How to Hack Consumer Behavior Using ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) With Paul Mackiewicz [AMP 263]

In 2011, Google introduced the term, Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), also known as the moment that a consumer decides to research a product or service online before they enter a store or contact a business. A lot has changed since Google conducted that research and published the ZMOT ebook. Now, it’s normal behavior and what consumers do online before deciding to make a purchase. Today’s guest is Paul Mackiewicz, CEO and Founder of #Smart Marketing. He talks about how to hack consumer behavior using ZMOT. Businesses and marketers often overlook small details in their overall online presence that add up to a big difference between who wins or loses. Stay on the winning side by understanding when and where ZMOT happens for your customers.
ByACTIONABLEMARKETINGPODCAST

Some of the highlights of the show include:
  • Ebook: Explains how increased access to information impacts buying decisions
  • 3-Step Marketing Process: Awareness, experience, and compare product/service
  • Business Directory/Review Management Systems: Convert eyeballs to invoices
  • Control Messaging/Ratings: First impressions are everything in most industries
  • ZMOT Concept: Who you choose based off your emotional reaction to info online
  • Build Business Persona: If you could be any celebrity online, who would you be?
  • Big Business Benefits: Foot traffic is less and people like to look and buy online
  • Getting Started: Claim Google, Yelp business listings, and get pro pics and tools
  • Future of Marketing: Know, like, and trust small businesses to do your marketing

How to Hack Consumer Behavior Using ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) With Paul Mackiewicz

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Transcript: Ben: Hey, Paul, how's it going this Friday? Paul: Doing really well. How are you doing? Ben: I can't complain. Just wrapping up the week and really, really excited for this conversation, which is going to be about ZMOT, Zero Moment of Truth, and how that applies to consumer behavior. I'm really really excited about this because this is an acronym, a term, concept, or however you want to think about it, that I have never heard before. I feel like that's rare. The amount of buzzwords and just various pieces of industry jargon that I feel kind of caught fire and then we ended up hearing about ad nauseam. This is completely new to me. To kick things off, in simple terms, what is the acronym ZMOT or Zero Moment of Truth? What are we talking about? Paul: The phrase ZMOT actually has been around for a while, but it's become popular and then waned in popularity for a little bit. It was actually introduced initially by Google, the Google Think Tank, about 10 years ago. They came out with a full paper on it and a white label that explains to people how with the increased access to information that we have now, the buying decision-making process, especially online, has changed up a bit. Anyone who's classically trained in marketing, and that's where my education comes from, we always had a three-step process for marketing. This goes all the way back to the ‘60s is really when this started and it was always awareness. Anything from print ads, TV ads, radio ads, just becoming aware of a brand or a service in some sort of way. Then there was the first moment of truth, which is where I have made a decision. I saw that commercial for Cocoa Puffs and I decided, hey, those look delicious. The second moment of truth is the shelf. I'm actually getting to the store. I'm in this giant aisle of all these cereals, I remember that awareness of Cocoa Puffs, that great commercial I saw, and I made that buying decision so now I've picked it up. After that, you get the second level of truth, which is the actual experience. Now I've eaten my Cocoa Puffs, these are delicious, I want to tell my friends or these are horrible, I'm never getting them again. It's the emotional response that we have from the actual experience of using that product or service. As the internet became more and more popular, we've jammed in here this new Zero Moment of Truth, so it takes place in between the awareness phase and that shelf phase. What this is is a comparison step, which if you think about how people made decisions even in the ‘90s, not all that long ago. I'm 38 so I remember the ‘90s pretty well. You would not consider so many options when making a buying decision. You'd probably look at maybe one or two tops. We'd be getting this information from friends, from neighbors. I always talk about the backyard barbecue because I work with mostly attorneys, doctors, and other professional service industries. If you need a lawyer, how did you make that decision? Maybe you looked up a phone book, maybe you asked a friend for it, but we always talk about the barbecue because I remember as a child my dad actually saying, hey, who's your attorney? I remember this pretty vivid conversation, but we just don't do that anymore. We don't ask friends face-to-face anymore. So much of that happens on social media. I'm sure anybody here that's bought anything from Amazon, they've seen that star rating and then you check through a few reviews. If you're anything like me, you usually read the negative ones first and get a gauge, knock down my expectations real quick before I read some good ones and build them back up. That's why the zero moment of truth is so incredibly important because this is really one of the biggest differentiating factors of how people make a buying decision because there are so many options out there, especially in the industries I work with. There are so many options and there are only so many ways you can differentiate yourself. If you're an attorney, you can only say I handle personal injury so