Marketing: The 4 Moments of Truth [Chart]

Marketing 4 Moments of TruthDo you know what Marketing’s 4 Moments of Truth are?

They consist of the interactions your audience has with your products and services.

These Moments Of Truth take place in real life or in a variety of contexts based on content formats, platforms and/or devices based on needs and wants.

Regardless of the size of your marketing budget, your prospects, customers and end-users control their shopping process and product and service use based on their personal schedules, timeframes and budget.

Your prospects, customers and end-users access today’s omnichannel marketplace through different devices 24/7. work smarter to meet  wants and needs. Further, they can be up to 80% through their process before you’re aware that they’re in market.

To succeed in this often opaque process, understand these critical marketing moments of truth and the impact they have on your specific audience.

What Is A Marketing Moment of Truth (or MOT)?

The Origin of The Marketing Moment of Truth

Jan Calzon, CEO of SAS (aka: Scandinavian Airlines System) first defined the term in his book Moments of Truth (1987).

In his words:

SAS is not a collection of material assets but the quality of the contact between an individual customer and the SAS employees who serve the customer directly (or, as we refer to them, our “front line”).

Last year each of our ten million customers came in contact with approximately five SAS employees, and this contact lasted an average of 15 seconds each time. The SAS is ‘created’ 50 million times a year, 15 seconds at a time. These 50 million ‘moments of truth’ are the moments that ultimately determine whether SAS will succeed or fail as a company. They are the moments when we must prove to our customers that SAS is their best alternative.”(pages 2-3)

Marketing Moment of Truth Definition

A Marketing Moment of Truth (MOT) takes place when an individual realizes a want or need that most likely leads to a purchase. So the individual interacts with a product or service:

  • In real life,
  • Via a device (traditional or connected) or media entity, and/or
  • Through another individual, known as an influencer.

This engagement may involve one or more brands, products and/or services. These offerings include competitive and substitute options requiring different buyer trade-offs. As a result, the buyer or end-user may form or change their impression about a specific brand, product and/or service. Often, trust is a key factor in these customer interactions.

In addition, prospects, customers, influencers and/or end-users may use multiple content formats, information platforms (both online and offline) and/or devices. This makes purchase-related buyer consensus and seller tracking of prospect interactions with their business difficult.

Content Consumption Defining Factors

Combination of Format, Platform and Device Define Content User Needs

Supporting this, McKinsey Research revealed that B2B customers used a combination of live sales reps, voice options (webchat, video conferencing) and website.

b2b buyers go omnichannel with a combination of sales voice and online

Also, potential customers may use their smartphone or other device to check for better pricing or offers while they’re on your website or in your retail store.

Further, potential buyers may no longer follow a defined journey. Gartner‘s research about B2B buyers revealed this in 2019.

Important caveat: The Moments of Truth don’t address the need to get your customer to buy again to build what McKinsey calls the Loyalty Loop. Otherwise you have one-time buyer whose purchase may not cover your marketing investment to acquire them.

Customer Retention - Loyalty Loop Chart

Key to Marketing Success:

Understand the individuals involved in the buying process. Beyond the buyer, a purchase decision may be influenced by one or more purchase influencers and/or the end-user. Further, the number of people involved in the decision process depend on the type of purchase and other factors such as cost, who will use it, and usable life of the offering.

Actionable Marketing Tips:

  • Talk to existing customers to gather their input. Ideally, collect and examine this information from employees across your organization where possible.
  • Don’t include input from employees who buy or use offering. Their point-of-view tends to be colored by their experience with your business.

Marketing’s 4 Moments of Truth Defined

While traditionally considered a point in time, these 4 marketing moments of truth (aka MOT) can occur over time based on the people involved in the decision making process and the type (such as B2B versus B2C), high versus low involvement, and cost of the purchase.Marketing 4 Moments of Truth

Zero Moment of Truth (or ZMOT)

Based on 2011 research of 5,000 customers, Google coined the term The Zero Moment of Truth (or ZMOT). This pre-purchase moment of truth happens when prospects, customers and/or end-users recognize a need or want and gather information related to fulfilling it. Generally, this research activity takes place online via a variety of platforms and devices.

The word “purchase” applies to acquiring a wide range of goods and services including face-to-face services or meetings. Google’s research found that people checked 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, an increase from 5.3 sources in 2010.

Zero moment of truth researched online

Marketing Trigger

Prospect, customer or end-user has want or need for specific product or service. Alternatively, they received a stimulus from someone they know or in their environment causing them to look at different options.

Content Marketing Needed

  • Be findable across search options. Age and device preference influences the platform used.Almost 40% of US users 18 to 24 use TikTok or Instagram for local information instead of Google Maps or Search. (Internal Google Research via TechCrunch 2022).55% of product searches begin on Amazon. (TechCrunch 2022)
  • Provide FAQ content to be the best answer for every question prospects have about your products and services including price. Also include “How To” information and customer success stories and case studies.Customer FAQ Content
  • Make your FAQ content accessible across content formats, platforms and devices since you don’t know when, where or how prospects will look for your content, information and/or data.
  • Beyond web chat and IVR systems, set hours so prospects know when they can talk to a person who can answer their questions. Then post this information across platforms including social media and “Google My Business.” If you’re not sure about what hours matter to your audience, check what competitors are doing.

