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How to Use Content Marketing to Develop Your Audience’s Stages of Awareness

Table of Contents

Schwartz observed that in order to sell with copy, we need to understand the stage of awareness of the people reading our advertisement.

To recap, those stages are:

  1. Most Aware: Your prospect knows your product, and only needs to know “the deal.”
  2. Product-Aware: Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for them.
  3. Solution-Aware: Your prospect knows the result she wants, but not that your product provides it.
  4. Problem-Aware: Your prospect senses he has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
  5. Completely Unaware: The person has no knowledge of anything except, perhaps, their own identity or opinion.

If Eugene Schwartz had been able to use the communication technology that powers today’s content marketing, he would have gotten even richer than he did. (And he got pretty darned rich.)

Because content marketing is superb for moving prospects from lower to higher stages of awareness — and that’s exactly how you convert vaguely interested prospects into delighted, loyal customers.

So much traffic, so few sales

Nearly anyone with a website is frustrated by one enduring fact of digital business:

You never sell them all.

Of course, this was just as true in the world of direct mail marketing. (Or, as most people call it, “junk mail.”)

There’s a universe of people who see your message. But you only ever sell to a teeny, tiny sliver of that universe.

How cool would it be to get business results from the entire audience — not just the two to three percent who are ready to buy right now?

OK, in the real world, you probably won’t ever get to 100 percent conversion.

But strategic content can allow you to meet many more people in your audience where they are today (not where you wish they were today) — and that can be the key to a sustainable, healthy business.

It’s also why businesses with less web traffic and smaller audiences sometimes stomp the “big guns” when it comes to sales and revenue.

It’s not the number of people who can see what you’re doing. It’s the number of people who care about it.

conversion-minded content marketer can think of almost limitless ways to use content to transform readers’ stages of awareness, but here are some thoughts on getting started.

Going from completely unaware to problem aware

As a general rule, “completely unaware” markets are a lot of work to wake up.

The exception is when you know that there’s a big, painful problem lurking like an iceberg right below the surface, and you aim to help keep people from smacking into it.

For example, if you had a digital business last year, you were probably delightfully unaware of what the initials G-D-P-R stood for … until you realized how close your site might have been to hitting that hidden iceberg.

UK-based web designer Paul Long was just one of many to publish helpful, useful posts (he chose Jon Morrow’s site SmartBlogger for a wider reach) to let potential clients know that GDPR could present them with serious problems.

“… in case you’re in the category of ‘blissfully unaware,’ we’ll take a look at what the GDPR is all about. And why it absolutely CAN affect you and your blog.”
– Paul Long, What the Heck is GDPR? (and How to Make Sure Your Site Is Compliant)

Content outreach, guest blog posts, and podcast interviews are all good ways to amplify your message and get the word out. Reach out to sites that have the audience with the problem, and let them know about the iceberg that’s hiding beneath the calm-seeming surface.

In-depth guides like Paul’s post, as well as well-researched infographics, do well here. Because good content is crafted to be inherently interesting, it’s a great way to attract attention and educate an audience about a new or little-known problem that you solve.

Problem aware to solution aware

Problem-aware folks know something isn’t right — they’re just not sure what to do about it yet.

In the era of Google, we usually don’t spend too much time with problems without trying to find some kind of resolution. So, this stage often arises at points of transition.

People who are changing jobs, starting a family, or even learning a new hobby tend to start looking for answers to their questions.

When you create authoritative content that addresses their earliest questions and challenges, you’ll be a natural choice when they need something more robust — like your product or service.

This is the stage of awareness for which SEO is particularly useful, as you put yourself in front of those who are actively looking for good information. But since search engine optimization is a long game, well-targeted advertising is another smart way to get your content in front of the people who need it.

Either way, be sure your promotion and optimization lead to meaty, authoritative content that offers real answers, particularly for early stages of the problem.

In the 21st century, the difficulty at this stage often isn’t finding information — it’s winnowing through the crap to get to the right information.

Consider compiling your most useful posts in your topic into topic-focused landing pages, or even into nicely formatted ebooks. Thoughtful email sequences can also be used to deliver education in short, manageable bites.

Solution aware to product aware

Once your audience knows the angle they want to pursue to solve their problem, your next task as a conversion content marketer is to make them aware of the particular solutions you offer.

Buyer’s guides are brilliant for this. As Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer Jessica Mehring said on The Content Lab:

“Compare your solution — honestly and with integrity — to other solutions on the market. Help your audience make their decision, even if it means they choose someone else’s solution. In that case, they might not have bought from you, but they’ll be a lot more likely to recommend your solution to others.
– Jessica Mehring, Create Content Using the Customer Awareness Spectrum

Blog posts, podcast episodes, video tutorials, visual content, and email sequences are all great choices to highlight your particular solution as the answer to your audience’s problems.

If you have customer success stories or case studies, it’s excellent to work them into highly readable, engaging content.

Use all of your storytelling skills to demonstrate how customers solve their problems using your solution.

And be sure your audience can see themselves in the stories that you tell.

(Remember, the customer is the hero. You’re just the mentor who helps them reach their goal.)

Product aware to most aware

“Most aware” prospects are ready to buy, and they’re mostly convinced that you’ve got the specific solution they want. They just need to get over that last bit of reluctance.

Schwartz was brutal about this copywriting role, writing that:

“Here the copy writer is nothing more than the merchandise manager’s phrase-maker. … There is nothing creative about his job, and he should receive the lowest possible scale of pay.”
– Eugene Schwartz, Breakthrough Advertising

But there’s still plenty of room to screw this up. Particularly today, when another buying option is always a click away.

This is a great time to be mindful of a trap many marketers fall into: having a giant break in tone between your content and your conversion copy.

If you’re Bob Ross on your blog posts and podcast episodes, going Full Tony Robbins on your sales page will just freak people out.

And fear is one of the great enemies of conversion.

This is not, however (despite what certain self-appointed content gurus will tell you), time to “let the product sell itself.”

The product really won’t sell itself.

Instead, this is the stage to use proven copywriting techniques to remind the prospect of their desire for a solution — and reassure them it’s safe to move forward with you.

Risk reversal, social proof, and crisp, clear calls to action will all help keep the path to purchase straightforward and stress-free.

And some of the most effective conversion tactics, like launch content and email funnels, are natural fits for the content creator’s emphasis on an audience-first approach.

Hey, this all sounds a lot like persuasion copywriting …

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Conversion-oriented content marketing is always informed by a solid understanding of traditional copywriting techniques, wrapped in the voice of our audience and delivered in engaging packages.

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