many times. You have to find these different factors that come into this comparison step. The largest ones, I would say, are definitely your reviews whether it's industry-specific sites like Avvo was a great one for attorneys, ZocDoc, Rate my MD for the doctors I work with. Then obviously Google and Yelp in basically all industries. The best way to really conceptualize what ZMOT is is just how our access to information through increased technology has changed how we get to that final decision-making process. Ben: Yeah, that's a great rundown. You've touched on this a bit, but let's go deeper on this point. For modern marketers, why is it important to understand ZMOT, or what the Zero Moment of Truth really is? I think the point that you make about people just having unprecedented choices in the market for pretty much anything almost these days. I think that's a very powerful insight because I remember the ‘90s quite well myself. It is crazy to think—we say back then but it wasn't that long ago—you really did not have one, just the sheer selection of products or services in a given market that you might know. But you also didn't have the tools readily accessible that every consumer has now to go do comparison shopping, to make their voice heard, and leave a one-star review on Yelp or wherever. Given the circumstances that we are all working under now, why is it really important that we don't ignore this concept? Paul: This is something that COVID certainly amplified, for one. I used to work with a lot of restaurant groups initially and then when COVID hit, I lost about 80% of my clients. What was amazing is in making a small little pivot, I've always worked with a few doctors and attorneys in the past, but my largest vertical at that time was restaurants. When that all hit, it was very interesting to us as a company, when we start talking to attorneys, and doctors who suddenly realize, oh my gosh, 90% of my clients are coming from finding me online. Whether it's a Google ad or they're seeing us on social media. Because people were traveling less, billboards were less effective. With video leaving cable and going more towards streaming services and things like that, commercials were becoming less effective because less eyeballs were seeing them. We ran into both these industries that I was working with suddenly saying, wow, what do I do now? The things that I've always done no longer work and they were also coming to this pretty difficult realization that, hey, I've never actually looked at my Google Business Listing all that much. Most attorneys don't even know they have a Yelp page in some instances. As we're seeing these traditional media models wane in importance, we're seeing the digital side become more important. Also, since we all have cell phones, we all have these amazing computers right in our pockets, and voice search is even becoming more and more popular. It's really interesting just shifting the entire process whereas an attorney three, four years ago, they could have just said, screw Yelp, I don't care about that system. But now, anybody that's out there sitting on an iPhone right now, just pick it up and say, hey, Siri, find me a personal injury attorney in my area, and watch all those little Yelp logos pop up on that Apple Maps because they don't have their own review management system or their own business directory system like that so they piggyback off of Yelp. Very interesting that now, 40% of the phone market is Apple phones. If you're not ensuring that your business listing looks right over there, that your hours are correct, that you have good call to action moments on there, it's very difficult to get eyeballs on your business. What these directories, review sites, and social media allow you to do is really quickly convert eyeballs to invoices is what I say a lot. Whereas probably three, four years ago, many of these industries didn't even have to care about some of these directories because it wasn't a super important thing. COVID just exacerbated this issue where okay, all of these buying decisions are now being made online. How do I look? Where I really started seeing the biggest holes in the market was a lot of these attorneys, pay-per-click advertising is expensive. In Los Angeles right now, for personal injury, it's about like $150–$180 bucks a click. It gets up there real quick. If you're thinking about how people are going to decide on an attorney, seeing an ad is great, but even if I see an ad, say I see it on Maps and you are a 3.7 on Google and the three competitors around you are 4.4, 4.5, or 4.6. Immediately I saw your ad, great you pulled me in, but now I'm only looking at your competitors. I've already cut you out of the equation simply because of a star rating. Maybe they read the reviews, maybe they didn't, but the biggest thing is first impressions are everything in some of these industries. The next thing is to remember that you as a business owner need to take as much control of the messaging around your business online as you possibly can. It really blows me away, and this isn't just for professional services. Think about restaurants, think about chiropractors, think about accountants, just about any industry where you're getting reviews online. The thing to remember is, your website is like your central hub. You control every bit of information there. Your business directories, for the most part, you control just about all that information out there. They do pull from some exterior sources, you just got to make sure that you look good on them. Yelp and Google are the two largest review sources out there. Especially Yelp is top [...] because maybe you get 15 reviews and 10 of them are not recommended. The reason being is their algorithm and you got to play with things like that. Google, it's a little bit more of the wild west. If there's a review, it's out there. You