This week, I had a conversation with a potential client about how different content on your website can and should target different awareness stages, and that careful attention to problem aware audiences can actually pay off massively in the long term.
Warning: Serious nerding ahead!
And as I was talking, I thought, "I should draw this out and share it!"
So, I grabbed my trusty Blackwing pencil and my favorite Rhodia dot grid legal pad (I know I'm not the only one with very specific stationary preferences) and sketched it out.
What we're looking at here is on the vertical axis (I think this is "Y" in math terms), we've got the problem aware to solution aware continuum. On the horizontal axis (X to mathy folks), we've got the speed of decision-making.
This is very simplified, but essentially problem-aware people who haven't decided on a solution or even are just starting to understand what their problem is are typically slower to make a move. Solution aware people are typically faster to make a move. (Obviously there are exceptions to these guidelines, this is a general pattern.)
Think of this chart as helping to matchmake your audience's awareness stage with your marketing tactics.
The solution aware section of this graphic is where most service providers start and end their marketing. (I contend that this is usually a misstep.) The variables that are typically in play for these decision makers are tangible, such as timing, and price. (This is extremely simplified, there are many other factors, but those are the big fish.)
Staying with the solution aware folks for a minute, let's talk about where these people can be reached with your website (and your other marketing tools, but websites are what I think about most).
- services pages: these explain outcomes, pricing, timing, approach
- nuts and bolts type blog posts: for example, "how to hire a [X]" can be very effective for this audience (here's an example of one of mine)
- FAQ pages or posts: again, these people have often decided on a general solution and are looking for those last details to make a decision
There are lots of variables you have no control over with this section of the graph. People have likely decided on a general budget, features, and timing. If you fall outside those pre-determined parameters, it will be a lot of work to change their minds.
Things that sell well to these types of customers include online courses, productized services, and time-blocked services such as VIP days or intensives. In my business, our done for you SEO intensive would land in this bucket. Our old one day website program was also very much in this world as well.
For this audience, something that's less of a lead magnet and more of a services guide will likely serve you well. Other ideas that can help attract that awareness stage can be calculators or items that can help them be successful in their work with you (I developed our Magical Homepage Formula free course to help people be successful with our old productized service).
My consulting clients who are designers and creatives often get frustrated by leads in this stage of awareness because they can't compete on price or timing. When that comes up, I encourage them to re-focus on the problem aware area of this visualization and rebuild their audience (especially if their primary service is highly custom).
In this section, it's all about making a connection and getting people to believe in your vision and approach to their problem. It's also typically a slower process of relationship-building, which is why a strategically-selected lead magnet (such as a quiz, ebook, or private podcast) is so important. This lead magnet can help people develop that connection and subsequent belief in what you're doing, as can the "nurture" or relationship building process that follows (for me, this is this newsletter).
When looking at the problem-aware sphere, there are other touch-points on your website you will want to focus on:
- guide-style blog posts and the posts the support this content: help them understand the nuances of their problem or challenge so they can see the potential solutions
- approach pages: explaining your philosophy towards solving their problem
- about page: this is an unsung hero that can do a lot of hard work in helping with that discover - connect - believe journey when you detail your origin story and core beliefs/values
We typically see services that sell well to this awareness stage—eventually, because remember, this is not a fast process—as coaching programs, retainers, custom design, and consulting services. In my business, our Spark Sessions consulting program and our marketing accelerator are in this realm.
When differentiating between solution vs problem aware stages, think about how well someone needs to know you and your business first to get the absolutely best results from the process—that can often tell you which audience to target.
Then we have all that space in between, which I've labeled "stuff" (technical term). This is a sliding progression from problem-aware to solution-aware that typically has so many variables. In these cases, people will be attracted to and engage with both types of marketing, and it can be the best time to have a first personal connection, if you're a 1:1 service provider. My favorite lead magnet for these situations is a lower-cost paid option, which can range from a one-off session to a paid podcast or a course. Think of this like a low-stakes test drive for you and the client.
Is there a better space at which to capture your audience's attention for the first time? Despite that I personally love problem aware marketing (it's creative and strategic so loads of fun for me specifically), there's a time and place for all elements, and I typically recommend we target each phase in a balance that's tailored to your circumstances.
For example, we have a fair amount of clients in the health space. Even within that niche, a client who provides dermatology services would need both solution aware content marketing (for potential patients who need a dermatologist right now because they're struggling with eczema) and problem aware content marketing (to target other providers making referrals).
Or, if you're newer in business or making a pivot in your business, you may want to focus on marketing to ready to buy people to accelerate and stabilize a revenue stream. This is the appropriate business decision at that point in your business' lifecycle.
Whew, okay, that was a crash course—and I know it's a lot to take in. If you have any questions about what I laid out here, please do use that friendly reply button and let me know what you're thinking. Did this help you think more about when you need to be reaching your audience? Has it made you consider if you're using the right lead magnet to attract them? I'd love to hear from you!
Do you have a tough challenge you'd like to tackle with purpose and focus?
⚡️ Then you'll love working with me 1:1 in our Spark Sessions program. This is the quick, intensive boost of marketing & content strategy folks have been asking for! A structured, co-creative experience with me (Sarah) over three two hour workshops that will uncover the solution that will put you on the best path forward. Hit reply and we'll get you scheduled for a call to talk about it!