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There is (rightly) a lot of time and attention given to understanding who potential customers are: basic demographics such as age, location, interests and so on.

What’s often forgotten are the multiple, endless journeys those people are making through varying states of awareness: awareness about your product, your company, the market you’re in and, of course, the problems they have. Eugene Schwartz, a renowned copywriter, wrote a book in the 1960s called Breakthrough Advertising, where he identified five levels of awareness customer / market awareness.

Imagine someone arriving at Google (or, better, Ecosia). What are they searching for, and how will you help them?

Most Aware…
1. The customer knows of you, and your product/service, and how it can help them.

Then why haven’t they bought from you?

They’ll tap in your business’s name, if they haven’t just gone straight to your website. When did you last check what shows in the search engines when someone searches for your business? Are your opening hours correct, your business location and address and so on?

Once they’re at your website, what’s the single thing they are most likely to need or want to do next, and how do you help them do it?

  1. The customer knows of you & your product/service but isn’t sure whether it’s the right match for them.

What are people saying about you online? Reviews, social media chatter, local Facebook groups? Is there a useful mailing list option on your website, a way for people to find out more about you, what you do and what you stand for? Does your website explain how you can help?

  1. The customer knows the solution to their need or problem, but isn’t aware of your existence.

They’re certainly not going to search for you by name, because they don’t know it. So how else might they find you? Search engines; asking around for recommendations (either privately — friends, family, colleagues, connections, or publicly — social media for instance); spotting or remembering an advert; reading an article on a relevant website.

If they stumble across you, you’ll need to show them quickly that you can help. Do you?

  1. The customer knows they have a need, problem or desire, but isn’t quite sure what the solution is.

“How do I…” questions in search engines; asking for advice; research. What they do depends to a certain extent on the size of the problem, but if you can put yourself in a position to help and educate them you are well-placed to create a new customer in the future.

You could write articles, share knowledge, use social media or advertising. Make sure you’re solving the problem, selling the solution.

…Least Aware
5. The ‘customer’ isn’t even aware of the problem or need, let alone a product or service (or your company) which can help.

Urgh. You may need to create a new market, or at least a whole new area of interest, desire or fashion. You’ll probably need to spend a lot of money on advertising, PR and education. Perhaps what you’ve created will change the world, perhaps it’ll bankrupt you. Good luck!

Where you choose to pitch your marketing is up to you. As you get further down the list it gets harder, and more expensive, to find people who are interested, but the results can also be great.

What stage a person might be at in their level of awareness should influence how you communicate with them. Your website, for example, should probably be built to cater to several different levels: it should be easy for someone to become a customer of course, but you also need to consider that some people are not quite ready to buy, and need a little help to either understand their problem, or your service, better. You can then promote different parts of your website in different ways. In some situations, multiple websites might even be the answer, but perhaps be careful if that recommendation comes from someone with a vested interest in you paying them to build multiple websites.

One final thought about search engines: the more specific someone’s query, the closer they are to buying something. It’s worth keeping in mind when you’re writing articles, blogs, web pages, social media posts or whatever else you choose to do.