You + This Copywriting Concept = More Sales

map for customer journey

Understand your prospect’s 5 stages of awareness to write more effective copy

Copywriting. Looks easy, but it’s not.

As marketers, we have problems when we write marketing copy, whether we do the writing ourselves or hire a copywriter, we agonize over this issue:

What do we say?


What does our prospect need us to say?

But a concept used by experienced copywriters can help us. Let me share the concept and show you how I applied it to website copy.

What’s the Concept?

The 5 Stages of Awareness of your prospect.

How to get inside a prospect’s mind

Before we write, we think about what we need to say. We know we need to focus on the reader.

We need to determine their point of view to persuade them to take action. So how do we do that? By listening to the prospect, which includes understanding the prospect’s stage of awareness.

The 5 stages of awareness is a scale. It shows how much your prospect knows about your products and services. The concept also shows how much the prospect knows about his needs, pain, and problems.    

The concept was coined by renowned copywriter, Eugene “Gene” Schwartz. And he wrote about this in the book, Breakthrough Advertising. The book was published about 50 years ago, but don’t discount this idea of its age. The framework is foundational to good copywriting.

So you need to measure your prospect’s awareness level to write to him or her.

Marketing's 5 Stages of Awareness to become a customer chart simplified
Your Prospect’s 5 Stages of Awareness to Become a Customer | Shannan Seely

Another way to understand this concept is to imagine what your prospect is thinking at each level.

Marketing's 5 Stages of Awareness to become a customer chart
Your Prospect’s 5 Stages of Awareness to Become a Customer and His Thoughts | Shannan Seely

So how does the concept work in real life?

Let’s say you’re in your 40s. Your eyesight is weaker. You’re having difficulty reading up close. And you probably need reading glasses, but you don’t know that.

That was me.

Here’s how I progressed through the 5 Stages of Awareness to become a customer of reading glasses.

Stage 1: Completely Unaware

“I don’t have a clue.”

In the beginning, I didn’t have a clue. Food labels, product labels, recipes – I was having trouble reading the fine print. I was telling friends and family, “They’re printing everything in smaller type. The font is so much smaller these days.”

Then I misread a measurement in a recipe, and used a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon while preparing a meal. When dinner was unrecognizable (and unpalatable), I realized I was having a problem. Plus, I was lugging a magnifying glass everywhere I went.

Stage 2: Problem Aware

“I have a problem.”

I admitted to myself my eyesight was the problem, and not the publishing and printing conglomerates reducing font size. I can’t read close up. I squint to read a page in a book. To read email on my phone, I magnify the font into what my daughter lovingly refers to as BOOMER SIZE. And reading in the dark or in low lighting is difficult. I’m asking myself, What’s going on with my eyesight?

Stage 3: Solution Aware

“I’m seeking a solution to my problem.”

So I’m doing research. And I learned the condition has a name. Age-related farsightedness or presbyopia. So if you were in my shoes, you’d go search online, right? Right, so I did. I visited WebMD and learned about the condition. The site had a list of symptoms.

Wondering how many symptoms I had, I reviewed the list.

presbyopia symptoms
Source: WebMD

And now I’m wondering:🤔

do I need reading glasses survey
Source: WebMD

And after checking off the symptoms, I admit I do.👍

Stage 4: Product Aware

“Which product or service is right for me?”

I started to shop for reading eyeglasses. I’m looking for three key benefits: durable, fashionable, and affordable. Reasonable-priced because I could see myself losing a pair, and I probably want a few pairs. You know, so I have an extra pair in the car, then one in the office, another in the kitchen, and another near my favorite reading chair.

Stage 5: Most Aware

“What’s the offer and when can I get it?”

I’m ready. I’ve decided. So I find the local store and learn the reading glasses I want cost $15. So I go and buy them.

There! The five stages I experienced to become a customer of reading glasses.

Apply the 5 Stages of Awareness to Website Copy

I created website copy for Effectus Clinical Trial Recruitment. The company offer clinical trial patient recruitment for pharmaceutical and medical device companies in the United States. Their point of difference is recruiting patients through a targeted approach – partnering with the treating physicians.

Effectus CTR team achieves greater patient retention because they identify the patients who are more interested and qualified to participate in clinical trials. As a result, more pre-screened patients enter a clinical trial.

When I began, I asked:

What do I put on each page?

Good question!

How did I decide?

I applied the 5 Stages of Awareness.

