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  • Lisa Kissane

The 5 Stages Your Customers Go Through Before Making A Purchase

Updated: Oct 23, 2023



Gardeners have a saying, "Right plant, right place".


I like to think of writing the same way.


Right words, right place.


If you’re responsible for marketing your small business, you must understand your target audience’s journey from blissful ignorance to happy customers.


Every person who’ll ever buy from you starts not knowing who you are.


Ask yourself (or, even better, your customers) how aware they are of their need. The need your product or service fulfils. Then tailor your content accordingly.


Because you wouldn't buy a Porsche in a donut shop.


And you wouldn't promote headstones [at any point, really, if we're being honest] on a buy one get one free.


Hard sells DO NOT WORK

Hitting your potential customer with an obvious sales pitch when they don’t yet recognise they have a need will be psychologically rejected out of hand. If we feel like we’re being sold to [read: tricked], we switch off. We might even get violent (a recent comment on a Facebook ad I ran is a great example of this!)





Your brand’s job is to help your potential customers recognise their need and then offer a solution. But awareness doesn't happen overnight. Here are the five stages of customer awareness, along with ideas for how to speak to the customer at each stage.



Stages of Awareness

Description

Content Ideas

Unaware

The customer isn't aware they have a need, or they haven't identified what it is yet.

Highlight the need/problem.

e.g. for a therapy service, blog posts about mental health and recognising your triggers


Problem Aware

They've identified the need that will lead them to your product or service, but they don’t yet know how to resolve it.

Continue to focus on the need your service or product resolves. Don’t shove your service down people’s necks, but be a knowledgeable voice. e.g. for the therapy service again, blog and post about some of the common symptoms in your area of expertise

Solution Aware

They know what they need and have some idea of how to get it.

Now’s the time to show your potential customers how they could meet their needs. Yours is only one of their possible options, so aim to educate rather than sell. Be a trusted voice who customers will feel confident buying from.

e.g. case studies, testimonials, story-led blog posts with successful outcomes.


Brand Aware

They know what they need and are aware they could get it from you.

By now, your customer knows you exist. Hoorah. But you’re still only one of many options. These consumers need to know what makes your offer the *best* offer. Showcase your skills with case studies, be a voice of authority in your industry by having a strong collection of content that meets the previous stages.

Most Unaware (Fully Aware)

They know what they need and how to get it. They're aware of your service and may already be a customer.

These strong prospects and previous customers are the most responsive to direct advertising such as email campaigns. If they sign up to a newsletter, start a drip campaign. If not, tweak your post-purchase communications to maximise the chance that they’ll return.


The customer moves through the stages in a predictable pattern

A typical customer journey will move through the stages in a linear motion, but can take varying lengths of time to go from unaware to fully aware. Let’s take the example of the therapy service again and look at the process in detail.


Imagine you run a counselling service focussing on trauma recovery.


1. UNAWARE

A woman in her 40s has been feeling low for a while and doesn't know why. She’s never felt this way before. Everything makes her snappy and she’s often sad for no reason.


She’s unaware of her need right now.


2. PROBLEM AWARE

Eventually she turns to Google for the answers. Typing, “why do I feel sad” floods her screen with depression quizzes and facts about mental illnesses. It’s overwhelming, frankly.


If she manages to stick at it, a helpful article from, say, Mind or Rethink might pop up. This could help her name the feelings she's having and move to the next stage of being problem aware.


3. SOLUTION AWARE

By now, she recognises the symptoms of depression. She might have seen a Doctor who’s confirmed a diagnosis. Her search terms are getting more specific.


TIP: Use tools like Google Search Console to find niche keywords and phrases to generate ideas for the type of blog post or social content that would be the most helpful to your potential customers.


Using the words your customers use will not only resonate with them on a deeper level, it will improve SEO as you’ve made the perfect match of question to answer.


4. BRAND AWARE

So now they’re solution aware. This step can be a small or large jump, depending on how flooded your industry is. If you sell single-issue German coins from the 16th Century, chances are you’ll quickly and easily become a serious contender for custom just by being exactly what your clientele are looking for - as long as they know you're there.


On the other hand, if you’re selling a new soft drink under a brand name no-one's ever heard before, you have a bigger job of being seen or heard through the noise of all the established brands. Unless you’re KSI, whose personal brand is the single reason I, a woman in her late thirties with no kids, is aware of Prime energy drinks.




5. MOST AWARE

Once your customer knows you have a solution to their problem, your job is to persuade them that your solution is better than all the other solutions. How you do that will be determined by your goals and the industry into which your product falls. But here are some definite DON'Ts for making your brand stand out:


👎 Don’t criticise other brands. Focussing on your competitors' weaknesses will just make it look like you don’t have any strengths. Don’t underestimate your customers and think they won’t see right through this.


👎 Don’t be unpredictable. Unless it's your brand voice. Rowntree’s Randoms can be random. Sally’s Hair and Beauty Therapy, not so much. Consistency is crucial if you want customers to trust you.


👎 Don’t be intimidated by Amazon (for those selling a product). I worked for an Amazon agency for three years and learned the inner workings of the beast with the orange tick. In every audience group, there are people that will use Amazon, and people who won’t. If you don’t sell on Amazon, don’t appeal to Amazon customers. There are plenty of others (really)*.


👎 Don’t forget the introverts (for those selling a service). I’ve cancelled appointments when I haven’t been up to ‘people-ing’, and this was before covid. Give your introverted customers a way to use your service with minimal interactions, but with options like phone calls for the extroverts, and you’ll have a system that works for everyone.



Takeaways

💡 The way you talk to your customers should be tailored to where they are in their journey from unaware to purchase-ready


💡 Blog posts and educational content work best for potential customers who aren't yet aware of your product, service or brand


💡Once you've built trust in your brand, use conversion writing to win the customer over to a sale


💡 Focus on consistency, strengths and understanding your customers' needs







*Research conducted in September 2021 tells us that 65% of Amazon users are subscribed to Prime. That’s a big number, but it also means 35% of the users aren’t committed to using the platform. Amazon’s biggest draws are the speed and tracking of their deliveries and ease of ordering. Both easily replicable on your own website. https://www.statista.com/statistics/234253/share-of-amazon-prime-subscribers-in-the-united-states/#:~:text=As%20of%20September%202021%2C%2065,members%20in%20the%20United%20States.






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