Understanding the Five Stages of the Customer Journey and How to Match a Copy Style that Reflects Exactly What Your Prospect is Thinking and Feeling

writer sitting at a desk looking at papers

At one time it was the largest city west of the Mississippi River, between Chicago and San Francisco … and one of the country's most historic places.

Butte, Montana not only lays claim to being a historic city but was also dead center for the 1800's boom in copper mining.

The city also claims a list of famous people such as:

  • William Rockefeller, who was co-founder of Standard Oil Company, which eventually evolved into the Exxon Mobil Corporation,
  • Evel Knievel, stunt performer and entertainer, became popular for jumping 141 feet over the ornate fountain outside of Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas,
  • Scott Brow, former MLB pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, who won the World Series in 1993.

Of all the celebs from Butte, there's one person who matters to writers … legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz.

He was born in Butte in 1927 and by 1949 had moved to New York. In no time at all, Eugene became one of the highest-paid copywriters of the 1950s and '60s.

In fact he was once paid $54,000 by Rodale Press for just four hours of work.

If you've studied copywriting, you've no doubt seen a few of his print ads with perfectly written headlines including …

  • Doctor Reports New Miracle Diet Cures Arthritis,
  • Now Read 300 Business Magazines in 30 Minutes,
  • Modern Chinese Medicine helps Burn Disease Out of Your Body,
  • Do You Have the Courage to Earn Half a Million Dollars a Year?

But Eugene was more than a copywriter … he was a market analyst. No, I'm not talking about investing in stocks or anything related to Wall Street.

What I mean is this … Eugene wanted to know the "why" behind the ads that worked and the psychology of his target audience. This need to know more led him to create five levels of awareness, which he wrote about in his 1966 book, Breakthrough Advertising.

When you first read through the levels, it can be a little overwhelming to understand how to use them. But in this article, I'm going to show you how to use those levels as a way to uncover what your prospect is feeling …

And then match a copy style that works best for each stage.

Why do we need to know what a prospect is feeling?

Because what they feel is equal to an emotion … and when you understand a reader's core emotion, you know how to speak to them on their level. And you know how to write with empathy, which is key to writing winning sales copy.

I should note that this applies not just to sales copy but also to content …

Any time you write, you're looking to meet your readers exactly where they are in the buyer's journey.

So, let's dive into Eugene's levels of awareness and see how we can match a copy to each one.

Stage #1: Unaware

Prospects in this group are unaware they even have a problem. So, when writing to this audience, your job is to get them excited and arouse curiosity.

At this stage, the reader finds your copy or content so new and different, it captures their attention. And suddenly they go from being unaware to completely aware that something exists that can make their life better.

Products that do great at this level are "first to the market." A perfect example is when Steve Jobs created the first ever personal computer in 1976. Prior to that, computers were used exclusively at the office. Now all of a sudden, ordinary folks could have a computer in their home.

If you're writing copy and content, then the kind of copy you'll want to use are stories that educate and inform, arouse interest, and pique curiosity.

Stage #2: Problem Aware

Prospects in this group are trying to solve a specific problem.

They don't necessarily know your client exists or that there is a specific product that can provide a solution. At this point, they're focused on the emotions tied to the problem, such as anxiety or doubt.

The best way to talk to these prospects is to acknowledge the problem but focus on the solution – more specifically, the benefits of the solution (or your client's product/service).

Picking up on the Apple example again, when the company released the Macintosh computer in 1984, its messaging focused on the ease and simplicity of the user interface compared to other computers.

They removed the belief (or solved the perceived problem) the target audience held that a computer was going to be hard to learn or difficult to use.

Stage #3: Solution Aware

These readers know they have a problem and are now actively looking for a solution.

What they don't know is that your client provides the answer (a product). And since they've come across a lot of potential solutions, they're feeling a bit skeptical.

The best way to talk to people in this stage is to introduce your solution, and focus your copy on proving your product or service can solve the problem. At this stage it's important to show how your product fulfills their needs and provide loads of proof.

Stage #4: Product Aware

At this stage, readers know your client has a solution (product) but aren't certain it's the best one for them. Interestingly, at this stage, prospects actually worry they have more to lose than to gain. It's a form of cognitive bias at work that happens with everyone, especially when faced with making a purchase decision.

Picture a person who is trying to lose weight. They're well aware of the many different weight loss products on the market. They've seen the claims and promises made by competitors. They want to know that not only will the product you're offering solve their problem (help them lose weight), but YOUR product is hands down the BEST choice.

Stage #5 – Most Aware

Prospects in this group already know about the benefits and features your product offers. They believe it can solve their problem. So now, they're more interested in cost.

Eugene suggests your headline's primary focus at this stage should be on incentivizing customers to complete the purchase. For example, "Sign up now to get 75% off!"

With this group, it's best to focus on discounts, deals, and money-back guarantees. Your job as the writer is to suppress these last-minute doubts. You might say something such as, "Find the perfect lotion for your skin in six weeks or your money back."

Now that you know the levels of awareness and the corresponding emotions your prospect feels at each stage, all you have to do is concentrate on writing copy that better speaks to the target audience.

As you do this, your copy will be more compelling and more effective. And just as prospects move through different levels of awareness, you'll be doing the same with your writing. You'll go from good to being an in-demand writer.

The AWAI Method™

The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter

The AWAI Method™ combines the most up-to-date strategies, insights, and teaching methods with the tried-and-true copywriting fundamentals so you can take on ANY project — not just sales letters. Learn More »

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Published: February 26, 2024

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