See, Think, Do: Marketing to People Who Aren't Ready to Buy

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When I first started marketing, I made what’s probably a very common beginner’s mistake: I tried to get everyone to make a purchase.
Once a visitor was on my site, everything was geared toward getting them to hit “buy now.” Anything else was an unnecessary distraction from what I wanted them to do, right? I thought that, outside of increasing traffic, the key to increasing sales was to continually optimize my copy and checkout process. What I found was that my conversion rate plateaued. I couldn’t make my copy significantly better and the ordering process could only be so streamlined.
After yet another failed test, something finally clicked. I realized I was focused on the wrong problem. The color of my buttons or the phrasing of my copy weren’t the key to getting more customers. Some people weren’t going to purchase no matter what because they weren’t ready to purchase. The problem was simply a matter of timing. They might be interested later, but they aren’t right now for whatever reason. Rather than having them bounce off my site and lose them forever, it would be better to capture their contact information and nurture my relationship with them until they are ready to purchase.
Avinash Kaushik created a framework around this idea called See-Think-Do. The idea is that prospective customers are in one of three phases:

  1. See – These are people who are in your target market, but don’t yet have a need for your solution because they aren’t struggling with the problem it solves yet.
  2. Think – These are people that have realized they need your solution but aren’t trying to make a purchase at the moment.
  3. Do – These are people actively looking for a solution to purchase. They are researching options and will make a purchase soon.

Let’s say your company offers payroll services. Your target market is small businesses with over 10 employees.
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Your customer enters the See stage when they start their business. They may stay in this stage for a while because they can probably handle their own payroll when they only have a few employees.

As their company grows, doing payroll every other week becomes more and more painful and frustrating. They start thinking about outsourcing their payroll. Now they’re in the Think stage.

Eventually, they make a mistake or waste time and now they’re actively researching options. They have their wallet out, they’re just looking for the right solution. Now they’re in the Do stage.

Your content, email campaigns, and ads should vary depending on which of these stages a lead is in.
When I was focused on getting everyone to purchase, I was only connecting with people in the Do stage. I was completely ignoring people in the See and Think stages so I was missing out on all the people who just needed more time before making a purchase — a tremendous amount of leads and customers.
The key to successful lifecycle marketing is to have something to offer people in each of these stages and gear your marketing and advertising messages to speak to where people fall. When your marketing aligns with where they are in the buying process, you’re able to appeal to them. They might not immediately make a purchase, but if you nurture the relationship you’ll become their go-to solution when they’re ready.


In the payroll services example, they may offer a video, “The 10 qualities of successful small business owners” for people at the See stage. Something like this would interest anyone in their target market.
For people in the Think stage, they might offer an whitepaper or series of blog posts, “10 reasons small business owners shouldn’t handle their own payroll.” This would catch the attention of someone who is starting to struggle with their payroll.
For people in the Do stage you might create keyword rich articles targeting phrases people use while researching solutions like yours. The payroll company might create articles like “5 things to do before you outsource your payroll” or “How to pick the right payroll service for your company.”
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An ad for someone in the See stage wouldn’t advertise the solution itself. Remember, people in this stage don’t yet feel the need to purchase a solution like yours so they’re not likely to click on an advertisement for your solution and, even if they did, they’re very unlikely to make a purchase. Instead, you could advertise the See stage content you’ve created. Your goal would be to get them to give you their email address, and perhaps some other data, so that you can nurture the relationship with marketing automation follow up campaigns.
When someone is in the Think stage, your ads would try to heighten their awareness of their need so they might be problem oriented. “How much time are you wasting on payroll?” or “Don’t waste another minute on payroll.” You might send them to a landing page for content at this stage as well, but it would be content for the Think stage. You might include a way for them to learn more about your solution, but you wouldn’t be focused on that.
Your ads for people in the Do stage would be oriented toward someone who is actively shopping around so you might use messages like “See why ACME payroll is the best option for your business” or “Find out what makes ACME the premier small business payroll solution.” People are likely comparing vendors at this point, so positioning your solution as the best solution to their problem is important.

Email campaigns

In the See stage your email campaigns would mostly deliver content. You wouldn’t talk about your company or solution very much but you’d want people to associate your campaigns with your brand. You want to deliver as much value as possible with your campaigns so they learn you’re a quality sender worth paying attention to. You are focused mostly on making a good impression, learning about your contact’s interests, and building trust.
In the Think stage your email messages might start to include some lightweight marketing messages. You might begin to position yourself and differentiate by pointing out what makes you unique. You might include calls to action for resources geared toward someone in the Do stage and you’d use them acting on these calls to action as an indication they’re nearing a purchase decision (entering the Do stage).
In the Do stage you start to introduce calls to action for making a purchase. These calls to action might become more and more aggressive culminating in a discount offer with follow up reminders. These email campaigns might be focused exclusively on this offer so there are as few distractions as possible.
Avinash’s See-Think-Do framework gives you a simple way to begin lifecycle marketing. It might seem like an indirect or roundabout way of acquiring customers, but you’ll see the benefits as you begin capturing more leads. The people who eventually need your solution will see you as the go-to solution when the time comes and everyone else will be aware and educated so they can recommend you to other people.

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