By Direct Response Copywriter Lynn Swayze
(January 2022 Edit: I now say that the levels are Unaware, Desire Aware, Problem Aware, Solution Aware, and Product Aware. I'll post about that another day.)
Dear Consultant/Coach/Agency Owner/Freelancer/Expert:
Have you ever talked with someone whose actual business was different than what you originally thought, based on how they presented themselves? It's happened to me a few times now, usually after talking with someone who wasn't selling well via marketing and wanted some help.
I remember one such incident. So a few years ago, I worked with a client whose marketing just wasn't working. He was a nice enough guy with major clients under his belt. I was kind of puzzled as to how he'd managed to work with such big names, because his stated core business was pretty lame.
In his marketing, he basically just said his business was "building courses using WordPress."
Kind of boring, right? I sure thought so.
This guy's marketing was entirely technical, talking about WordPress and plugins and dashboards. These were all the things he was concerned with on a day-to-day basis, however they were things in which his prospects had zero interest in learning more about.
When I dug deeper, I discovered that in fact, his bigger passion was helping business owners build profitable courses that built on each other, which in turn scaled the business without additional advertising costs. His unique methods also bypassed the usual churn associated with membership sites and solved many consultant business problems at once.
So it was only once you got him in person that you got the sexy, prospect-focused messaging! It was no wonder that he only sold in person, one-on-one. His marketing was busy talking about tech and WordPress and the how, and his clients only cared about the why and the result.
He had a messaging gap.
The Marketing Messaging Gap
The "marketing messaging gap" is that space between where you are and where your ideal buyer is right now. The smaller the gap, the faster the sale, because they've walked the distance to where you are. Either they've done the research themselves, they've been nurtured (read: indoctrinated) by some other business, or they've engaged with your content to go from problem unaware to solution aware and ready to buy.
The larger the gap, the harder and longer the sale will take, and the more marketing you'll need to fill the gap. (Which isn't a bad thing, as I'll outline in a moment.)
So here's what that "gap" looks like visually:
This line is basically a buyer's journey, if you will.
On the left-hand side is your ideal buyer (in my Eleven Marketing Factors this is your Person). In order for them to be a good prospect, this person has to have the problem you solve. Unfortunately, at the far end they have a problem but is unaware it exists. They're also unaware of any solutions as well. They are not even on the buyer's path yet.
For all intents and purposes, it's as if they are walking around in a different universe than you, with different beliefs, problems, values, and goals. They don't know they need you, and any intrusion by you that says they do will be rejected.
This is the UNAWARE stage.
And yet, Unaware Stage is where many people (especially those new to business) start their marketing. I know it's where I used to start. I'd try to convince people they needed to start marketing.
Think about that. I used to convince people to start marketing.
Do you think someone who hasn't even started marketing is going to see why investing in a copywriter or a marketing consultant will ever push the needle?
Fact is, my ideal client has failed marketing and needs to optimize. Or succeeded and needs to get more marketing done faster. They have a team, they've invested in marketing for themselves already, and are ready for an expert to come in and get it done right the first time.
Honestly, rarely have I had it work where someone is starting from scratch and trying to build that foundation. There's just too much that has to be fixed - their mindset, their product, lack of proof/testimonials, and so forth. They weren't ready even if I could convince them to try. It's frustrating but reality.
And your BEST CLIENTS are almost invariably going to be the same.
So the first thing I suggest, if your marketing isn't working, is to see if you aren't too far on the left of the diagram I suggested above. If so, scoot over a few steps to the right to the problem aware spectrum.
The second stage is the Desire Aware stage. At this point, they have an inkling of something they want, such as:
- More leads
- Higher quality discovery calls
- Better night's sleep
- Easier time being the CEO
But they really don't know what's holding them back from getting what they want. . . nor do they know how to fix it.
Effective success stories and case studies do a great job of gripping people here, because they often start at the desire/transformation the ideal client is looking for.
The next stage is where most good marketing happens: problem aware.
The problem aware prospect is the person who is already feeling the pain of the problem you solve. Ideally, they're trying to fix this problem right now and are either:
- Feeling overwhelmed about how to make it all work
- Trying it and failing
- Trying it and succeeding, but not happy with the cost of it
- Trying it and hating it, but still needing to solve the problem
Most people start to see marketing results when they target prospects at this stage and later, because the person is actually wanting help.
It's kind of like being a personal trainer and running up to overweight diabetics on the street and telling them they need a low carb diet and a workout plan. While it may be the case they actually need this to halt the progression of their disease, it's unlikely that they're going to respond favorably to the intrusion if they aren't ready for it.
But what happens when that person tries to lose weight, but finds that traditional diets fail them and their broken metabolism? Well, now they're frustrated. What works for other people isn't working for them. Suddenly, they're very aware of the problem. Insulin is expensive. Feeling tired sucks. The risk of heart disease and strokes and lost limbs is becoming more real. Now they're feeling the pain of staying where they're at.