First Moment of Truth

Procter & Gamble (aka: P&G) coined the term, the First Moment of Truth. It represents the a-ha moment when the prospect confronts the product and related alternativesP&G’s 2006 Annual Report assumed this encounter would take place in a physical store and considered it part of the decision process for buying a specific brand or product.

Now, while in retail stores, customers check products (aka: showrooming) as well as their smartphones to view other options and prices.First and second marketing moments of truth

Marketing Trigger

Prospect, influencer and/or end-users sees product or service at retail, while consuming content, or via other interaction with product or service.

Content Marketing Needed

  • Be findable on platforms and/or devices prospect uses. Where possible include your website (including chat), social media, retail and IVR. Also include your physical address, phone number and email contact on your social media profiles.
  • Answer FAQ questions about products and services to support purchase. Include offering specifics such as dimensions, photographs, how-to use videos, pricing, product availability, and shipping information.
  • Offer reviews, ratings, customer stories and testimonials. Even if you do, prospects may check third-party ratings and review sites, Amazon and Yelp.
  • Distribute information across relevant content formats, platforms and/or devices used. Include search, YouTube (the second largest search engine), social media and your own website and app.

Second Moment of Truth

Also coined by P&G in their 2006 annual report, the Second Moment of Truth happens after the customer has bought your product and starts to use it. The resulting customer experience hopefully supports pre-purchase promises and meets the needs of both the buyer and the end-user. So you can begin to build a relationship with your audience.

Among the biggest post-purchase issues include delivery and product condition.

Many marketers neglect to provide post-sales content marketing. At a minimum, send a follow up email to ensure that the product and/or service was delivered and that the customer is satisfied. If there’s a problem, have a customer service or on-boarding team available to respond quickly. Or you may lose the customer after one sale or, worse, their purchase will get returned.

Marketing Trigger

Buyer or end-user starts to use the product in their home, office or other environment. Their key challenges include:

  • Receipt of item ordered in a timely fashion. This happens when purchased online or delivery is required;
  • Installation of product by the customer or a delivery agent;
  • Has problems with product delivery. Includes delays and other problems.This point is critical in forming customer opinions about your offering and company. From a business point of view, it can be beyond your control due to third-party shipping, etc.
  • Has other questions about the product. Offer customer and/or end-users an 800 number and other forms of contact across your website and social media.

Content Marketing Needed

  • Have customer service representatives and/or webchat available to answer customer questions. Also support questions asked on social media.
  • Use receipts and/or packaging including QR codes, 800 numbers and/or URLs, to provide targeted information such as how-to information and user guides. Reuse or re-envision your content marketing to reduce costs.
  • Invite customers to participate in user forums and/or Slack or Discord channels, if you have them.
  • Offer patterns and recipes where appropriate for your offering.

► Third Moment of Truth

The third moment of truth happens after people use your product or service. At this point, the customer becomes a walking endorsement or detractor for your business. By creating user-generated media (or UGM), they provide feedback to family, friends and social media audiences across online platforms.

Author of Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World, co-founder of WOMMA and former P&G employee, Pete Blackshaw coined the term in his ClickZ article (October 17, 2006). In Blackshaw’s words:

The third moment [of truth] is that powerful inflection point where the product experience catalyzes an emotion, curiosity, passion, or even anger to talk about the brand. By opening up that pipeline, we not only absorb insight and deeper consumer understanding but also nurture empowerment and advocacy.

After examining millions of letters and comments as CEO of, Blackshw shared these lessons:

  • “Consumers who like to talk to (even complain about) brands talk across multiple [online] platforms, … They are über content creators and, hence, more valuable to the brand franchise.”
  • Consumers who talk to brands are full of suggestions, product ideas, even advertising concepts. Did someone say ‘co-creation’?”
  • Most consumers believe brands have little interest in hearing what they have to say;”

To ensure the third moment of truth works for your organization, respond to buyers and end-users where they want to engage with you. Handle positive and negative feedback across content formats, channels, platforms and devices. Also post hours to let customers know when and where you’re available.

Respond to negative comments and requests in a non-antagonistic manner. Where possible make your customer happy.

Marketing Trigger

  • Experience with product or service post-purchase. This includes dealing with your organization’s web chat, IVA (800 number and phone systems) and customer service. Bear in mind that this interaction may happen long after the sale such as when your product needs a new part or service.

Content Marketing Needed

  • Send tailored communications within a reasonable period post-purchase. Ideally use email receipts or text messages to help newbies to use your product better. QR codes streamline this process.
  • Provide How-to and other useful content.
  • Reuse or reimagine existing content.
  • Persuade buyers and end-users to opt-in to consistent content to support your longer term retention marketing. Don’t use these emailings for sales promotions. Instead share content and information of use to customers.
  • Encourage customers to share their photographs with your products as well as ratings and reviews on relevant social media platforms. If you want to use photographs, videos or recordings of your audience and participants, make sure to get their permission in advance.
  • Where appropriate, offer refills & related products.

4 Marketing Moments of Truth Conclusion

As a marketer, understand the implications of each marketing moment of truth and the impact each has on your specific audience.

So you can be available and provide useful content marketing when, where and how they want to receive it. Offer your most useful information across content formats, platforms and devices to reach the maximum number of prospects, customers and end users.

Where possible, gather information from your frontline employees to improve your customer experience and create happy buyers. Also have a process and systems for collecting and distributing this information across your organization.

Remember your goal is to get people to buy from your business more than once.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Editor’s Note: This article was originally written and published on June 27, 2013. It has been significantly updated and improved.

Photo credit: cc zero

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