have to manage these systems a little bit differently. One of the things I talk to my clients a lot about is, it's actually funny, it's a message that my grandfather told me when I was younger. He used to always say, you aren't what happens to you in this world. You are your reaction to what happens to you. You almost have to think of reviews the same way. All businesses get negative reviews. How you handle that review, if I read this attorney never called me back, he never answered the phone, he never did this, that could form an emotional response to me real quick like this guy doesn't care about his clients. If I see a review like that and then right underneath that I see from the owner, we are so sorry that you had this experience with us. We want to correct this right away. Please give us a call at, email me at. We want to know more about your situation so we can resolve this. Now that just flips the entire script on the emotional response I had to them. Maybe the guy leaving the review is the crazy one and the law firm’s not so bad. Taking control of that messaging as much as you possibly can is really important. The amount of businesses that answer reviews and actually go that step is really quite low. It's an amazingly low barrier of entry to differentiate yourself as a business just by taking those small additional steps. Answering reviews isn't all that difficult. It's just a matter of putting it into your process and thinking about it. It’s one of the big reasons why we developed this dashboard that pulls all your reviews, all your business listings, all your social media. I wanted to build a nice and efficient super time-saving tool to manage all these aspects of your online presence, and review management was a huge one for us. We are always looking at new API connections to be able to pull in the reviews and push out the responses to them without having to go to 30 different sites that you've got to start rating on and start thinking about ways to do this. It's tough because it is a big big part of your business, but you have to allocate a little bit of that mental focus towards your online presence, your reputation out there, because it's not just about slapping something up on social media every once in a while. You got to think of it in a really 360-degree view. All right, I got this guy aware of my business. He came, he chose me, he had a good experience. Now, what are you doing to get that person to leave you a review? Is that in your process of running your business because this is an incredibly important thing? How are you generating reviews? Another aspect of that is okay, great, I got this awesome review on Yelp. Why don't I take that, highlight it, jump into Canva, throw together a cool little graphic that highlights this new review that I just got blasted out on my social media? Now you've just used this thing two or three times. Building workflows and processes like that is really important to us as a marketing company because I can run Google ads for you all day. I can run your social media all day. I can build a website that conveys who you are as a person, as a brand, online but it's really how you use all of these pieces together and how efficiently you can build a system around it so that your digital marketing mental energy isn't just wasted thinking every morning like oh, I have to post something on social media today. What should I do? How can you systematize these things and find cool ways to make them all work together? It's fun. I really enjoy it because it's great getting into a business. Step one is saying who are you? How do I portray you online? Asking the really in-depth questions that makes business owners really think about their business in ways that they haven't before. Then the other thing is just showing them, hey, all this stuff is here. Your clients can make testimonials for you, your clients can give you those good reviews that now turn into social media content for you. Thinking of ways that you can look at these very difficult cumbersome aspects of running a business in 2021, actually simplify it, and make it all work together. Synergy is a big thing with digital marketing that I think a lot of marketing companies don't talk about enough and I think a lot of businesses don't consider enough. Ben: Yeah, so many of those small details that you mentioned all add up to create one experience, as far as a user is concerned. I think it’s super, super important to shine a light on that because missing a step somewhere, maybe something about a listing somewhere doesn't look quite right, or you've got some negative reviews hanging out with negative comments, low scores, or those little details that can make or break in a person's mind as they're in the moment maybe not even thinking that hard about what they're doing. Just scrolling on their phone, just reviewing their options. It's so easy to underestimate how powerful all those little things really are, but they add up. Paul: Yeah, that's one reason why I actually really embraced the phrase. As soon as I knew about ZMOT I kind of started understanding it and started thinking about it. I was like, wow, this is incredibly important and nobody is talking about it. It's insane to me really that so many businesses don't answer the reviews. I think that one of the big reasons for that is because they haven't actually conceptualized this. The amount of business owners, one of the first things I asked them too when I start working with them is, have you ever pretended to be a potential client, gone through that process, and thought about who you would choose? It's fun to actually sit with them and be like, okay, great, I'm going to search personal injury attorney Burbank, California. Anybody that searches that, you probably want to be in that conversation, right? They're like, well, yeah, of course, I do. I'm like, okay, great. Now