The Zero Moment of Truth in Clinical Research

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By Annie Garvey, Director of Patient Outreach, PatientWise

The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) is a concept coined by Google market researcher, Jim Lecinski. It is the point in time where you turn to the Internet to learn about a product or service that you’re interested in, often times before ever talking to a salesperson or seeing the product in person.  This part of the decision-making process was researched extensively by Google and can be read in detail at 

This concept is certainly evident with goods and services.  After all, who hasn’t researched their latest technology purchase or read reviews of the newest restaurant in town?  The same principle, however, can also be applied to clinical research – specifically when it comes to patient recruitment. 

When a potential subject hears of a study they qualify for, there is a very strong chance that they will go online to do research about that particular study, or on clinical research in general, before ever contacting the clinic. According to Google’s ZMOT study, 84% of people say that ZMOT shapes their decisions.  So what does this mean for research sites?  As Google states, you need to show up at the right place, at the right time, and with the right content.  In order to accomplish this, sites may have to adapt their current strategy and think outside the box.

The Right Place

Where are your patients spending their time online?  Perhaps they’re on social sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn (which every site should be active on).  But also consider what their interests are.  Are they spending time in specialized chat forums, perhaps speaking with others about their condition?  Also, consider how they are accessing this information.  Are they active on smartphones and tablets?  Ensuring your content – both text and graphics – is easily readable on these smaller screened devices may be something to consider.

The Right Time

Timing is important in the ZMOT process, as it is crucial that you stay in front of your ideal patient population.  Consider the frequency in which you engage in online activities.  It is also important to note that repetition can play a big role in the decision-making process.  How often is your target demographic seeing your content?  Be consistent and offer value.

The Right Content

What does your potential patient want to see?  What are they searching for?  Is he or she a diabetic who is looking for new sugar-free recipes?  Are they moms who are looking for tips to help with their child’s eczema?  Providing the type of content that would appeal to your target audience will increase your credibility and increase the chance they will reach out to you to learn more about a study for which you are enrolling.

By participating in the ZMOT conversation, you aim to position your site as the subject matter expert, build trust through competency and consistency, and ultimately increase your patient database.  By sharing the right content in the right place and at the right time, you can help promote the safety and availability of clinical research as a whole.

About the author:
Annie Garvey is the Director of Patient Outreach at PatientWise.  She has an extensive history of applying commonsense marketing and recruitment tactics for clinical trial patient recruitment and works closely with sites across the U.S. on their marketing campaigns.  Annie is a strong proponent of mixing traditional and online tactics to generate strong subject referrals. She has worked on numerous centralized and localized patient recruitment campaigns and promotes applicable marketing best practices to clinical research sites.  For comments or questions, Annie can be reached at

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