Recently, in working on a client project, I ran across one of the most difficult problems a marketer faces. Buyers were having a difficult time finding my client's offering. In marketing, we call this an awareness problem.
If a buyer can't find your solution, they can't buy your product.
Awareness Challenges for Marketers
There are many reasons why a buyer can't find a product you offer. And in this particular situation, the client faced all of the challenges.
- Buyer doesn't even know they have a need the product satisfies
- Buyer knows they have a need, but has trouble expressing what they are looking for
- Buyer can clearly describe what they are looking for, but your product isn't showing up in their research
Most buying processes start when a prospect recognizes that they have a need, want or problem that they want satisfied. Unless the buyer is intimately familiar with the solution area, their first attempts to define their problem will be very general in nature.
- I am looking for a big screen tv.
- I want a quieter car.
- I am having trouble seeing the buttons on my phone.
Hopefully, the need/want/problem is interesting enough that the prospect will start socializing it. However, if the prospect hasn't heard about solutions to their need/want/problem, they may quickly dismiss it. This is where awareness comes in.
Buyers Need to Know a Solution Exists
To ensure that a prospect doesn't dismiss their need/want/problem, marketers must create awareness on two fronts:
- They must validate the need/want/problem.
- They must demonstrate that the need/want/problem can be satisfied.
Pharmaceutical companies are expert in this technique. Their advertisements lead by discussing the malady. In fact, you will often hear them say that the particular health issue is "common". That provides the problem validation. Then they use their product to demonstrate that there is a solution for this problem.
Focusing on the Need
This offers an incredible opportunity for marketers who want to get into the prospect's mind from the start. However, it requires marketers to change their typical focus. Rather than leading with content about their product, they must focus on education related to the need/want/problem. Becoming the primary source of knowledge about the need/want/problem gives you a strong preference in the buyer's mind. In essence, by educating the buyer on their problem, you become the trusted advisor in their search for a solution.
Of course, this position of "trusted advisor" isn't offered because you provided some information to the buyer. You capture this position when you provide comprehensive, open information about their need/want/problem. They must see you as supporting them in their quest to find the best solution to their problem. You must be objective and inclusive.
I should note that if yours is the first product in a new category, it will take significant time, money and attention to create this awareness. Remember, this isn't product awareness. It is awareness about the need. By being first, you alone are blazing the path. This can be great for you if your product is a desirable solution. However, this type of situation often favors the second product to market. Being a follower allows a competitor to capture an interested, educated audience (at your expense) by addressing your product's issues in your solution.
Socializing the Need
Let's say that the prospect doesn't dismiss their need/want/problem. Instead, they start socializing their need. I like to call this "trying on" different ways of describing their need/want/problem. The best way to visualize this is to translate the socialization into a search engine search. In their verbalization of the need/want/problem, prospects are going to create long tail searches.
What does a long tail set of searches look like? Here's an example for the problem: "I am having trouble seeing the buttons on my phone". Searches for this problem might include:
- phone trouble
- can't see buttons on phone
- big button phone
- visually impaired phone
- phone buttons too small
Long tail searches are surprisingly diverse. But if marketers want to get traction at this earliest stage of the buying process, they must show up in the long tail search results. I've already given you the key to do this. You must create need-oriented content. When you create that content, optimize it for the best matched likely long tail searches.
What's at Risk
Believe it or not, there is a lot at stake for the marketer at this first stage of the buying process.
- If the buyer dismisses the need/want/problem, there can be no sale.
- If the buyer can't find you at this stage, you take the risk that they may never find you.
- Or if they find you later, they may be unwilling to insert your product into their process.
- Finally, if the buyer finds a competitor first, and that competitor does a stellar job of education, the buyer can develop an insurmountable preference for the competitive solution.
Why put yourself in the position of being the underdog? By applying the techniques suggested here, you can be in the driving seat.