Four stages of competence marketing model: Unconscious incompetence / conscious competence

By Matt Cornock

The ‘Four Stages of Competence’, ‘Conscious Competence’ or ‘Competency’ model traditionally applies to learning, training, self-development, organisational learning and change management. It is a skills model (see here for details), designed to move people around the matrix from unconscious incompetence, anticlockwise to unconscious competence. However, I’d like to apply a similar concept to the web marketing world: what are the best ways of coping with different levels of competence and conscious?

In the marketing model of competence and conscious, all roads lead to conscious competence: the customer or service user knows what they need and how to get hold of it. The strongest challenge occurs when a customer does not know what they need and does not know how to get hold of it.

  Competence Incompetence
Conscious User knows they need something and they know how to get hold of it. User knows they need something, but does not know how to get hold of it.
Unconscious User does not know that they need something, but they would know how to get hold of it. User does not know that they need something, and does not know how to get hold of it.

 I’ve put some examples of the tools you could use in each of these four cases to promote your product or service:

  Competence Incompetence

Clear, user friendly website design
Good search engine presence for brand name and direct competitors

Search engine optimisation for similar terms, associated keywords, targeting indirect competition
Unconscious Blogs, social networking (facebook links), viral campaigns, You Tube

Offline marketing
Word of mouth
Google Adwords (or similar)
Articles, subtle promotion

The use of conscious competence to model Web 2.0 marketing is not perfect, but I think does help work out how to map different tools to either open up to new markets or keep existing ones. Search engines are ok as long as the potential customer knows what they are looking for, if not where it is located. Blogs and viral campaigns are great for making people aware of new ideas and new services which they might not know about. Then the shouty advert style marketing would be best suited for those without any clue at all.

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