Getting noticed

At the turn of this century, 20 odd years ago, a guy called Derrick White published a book ‘Close More Sales’, in it he wrote “AIDA is probably the oldest acronym in marketing. It is the best and will never change.” Apparently, it’s been around since the 1890’s …yes, you read that right the 1890’s.  The turn of the previous century! 

Many references put the creation of the acronym down to a guy called Elias St. Elmo Lewis (what a name!) where AIDA is an acronym for “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action”.  There is also a credit in a 1911 book called ‘Advertising, Selling, and Credits’ by Lee Galloway in which there is a chapter by Ralph Starr Butler which suggests “Mr. A. F. Sheldon was probably the first to point out the presence of these four steps in every sale.” Never heard of Mr Sheldon?  Neither had I; apparently he was the  founder of the Sheldon School of Scientific Salesmanship!

There are a few other contenders for the title of AIDA creator, but we are more interested in the application of the idea than it’s detailed genesis. So the point is, it’s been around for some time, it’s battle hardened and it’s still proving its worth.

The bottom line is it’s no good just having a great product and service, you need to get it out there AND you need to get it noticed … and AIDA is a tool that helps you get others to take action.

Very briefly, the elements of the acronym are as follows:

  1. Attention: The first step is to consider how to grab the attention of buyers.
  2. Interest: Once the buyer is aware that your products and service exist, you must work on increasing the potential customer’s interest level.
  3. Desire: After the buyer has shown interest in your product or service, then your goal is to make the buyer desire it.  This stage is about moving your potential clients mindset from “I like it” to “I want it.”
  4. Action: At the end of the day you want your potential client to buy your stuff.  The goal is to get the buyer to make a purchase.

As a result, think of the AIDA model as a funnel, where Awareness leads to Interest, Interest leads to Desire, Desire leads to Action – The purchase of your product or service.

AIDA Application 

The AIDA model can be applied to a whole range of both new and old media marketing, pretty much anything where marketing and sales “copy” (and conversation) is involved, for instance:

  • Old media – brochures, booklets, pamphlets, case studies, advertorials and trade magazine articles
  • New media – Emails, blogs, websites, webinars, landing pages, LinkedIn pages, Facebook pages, and podcasts

AIDA can be applied to pretty much anything sales and marketing related.

Let us now consider different ways to use the AIDA model by looking into each part of the hierarchy.

First Step: Attention 

One of the biggest problems we find in the owner managed companies is that they often want to be all things to all people.  Most owner managed companies have limited resources and need to focus their efforts and attention.

So, before focusing on attention it may indeed be useful to think about strategy using tools like the Ansoff Matrix and segmentation and critically identifying both your ideal client and particularly their problems, the more you know about their problems, the higher the chance you’ll have of grabbing their attention.

One of the best approaches to adopt is to break existing patterns of behaviour through creative messaging (what’s sometimes called “creative disruption”).   This might include:

  • Placing adverts in unexpected situations or locations.
  • Creating shock through amusing or provocative imagery.
    • Some years ago, in response to an EU directive, we had an ad’  where a businessman was being crushed by a giant brussels sprout… the headline ran “More pressure from Brussels”… well, we thought it was amusing… 
  • Highly targeted messaging.
    • The better you know your niche and its problems the more targeted you can be
    • Use powerful words
  • Headlines like “How effective is your sales process?”  Is much more powerful than “This week webinar on sales”.  Words like; beat, save, learn, avoid, stop, change and increase tend to work well

The goal is to make your buyers aware that your product and service exist.

Second Step: Interest 

Creating interest is often most challenging part. You’ve now got their attention but can you engage with them long enough so that they’ll want to spend precious time understanding your message in more detail. If your products or services are not inherently exciting or interesting (in the B2B space, whose is?) this can be difficult. A lot of this is about the aesthetic; the trick here is to make sure that copy is broken up, easy to read, with lots of interesting subheadings, and where possible, pictures and illustrations.

Third Step: Desire 

The second and third steps (interest and desire) go hand in hand. As interest is building, it’s critical that you help your buyer understand why they “need” your product or service.  What will they get from your offering? What is the impact you’re offering will have? How will your buyers life be easier or better?

