The Five Stages of Customer Awareness  | RedPandas Digital
five stages of customer awareness

The Five Stages of Customer Awareness 

There’re many models out there that depict the customer journey, from a state of awareness to one of conversion. At RedPandas, we use the Five Stage Customer Awareness model because it is the most accurate way of demonstrating a buyer’s journey in making decisions. In this article, we’re going to cover the five-stage model of customer awareness and show you exactly how you can start using this for your business.  

There’re many models out there that depict the customer journey, from a state of awareness to one of conversion. At RedPandas, we use the Five Stage Customer Awareness model because it is the most accurate way of demonstrating a buyer’s journey in making decisions. In this article, we’re going to cover the five-stage model of customer awareness and show you exactly how you can start using this for your business.  

In particular, we’re going to cover:  

What is the Five Stage Model of Awareness? 

The five-stage model of customer awareness breaks up the buyer journey into five stages.  

  1. Problem unaware 
  2. Problem aware 
  3. Exploring all categories 
  4. Exploring one specific category 
  5. Exploring our solution 

Problem unaware 

This stage is where the buyer isn’t aware that they have a problem in the first place. In this part of the journey, it’s possible that the signs and symptoms of the problem have shown themselves but that the buyer has not yet noticed these.  

If this is the case, you can help buyers become aware of their problem by producing content that educates them around the signs and symptoms of problems they may have but be unaware of.  

Problem aware 

In this stage, they’re aware they have a problem and they’re actively searching for signs and symptoms. At this point in the journey, buyers may search for things like:  

  • Why is x happening? 
  • How to stop x from happening? 
  • What is x? 

An example of a problem aware article: 

Exploring all categories 

In this stage, the buyer is aware of and understands their signs and symptoms, so now they begin searching for potential solutions. In this stage, they haven’t set their minds on a solution, so a lot of the content they’re going to be looking at will include versus content (e.g. HubSpot vs Salesforce) and educational pieces around particular solutions.  

The buyer wants to learn about each of their options and compare them in a rational and logical way. It’s funny that this is what buyers try to do, because in the end, a buying decision is usually an emotional one – the buyer just never realises that. 

Anyhow back on topic! In this stage, it’s also important to note that buyers aren’t looking at different service / product vendors, but instead they’re only interested in different solutions (in other words, they’re looking at different products and services that might solve their problem).  

For example, if the buyer discovers that their laptop is slow and they’ve done their research already on why it is slow and they understand it is because of the model of the laptop, they’re then ready to find a solution. This is the ‘exploring all categories’ stage.  

When they do their research, they’re not looking at whether Jb Hi Fi or Officeworks is a better choice – they’re looking at whether a new Lenovo laptop will perform better than a brand new Mac laptop. This is what we mean when we say that buyers are searching for categories (products/solutions) as opposed to different vendors.  

At this stage, buyers may search for things like:  

  • How to x 
  • Alternative to x 
  • X vs Y 

Examples of ‘Exploring all categories’ articles:  

Exploring one specific category 

At this stage of the buying journey, buyers are researching one specific solution only. They already know they have a problem, and they know all the potential solutions out there, and they’ve decided on one particular category. Now, they just need to know how to go about solving their problem specifically.  

For example, if we use the laptop example from earlier, in this stage, the buyer has discovered that a laptop with a processor of above 3.00ghz is their requirement. So now, they’re only looking at laptops that fall under that category. It’s time for the buyer to do their research around that specific type of laptop.  

Another example is a buyer interested in using a CRM for their business. They’ve discovered that they have a problem and they know that a CRM solves this. They’ve looked at the different types of CRM solutions out there, and they’ve decided on HubSpot as a CRM. But, they still don’t know what they need to look out for when they start using HubSpot, and most importantly, they’re looking out for any information that might tell them that they’re making the wrong choice.  

In other words, they’re trying to make 100% sure that the service or product they’re thinking about purchasing is definitely right for them. In order to do this, they’re going to want to find out everything about the product or service, including the problems and drawbacks related to it.  

In this part of the journey, customers are going to be searching for things like:  

  • How much does x cost? 
  • Who is x for? 
  • Problems with x 
  • How long does x take to work? 
  • Reviews of x 
  • Best x {vendor} (for example, ‘Best HubSpot Partners’, or ‘Best Marketing Agencies’) 
  • Pros and cons of x vs y (where x and y are sub-categories. I.e. ‘pros and cons of HubSpot Marketing vs HubSpot Sales’) 
  • 5 benefits of x (the number is changeable)   

Some great examples of exploring one specific category include:  

Exploring our solution 

At this stage of the buying journey, buyers already know exactly what it is that they want and now they’re just trying to decide which brand they’ll purchase from.  

For example, in the laptop example from earlier, the buyer now knows that they want a Lenovo Legion 5 Pro, however, they haven’t decided whether to buy from Amazon, Officeworks, or Lenovo.  

