The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself When Creating a New Marketing Campaign

September 20, 2012 by

What's the most important question to ask yourself when starting work on a new marketing project?

As a seasoned marketer, you might reply, "What am I really selling? or "Who is my prospect?" And you wouldn't be too far off the mark.

But according to master copywriters Michael Masterson and John Forde, the question that makes the biggest difference in response and sales often goes unasked by marketers. In their new book, Great Leads, Masterson and Forde make the case that the most important question you can ask yourself before formulating any marketing campaign is this:

"What does my prospect already know?"

What does the prospect know about our product and our company? How much do they really know about the problems our product solves? What do they know about other solutions that are out there, and our competitors who make them?

Your answer, say Masterson and Forde, will tell you the type of lead – the headline and opening paragraphs of your promotion – that's most likely to generate the greatest response. This is the premise of their book, which is aimed primarily at a B2C copywriting and marketing audience.

But is this question relevant for B2B marketers?

Lead type isn't so critical in B2B, because we're not selling people things they don't really need. We're selling solutions to problems that business people need to solve. Buying resistance is not as high. So, more often than not, we use a simple problem-solution lead.

That being the case, is this question – "What does my prospect already know?" – the most important one we can ask ourselves before we create a new B2B marketing promotion?

I believe it is. Because your answer to that question can tell you so much more than just what type of lead to use. It will also tell you:

  • What kind of information your prospect needs
  • How you need to talk to the prospect
  • What type of promotion is most appropriate for your target audience
  • How direct you can be in talking about your product or service
  • What kind of offer will generate the most leads

and more.

OK, you say, let's suppose "What does my prospect already know?" is the most important question I can ask myself. How do I come up with a useful answer? How do I answer this question in a concise way that will help me make decisions?

Fortunately, that question is not new. And years ago, a legendary copywriter came up with the definitive response.

The Five Levels of Customer Awareness

Eugene Schwartz is an icon in the advertising business. Famous for such well-known headlines as "Do You Have the Courage to Earn a Half Million Dollars a Year?" and "Why Models Stay Young Till Sixty", Schwartz also authored 10 books on advertising and copywriting, including his classic, Breakthrough Advertising.

In Breakthrough Advertising, Schwartz established the importance of "customer awareness." Better yet, he systematized it. Schwartz identified five distinct levels of customer awareness. They are:

  • Most Aware. These are your best customers – your multi-buyers. They're brand loyal. They're enthusiastic about your products. They attend your customer events.
  • Product Aware. These prospects know your product, but haven't bought it. They're familiar with your competitors' offerings. They're just not sure if your solution is best for them.
  • Solution Aware. Solution aware prospects know about solutions like yours, but don't know your specific product or service. If your company isn't well known in their industry, they may not have heard of you.
  • Problem Aware. Problem aware prospects know they have a problem, and have some idea of what that problem is, but they may not completely understand it. They haven't dealt with this problem before. They're totally unfamiliar with possible solutions.
  • Unaware. These are prospects who don't realize they have a problem. They simply don't know a better way exists. If you have a new product that addresses a major drawback of previous solutions, most of your prospects may be at this level.

These five levels form a continuum that breaks up your prospect base into five distinct segments. You can think of them as levels in a sales funnel, if you like, with "Unaware" prospects at the top of the funnel, and "Most Aware" prospects at the bottom.

Prospects at different awareness levels have different needs and desires. In general, the less aware a prospect is:

  • The more education he requires before you can "sell" him
  • The less open he will be to a sales pitch
  • The more indirect you have to be in talking to him about your product or service

Thus, customer awareness level is a handy device for determining what type of promotion will work best for different segments of your target audience. All you have to do is determine which awareness levels your audience falls into.

Determining Customer Awareness Level

How do you determine awareness level? Ask more questions. Probe deeper.

Ask questions about the problem your offering solves:

  • How well known is the problem?
  • How likely are prospects to realize they have this problem?
  • Besides ours, what other solutions are available?
  • How well known are these other solutions?

Ask questions about your company:

  • How well known are we?
  • What is our reputation in the prospect's industry?
  • Is this prospect likely to have seen our advertising? (What's our ad budget?)

Ask questions about your solution:

  • Is it brand new? If not, how long has it been on the market?
  • Is it unique, or are there similar solutions available?
  • How much advertising of this product have we already done?

Drilling down will strengthen your understanding of your prospects' overall awareness level. Once you've determined what your prospects already know about your solution, it makes it much easier to figure out what you need to say to them to advance them toward a sale.

Next month, we'll talk more about how you can use customer awareness level to make sure your next campaign is on the mark.

Take-away points

1. The most important question to ask yourself when starting a new marketing project is:

"What does my prospect already know?"

2. A handy tool for categorizing what prospects already know is: Customer Awareness Level.

3. The Five Levels of Customer Awareness are:

  • Unaware
  • Problem Aware
  • Solution Aware
  • Product Aware
  • Most Aware

Any thoughts on this article? I'd love to hear them. Please leave comments below.

2 Comments

  1. [...] But before we do that, I'd like to recap what I said last time about Customer Awareness Level. (If you missed last month's article, you can read it here.) [...]

  2. […] to Eugene Schwartz in Breakthrough Advertising, the 5 Levels of Customer Awareness […]

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