Buyer awareness (and why most people give up on “content”)

I’m not generally a fan of marketing terminology.

In fact, saying the word “conversion” still makes me feel a bit like the kid in middle school with the spiked hair and frosted tips…

Something that you do that’s kinda cool to the in-crowd at the time, but totally out of character and utterly ridiculous upon further reflection.

So it would naturally make sense that talking about “personas” and “customer avatars” and “the buyer’s journey” wouldn’t exactly be my cup of tea.

But today I’m making an exception, and want to dig into this idea of “buyer awareness,” because I think it’s a valuable framework for clarifying how exactly you should be communicating with potential customers for your service.

buyer awareness buzzwords meme

Before that though, let’s go down a mild detour because I think we can answer a question at the same time.

Last week list member Joy Van Skiver asked a question that encapsulates a lot about the overarching problem we’ve been talking about (shared with permission) :

Is there an endpoint to content marketing and a next step to something else? I’ve been doing more than a year of what I think is good content email marketing, but it’s not producing the results I want. I have lots of “followers” who apparently like what I have to say, but they’re not moving ahead to buy my services.”

Joy hit the nail on the head with that one…

Because the frustration I sense in her question is the reason why most people give up on content marketing (social media updates, emails, white papers, guest posts, podcasts, blogging, vlogging, all of the other “ing”s), and just go back to what they’ve always done: the rounds, referrals, networking, etc.

So the first way we could try to answer this question is from a mechanical perspective.

There’s just simply a missing piece here.

From this angle, the smart-ass, surface-level answer to the question is:


Content marketing isn’t something with an end goal, but instead a process for bringing more awareness to what you’re doing and moving new leads into your sales pipeline.

And the problem isn’t with continuing to generate attention through content, but instead, the “lead-to-sale” conversion piece that’s most likely missing from your marketing process.

It’s a little bit like expecting your trusty, yet dopey Golden Retriever to leave the opossum in the backyard tree alone and find his way back inside without a stern, “Ryder, comon’ get over here!!”

In fact, I recently gave this a name: The Gap.

It’s the space between consideration and decision. And it’s represented by two numbers:

(1) Email-to-sale conversion rate
(2) Average order value (or LTV)

buyer awareness the gap

It’s that final switch flip that needs to happen to move someone from just “following” what you’re doing, to becoming a legitimately qualified lead who is about to make a decision on whether to work with you or not.

The issue with this explanation though, is it doesn’t give any information about what to do to close The Gap.

And that’s where this “buyer awareness” framework becomes valuable because it provides some actionable information on what we could change to make that happen.

So let’s try it a second way.

I can’t summarize this better than creator/entrepreneur/marketer Jake Jorgovan, so I’ll let him do the heavy lifting for us:

“Simply put, buyer awareness is your customer’s location in their buyer’s journey.

To break that down further, your buyer is typically in one of 4 stages.

Unaware – They are not even thinking about your product, or the problem that your product is trying to solve.

Problem Aware – The buyer is aware that they have a problem, but they do not even know that solutions exist to solve that problem.

Solution Aware – The buyer is aware that they have a problem, and that there are solutions in the market that can help them solve this problem.

You Aware – The buyer is aware that they have a problem, that there are solutions in the market, and that YOU are a potential solution for their problem.”

I really like how this frames the problem because it gives you a way to visualize and map what you’re doing when you do content marketing, business development, sales, etc.

It clearly identifies what’s happening on the other end of the table.

He continues:

“For most businesses who have not invested heavily into content marketing, they will find that most of their buyers are in the Problem Aware or Solution Aware stage.

And for businesses who have invested into thought leadership and content marketing, you may find that many of your buyers come through in a “You Aware” stage because your content has nurtured them to that stage prior to speaking with you.”


Immediately we have some additional clarity not only on what content marketing is for but also how Joy (and the rest of us for that matter) might diagnose the problem further.

So it could be that:

  • Your content marketing efforts aren’t moving “Problem Aware” buyers towards “You Awareness” and something needs to change, lest you continue to fight an uphill battle as you transition to sales.
  • Your content marketing efforts are getting your prospects to the “Solution Aware” stage, but they aren’t seeing your firm specifically as THE solution yet (might be a positioning or sales presentation problem).
  • Your content marketing efforts are working just fine, but these “You Aware” prospects are just missing that final push (a clear call to action added to the bottom of an email perhaps?) to reach out and start the process of working together.

Jake offers some additional insight on how this works with his lead generation service Lead Cookie, even giving us a glimpse into what this buyer awareness breakdown looks like for their business among the prospects who go on to purchase:

buyer awareness lead cookie breakdown

“…my time is best spent targeting and speaking to prospects who are aware that Linkedin is a solution to their lead generation problems.

While I could go further upstream and try to educate those leads down the funnel, it will typically lead to a lower close rate and a much longer sales cycle.

In order for us to gain the maximum results from our marketing, we should focus on speaking to the solution aware leads, and investing in content to make more customers ‘You Aware’.”

So the job of content marketing is simply to move your prospect from left to right on the chart above.

Which in turn makes it easier and easier to convert (ahh! I said it) that lead into a client.

Now, naturally my preference for delivering said content would be through a convenient, independent, ubiquitous, almost-guarantee-delivery technology known as email.

But regardless of whether you do this on LinkedIn, your blog, by homing pigeon, whatever… you’re pulling out key thoughts, strategies, tactics from your head and putting pen to paper so that that you can extend and scale yourself beyond the 1-to-1 sales call interaction.

Your expertise can be packaged up and reused over and over again to keep that forward motion towards “You Awareness.”

It’s more convenient for them. More convenient for you. And gives them the time to understand the scope of the problem and solution before talking to you.

You can be more present, and really understand the specifics of their problem because you don’t need to robotically walk them through each and every qualification, fact-finding, selection, and presentation step that you’ve been through a million times already.

If that doesn’t sound like sales nirvana, I don’t know what does…

So to bring it all back.

“Buyer’s awareness” one of the key frameworks we can focus on when we’re creating content, writing out a welcome email automation, or creating a sales sequence for a specific service offering, etc… that will maximize our chances of a successful interaction.

And this “context” both holds to answer to Joy’s question and informs our next email marketing principle.

Talk to you tomorrow,


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