The Awareness stage represents the moment when the consumer becomes aware of a problem they want to solve in their life and perceives your product ad as a potential solution.
In this stage, marketers should focus on creating visibility and recognition. This is a critical stage for new products, brands, or added benefits to an existing product. This stage will focus on getting your product out there, implementing it as part of a broader scope of existing solutions for an issue.
In this example, our consumer Mary is not satisfied with the state of her hair. Maybe she saw an advertisement for a shampoo attracting attention to split ends, or maybe she has a friend with healthier-looking hair than hers and also wants to be able to enjoy rich, glossy, and fabulous looking hair. At this stage, understanding where this need emerged from will help you know what your product can actually bring.
There is a difference in building a strategy for consumers whose motivation comes from confidence issues about their physical appearance and beauty than one from consumers with hair-related conditions that will need a more medical approach. Solving for the Awareness stage is one of the most expensive, because it relies mostly on repetition, scale, and developing new content that will match the consumer’s motivation and need. Achieving awareness requires being present in the places that consumers look for solutions. At this stage of a consumer’s research, 72% will turn to Google for answers.
Why is the consumer trying to solve this problem?
What is the root of the problem?
Where will they go to find solutions?
What solution can your company bring?
How does your company’s solution fit into the consumer’s knowledge and lifestyle?
The Interest stage represents the moment when the consumer is looking for options that will help solve their problem.
During this stage, consumers will look at possibilities and prioritize what they need and how to find a solution to meet that need. For instance, they might look at different shampoos and brands, and compare price, ingredients, features, and packaging of the shampoo. They will prioritize their research around one or multiple criteria, such as finding a shampoo that is low in price but one with natural ingredients.
At this stage, the consumer will have a selection of products in mind but will need more information and experience to make a decision. This is a quest for knowledge that, in the digital marketing landscape, translates into reading reviews, blog articles, social media, and ad product websites in order to gain as much information as possible. We can consider that this stage is influenced by earned media, as the consumer will turn to peer recommendations to scope solutions to their problems.
Now, consumers are active and open to finding new content, so this is a great stage to push your content out organically, send well-timed marketing emails, and develop relevant articles that attract that interested audience. These consumers are what we call prospects, who can be turned into leads. They are showing interest but haven’t yet actively engaged with your company. The goal is to engage them emotionally, by appealing to their needs.
The Consideration stage represents the moment when the consumer knows about your brand and thinks it is a good fit for their needs or what they are trying to achieve. They may have other brands in mind, but your company is in the top five possible choices. A more aggressive approach is needed from the marketing strategy in order to strengthen the relationship with the consumer and prove the brand’s value through content, testing, promotions, and staying relevant.
The consumer might have decided to follow the brand on social media and subscribe to a newsletter to get more information that could influence their choice. They have shown interest by taking these actions and are waiting to be convinced. At this stage, your product is compared with a selection of your probable direct competitors. This is where differentiation will play a major role in decision making. You need to answer some questions for the customer: Why is your product better? What is the added value? How difficult is it to buy your product? What is the level of effort involved in using your product? What are previous customers saying about your product? Is your product used by any trusted sources, such as influences or friends?
In our example, Mary may have two or three brands in mind that meet her needs. They could repair her hair, be low in cost, and use natural ingredients. These products and brands are slightly similar with different positioning and Mary is trying to learn more about the quality of each. She will browse their website, follow them on Instagram, look at reviews on Amazon, and consult her favorite beauty blogger for more insights. The influential factors that help her make a decision at this stage might be any of the following: a special collaboration with her favorite artist, an aspect of the product that impacts on the environment, and seeing lots of content related to one brand.
At this stage, the inbound strategy makes even more sense because, if it is correctly realized, the brand or product will organically occur in the consumer’s search and social media feeds. But using all three types of media (owned, earned, and paid) will yield even stronger results, using an influence’s voice and re-targeting consumers that have previously shown interest.
The Conversion stage represents the moment when the consumer is ready to buy your product. The consumer has done their research and, based on their needs and motivations, has decided that the product is providing the best solution for their problem. At this stage, the consumer has not yet paid for the product or service and the role of the marketer is to create a point of contact to drive the conversions. This is generally achieved with targeting and re-targeting, promotional offers, and creating a sense of urgency. Thanks to analytics on website, social media, and marketing emails, marketers can gather data that will qualify a lead for sales based on actions taken.
If we take our example, Mary has read reviews online, asked her friends, been on several brands’ websites, and started following some products on social media. Recently, she went on the website of product X, selected a few products, added them to her basket and saved it, but didn’t convert. She came back to the company social accounts and product pages a couple of times during the week. These clues give the marketer information that she is actively considering the product and might be ready for conversion. As a result, it might be a good idea to send a marketing email reminding her of the product she left and offer a promotional code for her first purchase that will be valid for the next few days. Another tactic can be to use social media re-targeting capacities on Mary’s social media newsfeed, showing relevant ads that showcase the product and the brand.
The Retention stage is often overlooked, but it is a key stage for ensuring reoccurring revenue and creating a group of active brand advocates. Once the consumer has used the product and is satisfied, it is crucial to provide added value and create a real relationship. This, on one hand, delights the customer, who will feel special and part of the brand’s community and, on the other hand, this encourages repurchase and thus additional revenue from an existing customer.
From a cost point of view, it is more cost effective to retain existing customers and encourage re-purchases than getting new leads that might only be at the Awareness stage. In this stage, you are addressing an already convinced consumer who thinks your product is great for them, but you still need to keep them satisfied and create a desire to come back to your product.
This is achieved by many tactics, such as content development, special promotions, events, newsletters, community management, and so on. If we look at our example, Mary has purchased the product after seeing a re-targeted ad on Facebook. She used the product and her hair became much healthier, so she posted on social media about her experience, and is currently happy with the product’s promise. Her purchase might last her a month or so, thus the brand over this period of time has to ensure that her next purchase, if only to renew the product, will be within their product range.
The brand can send a post-sales message to thank Mary, giving her a voucher for additional purchases and also provide content about other products she might like. The company could also use research to understand what other buyers in their community have bought and, if Mary fits any existing buyer personas, that could provide extra information. If they know that she visits the blog often, they can set up a lead flow to subscribe her to their newsletter and use smart content to show relevant articles.
Today with digital marketing, the Retention stage can be extremely rich and relevant based on all the information gathered using online analytics. The more you know about your customers, the more you will be able to provide additional value to them and delight them, not only with your product, but with your brand experience and personality.