Kotler's 5 A's of Sales Marketing: Definition and Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 30, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing an effective sales strategy often requires consumer research, marketing analytics and a framework that organizes the customer's needs by their place in the sales process. If you're involved in sales or marketing, learning ways to map your potential customers' purchase journey can help you improve your promotional and service strategies, which might lead to greater profit and higher customer retention rates. One method of mapping the customer sales cycle is by using Kotler's five A's. In this article, we define Kotler's five A's framework, explain each stage in the process and provide tips for using this system.

Related: Stages of a Sales Funnel

What are Kotler's 5 A's?

Kotler's five A's of the customer path is a framework that uses five stages to map a customer's journey through the sales process. Named by Dr. Philip Kotler, the five stages (Awareness, Appeal, Ask, Act and Advocacy) allow marketing and sales professionals to create a map of the customer's needs and priorities during the different parts of their purchase process. This map can help them design practices that make the customer's purchasing process smoother and more satisfying.

While many customers might go through all five stages, some might skip certain stages, depending on the length and depth of their sales purchase. For example, a retail customer might not go through all five stages to decide what grocery store to shop from, since everyday purchases often happen quickly and may not require an emotional investment from the customer. Customers are more likely to go through all five stages when they make a significant purchase, like a car or refrigerator, or when they buy a long-lasting service, like tutoring or lawn care.

Stages of Kotler's 5 A's of the customer path

Here are details about the steps in Kotler's customer path cycle:

Aware

The first stage of the customer path is Aware, which is when a potential customer learns about a company. Typically, customers first notice the company through paid advertising or social media posts, though they might also learn about the company through a personal referral from a current or past customer. At this stage, the potential customer might not be ready to make a purchase, but they are interested in the product or service that the company offers.

For example, a parent with a student in middle school might begin to learn about tutoring companies in their area, in case their student needs math help later in the year. They might visit websites or social media feeds, read articles that list local tutoring companies or ask their friends and family for recommendations. If a local tutoring company sends direct mail or sponsors school events, the parents might learn about the company that way.

Appeal

In this stage, the potential customer understands what a brand or company offers and finds that company interesting. If the company's marketing or website appeals to the buyer, then the company might earn a spot on their list of potential vendors. In this period, they might look at the company's website to learn about the company's different solutions, read testimonials and search for promotional sales or other bargains. For example, a potential customer who wants to buy a new car might search an automobile dealership's online inventory to find out what makes and models are available from that dealer.

Depending on the industry, potential customers might also take part in free activities from the company, like webinars or promotional events. The parent of the middle-school student might attend free study skills webinars from the tutoring company, where they might gain resources and insights from experts at the company. These activities might help the potential customer form a positive opinion of the company.

Ask

Next, a potential customer might investigate the company's products and services so they can compare it to the other options they're considering. They might contact a sales representative via phone or email or engage with a chat function on the company's website. During this phase, the potential customer is interested in the specific features and benefits of the solution they've contacted the company to discuss. For example, a parent searching for math help might ask the tutoring company's sales representative about their tutors' qualifications, the structure of class sessions and any success guarantees the company might offer.

Potential customers might also use third-party resources to evaluate the company and its services. They might read reviews on consumer action group webpages or start a poll in a relevant social media group. For example, a pet owner looking for a boarding facility in a new city might join a social network group for dog owners in their city and ask questions about several local facilities. The goal is to find information about their options and narrow their list until they find their ideal choice.

Act

In the Act stage, the potential customer makes a purchase from the company. This purchase might be a single transaction for a product or a subscription model, where they pay a fee for a service they use multiple times. If the potential customer has spoken to a sales representative, they might conduct the sale over the phone with the representative. Other potential customers prefer to make online purchases, even if they've had conversations with a sales representative. Once they make their purchase, they become customers of the company and receive their product or service.

Advocate

In this final stage, the customer becomes an advocate for the company because of their purchasing experience. They might recommend the company to friends and family, share posts from the company on social media and submit testimonials or user reviews for the product or service. Depending on the product or service they bought, the customer might make additional purchases or upgrade their service with the company. For example, a customer who bought a basic lawn care service from a landscaping company might find the service so satisfying that they upgrade to a premium package.

Tips for using Kotler's 5 A's in marketing and sales

Here are some strategies that can help you use Kotler's five A's effectively in your sales and marketing processes:

Track metrics for each stage

One benefit of this framework is that it puts potential and current customers into clear categories, which means you can analyze the success of employees and sales processes in each stage. For example, you can measure the conversion rate between potential customers in the ask and act stages, which can tell you how effectively the sales team closes deals. You might also track the amount of time a potential customer spends in each stage of the process, which might affect the likelihood of a purchase.

Many customer relationship management (CRM) software platforms allow you to customize labels for sales leads, which can help you track metrics automatically. If you're involved in sales or marketing management, you might use a CRM to create charts and reports that analyze the metrics in each stage of the funnel. These reports can help you locate areas for improvement in the sales process.

Related: A Guide to Sales Metrics: Definition and Why They Matter

Focus on individual stages for improvement

Marketing and sales managers who track the metrics for each stage of the customer path might use that information to develop improvement plans. They might select one stage of the customer path to improve in a month or quarter. Focusing on a single stage can allow them to measure the effect of new processes accurately and identify the most successful techniques. It can also make the improvement process easier for employees by giving them a few new processes to focus on at a time.

For example, you might manage a project to encourage customers in the action segment to become advocates for the company. The project might test the effectiveness of a new loyalty program for customers that includes referral bonuses or discounts. By measuring the increase in new referrals in the next sales cycle, you can determine how successful the loyalty program has been. Making gradual changes to each stage in the sales cycle can help companies optimize the entire process for their customers.

Related: How To Create a Loyalty Program in 5 Steps

Customize messaging for different segments

Email marketing is a key part of the sales development process in many industries, and you can use Kotler's five A's framework to customize email messaging for potential and current customers based on their location in the path. Using a CRM, you can label leads by their stage and send emails with unique messages to each stage. Customizing email messages can make a marketing campaign more effective by targeting the needs of specific populations.

For example, a tutoring company's marketing team might send an email highlighting their tutors' qualifications and guarantees to potential customers in the Appeal stage. This information might be particularly interesting to people in that stage because it might help them compare different companies and come to a decision. For customers in the Advocate stage, the company's marketing team might send information about continuing education programs, family discounts or referral bonuses. By emphasizing the information that people in each stage might value most, the marketing team can increase the percentage of people who open and read their emails.

Related: 13 Email Marketing Tips To Boost Your Strategy

Work with other departments

While the sales, marketing and business development departments might use the Kotler framework in their daily work, other departments might influence the customer in different stages. To improve customer experience in each stage, teams might work together. For example, the landing pages and web resources that the company's software development team creates might have a significant impact on potential customers in the Aware stage. To increase the conversion rate from Aware to Appeal, the marketing team might work with the development team to create lead captures or other digital tools to help potential customers interact with the company.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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