How to generate more business with your web copy by asking one simple question

Business-laptop-copywritingYour web copy can generate more business.

But it doesn’t… Know why?

Because you’re not asking yourself one simple (but crucial) question.

(And it makes all the difference in how you approach your web copy).

…It’s not:

  • Who is my target market?
  • What are my benefits?
  • What is my unique selling proposition?

Know what it is?

It’s this – “What stage of awareness is my prospect in?”

5 Stages of Awareness

Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz realized that prospects have varying knowledge, experience, and feelings towards all products and services years ago.

He explains it thoroughly in his book “Breakthrough Advertising.” Here’s the concept summed up:

  1. Most aware – The prospect knows your product, and only needs to know “the deal.”
  2. Product aware – Prospect knows your offer, but isn’t sure it’s right for him.
  3. Solution aware – Prospect knows the result he wants, but not sure if your product will help with that.
  4. Problem aware – Prospect is aware he has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution available.
  5. Completely Unaware – Prospect is unaware of any problem, desire, or fear, nor that there’s a solution to it out there.

As you can see, there are five main variations of customer awareness. But the point is this – each state of awareness requires a different copywriting approach.

For instance, if they’re:

  • Product aware, they won’t respond to copy aimed at the unaware.
  • Problem aware, they won’t respond to copy aimed at the most aware.
  • Unaware, they won’t respond to copy aimed at the product aware.

So the real question is this – “what’s the best approach for each state of awareness?”

1. Unaware

“…the most difficult. The prospect is either not aware of his desire or his need—or he won’t honestly admit it to himself without being lead into it by your ad—or the need is so general and amorphous that it resists being summed up in a single headline—or it’s a secret that just can’t be verbalized.”

The unaware prospect doesn’t realize they have a problem or desire that’s solved by your product. And they certainly don’t know about you.

In this case, your headline is all about one thing – Identifying with your market.

You can identify with their:

  • Physical nature (e.g. overweight, short, male, female, etc.)
  • Roles in life (e.g. mother, retail employee, swimmer, writer, etc.)
  • Mental state (e.g. frustrated, sad, angry, etc.)

But don’t mention your product, service, benefits or anything related at all.

Why? Because they don’t care about it. If they smell a pitch in your headline or body copy early on, they’ll disappear. So save your product or service pitch for the very end.

As for your body copy, stories and secrets are the best way to go. The story should build curiosity and maintain attention. All the while you should build up the impact of the desire or problem your offer solves in the body copy.

And then at the end, you finally place your pitch.

Here’s how that might look:

  • Headline – “Are you a new business-owner struggling to break even?”
  • Intro – “You’ve finally broken away from the lifeless 9-5 corporation that’s eaten away at your soul. It took years, but you’ve saved enough to open that new restaurant you’ve wanted since childhood.
  • Body copy – “You knew it wouldn’t be easy to do what you love, but it’s more than you can handle. Employees are hit-or-miss, sometimes they work hard and sometimes they’re gone for lunch-rush. There’s so much to do that you bring your work home, blurring the lines between work, home, and play…

Remember, the story should slowly unmask the hidden desire or problem they have. And once you reach the end, then you can reveal the solution to their desire or problem.


2. Problem aware

“The prospect has—not a desire—but a need. He recognizes the need immediately. But he doesn’t yet realize the connection between the fulfillment of that need and your product.”

The prospect at this stage of awareness has just become aware that they have a problem. But they still don’t know about you or your offer.

As this is a problem-focused stage, the best approach is a problem-solution style.

Luckily there’s a time-tested formula you can follow. It’s called PAS, and it’s short for – Problem/Agitate/Solution.

Here’s the basic format:

  1. Headline should state the problem and/or its solution
  2. Intro should create a vivid picture of the problem to enlarge the problem or increase desire for a solution
  3. Body copy should place you as the one true solution to the problem

Here’s how that might look:

  • Headline – “Tired of struggling with your diet?”
  • Intro – “Dieting is tough… Picking healthy food. Counting calories. Refusing junk food… All require immense willpower that you can barely afford.”
  • Body copy – “What if there was a program that did all that hard stuff FOR you? No more deliberating over what’s acceptable to eat. No more counting calories. And no more fearing what you’ll do in the face of junk food. Well, that’s EXACTLY what the XRP diet program can do for you.

The formula practically writes itself, so use the PAS formula if your prospect falls under this stage of awareness.


3. Solution aware

The prospect either knows, or recognizes immediately, that he wants what the product does; but he doesn’t yet know’ that there is a product—your product—that will do it for him.

The solution aware prospect is aware that there are many solutions to their problem, but doesn’t know which are viable.

They need claims, proof, and evidence to make a buying decision.