I needed to know, “What is the prospect’s stage of awareness?”

What level of understanding do they have about Effectus CTR’s products and services? How aware are they about their own needs and problems? Does the prospect know the goal they are trying to achieve?

As part of my process, I do customer research. I use my process to concentrate on the visitor’s thinking when he comes to the website.

🥅For Effectus CTR, the goal was to attract the audience who oversees the clinical trial study. The pharmaceutical or healthcare company’s executive team is looking for assistance in recruiting and retaining patients.

Patient recruitment is a big part of a clinical trial. But the executives’ responsibilities go beyond finding trial participants. They may lead the overall study design, examine budget adherence, monitor the study’s phases, and communicate with government regulators.

Clinical trials are complex with many moving parts! So I consider this complexity as I’m writing copy.

I detect the prospect’s awareness by asking:

Q: “Has the visitor heard of clinical trial recruitment?”

A: Yes. On the scale, he’s likely in Stage 4: Product Aware. He has been in the industry for years, and has worked with clinical trial recruitment companies.

Q: “Do they have a need for clinical trial recruitment.”

A: Yes. He’s in Stage 4: Product Aware. He may be starting a new clinical trial or looking for a vendor who specializes in a therapeutic area for the trial.

Q: Does the visitor know Effectus CTR?

A: Yes, he likely does because of the marketing activities Effectus CTR’s team has been doing. The person coming to the website is familiar with the company.

Q: Does the visitor understand the framework of patient recruiting through treating physicians?

A: Maybe or maybe not.

☟This part is a little tricky.☟

You have a visitor who is mostly Product Aware — he has a clue, understands his problems, and is looking for solutions. He’s at the consideration stage. He’s asking, “What product or service is right for me?”


But for the specific way Effectus recruits patients, the visitor may not understand. Partnering with treating physicians? Unfamiliar. He does not fully understand how EffectusCTR’s framework performs. So he’s lower on the understanding (awareness) scale.

He suspects companies handle patient recruitment differently, but assumes the differences are minor. He’s in the earlier phase, Stage 3. He’s thinking, “I’m seeking solutions to solving patient retention in clinical trials.”

So throughout the copy, I share more info on partnering with treating physicians. I explain the benefits, detail the process, and answer the questions he’s pondering in his head.

The copy emphasizes the point of difference, for example:

I’m stressing the highest benefit🡫

–> “deliver more pre-screened patients to your clinical trial site by connecting directly with the treating physicians.”

In the short paragraph, I remind the visitor, Patient recruitment is the #1 reason for delays in a clinical study.

Then call out the benefits of the framework🡫

–> “complete your clinical trials faster and on budget.”

Effectus website copy
Effectus Clinical Trial Recruitment

Punched up Call to Action Buttons

As we move down through the copy, you’ll see the call to action buttons focus on the highest value Effectus offers.

<button>How we partner with physicians

<button>Learn how our process is different

Effectus website copy
Effectus Clinical Trial Recruitment

Then when visitor clicks on the <button>Learn how our process is different, they land on a page detailing the company’s process.

This infographic captures attention and makes the information consumable. I clearly communicate what EffectusCTR offers. The copy is moving the prospect forward along the stages of awareness., so they’ll progress in understanding the advantages of Effectus.

Effectus website copy
Effectus CTR infographic explains the value of partnering with treating physicians.

The copy does not go into depth about clinical trial recruitment. The audience isn’t looking for that information. They’re already well-aware, and I don’t want to waste their time.

Why the 5 Stages of Awareness matter

When you use this concept, you can deliver exactly the amount of information your prospect is seeking.

>Giving him the level of detail he needs to understand your products and services.

>Then he’ll progress along the phases of knowing his needs, pains, and problems.

>And walk along the journey to become a customer. Just like me, as I raise my reading glasses and say, “Can I get an Amen?”

> Want your website copy to earn more sales?

Stop guessing and get useful info from an experienced copywriter who knows how. I cover copywriting, marketing communications, and psychology. And only share practical tips. Like this blog post. Sign up for Shannan’s S.U.N. (Simply Useful Newsletter)

One thought on “You + This Copywriting Concept = More Sales

  1. I worked at 3 of the biggest advertising agencies in New York for 2 decades. I love this post because you KNOW that getting into the mind of the prospect. Nothing else matters. I love finding posts where I get illuminated on the advanced copywriter level. Nice post!

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