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Chapter 8: Awareness
“All right,” Chuck said. “This is something I’m far more comfortable with. Awareness, Consideration, Decision. There’s nothing new there for me.”
“Au contraire, mon frère,” I said in terrible French.
“How come, mon ami? Buying is buying. It’s all the same.”
“True, but selling isn’t selling. Especially now. Especially in the Awareness phase.”
“I don’t know that I buy that. Seems like Awareness is always and only about catching and keeping a customer’s attention.”
“Yes, but for all the reasons we’ve talked about so far, catching and keeping a 21st-century customer’s attention is a different game from what worked in the 20th century. You’ll be using different methods to pique interest, and developing an entirely different relationship than you would have even ten years ago.”
“Hmmm. Tell me more.”
We defined Awareness as the stage where buyers become aware of problems or opportunities. That’s not news to you. What is news is how modern buyers enter this stage, and what happens as they move through it towards consideration.
They key is to understand what items from the old ways still work, and what new techniques should become part of your repertoire. At the awareness stage, your invitation to potential buyers must link them to a trustworthy source of diagnostic, context-appropriate information to help them define that problem or opportunity.
- Include an offer to buy, or mention buying at all. This is the biggest and most common mistake vendors make when dealing with customers at this stage.
- Ask clients to invest large blocks of time watching videos, reading ebooks, or otherwise interacting with lengthy or mastery-level materials. Buyers are at the research stage, here. They need quick-reading, basic information that informs without intimidating.
- Provide material that mentions specific brands, offerings, or solutions. This is Step One. That kind of information is helpful later down the road, and feels like pressure to buy at this stage.
- Use technical terms, jargon, or industry slang. Unless it’s in the context of a glossary to help introduce readers to important context.
We all have that one friend who’s constantly complaining about things, but never seems interested in solutions. Although Awareness-stage customers usually move forward, you should think of them as exactly like that friend. Listen to the symptoms and provide ways for them to diagnose their problems in a low-pressure, information-rich context. Also like that friend, you should avoid alienating them by leaping right into giving unsolicited advice.
At this stage, it’s vitally important to remain customer-centric in all decisions about your marketing plan and content. Yes, it’s tempting to make this communication about how awesome you are. But that message is for later stages. Buyers aren’t yet ready to compare you to other vendors. They haven’t even decided you’re the kind of vendor they need.
SIDEBAR: PRODUCT GEEKERY
Even those who successfully avoid the “all about me” trap can sometimes fall into being product geeks.
Product geeks are so passionate about what they sell, they assume everybody else is as fascinated with it as they are. They make their content all about the product (or the science behind it), or all about the brand. Again, that’s not what awareness-stage buyers are looking for.
All of your content at this stage should be about the clients. Tune it toward the questions you anticipate your buyers will ask. Tone it appropriately for their most likely mental state and demographic. Provide answers to the most important questions, stated in terms laypeople can understand.
Awareness Stage Best Practices
This is an executive-level book, so I won’t dive deeply into the details of how to do most of what I’m suggesting. However, it’s important for you to understand the most effective best practices so you can make certain your team is applying them.
Focus on the common symptoms of the problem your product solves. Be as specific as possible. Never offer a product that isn’t perfect for your leads. It erodes trust, and implies you aren’t listening.
- Use the kinds of words people use while making initial searches for your product. Don’t forget action words like troubleshoot, resolve, upgrade, and optimize.
- Ask yourself what emotions and events you were experiencing when you first became interested in what your company offers. What messages, ideas, and content gave you the information you needed? What questions did you not yet know how to ask?
- Avoid underestimating or condescending to your readers by explaining common knowledge.
- Avoid providing too much information too quickly. This can overwhelm entry-level leads and alienate them.
- Provide content that gives strong introductory material without demanding too much from readers. Report, e-guides and ebooks, blog posts, and white papers are excellent examples.
Every part of your content should simultaneously accomplish two goals. It should catch the interest and trust of leads by being a convenient, authoritative source of information, and it should establish you, your business, and your website as the go-to source for further information.
In the bad old days, new buyers started shopping after being introduced to a product via interruptive marketing. New digital users start their journey earlier, by researching potential causes of some pain, annoyance, or worry. They are actively seeking thought leadership, actionable advice, and threads to access more information. They want reassurance that they are making the right decision as they take each forward step in the buyer’s journey.
The Awareness stage is your opportunity to establish a role with buyers, not as a sales representative, but rather as a teacher, educator, guide, and coach. Seize this opportunity, and customers will make the decision to buy from you on their own. Miss, it, and they will take their business to somebody who listens.