How to convert strangers into customers using the AIDA model

Over the years, the internet has changed the way consumers shop. The ability to find and compare a number of options in just a few minutes means that brands are having to work harder to compete.

The power is now in the consumer’s hands and your brand has to strike a real chord with them before they’ll consider buying. This is something that a number of businesses are failing to grasp when their ads don’t convert. They will invest time and effort into Facebook or Google ads, for example, and dismiss them as ineffective when they have no sales.

What’s key to understand here is it’s not the ads that are ineffective, it’s the strategy behind them. Nowadays, few people make snap purchases and impulse buys online. They need to be nurtured and shown why a certain product or service is going to benefit them.

So, how do you do this? One of the most popular and effective tools used by marketers for generations is the AIDA Model. Introduced by pioneering American businessman, E. St. Elmo Lewis, in the late 19th Century, AIDA stands for ‘Attention’, ‘Interest’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Action.’ It is an advertising effect model and covers the four stages a consumer or stranger needs to go through before converting to a paying customer.

Although this model was introduced over 100 years ago, its principles still ring true in the digital world. Here’s a breakdown of each stage and how you can apply this to your marketing strategy.


How do you currently attract attention? With the number of digital channels we now have at our fingertips, it may appear that this is increasingly easy to do. However, it’s important to remember that every single one of your competitors is actively vying for the attention of your ideal customer. Standing out online is, therefore, no mean feat.

Although gimmicks may seem fun and eye-catching at the time, they aren’t necessarily going to convert the strangers you reach into paying customers. To help, here’s 5 ways you can capture your target market’s attention online:

Find and use brand ambassadors

Influencer marketing is now a core part of many a brand’s marketing strategy. It’s now more accessible than ever to have an authoritative individual endorse your products or services. This no longer needs to be a global superstar. In fact, over 80% of women use social media as a port of call for tips and advice before buying and 60% of teenage YouYube subscribers relate more to influencer opinions than celebrities.

By seeking out relevant influencers, you’ll actively build awareness of your product amongst your target market.

Target those most likely to share your message

When you create a video or article to generate brand awareness, be sure to target people most likely to share or interact with your content. For example, if your video answers a common issue mums face, target them. They are far more likely to engage and share with fellow mums who struggle with the same thing. This will not only catch your target market’s attention but also help to endorse your brand. Facebook’s personalised audience feature is a great place to start.

Solve a common problem

Ever felt like an advert is speaking directly to you? It catches your attention, doesn’t it? By solving common (or not so common) problems, depending on how niche your business is, you will be sure to at least raise awareness of your brand. People like to be helped and if you can demonstrate your ability to do this quickly and effectively, you will capture the attention of those most likely to need your product or service.

Use urgency

This is one of the oldest rules in the book when it comes to marketing. Urgency stimulates action. As humans, we don’t like to miss out on a good opportunity, hence why sales work so well. Offer something for a limited time only like a time-sensitive offer or freebie. This gives your potential customers the impetus they need to act.

Use emotion

Whether you make people laugh, cry or feel hungry, you’re inciting an emotion. This is a proven attention-grabbing marketing tactic which is sure to attract engagement. According to Harvard professor, Thales Teixeira, viewers are most likely to continue watching a video if they experience emotional highs and lows. He likens this to a child receiving small segments of a chocolate bar. This way the child experiences continual feelings of joy rather than experiencing it once with a full bar.


Once you have your ideal customer’s interest, it’s time to tell them more. This is where you elaborate on the benefits of your product or service and how it will help them. It’s important, at this stage, that you don’t bombard them with useless information. Much like the attention stage of the AIDA model, you only have a limited amount of time to do this before you lose prospects.

The easiest place to start with this is your website. Make sure your home page, company ethos and mission statement are all up-to-date. Keep them succinct and ensure that you get straight to the point. Think about the person that lands on your site - what do they want to see? What’s going to hook them in further?

A great tool when generating further interest is the good old case study. This will help to demonstrate how you have helped people or businesses exactly like them. It’s relatable and will help them to understand how they too can benefit from what you offer.

The key things to convey at this point are your unique benefits and value proposition. What sets you apart from the competitor a few doors down? Give them a reason to talk to their friends about what you do.


After attention and interest comes desire. This is when you hit an individual's sweet spot and start converting them into a customer. Desire is something that fancy ad copy or visuals can’t create alone. This is something that consumers already have within them and it’s about getting them to channel that desire towards your product or service.

A great way of really getting inside your customer’s mind to incite that all-important desire is creating customer personas. Who is the ideal type of person you are trying to talk to?