The key here is to think about the most important message you want to convey.  You need to begin to tip them over the line by conveying to them why they need you in their life.

Fourth Step: Action 

The last step in the model is getting your buyer to take action, so be very clear about what action you want your reader (potential client) to take.  All activities should end with a call to action –  the thing designed to get an immediate response.

In these instances enticers work well, things like:

  • Free trial
  • For a limited time only
  • Free shipping
  • Money back guarantee

Exactly the sort of thing you see everyday in magazines and on websites.  And if we’re being completely honest, it’s exactly why we do these blogs and why we try very hard to provide additional collateral, giveaways and downloads, sometimes called lead magnets … look at the one below, a template to identify your ideal client. Getting

Putting it all together…Mr Bond 

Clearly most owner managed businesses don’t have the same budget as the latest Bond film which premiered this week, but I do think there are some lessons learned that can be applied and that fit The AIDA model. 

As a result of COVID the Bond launch date has been pushed back three times, but throughout the hiatus the Bond team has been drip feeding us snippets via various mechanisms (trailers released on YouTube, Daniel Craig appearing on radio and chat shows, articles in the press and on the news …each time the delay has occurred!).  All in an attempt to gain our attention, pique our interest, get us to want to see the film and then buy the ticket.

And it’s easy (and cheap) to adopt the same kind of tactics.  You may not have the draw of Mr Craig but you might be going to a conference, presenting at one, delivering a webinar, inducting a new client or simply “just” going on a sales visit.  All of these are worthy of some social media (& AIDA) action at various points of the process.  You can give a countdown to the event via video snippets, Facebook or LinkedIn posts, ad’s In trade magazines, your website and other peoples websites.  Once you are at the event or inducting the client provide a guide to what you’re doing, provide a “mop up” on completion, and then again perhaps a few days or weeks after, where you can shout about the results you’ve got and what you’ve learnt.

AIDA can be applied to each and everyone of these interactions.

Enhancing AIDA 

Some commentators have criticised AIDA for being too simplistic, as an example, it doesn’t consider different possible points of sale. The processess employed may be significantly different depending on the channel employed, it’s going to be different when buying from a website or from an (in person or video) sales meeting.  So there have been a few adaptions to the model, some of which include:

  • AIDCAS (Action, Interest, Desire, Confidence, Action, Satisfaction) model
  • REAN (Reach, Engage, Activate, and Nurture) model
  • NAITDASE (Need, Attention, and Interest; Trust, Design, and Action; Satisfaction and Evaluation) model

But if you’re new to this stuff, I’d stick to the tried and trusted AIDA model first, you can always build more sophistication into the systems later.

How does this fit with my management system? 

The short answer is there is really no direct link to your management system.

The longer answer is that all management systems are asking you to sell ideas to people.  In the case of health and safety and environmental standards you may have to sell the idea of the organisation attempting to improve their current performance in those areas.  Taking this approach AIDA  becomes a potentially significant tool that can be applied.

But in reality AIDA fits more directly into the domain of the quality management systems (ISO 9001) Where it would not be unreasonable to expect to find sales and marketing targets that need to be met.  So, whilst not directly pertinent to environmental management systems (ISO 14001)information security management systems (ISO 27001) and health and safety management systems (ISO 45001) AIDA Could definitely be used with copy that is needed to promote ideas that win hearts and minds.


Using the ADIA model will help to ensure that any kind of copy, or conversation, 

where the overall aim is to ensure the reader does something … is as effective as possible.

Grab their attention, engage their interest, build their desire for the offer and then tell them what action they need to take.  Easy eh?

Done well, AIDA helps drive the urgency necessary to motivate your potential client to take action NOW! And in doing so ramp up your return on marketing investment.

  • Made to Stick – Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • AIDCAS (Action, Interest, Desire, Confidence, Action, Satisfaction) model
  • REAN (Reach, Engage, Activate, and Nurture) model
  • NAITDASE (Need, Attention, and Interest; Trust, Design, and Action; Satisfaction and Evaluation) model

Downloadable resources

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• Better strategies
• Better systems
• Better measurement and 
• Engaged people delivering 
• Better results

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