Be sure your business is ready for its ‘zero moment of truth’

How does a business stay relevant in an environment where there is no longer a one-size-fits all business plan for success? Or where old-school businesses often compete neck-to-neck with entrepreneurial up-and-comers?

Answers are many, but the right answer for you is not always as simple as black and white. For some, it means engaging in social media. For others it means networking, networking, networking. And yet for others it boils down to simply doing what you say you will do – all of the time.

Factor in technology, which continues to evolve at morph speed, and you’ve got a lot of business owners – including me – shaking their heads. How is it possible to stay relevant when everything changes so fast?

Fortunately, there are steps that businesses can take, sometimes without too much effort. Organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, for example, provide Accredited Businesses with tools that help with customer engagement, Internet searches and all-things marketing.

The BBB goes to this effort because it understands that your Internet presence is essential for relevance in today’s marketplace, regardless of industry or audience. To compete successfully, businesses need to keep up with the Joneses – especially the Jones’ whiz kid who takes to the New Economy, smart devices and all-things-Internet faster than you can say “webcam.”

Although many businesses shy away from social media campaigns, today’s savvy business owners utilize social media to showcase products and services – from cosmetics to plumbing supplies and everything in between – on You Tube, Pinterest and Google+. They make sure their websites land on top of Internet searches and that the sites are user-friendly. And they blog, tweet and get LinkedIn.

The results almost always show up on the bottom line.

And now there’s one more factor that business owners should embrace in order to stay relevant: ZMOT, the newest acronym being bandied about as the latest-greatest when it comes to B2B and customer relationships. ZMOT stands for “zero-moment of truth,” a term coined by Google’s Jim Lecinski and author of the free book of the same name.

ZMOT is that time before making a purchasing decision that an ever-increasing number of customers use to check out the product, service or company before committing. Customers look for businesses that provide the product or service, check out reviews and look for alternatives.

According to Lecinski:

Since the recession began, 62 percent of businesses say they spend more time researching products and services online during the procurement process.

99 percent of small-business owners say search engines are the most effective tool for finding suppliers

100 percent of policy influencers use the Web to research issues.

What does this mean for your business? And mine?

Simply put, businesses can no longer be content to sit on the sidelines. Whether you’re a sole proprietor or head of a multimillion-dollar enterprise, it’s time to take to the Internet if you have not already done so. It’s time to create a Facebook page, set up a Twitter and/or LinkedIn account. At the very least, every business should have a website that comes up in Internet searches. It’s time to check to see if yours does – if you haven’t already done so.

One more thing successful companies have in common that increases their relevance in the marketplace is a code of ethics. Stephen M.R. Covey, the New York Times best-selling author of “Smart Trust” and “The Speed of Trust,” emphasizes that customers prefer to do business with companies they trust.

If you don’t have an ethics policy, consider implementing the BBB’s Code of Business Ethics into your business culture:

• build trust;

• advertise honestly;

• tell the truth;

• be transparent;

• honor promises;

• safeguard privacy;

• embody integrity.

Businesses up and down the Front Range are doing just this – and they’re enjoying great success as a result.

On April 24, the Better Business Bureau will honor 11 finalists for the 2012 BBB Torch Awards for Business Ethics. All are proof that doing the right thing – and doing it well – is good for business.

Ty Notestine, partner/owner of Thomas & Tyler LLC in Greeley, is chairman of the BBB board of directors.


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