Messaging  August 2, 2022

Mapping your outreach messages to your prospect’s awareness stages

Mapping your outreach messages to your prospect’s awareness stages

When prospects get annoyed at our sales messages, it’s often because we have misjudged the stage of awareness they’re in and doubled down on those bad assumptions in the copy.

In this article, we’re going to break down the 5 stages of customer awareness, see how they should dictate outreach messaging, and analyse real-life examples (with screenshots) of what it looks like when salespeople don’t map their outreach messages to prospects’ awareness stages.

In the book Breakthrough Advertising, advertising legend Eugene Schwartz came up with a framework around how buyers discover and buy products: unaware, problem aware, solution aware, and product aware. Here’s how you can use this to improve your outreach messages when prospecting.

Awareness stages overview


Prospects do not know whether they have a problem. This is like when my uncle Jerry has not recognised that their drinking habits (113.1 bottles an hour and counting…) are (a bit) different from the norm. Here, your outreach messages should never mention how great G2 thinks your product is and how they tuck you into bed every night.

Problem Aware

Your prospect realises that they have a problem, but doesn’t understand it much. This is when uncle Jerry Googles, “how do I know if I’ve got a drinking problem?” They are curious but don’t know the solutions that exist.

In this type of outreach, once you mention the problem you solve, your prospect’s response will throw hints that they may have been thinking about that problem at some point. (Here’s a screenshot of such a reply )

Solution aware

The prospect knows solutions exist to their problem—they probably know the category leaders. For example, people who were introduced to video conferencing at the height of COVID-19, and now refer to all video conferencing tools as Zoom. (The kind to tell you, “let’s zoom…” then send you a Skype link.”

When you realise they are at this level, don’t take it as permission to pitch-slap them. Your job is still to find out if they need the solution based on their description of their problems, then educate them further on the solutions.

Product aware

The prospect is aware that different solutions to the problem exist and they’re comparing tools, price, impact and so on. They may know about your brand and ask questions: “what is the difference between Office 365 and Google docs?” “Should I accept payments on my store through PayPal, credit cards or Open Banking?”

If you’re cold-emailing someone who is using a competing solution, they’ll probably be in the product-aware stage.

Most aware

The prospect has all the information she wants about a particular solution and just needs a nudge or a shift in perspective to buy; this is when someone converts just because you offered a free trial.

Remember, sometimes your prospect might think they’re most aware, but they may not know what they don’t know.

A LinkedIn argument changed my mind about this.

Someone shared a story of how they were a customer of one of the popular sales tools (can’t remember which one), when a sales rep from a competing company reached out and moved them from the tool they thought was sufficient—he was not looking for a new sales tool—to seeing how the competitor could solve his problems differently.

So take the most aware prospects with a grain of salt and ask questions to figure out if what they know is true.

Why you need to know prospects’ awareness stages when prospecting

When reaching out to potential customers for the first time, more often than not, you end up guessing your prospect’s level of awareness and try to validate your guess with a response. Especially when you’re prospecting through channels such as cold emails where you can’t get immediate feedback.

My theory is: the reason we get annoyed with spam emails is that there’s a big mismatch between our level of awareness and what the seller assumes. Here’s an example of this in an email recipient’s reaction.

Screenshot of a response to a bad cold email

Simple rule to ensure your sales messaging matches your prospects’ level of awareness

Unless you know your prospect uses a competing product (hence they’re probably product/most aware), weave questions into your email sequence to test whether they are aware of the problem before telling them about the solution.

For example, if you’re selling currency management fintech, you’d test awareness by structuring your sales messaging like this:

“… been talking to Mary over at company XX (they operate across 20 countries like you) currency fluctuations had been eating into their margins. Have you solved this issue as well?”

Examples of misjudging people’s level of awareness and what it teaches us

Example 1: complaints galore

From the screenshot above, Daniel Peretz complains about getting irrelevant pitches from website developers when he’s using the simple one-page site builder Carrd.

If you look closer, you’ll notice that it’s because he feels he’s in the most aware level, but the sellers pitching him don’t tailor their targeting to that. Daniel knows what’s available in the market and has chosen a simple solution that he feels doesn’t need developers.

This tells us ‌we need to factor in awareness levels when building our lists as well and pre-empt objections common amongst people in that awareness stage.

Example 2

In this one, Patrick Spielmann receives a pitch that assumes he’s problem aware (of the benefits of outsourcing back-end IT support) and it makes him see the email as irrelevant. How often do you do this too?

Instead, restructure your sales messaging to fish out your prospect’s stage of awareness or if you know it already, acknowledge this in the copy and shift to educating them about the problem at an angle that they may not be aware of.

For example: “… noticed you’re using Carrd to run your website, {{then educate them on why they’d benefit from considering building a more complex website }}.”


The less you know about your prospects’ stage of awareness, and you talk about your product instead of asking questions, the bigger the risk of annoying them to high heaven. But if you find out as much as possible about their awareness while building your list, the more direct you can be in your messaging.

Sharing is caring... well... sort of ;)

Gabriel Onyango
Gabriel Onyango
[email protected]

About Me

A writer, in a marketer's skin, wearing a cold emailer's floppy socks. The unorthodox combination of these is what you've probably experienced in this blog. Freelance cold email manager; open to working with teams on cold email campaigns, copy, ICP research (snooping()and custom list building. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Copyright © 2023 Outbound Fintech.