Local Business Marketing Stack – Step 1

Do They Know About You?


‘DO THEY KNOW ABOUT YOU’ is the first step of the local business marketing stack. In other words, do they even know you exist? This step is most often referred to as awareness. You know you are talking about this step when you hear discussions like ‘we need to grow our awareness’ or ‘we need to increase our visibility’. These terms, and others like them, are all indicators of getting your prospective clients to know about you.

This over simplified understanding of awareness costs small businesses hundreds of millions in lost marketing dollars every year. Awareness (visibility, recognition or whatever term you use)  really has two components that have little to do with your business and the product/services you provide. Understanding them is fundamental to successful marketing campaigns.


Before your prospective clients can become aware that you exist, they first need to recognize that they have a problem that they need to solve. No problem? Then no solution needed. Prospects may realize on their own that they have a certain problem like – my car broke down and I need to call a tow truck. They may not realize that they have a problem like – my dryer vent could be full of lint and may cause a house fire.

In the first example, the prospective client knows they have a problem and probably would like to solve it by getting their car towed to a mechanic to get it fixed. In the second example, the prospective client needs to be made aware that they even have a problem AND then decide if they want to solve it. In both cases, the business delivering those services would take two very different approaches in making the client aware that the business can solve their problem.


In other words, the prospective client must WANT to solve their problem. They may not care that their car is broken down if it is in their driveway or that their dryer vent is full of lint. They must want to solve their problem and actively looking for a solution. Is the problem really a problem if the client isn’t looking for a solution? Probably not.

Awareness then, begins with your prospective clients recognizing they have a problem and then actively searching for a solution to their problem. To the local business who wants their prospective clients to know that they exist, any marketing investment dollars spent on awareness with prospects who DO NOT meet these conditions, are WASTED.

This reminds me of a well known sales parable of an old farm dog, who is laying on the porch of his master’s home. He is quietly laying there trying to have a well deserved nap in the warm mid-day sun while he waits for his master to get home from the fields. This old dog is unable to get a comfortable nap because he is laying on a nail that is sticking up from the floorboards of the porch. The old dog lays there uncomfortably while the nail continues to stick in to his hind quarters though he refuses to pick himself up and move over off the nail to get his refreshing nap. He just continues to lie there, uncomfortably.

Your answers to who fits in the above requirements will guide how you make those prospective clients know about you and your products or services. More on that as you READ ON.


To understand where this step of the marketing stack fits in with your business, we need a basic understanding of the buying decision process. There are thousands of books and many more thousands of papers and studies written on the subject so I will keep to tHe most basic model for the purpose of our discussion.

The buying decision starts with Need Recognition which should be very clear from the discussion above. Recognizing they have a problem and wanting to solve that problem are both included in the first step of the buying decision. For example; The mother in a family of 4 realizes that her dryer vent is full of lint and does not want to put her household at risk if it was to start a fire.

The Search for Information means exactly what it says. The prospect is actively looking for a solution to their problem. They are willing to consider many direct solutions and substitutes for all alternatives. Our mother will likely begin with a Google or YouTube search to find out how she can remove the dryer lint. She may even call family and friends to learn from their experience and get possible recommendations of who she can call.  

Then the buying decision carries on into Evaluation of Alternatives. The buyer will consider all the information he or she has gathered and weigh all the benefits and drawbacks of each. The more complicated the decision, the higher the risk of a poor decision or the greater the investment required for the solution, the longer this stage will take. The responsible mother of 2 considers using her vacuum cleaner to remove the lint herself and also considers calling 1 of 3 HVAC companies to do the work for her.

The Purchase Decision is next. The buyer has as much information as they feel they need to choose the solution they want to pursue to solve their problem. This decision will be based on emotional reasons and validated with logical reasons. Our caring mother carefully weighs all of her options and the information she has in front of her and decides to hire an HVAC company that comes highly recommended by one of her colleagues at work. She thinks she can probably get all of the lint with her vacuum but fears she may not be able to clear the vent completely and even a small risk of fire is far too great a price. 

Buyers will move one step past the decision into Post-Purchase Evaluation. This stage begins immediately after a decision is made, even before the solution is delivered. The buyer will likely begin to second guess their decision regardless of how much information they have collected and how thoroughly they reviewed their choices. The evaluation continues until after the solution has been delivered. The buyer will feel a range of emotions across the whole spectrum; from anxiety to euphoria. The range depends on the risk involved in the purchase decision. This is where the term ‘buyer’s remorse’ would fit. Our mother continues to worry if she chose the right company from the moment she called them. Thankfully the HVAC company has a great customer service line that she has called many times to ask questions and they sent a very understanding technician that made her feel at ease. After the technician took the time to complete a follow up visit a week later, this working mom of 3 feels safe and secure that she is protecting her family.


The ‘Do they know about you’ piece of the local business marketing stack includes Step 1 – Need Recognition AND Step 2 – Search for Information of the buying decision process. The need recognition requires that your prospective customer recognize that they have a problem, a desire to solve that problem and actively looking for a solution.