we open up Maps, we see all of the options, and we start going through reviews, looking at it, and being like, if you were looking for an attorney right now, who would you choose? It's pretty eye-opening. When they sit there and go, wow, I don't think I would choose myself. I think there are other people I would contact first. That's one of those incredibly powerful aha moments that some of these businesses I get to witness and watch every day. It's very rewarding for me because I'm a big advocate for small businesses or military veteran-owned businesses. I'm an Army veteran myself. I am all about being in the foxhole with my clients. One thing I talked about with them a lot is like, you got to dig in there to really understand some of these pieces. Being able to call it ZMOT and being able to slap a label on this concept, it's been very rewarding for us because now, when we send out our reports and we talk about ZMOT, to have a client understand like, oh, okay, all he's talking about is whether I'm getting chosen or not based off of people's emotional reaction to what they find online. It's a concept that can wrap their heads around. Whereas if you say something along the lines of like, they start talking about SEO and they start talking about business directories or social media, they feel like they get lost in all of these different aspects. Being able to think of it as building a persona online, one of my favorite questions to ask clients is, if you could be any celebrity online, who would you be? The reason I ask that is, I know that they're online, I know that they're seeing pop news and things like that. I had one client the other day say, Paul Rudd. I'm like, oh, I can do Paul Rudd. I can do quirky, fun, kind of very likable person online. But as soon as they give me something like that, you can imagine answering reviews when you're a business owner, but you don't really know who you are as a business yet. It makes it a little bit more difficult. Now you're trying to think of that thing like, what do I say in this? You get a little bit nervous about it and things like that. So actually sitting down and deciding who you are as you're starting this process of cleaning up your entire online presence, it's really, really powerful. It's something I would recommend to a lot of businesses. Just take a step back from the day-to-day of being in your business and take a high level view of who you are, what you want to be. If I could sum up my business in one line, who would I be? Those kinds of conceptual questions around your business. It allows you to think of good taglines. Taglines are great for social media. If you're throwing that on a hashtag or throwing that on your visuals, that can be really powerful because now you have an anchor that these people think of. I'm from Buffalo, New York, so Cellino and Barnes was right in my backyard growing up before they became this nationwide law firm. I think about them a lot of the time. They had a great little jingle. You could identify the business. You know what Cellino and Barnes both looked like. They threw their faces up everywhere. They understood who they were as a business, as a brand. It makes it much easier to actually broadcast that once you understand those things. That's one thing that I would recommend business owners do right off the bat before you really think about like, how do I tackle all this? First, understand who you are, then it's much easier to control the message about who you are out there because you have a foundation to lean on throughout that entire process. Ben: Sure, yeah. I think all of that is fantastic. I think it makes a ton of sense. But I just want to second that recommendation for everybody listening, if you haven't actually tried going online and just going through the whole buying process of your own product or service, not as a business owner, not as a marketer, but just pretend to be a normal person, it can be really eye-opening. The number of things that you can uncover throughout that whole process might actually sting a little bit, but that's how you're uncovering probably your most powerful opportunities to really improve that experience for everybody who might potentially want to buy your services or buy your product. Paul: Yeah. It's also not that difficult. Yeah, it can be fun. I'm a Google Sheet stork, so I use a lot of spreadsheets. I'll actually look at two or three different areas, maybe different practice areas that a law firm might have or different locations that they want to target. I'll tell them, hey, if I were to go through this process, this is the guy I would have chosen. Even before you get into some of the technical stuff. We do a ton of SEO. SEO is huge, lots of content generation, things like that. SEO is great, but again, that's only the awareness stuff. That's just people, I googled something and you came up at the top, great. Now I'm going to look at you, but I'm also going to look at 15 other guys. That's one thing that's really rough about seeing a lot of businesses dump a ton of money into paid ads without really understanding this concept first. I've had quite a few clients where I said, okay, I know that you're running 20,000 paid ads right now. Let's take a break for a month, let's clean this all up first, and then let's move on from there. It is painful, just like you said, it has a little sting to it, but I think the long term benefit is huge. It's really, really big. It's only going to become more and more important as foot traffic becomes less of a determining factor for buying decisions and things like that. We like looking online. We like looking at maps, finding that little red dot that's nice and close to me. Keeping that in mind throughout the entire process can only benefit your business. Ben: Something I took away from this conversation with Paul is the importance of crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s when it comes to making your business fully present online and really thinking about what are all the different places and all the different touchpoints where someone might find your business while they are doing research to find things they want or find things that they need. Some of these things might seem really, really basic, but as a result, those things really do become super easy to overlook. Have you properly optimized your GMB listing? Have you looked at your Yelp listings in a while? Are your G2 crowd or Capterra listings have some inaccuracies? Is there something about your brand or your product offerings that have changed maybe since you created those profiles? Are there any really high traffic listicles, directories, or roundups that your competitors are on but you're not? Those are just a handful of different things that you might look at here, and all of those things matter. Not only do they matter, but they all add up to potentially a lot of money being left on the table. So if you're like me, you're probably wondering whether maybe it's time for a quick audit on your off-site presence holistically, just to make sure that you're really putting your best foot forward. You might be surprised by what you find. Now, back to Paul. We've covered a lot of ground in this conversation so far. If somebody was wanting to get started with applying this concept to their business, their marketing, I think you've highlighted numerous different things that might make a good first step. But if someone came to you and they were interested in taking this type of approach or supplying this general concept to their marketing strategy, what's the first thing that you would recommend they do? What's the very, very first thing that you do before you even consider doing anything else? Paul: I like to call it the lowest hanging fruit. It's your Google Business listing and it's your Yelp page. The reason being is because the amount of buying decisions that are made on mobile devices now, tablets, even quick searches on laptops, and things like that, in many, many cases, are the two first areas that somebody's going to become aware of a business. Google Business listing, for one, it's free. You jump on there, you claim your listing, you put up a lot of great images. There are wonderful utilities within the GMB that so many businesses don't even take advantage of like service cards, product cards, where it will list all the different practice areas that a law firm has right on their Google Business listing. Then there's a call to action within those cards. There's the phone number right there. If you click on the card and see more information, it's not just like taking you to a homepage, it's actually taking you to that practice area page so you can see results for cases that are that type of practice area. You can see exactly how they handle the content that they put out on it. But it's not just like, oh, here's my homepage, here's who I am. It's very targeted direct information to them, and you can put that right on your GMB. The cost to generate website traffic, it's pretty expensive in a lot of cases or it's very cumbersome or time-consuming. But if you can convert somebody right from a listing, right from your GMB or your Yelp, Yelp does an amazing job. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Yelp. Their sales practices are not always the greatest, but their ads are actually really effective. I usually take a little piece of my total advertising budget and throw a little into Yelp because, again, going through that buying decision-making process, if I search personal injury attorney in Burbank, California, probably in the top three to five responses in the organic is going to be top 10 personal injury attorneys in Burbank, yelp.com. So you click on that, what do you see? You see the people that are doing Yelp ads. So now you want to talk about, oh, I got to do SEO so I'll become the top of Google. If you run some Yelp ads, you look really great on Yelp, you got great reviews on Yelp. You just interjected yourself. You leapfrog all those businesses. You took advantage of people that say, hey, you know what, Yelp top 10, that seems like a great response. There's a reason that Yelp ranks so high in SEO. It's a high authority site, tons of traffic, and also, it satisfies Google. Our goal is like, okay, this person asked a question, how do I answer it as well as I can? Yelp is a great resource, a great answer to that question. Now you go to that Yelp page and on that page, you can put badges. We're listed as a veteran-owned business. All of our certifications that we go on there, you can send in your business license to Yelp and have a business license verified big blue badge on there. Obviously, filling out all of the business information, lots of images that you could put on Yelp. If you pay for some of the services, then you could put video right on that. So those would be the two biggest ones, I would say. To just go through the actual, it's business.google.com. That's how you get your Google Business listing, or if you're doing Yelp, it's biz.yelp.com. That's how you claim those listings. But even just going through it and clicking every single tab within that Google Business listing thing and seeing all the options in there, you can even post to your Google Business listing the same exact content that you're putting out on your social media. What's cool about that is it shows up when people are looking at maps. Now I see, oh, cool, they do personal injury, or look at this big case that they just won. I didn't go to their Facebook and see this or their Instagram and see this. I was actually just looking at maps and boom, it's showing up right in front of me. There are all these amazing tools with just those two sources that you can really interject yourself into