What Does the Sales Acronym AIDA Mean?

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AIDA is an acronym developed in 1898 by advertising pioneer E. St. Elmo Lewis. It describes the steps that a prospective customer goes through before deciding to buy a product or service. The acronym stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. The AIDA model is widely used in marketing and advertising to describe the steps or stages that occur from the very first moment a consumer is aware of a product or brand to the actual moment the purchase is made.

Why the AIDA Model Is Important in Advertising

Given that many consumers become aware of brands through advertising or marketing communications, the AIDA model helps to explain how an advertising or marketing communications message engages and involves consumers in brand choices. In essence, the AIDA model proposes that advertising messages need to accomplish a number of tasks in order to move the consumer through a series of sequential steps from brand awareness through to action (i.e., purchase and consumption). The AIDA model is one of the longest serving models used in advertising in large part because while the world of advertising has changed, human nature hasn't. 

Attention

The first stage of the buying process is making the consumer aware of the product. A salesperson's job is to catch the prospect's attention well enough so that they can keep the prospect engaged long enough to whet their interest.

Some versions of AIDA refer to the first stage as "Awareness," meaning that the prospect becomes aware of options. This is the stage you'll find most prospects involved in if you cold call them.

Interest

To bump prospects up to the second stage, you must develop the potential buyer's Interest in the product or service.

This is usually where benefit phrases come heavily into play. Many marketers successfully use storytelling in their direct mail approaches in order to get their prospects interested. If you can raise enough interest then usually you can get the prospect to commit to an appointment, at which time you can move the prospect further along in the sales process.

Desire

In the third stage of AIDA, prospects realize that the product or service is a good fit and will help them in some way. Salespeople can bring prospects to this point by going from general benefits to specific benefits. Often this includes using information culled during the earlier stages which allow you to fine-tune the sales pitch. Keep in mind that there are different levels of desire. If a prospect just feels a mild need for a product (or perceives it as a want rather than a need) he or she may decide not to buy right away, if at all.

Action

The fourth and last stage of AIDA occurs when the prospect decides to take the action necessary to become a customer. If you carried the prospect through the first three stages (and responded appropriately to any objections), this stage often occurs naturally. If not, you may need to prompt a prospect to act by using closing techniques.