IF SOCIAL MEDIA ACQUISITION HAS BEEN A WASTE OF TIME, THEN WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE?


Google's market research


Part two of insight into the far reaching implications of Google's market research on the 'Zero Moment of Truth'.

RUST OF ALL, to recap from previous article, there is now something called the 'Zero Moment of Truth' (ZMOT) that sits as the second step in our buying cycle:

Step 1: Stimulus.
Step 2: Research (ZMOT).
Step 3: Decision time on purchasing.
Step 4: Evaluation and sharing of opinion.

This buying step has emerged largely because users can easily feed back their views inline from where Google can make rhis information available to other users interested in making a purchasing decision about a product or service. The sorts of phrase themes used to find information are:

• Compare: is 'A' better than 'B?
• Question: what do others say?
• Cross Check: is there a consistent opinion?

So, what about the state of ZMOT in iGaming?

Operators

Ultimately, ZMOT is stimulated by individuals feeding back their experiences onto the Internet. However, because of the way marketing money is designated - i.e. if it's track-able, gives positive ROI and is fairly easy to execute - ZMOT has been largely left out of the marketing equation. As it happens, with some lateral thinking ZMOT is very track-able and easy to execute. There is also the idea that gamblers won't generally give good feedback in any event because, statistically, they will lose. In my experience with this, gamblers hope they will win, but accept they will more likely lose. So when they rate an operator, it's going to be on customer service, site efficiency and being responsible operators.

Affiliates

Affiliates are the 'commission-only salesmen' of the Internet and in iGaming, operators depend heavily upon them. When it comes to users finding information about online gambling, they will often use search terms such as 'best free bet', 'roulette comparison' and 'casino reviews'. As readers of this magazine are all too aware, affiliates are prominent in keywords such as these and will typically promote the top paying operator with the biggest conversion rate. Users don't know this, so they will misguidedly trust what affiliates promote.

What can an operator do about ZMOT?

As mentioned before, marketing money gets assigned to areas where there is good accountability and return on investment. Assuming a user refers to roughly ten sources of information before moving on to the 'checkout', it's going to be very hard to track all of these sources. However, when you analyse the relative importance of these reference points, it turns out that natural search is just about the most crucial of all because it's the point from which users 'jump'.

Google and many third-party review sites have made this information usable which is why it's becoming such a powerful marketing territory. The content that users care about most is review content, which can probably sit on a site owned by you or your own brand site and, therefore, be tracked. The rest of the business planning process is then similar to building an SEO campaign with CRM elements.

So to get a project underway, I suggest these steps:

• Make sure the business recognises this ZMOT stage in the buying process.
• Give someone responsibility for ZMOT.
• Pitch ZMOT-spend against a combination of:
i. SEO because you are aiming to rank on 'hot' phrases.
ii. Social media spend since this partially about the 'social ecosystem' that actually has a clear ROI.
iii. CRM, because you will need to work with them to contact existing users to get their feedback.

Assuming there is someone with the right skills in charge, its time to get to work. Remember, if your brand has failed its customers, then you should fix those issues before trying to influence ZMOT. In saying all of that, these ideas may help you get started:

• If users seek out information through a search engine, you can promote the good feedback around your brand phrases and, if possible, around 'generic review phrases'.
• If users ask their peers and family about iGaming operators i.e., "who should I set up a betting account with?" make sure you are easy to talk about and recommend. This means constantly emphasising your unique selling points with your existing customers and having a proper, easy to use help site.
• If users visit affiliate comparison/review sites, apart from paying affiliates more money, make it easier for affiliates to express why you are worth joining. Operators rely heavily on banners that users hate and affiliates' limited copy writing skills.
• If users go to your site for background information, make it easy for them. Build a help site with real and useful information on it. Remember, they aren't necessarily interested in a huge sign-up bonus. If they were, then why do about half of all new customers fail to go through normal marketing channels?
• Go on a big online PR push. Make it easy to be talked about. Affiliates will use this material and, importantly, so will other non-affiliate sites if you encourage them. Make sure this is the fuel for positive reviews and not recycling of news.
• If users go to an odds comparison site (our industry's version of a shopping comparison site) you compete there on price, but bear in mind that lots of users are not that price sensitive; if they were, offline bookies would no longer exist. So, if you are good on price and strong on other aspects then you will be competitive here.
• If users read comments following an online article/opinion piece, bear in mind there are very few places online where you can get useful and genuine user generated content. But you have existing customers who are happy with you - go and get their feedback and use it in a structured way as social proof.

Make sure users can give their feedback and 'votes' for your brand and that it's visible. This is a complex area, but now that Google is taking on Facebook, there is an emergence of the 'social vote', both within Facebook to help it become a commercial 'engine' and across the Internet as a whole.

As with any kind of T like' vote, if it's good, it will affect your brand and ZMOT. Most importantly, get a body of positive reviews that acts as clear 'social proof that you are the operator worth joining. Then get this ranked on phrases where users 'compare', 'question' and 'cross check'.

As an aside, remember we spoke about placing someone to be in charge of ZMOT? Well, now you know what they will do. If I were hiring this person, I would look for an SEO person who understands social media and CRM and has an understanding of 'online persuasion'.

What affiliates can do around ZMOT

As we know, you make your money by being more efficient in your marketing than operators. You have the benefit of little accountability. In other words, you are not bound by the terms of a gaming licence and you don't need a qualification to offer buying advice, as it is with financial services. Strictly speaking, you should not say 'operator X' is better then operator Y, if one operator pays more than another, but who is to stop this?

One constraint you have is a lack of sophisticated financial attribution for conversions. This is highlighted if you are not the last one to drop the tracking cookie for a provider; i.e. if user visits review site 'A' and then review site 'B' and user converts on site 'B', then site 'B' gets the commission because, typically, operators pay out on the last point of contact before a conversion. Obviously, this doesn't incentivise you to do anything other than go for the conversion as soon as possible.

You can argue you are the one who massively affects ZMOT because you are all over the web when comparisons are made between one operator and another, so:

• Get more material from the operators to help you give more in-depth information about them. This allows you to answer the ZMOT questions before a user gets to an operator site.
• Start building up a bank of social proof on your site. Users respond to this, especially when it's coherent and trustworthy. It's a massive asset -Amazon proves that in the extreme.
• You can do comparison reviews and I suspect you have been doing so for a long time, but remember that users are getting smarter when it comes to filtering useful information, so put a renewed effort into making your content plausible and trustworthy. You will be rewarded in conversions.
• Beat the operators to it. Rank your site for reviews about them on their brand phrase... we all know brand phrases convert best, so third-party feedback on a brand phrase will do very well.

Conclusion

The research cycle users go through before making a purchasing decision is not new, although because it's difficult to track, it's been severely underfunded as a marketing 'specialisation'. Now we have some proof and tangible ideas to work with, we can actively start influencing the ZMOT process.

ZMOT is as overlooked as it is underfunded. This is a huge opportunity for the enlightened. On a personal note, understanding ZMOT allows me to tie the power of SEO, online PR and social media together. It answers my questions around what to do with the lack of conversion in social media and the continually growing competitiveness in SEO, and it gives extra urgency to online PR.
 
printer friendly LAN_NEWS_24email to someone
 10.0 - 1 vote  Login to rate

You must be logged in to make comments on this site - please log in, or if you are not registered click here to signup