My Sick and Morbid Trick For Understanding Stages of Awareness

When I started studying copywriting, one of the most highly recommended texts on copywriting was Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising.

I choked the first time I saw the price tag. $700?! For a BOOK??!!

I mean, I love books…but that seemed excessive. Even to me.

(I was also a new university grad at the time and $700 was more than my monthly rent.)

I eventually did manage to get my hands on a copy of Breakthrough Advertising and I realized why people were willing to pay $700 for it out of print.

It’s a groundbreaking copywriting text. And almost everything in it is still applicable to copywriting today.

Probably one of the most well known and influential concepts from the book is the Stages of Awareness.

The Stages of Awareness refer to how…well, aware your customers are.

It’s a way to measure how much knowledge they have about you and your products or services, and tailor your messaging to match what they already know, and fill in the gaps they don’t know.

Schwartz put forward 5 stages of awareness.

They are:

  • Unaware — where your prospect knows absolutely nothing about you, what you offer, or why they need it
  • Pain Aware — where your prospect is feeling a pain or lack in their life but doesn’t know what’s causing it
  • Problem aware — where your prospect has identified the source of the pain
  • Solution aware — where your prospect is actively looking for solutions to their problem
  • Product aware — where your prospect is comparing different products to see which one will solve their problem best

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what they boil down to.

Using the stages of awareness can change your copy, your business, and your sales funnels. Unaware prospects have a lot more questions that need answering than solution aware prospects. So writing for them changes the shape, length, and content of a funnel.

But how do you actually tell the difference between the stages?

Schwartz’s comments here are insightful, but how do you know, definitively, that your customers are in one stage and not another?

Well, when I was in high school, my grandfather died of cancer.

Our first sign that something was wrong when his face started turning yellow.

After that, we went through the whole rigamarole of tests and treatments, moving from one stage of treatment to the next before he eventually passed away.

And, while I was sitting there with this marketing tome in hand, trying to figure out how this framework applied to the people I work with…it hit me.

The stages of awareness are like the stages of cancer.

It’s morbid, and a bit gross. (And possibly even insensitive based on your point of view.) But it works.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Unaware — you (or your client) don’t even know that anything is wrong and continue to feel perfectly healthy
  • Pain aware — you (or your client) start to feel some symptoms, shortness of breath, digestive issues, pain, lumps, etc. Here is where you might start looking into it, but you’re not convinced it’s anything serious yet.
  • Problem aware — you (or your client) go to the doctor and finally get a diagnosis (cancer). You know what’s causing your pain.
  • Solution aware — you (or your client) are looking at all the possible solutions to your problem: chemotheraphy, radiation, surgery, alternative or holistic health options
  • Product aware — you (or your client) are looking at all the factors, including medical history, insurance, and the type and stage of cancer you have, to decide on a specific course of treatment. For example, X many rounds of chemotherapy with a specific drug.

As you can see from this example, you’re going to talk about way different things with someone who’s product aware vs someone who’s pain aware.

Which is why the stages of awareness are so critical to your funnel, your sales, and the relationship you build with your clients.

(And this includes content, just FYI.)

When you use the stages of awareness, you can match and enter the conversation going on inside your prospect’s head.

More importantly: You can give them the answers they’re looking for.

And if you’ve ever spent hours on Google looking for the answer to something, you know how powerful it is to have someone finally give you a straight answer.

Give your clients that experience, and you create the kind of customer delight that makes them eager to work with you from day one.

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