those conversations and move those eyeballs to invoices a little bit quicker without somebody jumping on your website, and then you're crossing your fingers hoping that they click on that Contact Us page or go to that form submission or something like that. You might be able to get that conversion before they even had to take that step. Thinking about those things. Like I said, especially on those two platforms, I think it immediately sets you apart. Immediately, you'll see a pretty quick return just from anybody that's really searching on any mobile device that continues to increase. Those would be the two biggest. Ben: Sure, yeah. I think that makes perfect sense. Once marketers have established the basics, they've got their Google My Business listing, their Yelp listing, or whatever other similar listings may be relevant in their niche, market, or industry, what are some more advanced tactics or applications of this principle that you would recommend marketers then apply to really take this approach to the next level? Paul: The biggest one for me is getting some professional photos done. It's really not that costly for business now to get some professional photos. You'd be surprised. Just even portrait mode on a phone for some businesses if you really don't have the money to bring somebody in and do this. But the emotional response we see from seeing really great imagery on a business listing, it means a lot. I've been very surprised at some of the different state law firms, specifically, that I walk in. I'm like, oh my gosh, it's like a beautiful office. The one I was in the other day was like, this cool industrial, they got the air vents going through some brick walls. It's really great wall art and everything like that. I'm like, none of this is online. You've done such a great job of building this very comfortable, cool, hip atmosphere here in person, but you would never know this if I jumped online. So the very first thing I told them to do is like, you guys need some new imagery. The big thing is not just headshots, not just a group photo, yes, those are great and they're very, very important, but also some images to your location. Some of those pieces that when I get to a business listing are going to immediately make me say like, oh, look how professional these people are. A big reason that we buy from people is because we trust them and because we can relate to them. There are even some of my clients I talk about like, hey, do you have any pictures of you with your dog? Because people love that on social media. If you can start working on some of those dog photos. Are you a fan of a college football team or a football team? What are these differentiating factors that you could start using to show people not only that you're trustworthy, that you're a professional, and you're good at what you do, but also, they have to like you. Even one of my doctors said he's a huge Harry Potter fan. So he started doing some cool Harry Potter stuff. We didn't just put it on their social, we dropped it on their GMB, we dropped it on their Yelp page. Just other ways to make yourself look relatable. So I'd say step one, all of those different listings are looking nice, but when you want to step it up to the next level, it's really worth it thinking about the imagery that you want to portray online. I always say, get some professional photos. You can get somebody for a couple $100–$1000 now to come in and just take some great photos for you. Those will go a long way. You'll be using those for the next two, three years probably at least. So I'd say if there was step two, it's really thinking about the imagery that we want to convey online and putting together something nice for that. I'd say if there's a third piece, it's tools. This is a little shameless plug here. That's why I developed the dashboard that we have because you have to find a way to really minimize the time that you have to spend on this while maximizing the benefit that you're receiving from it. I tell people every day about Canva. It's just this simple tool, it's $20 a month. You can generate social content pretty quickly. We have an entire graphic design department. But if I have to throw together something real quick, Canva is great. I can put together some social piece in 20, 30 minutes, and then think, how do we efficiently do that? If you just go through maybe some of the templates that Canva already has in it, you find an aesthetic that you like, you put your color codes into the saved color codes in there, you have your logo uploaded in there, you're just grabbing images, just dropping it in, tell them a little bit about you, throw the logo on there, throw the conversion line there, boom, next one. You put together 15, 20, 30 pieces of content in maybe an hour or two. Now you have a system set up. Our dashboard, we have a full schedule and is very similar to what you would see like HootSuite, Buffer, or anything like that. Then once you have this content, it's 10 minutes of hashtag research just to see what the best ones are for your industry, and then use a content scheduler and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Now, you're not waking up every morning going, oh, what should I post on social today? Now, you're covered a month in advance, two months in advance, all because you efficiently thought to sit down and look at that thing. It plays the same way with reviews. After you set up those review sites, you don't have to sit here and look at it every day and go, oh, I got a review, I got to answer it. Check it on Fridays. Put a little note in your calendar, hey, Friday afternoon at 2:00, just go to the reviews I got that week. Make sure there's nothing crazy there. Answer them real quick, piece it all together. There are some good marketing companies out there. I'm a big advocate for small marketing companies. I consider us still