Being clear about the shifts you need to make to get people to buy or use your service

When trying to get users for your service it’s helpful to outline the stages of interest people go through. And what strategies you might want to use to meet their needs.

This applies whether you’re selling a thing. Creating a health service. Or building a service the user must legally complete under certain conditions.

I use a quick framework to help guide me. To help myself and my team be clear about the shifts we need to make.

Thinking about how users start your service, or buy your product, you’ll find the following stages:

User stages of interest
Type Interest level Example
Actively looking for a/the service to meet a need Proactive interest Someone looking for new shoes, person looking for a doctors phone number etc.
Open to a/the service to meet a need Inactive interest Someone who knows they need new shoes but feeling busy or not looking right now, Someone who knows they need to do something about a health issue but not sure what or if something exists so do nothing
Not thinking about a/the service to meet a need Inactive disinterest Someone who think their shoes are fine and not thinking about them, Someone who thinks the health problem is just age or something that’ll be fine in time
Don’t think a/the service would meet their need Proactive disinterest Someone who is thinking / conscious of new shoes or alternatives but doesn’t want them, Someone who knows a new model of car exists but doesn’t want it, Someone who thinks a health service would be a waste of time for them

Successfully selling things is about making it as easy as possible for those actively looking. Or to stand out as the best option for those people. And then trying to shift the inactive people into some activity.

For those with inactive interest, it’s about showing the possibility of your product to improve things. To answer their need. That it is possible to do THAT thing. Or solve THAT issue.

For those with inactive disinterest, it’s about getting them to pay attention and answer a question. Are you sure this isn’t for you? Don’t you need this?

For proactive disinterest. That can sound like a terrible place. But you’ve got people’s notice. Maybe your service isn’t for them. But it’s a chance to do something. It’s harder to shift their perceptions because they come with some. But understanding those people means you can tailor your service to respond to what they currently think your service lacks.

Artwork. Many people in blue. Searching looking for things. Looking for all the people and places amongst mountains of sticky notes - By Andrew Duckworth
“Ask yourself. Do we need to reach people or convert those we’ve reached?”

There’s nothing harder for services than the unengaged. The people we find hard to reach. To influence.

For many urgent and emergency health services you find a lot of proactive disinterest. That is. People who very consciously don’t think a service will meet their needs. Many examples in health are because they don’t want to go to hospital. So they’ll look for other services to meet their need if possible. Or try and do nothing at all.

In South East London, a team I worked with found that to be true of a lot of their patients for their “virtual ward” offer. They had a lot of patients who were in a thin line between seriously ill enough for hospital care, but safe enough and insistent enough that they didn’t want hospital. Traditionally the patient would be cajoled into hospital. Or worse left at risk in the community or with family. But with a “virtual ward” approach they could be given the care they’d expect in hospital. With the access to drugs, diagnostics and consultant care, but in the comfort of their own home.

This service now had something they could offer. To nudge those with proactive disinterest in going to getting the care from hospital. Something in the middle. And once care started. If things were really unsafe at homes a relationship had started. And patients were much more willing to talk their options through.

But not everything has to be as involved as reinventing your service. Sometimes it’s the slow drip work of making obvious that “people like you become their best self with THIS”. Getting your main proposition out there. And if that doesn’t work, working out from the actively disinterested what it is that your service is lacking. Be it clarity or specific things you can offer.

People who are actively looking or considering things also have different modes or ways they search for information too. There’s an interesting model here by Donna Spencer about those seeking modes.

If you’re mapping out how your service or product works. Make sure to visualise the routes to using your service from these states. How are you helping shift people to meet their needs using your service? What are your tactics?

Using a 2by2 grid can be useful. Use it to write in the tactics or solutions you have for shifting people. Do this as a team.

2 by 2 grid with one side having interest, the other activity with arrows between to highlight where the shifts to be made are

A format like this will make it easier to talk about but also show you where you might be lacking. It can be easy to over optimise for people to buy. But your problem might be that you’re not getting people interested first.

You find this in government a lot. Where most of the work is making the service easy to use. With little work on how we get people to know about the thing in the first place.

Ask yourself. Do we need to reach people or convert those we’ve reached?

It’s also worth noting that the time people spend in these phases isn’t equal. The length of time someone will stomach actively looking but finding nothing is not long. And differs on the level of importance to them. People will rarely stay active for long. So you have to be quick there to get the sale or convert a disbeliever.

People also get things wrong. And a potential user whose tried something and failed will very quickly think your service can’t exist. Or is a load of rubbish.

And you may have very different users or types of people either starting or referring people to your service.

But whether you’re trying to sell something, offering a health or government service, make sure to understand the phases your potential users go through. And map out how well your service meets those phases. And the things you could change to shift people to meet their needs using your product or service.

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