Here’s how to approach this prospect:

  1. Headline should clearly state the solution and/or the underlying emotion causing them to seek the solution out
  2. Subhead (or intro) should heighten their desire for the solution and/or prove it can be achieved with your offer
  3. Body copy should focus on proving that the mechanism behind your solution works

For example:

  • Headline – “Want a full head of hair in less than 30 days?”
  • Subhead (or intro, if changed a bit) – “See how 3,221 customers gained a lush head of hair with our latest hair growth formula”
  • Body copy – “Customers were given a 30-day money back guarantee if they didn’t gain at least a half-inch of hair all over. Guess how many returns there were – zero. Of the 3,221 orders taken, NONE asked for their money back.”

So we stated the solution desired in the headline (a full head of hair), and then enhanced the desire by stating the amount of customers who’ve gotten results with the product. Then the body copy established credibility by saying the hair-growth formula was returned by no one.

Fairly simple approach if your prospect falls under this stage of awareness.

4. Product aware

“Here, your prospect isn’t completely aware of all your product does, or isn’t convinced of how well it does it, or hasn’t yet been told how much better it does it now.”

The product aware customer knows your offer and your competitions as well. But they aren’t sure which to pick.

How should your copy be written for this customer? There are two ways:

  1. Emphasize your offer’s superiority, or
  2. Add deals and discounts

(Or some combination of both).

You and your competition are on level playing ground, so you need a way to pull ahead. Deals and discounts are easy ways to increase appeal, simple examples are:

  • Send a 20% off coupon to new subscribers to your website
  • Have some kind of 2 for 1 deal, or
  • Have a limited-time offer

But emphasizing your offers superiority might be a more appealing route. The process is simple:

  1. Pick a benefit to emphasize as superior in your headline
  2. Explain how it’s superior in your body copy

Keep in mind, the benefit must have the most emotional appeal for your target market. For example, the following example would empathize with house wives or husbands that are frustrated with needing many heavy tools just to clean:

  • Headline – “New lightweight and detachable VXR vacuum makes house-cleaning quick and easy”
  • Body Copy – “…Imagine seamlessly cleaning your drapes, carpet, and stairs in less than 30 minutes…”

This headline shows off superior upgrades over other vacuums – it’s lightweight with detachable parts. This allows it to easily clean three things that’d normally require different cleaning devices. And all with easy-to-carry lightweight pieces.

It shows off a superior benefit and expands on it with the body copy.

5. Most aware

“The customer knows of your product—knows what it does— knows he wants it. At this point, he just hasn’t gotten around to buying it yet.”

These prospects are the easiest to write for – Why?

Because they’re practically ready to buy from you.

  • They don’t need to be buttered up with persuasive copy.
  • They don’t need a long, emotional story to suck them in, and
  • They don’t need any compelling copy to make the purchase.

Who falls under this category?

  • Think “Apple” lovers that line up days before the next Ipad launches.
  • Think screaming girls who read twilight and are in love with the series, and
  • Think of any other raving fans waiting impatiently for the next product to hit the shelves.

…All they need is the offer – your product or service and the price. Adding extra copy just creates obstacles that may slow down or even prevent them from buying.

Here’s an example:

  • Headline – “New X4G smartphone available for 74.99”
  • Body Copy 
    • Features:
      • Wi-fi capabilities
      • Dual core processor
      • Sleek, lightweight design

(This is the only time you list features instead of benefits in your copy).

With this stage of awareness, remember to keep your copy short and direct. Otherwise you might reduce sales.

Over to you

The great thing about using this method is it provides a logical foundation for writing high-converting web copy. So next time you sit down to do some copywriting, bust out this article and use it as a guidepost.

Image via Picjumbo


  1. Hey Ericson,

    You know what? I was just about to write a post on blog posts intro, and here I find this post! I do have to say that this is a great way to think in regards to approaching the 5 stages of awareness. I really never thought about this, but I will definitely keep these stages in mind whenever I promote any products or services!

    Thanks for the share! Have a great week!

    I found this post on under the category of Copywriting, Internet Marketing
    Sherman Smith recently posted…How To Write Eye-Catching Traffic Generating Blog Post HeadlinesMy Profile

    • If you want a more in-depth study on writing intros, I recommend checking out “Great Leads, the Six Easiest Ways to Start Any Sales Message.” It’s an easy read and easy to apply to marketing and blog posts.

      (And a steal at only $8.99 on Amazon Kindle).

      Thanks for stopping by, Sherman!

  2. Hi Ericson,
    A great post, I must remark! Thanks for sharing this. I am totally ‘unaware’ of the “stages of awareness” exhibited by the customer. Its cool learning of these from this post.

    If a business gets to know of these stages and apply the right copy then it becomes easier to target and convert the right customers.

    The place of research comes to mind as it will help identify the grey areas of customer needs, and where to deliver the needed solution!

    I shared this comment in as well.

    • That’s what makes the “stages-of-awareness” so useful, it lets you hone in on your target customer more. And even better is that it makes copywriting more formulaic and exact as well.

      Thanks for the comment, Sunday!

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