pretty small- to mid-size, I'd say, now. I think that if you can find a marketing company that actually invests time in getting to know you as a business, really understands who you are, and can portray you online, it can be a great, very valuable time-saver at different price points. Especially if you have access to it and they're responsive to you, those are some of the big things that we push here. Being an Army veteran, I'm all about let's hit that integrity, honor, and accountability. I make sure my guys are answering emails within 24 hours. We always answer our phones when we can. So if you can find marketing companies like that, I think that's a really valuable investment in your business long-term. Yes, you can find the tools. If you can get a receptionist so you do it yourself, utilize those tools, I'd say you could build a really effective marketing campaign for a couple of $100 a month. If you really want to amplify those results, you can hire your marketing company and it'll probably cost you a couple of $1000 a month. But if the return that they're generating for you is 2X, 3X, it doesn't really matter. So just thinking about your business that way, I can either find the tools to do this, and attempt to do it ourselves, or we can find a good company to do this. And even having a little bit of education and thinking about ZMOT, you can go to your marketing company and be like, hey, I'm not getting enough good reviews, what do we do? Or, hey, the imagery we're putting on social media, I don't feel like it's properly reflecting us, what do we do? Put that ball in that court. Make them earn that marketing dollar for you. I'll be very honest. As owning a marketing company, the squeaky wheels do get oil first. If one of my clients calls me up and says, hey, I want to do this, this, and this, yeah, I'm going to do that like. If they call me again the next day like, hey, I want to do this, this, and this, it's like, I'm going to figure out ways to do those things for them. Because at the end of the day, you got to remember, your marketing company, they have to earn your business. You're not lucky to have a marketing company. That marketing company is lucky that you've chosen them to be your marketing company. Keep that in mind. You have the power in this situation, not your marketing company. I think it's very, very important. So if you can find somebody that you trust, great. If not and you don't have the funds to do it, I'd find the right tools to be able to do it efficiently, even if it's on a small scale. You just move in that right direction. Hopefully, those short-term efforts of just using those tools allow you long-term and bring in a good marketing company that's able to help you out with those things. I see it all the time, I love doing webinars. When a client says, hey, I can't afford it now, that's okay. Our dashboard is $150 a month. That's an amazing tool that will set you up, Canva is $20 a month. Use this dashboard, use Canva. You're at least moving in the right direction at that point. You're talking about under $200 to at least start a bit more efficiently marketing your services. The tools are out there. It's available. I would try to keep it as simple as possible. Always just think about that ROI. If you're putting in five hours of work on your marketing, that's generating 10 clients and each client's worth $1000, then you can say, okay, I put five hours in, I generated $10,000. How can I exponentially grow this now? I'm putting 10 hours in and it's $50,000 that I'm generating just by doing those things, It's fun. They're fun thought exercises. It's really fun for me. I enjoy doing that marketing stuff with clients, getting them to think outside the box, getting them to think efficiently, and all that. I think that's really where the future of marketing is going to. I think that these big box marketers where you're just a number and they're slapping up some garbage social media stuff for you if they're not getting to know the businesses, getting to understand them, I just don't think that there's as much value in them. I think down the road, there'll be 50 companies like me in an area and maybe a few or less of these big-box marketing companies where you can't even get someone on the phone. I'm optimistic about the future of small business marketing, as you probably tell. It's a great time to be in the marketing industry right now too because it's constantly changing. It's fun, it's adapting, and you get to meet cool new business owners every day doing it. Ben: Yeah, I definitely agree on that last point, absolutely. This has been a fantastic conversation. If people want to find you or they want to find #Smart online, where would be the best places for people to go? Paul: You can always go to zmotexpert.com. That's probably the easiest way to get in touch with me. We got on there some free trials for our dashboard and getting some snapshot reports of your business, give you a quick idea of how your overall online presence looks. We're all over social media, obviously. Our standard website is hashtag-smart.com. I'm always on LinkedIn. I do get tons of solicitations on there, so it's usually only like a day or two a week, but you can always find me over there. My LinkedIn is just /zmotexpert. So it's pretty easy to find me over there as well. That's probably the best. I don't look at Facebook too often. I'm not a big fan. Instagram, we're all over on Instagram. It's actually @hashtagsmartmarketing since you can't use pound symbols in your name. For the most part, if you type out the word, hashtag smart marketing, you'll find us.
About the Author

Ben was the Inbound Marketing Director at CoSchedule. His specialties include content strategy, SEO, copywriting, and more. When he's not hard at work helping people do better marketing, he can be found cross-country skiing with his wife and their dog.