All consumers follow a buying process, whether they know it or not. We all do it – probably a dozen times a week if not more. When we are presented with an opportunity to make a purchase we subconsciously ask ourselves a series of questions, and depending on our answers we either move from one stage of the purchase process to the next or we abandon the shopping cart altogether.
American advertising and sales pioneer E. St. Elmo Lewis created a funnel model in 1898 based on customer studies to explain the mechanisms of personal selling. His research concluded that the most successful salespeople followed a hierarchical four-layer process using four cognitive phases that buyers follow when accepting a new idea or purchasing a new product. In sales & marketing circles, the acronym for this process is AIDA. Using the AIDA model provides us with an understanding of how to target markets effectively to drive positive outcomes.
A – Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer.
I – Interest: raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
D – Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
A – Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.
Later evolutions of the theory have edited the AIDA steps. New phases such as satisfaction (AIDAS) have been added.
S – Satisfaction: satisfy the customer so they become a repeat customer and give referrals to a product.
Yet another evolution of this approach is to look beyond a person’s wants and needs, and identify people by their interests, beliefs and behaviors. This allows you to not only identify your primary target customers, but also digs deeper to reveal sub-groups of potential customers and find new customer segments.
I recently attended a tele-class by Robin Fisher Roffer CEO of Big Fish Marketing, in which Robin shared some tips about standing out in the face of competition. She said something that really made sense to me. She said that we have to look at our target audience and really understand how they’re doing what they’re doing. Look at how they’re doing it differently and find a way to integrate into their process. This is a very different approach from the AIDA model whereby the sales approach is very much from the company perspective (ie.) attracting attention, raising customer interest, convincing customers.
Perhaps we have to change the way we do business. In this economic landscape and competitive marketplace, maybe we should be taking a 180 degree turn and putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes. Understand their pain points and their ‘problems’ and become their ‘solution’. By becoming the solution to their problem, this puts you in a completely different league than those coming from a place of selling a product or service. This fosters a connection to your audience and rather than being a retailer, you become a provider of solutions.
And who doesn’t want solutions to their problems?