framework to do just this:

🕖 7 Hours of Content:

This is not about a singular, 7-hour marathon viewing session but an amalgamation of diverse, engaging content that cumulatively spans approximately seven hours. The manifestations could be:

  • In-depth blog articles

  • Exhaustive e-books or whitepapers

  • Engaging video content

  • Informative infographics

  • Interactive webinars

  • Thought-provoking podcasts

Example: 🐳 GoodWhale collaborations with YouTuber creators in the region

A riveting data point from HubSpot reveals that brands churning out 16 or more blog posts a month witness nearly 3.5 times the traffic compared to those publishing a mere 0-4 posts.

🤲🏻 11 Touch Points:

Contemporary consumers traverse a multifaceted journey with brands. They engage across various platforms and mediums, whether through direct website visits, social media interactions, email communications, or offline engagements. The 7-11-4 rule accentuates having a consistent and influential presence across a minimum of 11 of these touchpoints.

Example: 🐳 GoodWhale weekly live-online discussion hours

Example: 🐳 GoodWhale cross-collaborations with regional bloggers

Micah Solomon from Forbes eloquently states, "Every touch point, online or offline, is a critical branding opportunity."

📍4 Locations:

Amidst today’s fragmented digital arena, it's imperative for brands to diversify their digital footprint. By ensuring that content is strategically disseminated across a minimum of four distinct platforms or locations, brands can optimise visibility and engagement. The ideal platforms encompass:

  • Official brand websites or portals

  • Vibrant social media channels

  • Personalised email campaigns

  • Collaborative third-party platforms or forums

Example: 🐳 GoodWhale features with regional media partners

Example: 🐳 GoodWhale collaboration with local buskers on the street

Here's a statistic to underscore the criticality of platform diversity: 2020 data from Statista elucidates that over 3.6 billion individuals were actively engaged on social media, which accounts for nearly half the global populace!

Significance in the Modern Marketing Paradigm

Complex Customer Journeys: The 7-11-4 model signifies that consumers no longer follow a linear path to purchase. Instead, they interact with various content pieces across multiple channels before making a decision. This complex web of touchpoints underscores the importance of a cohesive multi-channel marketing strategy.

  • Demand for Quality Content: Engaging with 11 pieces of content means that brands need to consistently produce high-quality, relevant, and diverse content to cater to potential consumers throughout their journey.

  • Channel Diversity: Engaging across 4 different channels highlights the need for brands to maintain a strong presence across multiple platforms, be it social media, search engines, email, or even offline mediums.

Strategies to Navigate the 7-11-4 Landscape

  • Unified Branding: With potential touchpoints scattered across multiple platforms, maintaining consistent branding and messaging is crucial. This helps in reinforcing brand recall and trust.

  • Optimised Content Strategy: It's essential not only to create content but to optimise it for the right platform. What works on Instagram might not necessarily work on LinkedIn or via email marketing.

  • Personalisation: Given the numerous interactions, personalising content based on user behaviour and preferences can significantly enhance engagement and conversion rates.

  • Effective Channel Utilisation: Brands must identify which four (or more) channels their target audience frequents the most and optimise their strategies accordingly.

  • Analytical Approach: With so many touchpoints, collecting and analysing data becomes paramount. Understanding which touchpoints drive the most engagement and which ones lead to conversions can help refine marketing strategies.

Wrapping up

As digital touch points grew more complex and diverse, it became evident that a singular "moment" might be an oversimplification of the modern buyer's journey. Enter the 7-11-4 model, which delves deeper into this journey. It suggests that before visiting a store or making a purchase, a consumer, on average, interacts with a brand's content seven times, engages with 11 different pieces of content, and does so across four distinct platforms or channels.

This model's granular breakdown underscores several crucial takeaways for brands:

Consumer journeys are multifaceted: A linear path from awareness to conversion no longer holds. Consumers dance between various touchpoints, circling back and forth before settling on a decision.

Diverse and quality content is vital: With 11 points of engagement, brands must produce a variety of content that remains consistently high in quality. This range should cater to different stages of the buyer's journey, from initial awareness to deeper product research.

Omni-channel presence is no longer optional: Four channels, at a minimum, are involved in the consumer's journey. Brands must ensure they maintain a robust and consistent presence across these platforms to capture and retain consumer attention.

Reflecting upon both ZMOT and the 7-11-4 model, it's evident that while the fundamental principle remains consistent — the significant influence of online touchpoints — the manner in which these touchpoints are recognized and navigated has evolved. Brands that not only understand but also effectively leverage this intricate web of interactions stand to achieve greater resonance with their audiences, leading to enhanced trust, engagement, and ultimately, higher conversion rates.

In essence, while ZMOT was a revelation that spotlighted the significance of online research in the buyer's journey, the 7-11-4 model provides a more detailed roadmap for brands to navigate this journey. Both frameworks, together, offer a comprehensive lens through which modern marketers can understand, strategize, and optimise for today's digitally-empowered consumer.

The symbiosis between ZMOT and the 7-11-4 rule unveils a potent blueprint for brands navigating the intricate digital landscape. Brands that can adeptly comprehend and cater to their audience’s nuanced needs during this pivotal ZMOT are well-poised to cultivate not just fleeting transactions but enduring brand loyalty. The digital realm, vast and occasionally intimidating, with informed strategies, can be navigated adeptly by any brand, allowing them to etch an indelible mark on the consumer psyche.

About Junxian Lee:

Junxian Lee is the Co-founder and CPO of GoodWhale. He recently sold his previous startup, Moovaz, a machine intelligence driven technology for international relocation globally. He is also the ex-CFO of CashShield, an international online fraud risk management company as well as founding team of private investment platform, Fundnel. He has prior experience in venture capital investments at SEA Group and operational/product experience as the launcher team of Shopee, kick-starting the business across 7 countries in the region. Junxian co-owns Reedz Café Pte Ltd, a chain of cafes and continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the NUS Business School’s alumni association. He was recognized and conferred the Eminent Alumni Award by the university in 2018 and contributes actively to the Fudan University Singapore Alumni Club and the Harvard Alumni Club in Singapore. He is passionate about philanthropy and education and has spoken actively on Ted Talks on the importance of conducting our daily business from the heart.

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