The Customer Loyalty Journey: Awareness (Stage One)
When you’re single and approaching someone who’s caught your interest, you’re doing two things. You’re thinking about how you can present yourself best (first impressions are pretty important here). You’re also trying to find out if this person has a problem you can solve.
The awareness stage isn’t the point where you are making the customer aware of your solution. You wouldn’t walk up to someone and say “I’m unmarried, so if you’re thinking of settling down in the next couple years, we should talk!”
No, the awareness stage is where your prospect realizes they have a problem, goal, or desire.
Are your leads problem aware?
Maybe their grandparents celebrated a 50 year anniversary, and they realized they might never see that milestone. They are problem aware, not solution aware. They don’t even know what they are looking for in a potential spouse.
Or perhaps they haven’t even realized they have a problem. Maybe they are in an unhappy relationship and have never even thought about leaving it to find someone else. In this case, they are not yet problem aware or solution aware. You would need to approach the situation differently – first helping them to identify the problem before trying to move them to the next step.
Now, this step is where the sales/dating analogy breaks down for a minute. When it comes to personal relationships, I’m not advocating you pursue someone who is already committed. However, in a business, you are more than welcome to poach customers away from your competitors – especially if their needs aren’t being met.
Whether you choose to will depend on your own values, the values of your dream customer, and the aggressiveness of the market in which you operate.
The big difference here is you can build great, long-lasting relationships with as many customers as you want – and it’s not cheating. They can also choose multiple products or service providers to solve different problems without it being bad for your business.
Now, let’s get back to the awareness stage, shall we?
You might also find out the person you approached has zero interest in starting a relationship, in which case you can stop spending time, money and energy on them.
Each stage of the customer loyalty journey is meant to get your prospect to decision – either a yes or a no – about moving to the next stage.
Educating to awareness
If you are selling a product or service that solves a well-known problem, then the awareness stage is a pretty quick step of the journey. If your dream clients, however, are unaware of the problem, you then have the task of educating them.
Let’s use bottled water as an example. When bottled water was ‘invented’ everyone laughed. Who would pay money, a lot of money, for a bottle of water? There were taps and fountains in every private and public place, with water freely (or cheaply) available. The general public didn’t know they had a ‘problem’. To sell their product, it became the bottled water company’s job to educate them.
They spread concern about drinking public water. They promoted the convenience of having a bottle with you on the go. They mentioned the ick factor of drinking from public fountains covered in other people’s gum and saliva. They promoted the health benefits of drinking water over juice or soda. And by the time they were through, bottled water became a way of life for many of those people who had scoffed and laughed.
Now, getting people off of bottled water and onto reusable bottles requires additional problem-awareness education on the impact of disposable bottles on our environment, our health, etc.
How bad is the pain?
In the awareness stage, you identify that your prospect has the problem you solve and ensure they recognize it. You might need to educate them first, but as soon as they are aware of the problem, you want to move them into taking action.
The truth is, we have thousands (if not millions) of problems, goals, and desires on a given day. The question becomes, is the pain from having the problem unsolved, desire not met, or goal not achieved greater than the pain of finding a solution?
If your leads are stuck in the awareness stage and aren’t moved to take action, you might not be doing enough to educate and inform them. If you are, you might be trying to solve a problem that isn’t painful after all. In this case, you might need to find a new market or pain point you can solve.
Again, we’re not educating them on your product or service. We’re simply trying to show them how their life would improve, who they would be, and how they would feel if they found a solution.
Not everyone who becomes aware of a problem will be moved to take action, and some will take longer than others.
Think of the customer loyalty journey as a giant funnel. At the top you have the people who have a problem, goal or desire you can help them with. The clients and customers dreams are made of are at the bottom.
You can’t possibly turn everyone who has a problem into loyal raving fans. At each stage in the funnel, a good number of people will decide it’s not for them to move onto the next stage.
Skipping the awareness stage
The majority of your prospects might move through the awareness stage before you had a chance to connect with them. It doesn’t mean they haven’t gone through the awareness stage. You just weren’t involved in driving them to take action on their problem, goal or desire.
In our dating scenario, this might mean they walked up to you instead of the other way around. Or perhaps you walked up to them without knowing they have an online dating profile because they had already decided to take action.
In fact, they might have gone to the coffee shop or bar specifically because they were hoping to meet a few new people. These people are already past the awareness stage on the journey to a lifetime relationship.
A prospective customer who has already moved past the awareness stage is quicker to move to an action – no convincing or educating necessary. This seems like a huge benefit, and it is. It can mean less time and money spent on encouraging them to take action.
However, there is a benefit to being the brand who caused them to become aware of the problem. If you educate them, the customer will be more likely to see you, rationally or irrationally, as the best solution to their problem. They are already beginning to know, like and trust you. Starting at the awareness stage gives you an extra touch point on the long journey to loyalty.
Either way, you need to have a strategy in place for the awareness stage in your marketing plan.
Go for the small, low-commitment action
The customer loyalty journey will help you to walk your leads through their decision-making process in a more natural way. It allows them to take it one baby-step at a time. In other words, instead of asking to spend the rest of your life together, you would probably first ask them to join you for a meal or a drink.
This is your entire goal. People have commitment issues – with relationships, careers, or the products and brands we use – and your prospects are no exception. Put the idea of marriage (the sale) out of your mind and focus on getting a minimal commitment. For this example, it might be the first date – also known as the research stage.
Other posts in this series:
Stage 2: Research (Check back March 20)
Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series. You can keep checking back or join my mailing list to be notified when the posts go live.