As a result, in this part of the buyer’s journey, the buyer is going to be doing research on different vendors. They might be searching for things like:  

  • Problems with {vendor} 
  • Who is {vendor} {service/product} for? (i.e. who is RedPandas TAYA Coaching for?) 
  • Reviews of {vendor} 
  • What do I need to know about starting with {vendor}? 
  • Case studies 
  • {vendor} vs {vendor} Cost comparison 
  • Best {vendor} in {location} 

Some great examples of ‘exploring our solution’ articles are:  

Why the Five Stage Model of Customer Awareness is Better than Other Buying Journey Models 

The five stage model works seamlessly well with the framework of They Ask, You Answer (TAYA), which reflects how buyers make decisions today. Because of this, the model tends to be more accurate than other models which don’t consider how buyers have changed over time.  

What is They Ask, You Answer? 

They Ask You Answer (aka TAYA) is a practical framework and sales and marketing philosophy that assumes one simple truth: if your prospect or customer asks a question, you answer, and in doing so, you will become the most trusted voice in your space and will gain more business than you ever have before.  

TAYA involves writing and publishing content every single week that answers these buyer questions, and then using this content in your sales process to shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates. 

TAYA coaches work with sales leaders and sales reps to coach and train them on modern selling techniques based on how the modern buyer makes decisions. This makes their coaching very specific, timely and based on a proven framework used by thousands of businesses 

How Buyers Have Changed Over Time 

With the internet now being the predominant point of research for most buyers there is less of a reliance on the sales or customer service department of a business.   

Did you know that on average, today’s buyer has already made 80% of the buying decision BEFORE the first sales call?   

Marcus Sheridan, Author of They Ask, You Answer 

In the past, the customer journey involved the salesperson in the awareness stage of the buying cycle. In other words, in the past, before buyers had made a decision, they would talk to a salesperson. Today, in most cases, they’ve already made the majority of their decision before they even jump on that call because they’ve done all of their research online already.  

How does the changing buyer fit into the five stage customer awareness model? 

The five stage model of customer awareness is built around the journey that buyers follow today. Other models don’t take this into consideration and are outdated in comparison to the five stage model.  

For example, in the five stage model of awareness, we consider the different research phases that buyers go through before they reach that stage of having made up 80% of their decision.  

On the other hand, other models, such as the typical Awareness, Consideration, Conversion model only does not take into consideration these differing research phases, which makes it harder to understand how customers make decisions, and thereby making it more difficult for marketers to produce the right content for buyers at different stages of their journey.  

When we use the five stage model, we can cater content to buyers depending on where exactly they are in their journey.  

You can see how the five stage model is far more powerful and granular than older models.  

How Can You Use the Five Stage Model in Your Business? 

There are three steps to using this model in your business.  

Step 1. Run a content brainstorm 

The first thing you’ll want to do is run a content brainstorm. We do this before even looking at or thinking about the five stage model. The reason we do this is because we want to get all our ideas out on paper first, and then organise them into our five stage model later. So, how do run a content brainstorm?  

  1. Get your core sales and marketing team members together in one room.  
  2. Ask your sales team what questions they get asked the most everyday. Write these down as topic ideas.  
  3. Organise these ideas under the following headings: Cost, Problems, Comparisons & versus, Best of lists, and Reviews.  
  4. Brainstorm more ideas under each of these headings. Try to think about all of the potential Cost articles that are possible, and do this for Best of lists, reviews, and so on.  

Once you’ve done this, you should have a pretty big list of articles organised under 5 different headings. To help you run this brainstorm, you might want to check out the following resources:  

2. Organise your topics under each stage of the five stage buyer journey 

This shows you how to organise your topics under the five stages.  

Once you have all of your topics organised under the Big 5 Topics as described in the previous step, you now want to pull them out and re-organise under the five stages of the buyer journey.  

To do this, look at the examples we provided for each stage of the buyer journey earlier in this article. This should give you somewhat of a guide on where to add things. Ask yourself when you’re adding a topic under a category, does this fit into this stage of the buyer journey? If it makes sense for that stage of the buyer journey, then that’s probably where it’s meant to be. In other words, don’t overthink this part.  

3. Start producing the most valuable content 

Now, you should start producing content based on the topics you’ve written in the previous step. But, which pieces should you produce first, and what type of content should you make?  

First of all, you should be writing blog articles because this is what’s going to help you generate traffic and ultimately sales. Also, blog articles can be repurposed into other content pieces easily AND can be used in the sales process by utilising Assignment Selling, resulting in a much shorter sales cycle and higher close rates.  

Secondly, the pieces that you need to focus on producing first are the topics that sit under the ‘exploring the solution’ column, followed by articles in the ‘exploring our specific category’ section, and then ‘exploring all categories’, and then ‘problem aware’. The reason we do this is because the articles closer to the far right column are bottom of funnel articles and are low hanging fruits which can help anyone interested in your business move closer to buying with you.   

If you want to write great blog articles and use them to generate sales, we recommend learning from the following resources:  

And that’s how you use the five stage buyer model in your business.  

So, what’s next? 

If you’re bought on the five stage buyer model, then you’re definitely going to love the concept of They Ask, You Answer (and if you like generating leads and sales then you’re going to love it even more!).  

Want to start learning about TAYA? Check out these articles? 

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