For example, a young female professional who is on the hunt for a stylish laptop bag. She’s doing her research and has seen a few options. The desire for this product is already there and she’s preparing herself to make a purchase. So, for a business offering laptop bags, it’s all about speaking to her in a way that the competition doesn’t. Answering her problems and offering a clear solution - in that laptop bag.

Apple is a master of inciting desire. They don’t just sell products, they sell a lifestyle. Their marketing tells a story about the people who use iPhones, iMacs and the like. As a highly desirable lifestyle, people buy into that story and so the cycle of desire continues.

So, in summary, the best ways to incite desire are:

To continue to nurture this feeling of desire, continue to offer engaging and informative content. Blogs, videos and images will help to grow that affinity people feel for your brand.

How to convert strangers into customers using the AIDA model

Take the global hotel chain Marriott for example. The brand’s namesake blog, The Marriott Traveller, offers insightful travel hints, tips and tricks to its target market. Recent blogs include:

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Not only do these blogs offer original insights into new places, they also strike up that feeling of desire for readers. They are helpful and set the Marriott brand apart as a thought leader in the travel industry.

Think about the type of content that’s going to spark that feeling of desire amongst your audience. Helpful tips, industry insights, funny blogs - whatever fits your brand and tone of voice. This will nurture the people’s who attention you already have, helping to persuade them to take the next all important step.


When your target customer has been convinced that your product is for them, it’s essential that you make the customer journey as simple and slick as possible. This is where a number of businesses fall short. They hook people in but fail to convert them as their purchase stage is unclear.

So, firstly, start with your call to action. This has to be clear and easy for people to navigate to. Popular, effective CTAs include terms like ‘buy now’, ‘get offer’ and ‘free trial.’ Simple, yet effective, people are easily and effectively led to the action step.

Don’t leave it up to people to work out this stage for themselves. If you don’t put your call to action right in front of them, chances are, they won’t go looking for it.

How to convert strangers into customers using the AIDA model

Once they act on your call to action, whether that’s clicking through to buy a product on your site or calling your sales team it has to be as easy as possible. You want to make the buying process slick and give them no reason to click off your site through frustration.

Think about it, have you ever clicked through to buy an item only to be taken to several different pages, options, buying routes and delivery services. You lose interest, right? When people are making a purchase, whether that’s on or offline, any obstacles they have to overcome reduce the likelihood of them buying.

Amazon has mastered this with the 1-click purchase option. When users are signed in and click ‘buy now’ their order is placed, payment method is charged and order is shipped to the associated address. Thanks to this swift process, Amazon limit the number of people that will leave their computer to search for their wallet, get distracted and fail to make a purchase.

You may not be set up for this type of swift 1-click process but think about how you can limit the steps it takes to buy your product or service.

A real-life example

Compare the Market

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How to convert strangers into customers using the AIDA model

Image courtesy of the Telegraph[/caption]


If you live in the UK and own a TV, you’re probably acquainted with the comparison websites meerkat mascots: Sergei, Oleg, Aleksandr. What started as a play on words has become one of the most successful marketing campaigns of recent years. Using humour and wit, the brand captures the attention of potential customers through entertaining TV ads.


The brand makes it clear in ads what they do and the benefits of using their free online service. Offering fast, tailored, free quotes, the company makes it easy for consumers to search for products and services online.


Compare the market uses effective social media and content marketing to nurture potential customers. Articles on energy saving tips, health and money all help to incite desire and convince potential customers to take further actions with the brand.


‘Meerkat Movies’, ‘Meerkat Meals’ and free ‘Meerkat toys’ offer clear incentives for people to purchase. In fact, people have been known to use this site to buy cheap holiday insurance they don’t need just to qualify for the ‘Meerkat Movies.’ Now if that’s not an incentive to take action, what is?

To sum up

The principle of AIDA is that strangers need to be nurtured before they become customers. Whilst quick wins can happen, AIDA helps you to create a loyal, engaged customer base. In the crowded world we live in, brands have to work harder to attract customers.

With platforms such as Facebook and Google Ads, advertising has become a lot more accessible. Big brands no longer dominate with billboards and TV ads, as even the small sole trader can compete with effective online ads. What this means, however, is that competition is hotter than it’s ever been.

By applying the AIDA model to your digital marketing, you’ll form a much tighter relationship with people who are more likely to take action. Businesses can shout as loud as they want online but if they aren’t taking the necessary steps to prove to consumers why they offer the best solution, they won’t drive sales.