Awareness (solution>product/service>brand) begins with helping clients recognize and define their problem. Many potential buyers do not know how to explain their problem but just know that something isn’t right while others may not recognize that they have a problem at all. They will need to be coached on how to recognize their need so that they can begin the next step. This part of the marketing stack puts you in the position of authority. Helping your prospective clients figure out their true need gives you an unfair advantage through the remain steps of the buying process. The more value you can provide to prospective clients early in the process, the bigger your advantage will be.

Awareness, recognition, reach or [INSERT YOUR DESCRIPTIVE HERE] is also educating your your prospective clients that you are a viable solution as they begin their search for information. FINALLY! I can almost hear you scream that. This is how most marketers and businesses discuss awareness. Making sure that your potential client knows that you exist. And yes, it is definitely part of it. It isn’t the only part. Does knowing that Coke or Pepsi exist make you aware? Partially of course. However, if you don’t feel that you recognize you have a problem that can be solved by drinking Coke or Pepsi, any marketing investment targeted to ‘awareness’ would be wasted.

So what do Coke and Pepsi do to market for the need recognition requirement of awareness? They focus on different types of messaging. They use words like ‘refreshing’ to help people recognize that they may be thirsty. ‘Youth’ and ‘Happiness’ are the themes they use to help people recognize that they may want to feel young or be happy. They deliver high frequency messaging across multiple channels (more on this coming up) to create as many touch points and impressions as possible.

The ‘Do they know about you’ component of the marketing stack extends far beyond just getting your company name in front of a prospective client. It requires that they recognize they have a problem, want to solve it and actively looking for a solution.

The next question is, what types of potential clients would provide the highest ROMO (Return On Marketing Objectives) for this component of the marketing stack?



Moving from the philosophical and theoretical to the tactical. One of the big problems solved by the marketing stack is grouping potential clients into buckets. One of the biggest ways to waste your marketing investment dollars is to execute the same marketing strategy for all potential clients regardless of what stage in the buying process they are at.


Imagine a local crafting supplies business who initiates a Facebook conversion campaign that targets women, 30+, in their city who like Oprah Winfrey. Is it reasonable to assume that everyone of those people who view that advertisement in their feed is in the Evaluation of Alternatives stage of their buying decision?

The answer is no.

This type of ad campaign that presents an offer is more suited to when a person is evaluating alternatives or ready to make a purchase decision. The wasted ad spend comes when some of those who see the ad don’t need any crafting supplies at the moment or aren’t shopping for craft supplies.

Giving an offer to someone who isn’t even looking is like asking to get married on the first date.


Implementing the marketing stack gives you an unfair advantage. is it helps you put different potential clients into the right buckets. Simply put, you wouldn’t market to a prospective client who has never heard of you or your business the same way you would market to returning clients.


Marketing to clients who are in the ‘Do They Know About You’ bucket of the marketing stack is not as straightforward as you might think. Awareness suggests that your marketing needs to reach people who aren’t aware that you exist, it also includes that your potential client needs awareness that they have a problem they want to solve AND that you are able to solve it.


Ad spend is the most obvious strategy to introduce new clients to your business as a solution to their problem. It is also the most well known… and poorly executed. The challenge facing you if you choose advertising as your medium is that advertising is high on the control spectrum but low on the credibility spectrum.

Media and messaging is measured on the X-Curve of Control and Credibility. Advertising is High on the the control because you can pay for exact placement and control the message.  Advertising is very low on credibility because it’s you talking about you.

Advertising to inform potential clients that you exist must be carefully crafted and placed. The mistake most businesses, marketers, agencies and pretty much the known world is that they invest good money into advertising campaigns where there is a mismatch between the message and the targeted audience. In other words, they’re delivering a marriage proposal on the first date. The mistake is advertising an offer when the potential client either doesn’t know they have a problem, doesn’t know that they exist, doesn’t know that they can solve the problem or all three.

Advertising to potential clients in this first bucket in the Marketing Stack can only be effective when the right targeting is matched with the right messaging. Digital channels (email, mobile ads, search ads, display ads and social ads) or conventional channels (print, radio, TV, direct mail) can all be effective provided that the the goal is to educate the potential client about the problem and the call to action is to actively seek a solution.

Media Relations & PR

Media Relations & PR (public relations) is often overlooked and misunderstood by most small to medium sized businesses. This channel is the opposite of advertising on the X-Curve; Control of media and PR is low while credibility is high.

Think of an article written about your business in a popular magazine. Control is ‘seemingly’ low (more on this shortly) because the business owner does not direct an editor or journalist about what to write. The credibility is high because the article is being written by a third party.

Back to control for a moment. Control is low because the publication decides what to print. In the hands of a competent and experienced professional, media can be delivered to publications in a format that is usable and fits the goals of the editor. The problem arises when a business owner writes an article that sounds more like a sales pitch than it does an objective article which makes it un-printable. When a professional writes the article on behalf of the business, the story is quite often printed verbatim.

Press releases, guest articles and blogs are effective tools to promote awareness of your business provided the right message is delivered.

There is so much more to learn about the first bucket of the Marketing Stack and we have just scratched the surface here. Do They Know About You requires a deeper understanding of what step your clients are at in the buying process which dictates how you match your channel and message.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this 7-part series. Next up; Can they find you?