Matching Stages with Marketing

Marketing with today’s abundance of channels and options can be overwhelming. One of the challenges that many small businesses, and...
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Marketing with today’s abundance of channels and options can be overwhelming. One of the challenges that many small businesses, and even professional marketers, can face is matching their marketing channels and ad creative to where their customers are in the decision process. If you don’t maintain congruency (our favorite word at Click Hive) throughout the effort, numbers drop and ROI goes out the door. So how do we know if everything matches, and what are the stages of the decision process? Let’s dive in and take a look.

I’d like to start by saying there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to customers. The customer journey is more of a spectrum, and each business’s clients can fall within a range on that graph. However, some basic ideas carry through marketing regardless of industry. Each stage that I represent will correlate to the depth of the funnel in which your customer is starting their journey. How far up or down the customer is and how you connect with them will have a huge impact on your efforts.

Problem Unaware: This potential stage of a customer’s journey means that they are dealing with a pain point that exists but is currently not on their radar or hasn’t surfaced as a priority. Marketing at this stage requires focusing on the pain of ignoring the problem, how the pain is increasing to a priority, or an awareness that the pain exists.

A good example of this stage of marketing ad copy could be for a bed company that says something like “Losing just a few hours of sleep a night can take its toll,” and then shows a photo of someone in bad shape at the office or falling asleep while doing something important. The idea is that you are looking for people that are not at the point of saying “I need to get a new bed” or even “I need to figure out why I’m not sleeping well.” This is the person who is having sleep issues that have not yet become a priority. The ad copy introduces the pain of what is coming from not sleeping well and encourages someone to start investigating the solutions that would help.

For problem-unaware customers, you need to not only consider the copy but also the placement and the CTA. This client cannot be found waiting for a Google search. This requires active marketing. Also, you can’t go for the big ask at this stage. A simple quiz to find out if they need a solution with an email capture would work better for this potential customer than “Get a Quote.” They aren’t ready.

Problem Aware: This next stage of the customer’s journey is where they are already aware of the problem but have not started looking for a solution. This is a great spot to introduce your customer to your product/service while focusing on their pain. “You know sleep is stopping you from success. There is a better way,” might be some copy for the bedding company. You are connecting to their awareness of the problem and offering the idea that it is solvable. Many customers at this stage are aware of the problem but are not aware there is even a solution—or at least one that fits their specific issue. Your ad placement and CTA are just as important here. Typically, YouTube and social media are good placements for problem-aware customers. Google ads may be a good fit, but not for the same keywords that will work later. This is a good time to look for pain symptoms: “Can’t sleep,” “how much sleep does a person need?” etc. The call to action should also be modified to this stage. Perhaps a “Learn more” button that leads to a blog article that covers the need for sleep with a sale at the bottom and a retargeting campaign set in place.

Solution Aware: This customer stage is for people who have decided to make the problem a priority and understand that a solution exists. They probably already know the category of solution they want to try—a new bed, sleep aids, etc.—but not always (this is more of the product-aware stage seen next). Solution-aware customers are starting to consider multiple solution providers and find the one that best meets their needs. This is the strategy that most companies employ when they run a standard Google ad campaign. Although these customers have the highest likelihood to make a decision, they are often in the “shopping” phase, and you will only win so many. During the solution-aware phase, your ads should focus on trust and proof. This phase also allows you to ask more directly for a sale.

Product/Service Aware: The product-aware stage is when a customer moves past the focus on a solution and more to the specific product/service they intend to use. Imagine that you convinced a client to solve their bedding issue with a new foam mattress. The product-aware client will consider options within that style. They may start to look on Amazon and other retailers to find the best deal for this particular solution. They may even look for “look-a-like” solutions if trust wasn’t fully built in the last phase. At this phase, you want to acknowledge your competition. Offer competitive analysis. And focus on low-risk guarantees and demos.

Too Aware: Often called most aware, I prefer to look at this phase in the context of our busy world. Most aware implies that they know and just need a nudge. However, I would say they know but have potentially moved on. Most of us can do something, but we can’t do everything. We wanted the new bed, but a new water heater jumped into the mix or a great deal on a vacation to Mexico. In these cases, the customer retains their knowledge, and we need to continue to remind and incentivize them until our problem resurfaces as the priority. You can nudge with price, limitations, or re-reminders of the pain point in order to create urgency. This final step is best served with email, text, or direct communication that can be targeted right to this customer’s stage.

Understanding and matching your marketing efforts to the various stages of your customer’s decision process is crucial. By doing so, you ensure that your message is not only heard but resonates deeply with where they are in their journey. Whether they’re unaware of their problem or just need a final nudge, tailoring your approach can significantly enhance your ROI. Remember, the key is to maintain congruency across all channels and touchpoints, ensuring a seamless and effective customer experience.