Have you ever looked at a product or service and thought, “Who would even buy this?”

And then, maybe months or even years later, you would buy this and wonder, “How did I ever manage without it?”

Or maybe you’ve noticed it with others? An acquaintance – who couldn’t boil water – buys a crock pot and suddenly becomes an insufferable cooking enthusiast. A friend who owned a string of inexpensive PCs switches to a Mac out of the blue. A coworker who used to cut his own hair splurges on $100 haircut and doesn’t bat an eye.

This transformation from a disinterested prospect into a loyal customer is actually a journey through different stages of awareness – and understanding it is critical for successful marketing. You can see it everywhere, with all sorts of products and services: from kitchen appliances, to exercise equipment, to electronic devices, to high-end services.

In today’s post, we’ll examine what drives people at different stages of awareness, and explore three distinctive stages of it. We’ll also share some practical strategies you can use to make your marketing resonate with potential customers in each distinctive stage.

Let’s start with the stage in which the majority of your target market is…

Stages of Customer Awareness – The Draw Shop

Stage 1. Oblivious

An oblivious customer is relatively care-free. The problem solved by your product or service isn’t a pressing concern in their life. Sure, they know they “should” do something about their diet, or personal finances, or their dating life – or whatever area that your offer relates to…

…but not now.

If your were to make an offer to an oblivious customer, they would tell you they didn’t need it, right now, or possibly ever.

They would tell you, “I don’t have time for this.” They would tell you, “I know I should do this, but I don’t have the money to spare.” They might say they had other stuff to deal with – or give you any of the million possible excuses that you’ve probably heard far too many times.

So how do you attract your customer’s attention at this level of awareness?

How to market to this stage

When you need paying customers now, attracting oblivious customers may feel like wasted effort. And we totally understand – it’s frustrating!

But the thing is, those oblivious customers won’t stay that way indefinitely. Sooner or later, something will happen in their life that will make them acutely aware of the problem that your offer can solve. They will move to the next stage of awareness – and when they do, your brand will be the one they think about first.

So, in order to market to oblivious customers, what you need to do is offer value and remind them that your brand exists. That’s it. Ideally, you will want to bring these not-yet-customers into your audience – e.g. on your email list – and have an opportunity to speak directly to them when you need it.

If you want to reach a vast number of customers at Stage 1, consider using content marketing. It’s the optimal way to connect with your target market – by talking about things that matter to them, and occasionally mentioning your brand or your offers.

Note: while it’s almost always a grave error to try to sell to oblivious customers, you still want to attract them with the end goal of selling in mind. Which means:

  • Always think about what kind of customers you want, and be very selective about who you target with your content.
  • “Prime” your potential customers by mentioning your offers frequently. Not in a salesy context, but just as something that’s there, and is helping people.
  • When appropriate, talk about the problems you’re solving with your product or service. It’s unlikely that your oblivious customers will suddenly have an epiphany (“Oh my, I need to take care of this now!” – yeah… never happens), but it’s a good way to “qualify” those who have moved on to Stage 2.

Speaking of which…

Stage 2. Troubled

A troubled customer knows they have a problem. They think about it every day. It keeps them up at night. They complain about it to friends – and sometimes, to anyone who would listen.

But for all their preoccupation, troubled customers aren’t yet aware of the possible solution. They don’t know what your offer is, and they have no idea that your product or service could help them overcome their challenge and achieve the results they care about.

You might feel like it would be very easy to swoop in and save a troubled customer’s day. You would just have to say, “Here’s the solution to your problem – buy it now and everything is going to be unicorns and rainbows from this point on!” Right?

Well, not quite.

How to market to this stage

If a troubled customer is looking for a solution to their problem, and you give them one, they won’t believe you right away. Ironic, isn’t it? Here’s this person, searching high and low for how to overcome their challenge… and when presented with a fix, their first reaction is, “Nah!”

Marketing to a troubled customer is a process, and it starts where they are – in the dark, scary, and lonely place of “I have a problem and I don’t know what to do.” If you want to create a marketing message that resonates with them, you want to follow these steps…

First, empathize with your potential customer, and demonstrate deep understanding of what they are going through. They need to be 100% convinced that you are offering a solution for their exact problem – and for that, they need to see that you know what it feels like.

Second, introduce the solution. Demonstrate your ability to solve the customer’s problem – show them that your product or service will deliver the exact results they are looking for.

Third, establish your authority – give the customer ample proof that your offer will work for them. No, it’s not too good to be true. Yes, it has worked for other people like them. Give them case studies and testimonials. Show off your credentials. Pinch them to prove they aren’t dreaming. OK, maybe not that last part!

Fourth, and last, make the offer. Urge them to decide with a compelling call to action.

If all this sounds like a regular sales message, that’s because it is! A troubled customer is probably the most common kind, and if you want to persuade them, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel – just follow the beats above to craft a compelling message.

And now for the tricky part…

Stage 3. Undecided

Finally, your potential customer realized they have a problem. They even studied up on what potential solutions are available to them – and were pleased to discover that they have options!

Trouble is… now they can’t choose between A and B. Or A, B, and C. Or maybe they have an entire alphabet’s worth of potential offers in front of them, and can’t figure out which one would be the best fit.

Your offer is just one of the options an undecided customer is considering. So… how do you make sure they make the right choice?

How to market to this stage

Back in September, we wrote a lengthy post about dealing with five types of undecided customers. Specific tactics described in that article are still relevant – but today we want to talk about the strategy of appealing to undecided customers.

First, let’s think about what is holding them back…

  1. They aren’t sure why they should choose your offer over over someone else’s.
  2. They have second thoughts about making any kind of choice at all.
  3. They don’t have a compelling reason to do it right now.

Here’s a three-step approach to deal with all these obstacles.

First, establish differentiation. Remind them about your unique value proposition. Set yourself apart from competitors by demonstrating why you are superior – or uniquely positioned to help your customers better than anyone else can.

Second, obliterate any objections or perceived risks that your potential customers associate with buying from you. Remind them about the cost of doing nothing, or trying to figure out their problem without your help. Reinforce your promise to deliver the results they are looking for with an iron-clad creative guarantee (or just a guarantee).

Finally, give them a reason to act now. Introduce an element of urgency or scarcity and get them to decide. Your goal is to move them away from “maybe” towards a “yes” or a “no” – and with this three-step process, you’ll have no problem doing that.

Meeting your customers where they are

There are actually 5 levels of customer awareness, according to Eugene Schwartz (we’ve been name-dropping him a lot lately). In this post, we have covered the three most distinctive stages – the other 2 (“product-aware” and “solution-aware”) are very similar to what we already described.

Each of them calls for a very different approach, but the core strategy remains the same – it’s all about meeting your customers at the right stage, with the right message… and sometimes helping them go forward to the next level. By doing that, you can capture their attention and create a favorable environment for your sales message to be heard, fully understood, and have the desired effect.

We hope that you have found today’s post valuable, and gleaned an insight or two about how to market to your customers more effectively, no matter which stage of awareness they are in. Enjoy!