5 stages of customer awareness

If you are struggling with your marketing to attract new business, then you should read this.

Did you know there is an established marketing theory identifying five distinct stages of customer awareness?  When you think about it, it is obvious.

For any coach or business trying to engage with their audience, a blanket approach to marketing is proven to be ineffective.  Your marketing approach should be tailored to the continuum that makes up your customer audience. Your potential customer base ranges from the completely uninitiated through to the captive audience who knows you and trusts you and is looking for your next post.

Prolific copywriter, Eugene Schwartz identified the five distinct stages of customer awareness that continue to be relevant in digital marketing for online platforms.

I’ll run through them below:

1. Completely unaware customer

This customer group is the largest group, the completely uninitiated.  This person may only have stumbled across you inadvertently through a random facebook post.  They are not looking for you. They don’t know you or trust you and have no need to know you. Triathlon coaches, this might be someone who hasn’t run or been near a swimming pool since high school and has no knowledge of or interest in the triathlon scene.  This customer is typically a cold call and the hardest person to attract, despite forming part of the largest group. This person will need to transition through the various stages of awareness of your product and services before they are receptive to you. 

Content sharing with this group should be kept high level and succinct to gain trust.  Avoid alienating your audience with too much specific detail or jargon aimed at an exclusive group.  

Marketing technique: Run a Facebook ad targeting a large popular event with a long run-up eg train over winter to complete the Auckland half marathon at the start of summer.

2. Problem aware customer

A slightly easier target market than stage 1, this potential customer has identified they have a problem that needs solving.  This person may be unfit and 10kg overweight. They have a desire to complete a half marathon but they don’t know where to start.  They may have seen your posts on a social media feed and know you exist, unlike the person in stage 1. They are looking for a solution but are you the right business to solve the problem?

This customer is motivated to meet their needs but they have no trust in you. How are you any different from any other business offering the same services?

Information sharing with this group should be high on content to build your credibility with them.  These people are looking to be educated and in all likelihood have headed for google.

Marketing technique: Create short, succinct videos providing information in small bites.  Write and publish blogs giving specific answers to questions that in your experience typically arise at this stage of the customer life cycle.  Research keyword finders in google to further determine information being sought and respond with published blogs on social media and on your website.

You can read more about publishing content in my post How much free content is too much.

3. Solution aware customer

Graduation through to stage 3. Our friend in stage 2 has now googled how to get fit in 3 weeks and read your responsive posts on social media.  He has seen your iPhone recorded videos with cameo appearances from your cats and wants more.  Trust is building as he educates himself using your content. You have offered him a solution.

Marketing technique: Your marketing should evolve from stage 2.  This person has probably now visited your website.  Information shared should more specifically describe your products and services. Blog about your Wednesday night run squads or group brick training on a Saturday.    Use examples of existing athletes and their success stories and race results. Create parallels between your services and the need the customer is seeking to fulfill.

A successful conversion from prospect to the customer at this stage is not your primary objective. You are aiming to move the customer through to stage 4 with more specific information, building on your credibility and gaining trust.  Marketing evolves from an en-mass message to retargeting these customers.

4. Product aware customer

The product aware customer is actively seeking a solution to his requirements.   He knows he needs a coach, has some idea of target times he wants to hit and how much capacity he has to train.  He has been researching who's the best. With this knowledge in mind, your blog posts, videos, and uploaded images need to speak to those requirements.  You may offer an enticement eg first-month free coaching if you sign up for six months, discounted gear with your affiliated brands for club members.

Marketing technique: Re-target. As with stage 3, now that you are in their view shaft, retarget, keep coming back around, subtly.  Most people don’t buy on the first go. You need to keep your products and services coming back into view. Familiarity builds trust.

You can read more about retargeting in my post Retargeting for your Endurance Coaching Business

5. Most aware Customer

These people know exactly what they want.  They are brand specific and consumer aware. These customers know you and they know your competitors.  They may be existing or past customers with whom you have a relationship and have already gained trust.  They re yours to lose. 

Marketing technique: Continue with the attention.  Build on the goodwill you have worked hard to create. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting this customer for new work.  They deserve the same loyalty they have shown you. Additional discounts or bonus add-ons can extend that goodwill and keep your customer base consistent.

Some of this audience might be existing customers. Read more about why the best new clients are your existing clients.

Some take-homes…

It's not easy.  You’re building relationships and gaining trust, it's not 'lock and load' like selling a bag of chips.

Foremost in your mind should be a commitment to building trust, following through with your targeted messages and giving up a fair amount of your knowledge for free before reaping any rewards.

Good luck out there.

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