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From unaware to ready to buy: Moving customers along the decision pathway

Category: Blog & News

Have you ever wondered how to move customers (or stakeholders) along the decision pathway, from being unaware to ready to buy?

That was the subject of a podcast by the DigitalMarketer team in which they discussed how to design the right campaign according to to what I call the customer’s 'state of readiness'.

Using their "UPSYD" framework, customers are moved along the decision pathway from zero engagement to purchase across five states of readiness:

  • Unaware – the customer doesn’t know about you or your whatever your thing is; it’s not on their radar
  • Problem or desire aware – the customer has an idea about their issue but no sense how to resolve it
  • Solution Aware – the customer knows how to resolve their issue but not necessarily about you
  • Your solution aware – the customer knows about you but isn’t sure if you are right for them
  • Deal (the most aware) – the customer knows about you and just needs to know about the deal

While the DigitalMarketer team use UPSYD to develop marketing campaigns, I’d like to flesh it out from a behavioural economics perspective by identifying what behavioural principles might be at play.

Behavioural principle(s) by state of readiness

How it impacts behaviour

What you need to do

State of readiness: Unaware

System 1

They will not bother to think about the thing you are selling because it is not on their radar

You need to provoke interest to overcome apathy, and provide solid reasons why it’s worth thinking about.

A good option is to usurp an entrenched belief e.g. “Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?”

Status Quo Bias

They’ll contentedly stick to what they know and follow the path of least resistance

Confirmation Bias

If you point out a problem with their existing state they will tend to find comfort in confirming why the existing state is fine

State of readiness: Problem or desire aware

System 2

They have become consciously aware of a need to change from the status quo, activating a heightened level of engagement

You need to capitalise on the tension they feel but provide a pathway to resolution.

Content marketing is key, providing additional insight into the problem but also a path to your solution.

Loss aversion

They are concerned about what they have to lose if the problem or desire goes unsatisfied

Paradox of choice

They don’t know where to start so procrastinate or go into information overload mode

State of readiness: Solution Aware

Availability Bias

Brands or products that come easily to mind are given greater importance

You simply need to be in the competitive choice set, and that means marketing yourself in such a way that you can be found.

Be where they are looking.

Attentional Bias

They may narrow down to one or two choices even though there are other options

State of readiness: Your solution aware

Loss aversion
(negative tension)

They may be worried about what they have to lose by choosing you

Your aim here is to win the sale. To do so you need to address their anxiety by building confidence and trust that you are the right option.

Testimonials, affiliations, case studies and credibility markers like a website and logo will help, as will guarantees and assurances.

Loss aversion
(positive tension)

They will be open to reasons why they shouldn’t buy from your competitors

Dial up their anxiety about making the wrong choice by drawing out what they miss out on if they don’t go with your solution.

State of readiness: Deal


They will be comparing your deal in relative rather than absolute terms i.e. not on its own merits

At this stage your aim is to not lose the sale, and that means paying attention to how you contextualise the deal.

Don’t neglect how you communicate the offer, including the sequence and number of options as well as number itself. Try to make your customer feel like a winner.


The first number is the most important, so lead with the highest price first

Numbers psychology

How a number is displayed can impact how it is perceived, so consider how you use decimals and dollar signs and even the size of font

Choice architecture

They will tend to gravitate to the middle option, so ensure this is the highest margin

Decoy effect

A third, less desirable but more expensive option can help break a deadlock

I hope you'll agree that mapping out the decision making process, from customers who are unaware to those who are ready to deal, is a helpful process to identify not only the type of campaign you should run, but which behavioural challenges you can expect to encounter.

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.

P.S. Big thanks to Leigh Plowman for suggesting the podcast which you can access here:

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