How your Business Attracts Customers

Gift shop owner with street sign

As a business owner, it’s critical to understand why customers buy your products or services.

Below is a framework—based on the classic AIDA concept: awareness, interest, desire, and action—to help you think about that process. As you’ll see, we’ve given it a modern update for the digital age.


There are so many ways for customers to become aware of your business—and so many competitors vying for the customer’s attention. Cutting through the noise is your first essential task.

In general, there are 3 ways to grab a customer’s attention: paid, earned, and owned media.

  • Paid media includes traditional advertisements in print, on the radio, and on television. Today, it also includes highly targeted Internet advertising on Google search ads, Facebook ads, etc.
  • Earned media is content you neither own nor pay for. Examples include profiles of your company on platforms like Yelp, as well as articles written about your company by journalists.
  • Owned media is content that your company creates and controls. It may be a company website, a library of whitepapers, or a conference hosted by your company. When customers proactively seek out this content, it brings awareness to your business.

Most modern businesses need some combination of all 3 of these to successfully get the attention of the people they’re trying to reach.

Interest and Desire

Interest and Desire are the stages when the magic of marketing transforms raw awareness into a desire to buy. Interest and Desire spring from quality content in your paid, earned, or owned media. Your business model will determine what ‘content’ and ‘quality’ mean in your case.

For example, if you’re selling ice cream, you might run an ad with a delicious picture of a mouthwatering treat, offer a coupon, and tell people to come on down. If you’re selling high-end consulting services, you may want to be much more subtle, displaying your expertise via thought leadership content such as whitepapers while leaving out an explicit call to action.

You can also think of your sales force as producers of owned content. Orally delivered pitches or well-crafted PowerPoint presentations can translate customer awareness into action. Your storefront is owned content, too.


At this step, your customer has become interested and desirous enough to buy what you’re selling! Congratulations!

Celebrate your success—but don’t rest on your laurels. The customer journey doesn’t end after one purchase. Their next stops could include decisions to buy more, buy less, go to a competitor, or recommend your business to a friend.

The way you serve and interact with your current customers thus becomes another form of owned media. The discussions that your customers may have with friends about your company are another form of earned media. Meanwhile, your other forms of paid, earned, and owned media may continue to influence customers after they buy.

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