Jul 24, 2013
By Guest Blogger
Digital Marketing, Strategy
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Imagine if you will that you are marketer who is charged with promoting a certain new-to-the-world product. The product goes underneath the skin and stops wrinkles before they begin. It happens that most people are not aware that they have deep wrinkles, where they are, and how they can be stopped. You come up with all manner of clever short-term promotions and deals, but wonder why these are not working to sell product. If you are that marketer (or can easily imagine yourself as such), then this discussion might help you focus your promotional efforts. 

See Things from the Customer Point of View
What is probably happening in this case is that you are not putting yourself in the mind of the prospect and seeing things from their perspective. The answer to how to solve your problem can be found in some of the behavioral techniques that I talked about in my last blog post for Exact Target on behavioral psychology and conversion, in terms of using social proof, authority, and other techniques from the world of direct response.  

However, there are many aspects of behavioral techniques in marketing that can apply in this case. Another useful framework that Brian Massey and I talked about last month at Conversion Conference is that of Eugene Schawrtz and his “Five Levels of Awareness.” This persuasion framework operates whether we are talking about advertising, email, or other forms of direct promotion.

How Aware is the Customer of Your Product?
As you can see from the figure, the more aware the potential customers are of the product, the better a direct approach using discounts and deals will work. At the unaware stage on the far right, the best approach is indirect, to share stories and secrets to build awareness. So you would need some really compelling story about how someone’s life was changed by having their wrinkles stopped before they started, i.e., “Suzy looks years younger than her peers. Here is a solution she found and how she found it.”

If the prospect is aware of the problem, but not your product, offers that focus your copy on benefits and anxieties would work to create awareness. So your copy might read, “Jacob worries that if he looks too old he will lose his job.” If people are aware of your solution you need to have claims and proof to appeal to them, i.e., 60% fewer wrinkles than average after using this product. 

As the figure shows on the far left, the product-aware customer WILL respond to discounts and deals. However, in our example above, we imagined that you used discounts and deals when your  prospects were not even aware of the existence of the product! How many times have we seen deals and discounts overdone when another approach would work better? The one-size-fits-all Groupon approach does not work applying Schwartz’s levels of awareness.

For those most aware of the product, the product and price are sufficient. Look at what happens with the new Apple iphones -- people line up around the block and just want to know one thing:  What do I pay? So put yourself in the mind of the prospect or customer and factor in product or service awareness when designing a promotional ad, email, direct mail piece, or other marketing communication. Test out the results with these various approaches to see if they work for your customer base. There may be slight differences. And if you have an established product of which most people are aware, move immediately to the left of the awareness continuum. If you are selling magic wrinkle cream that stops wrinkles deep beneath the skin, you may have to build some awareness through your communications first.

Debra Zahay-Blatz is Associate Professor of Marketing at Northern Illinois University, where she heads the Interactive Marketing program. Publishing as Debra Zahay, she is the co-author, with MaryLou Roberts, of Internet Marketing: Integrating Online and Offline Strategies, the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, and has written numerous articles as well as presented at many practitioner and academic conferences. You can find Debra on  and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.

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