They are problem aware. Actually, they're even solution aware if they're trying different ways to solve their problem. Now you can present them with a case study of a success story... or with the data on why your solution works... or with a reason why they're experiencing their problem.... or with a story about how you were in the same boat...
... but they'll only be receptive because they've moved to a state of awareness.
At this stage, you're going to want to convince them that this is a very urgent problem that will have detrimental impact on their business if they don't resolve it. You'll want to frame their problem in terms that align with how you frame your solution. The best lead magnets at this stage lead with the pain points: white papers, ebooks, webinars.
The solution aware person is trying different ways of getting results. Often, this is a DIY solution first, which is why lead magnets work really well at this stage. Give your ideal buyers something free to try it for themselves and experience how hard it is to do what you do. Sure, a small fraction will get results without you. But many won't implement, or will implement and fail, and that's when you come in.
At this stage, you're not only competing with your competitors. You're also competing with:
- Them not solving this problem at all, and deciding that the trouble isn't worth the reward
- Them doing it themselves indefinitely
- Going with a competitor
- Waiting to solve the problem until some other condition is met
- Using a tool, software, etc instead of a consultant
So it's very important that, at this stage, you clearly identify why what you do is the BEST solution for the problem, and that you establish this early. The best lead magnets at this stage are things which push the sale over the edge, such as proof- and story-driven case studies and sales pages featuring unique mechanisms.
WHERE YOU LIKELY ARE: SOLUTION OVER-AWARE
On the far right end of the spectrum we have where you're sitting.
As an expert, you've already gone through the steps of dealing with the pain points of the problem you solve (two more components in my Eleven Marketing Factors). You've already had all your myths busted and know how to line up all the ducks. You've even met your competitors and refined your solution. You may even be jaded you've been in this zone for so long.
And yet, some of you start your marketing here.
Examples of this I've seen include marketing by listing product features, citing years in business, or talking about hyper-technical topics that no business stakeholder is going to read even if his feet were on fire. Or, it's selling the solution ("Book a Call!") with no mention of benefits to the prospect.
At this stage of the buyer journey, the number of leads are going to be VERY SMALL but VERY READY TO BUY.
(Because, as I've mentioned before, they've already gone through all the education and nurturing before they've gotten to you.)
So if your messaging targets these people, expect a VERY LOW but VERY HOT response from leads. Anyone who responds here doesn't need much nurturing, but they're also harder to target to begin with. When they're this ready, they could just as easily jump to the competitor who responds just a little bit faster to the request for information.
The Marketing Goldilocks Zone
The best place to be is the Goldilocks Zone of Marketing.
As I mentioned earlier, the Goldilocks zone is that space in the middle from problem aware to solution aware to buyer.
This is where you want your marketing to be, and ideally you should own the whole runway that takes them from problem aware to buying. So by the time you've nurtured them for a little while, you're the only solution provider they'd ever consider working with. (And ideally, they'll tell their friends, too.)
As you take them on this walk through your funnels, you will use messaging that starts in the middle of the conversation your prospect is already having in their head.
You meet them there and discuss the problem, and then you can start discussing solutions in ways they'll understand - usually wrapped in a casing of "how this will make my life better". But don't give them the technical details! Don't tell them how the sausage is made. Frame the solution in ways they'll understand.
Let's take what I do for example. At the end of the day, I sell funnels and copy. I help consultants figure out their messaging and their positioning and all the ways they can make their offer better so they SELL MORE and MAKE MORE.
If I had my druthers, I'd discuss what funnel building tools I prefer, the marketing automation I love implementing, the "marketing for a year" product I'm developing, and so on and so forth. I'd talk advanced copy-ninja tactics and the intricacies of one webinar script over another.
No one really wants a funnel or marketing automation. No one. What they want is a marketing method that works... whatever that is. What they want is to no longer have a lead generation (read: money generation) problem. What they want is to not have to work so damn hard to convert, or lay awake at night worrying about how that bill is going to be paid and if that referral is ever going to come through.
Can you see how those are very different messages?
The former is pretty narcissistic. It's talking about me and the stuff that interests me as someone who's been doing this for a few years.
The latter is all about you, the buyer, and the things that keep you up at night. (Like keeping payroll going.)
The TL;DR of This Whole Shebang
The point of this article is this:
If your marketing isn't working right now, I almost guarantee it's in part because of this gap, and that you're landing in the wrong place on the journey. Take a look at where in the journey you're starting, and either scoot a bit right or scoot a bit left and launch again.
Remember that on the left, there will be LOTS of leads but few buyers. On the right, there will be FEW leads but MORE BUYERS. This is why it's usually better to start somewhere in the middle and bump up your odds of selling.
Would you like some coaching on how to define your positioning and build a content and campaign strategy which bridges the "Messaging Gap"?
Click below to get resources on how to create marketing that pulls through the Marketing Messaging Gap.