One of the most valuable lessons we have learned in the past two years is that if the client’s CEO came up through the sales ranks, it’s a lot more challenging to get them to see the work that we do as important to their sales funnel as, well, sales. 

They value sales enablement content (which I don’t consider marketing or communications) and they love the idea of attaching a dollar amount to every, little tactic. But they don’t understand the value of what I’ll call narrative marketing—or using the PESO Model™ to tell stories that drive leads and nurture them to sales.

That’s not to say all executives are that way—it’s a gross generalization, but we have found in much of our client work, those with a sales background are harder to convince there is more to marketing than sales enablement.

Not to be undone by a challenge, though, and constantly looking for ways to evolve the PESO Model, I took this project on as my own to figure out how to get some of our clients to appreciate the work we do, believe the data they were presented, and scale the work we do together because of the results we get.

The PESO Model™ and the Sales Funnel

There are lots of names for sales funnels that you can look at. A few years ago, David Rodewald wrote a guest article for Spin Sucks on how to use the PESO Model for the buyer’s journey. He looked at problem, awareness, research, purchase, and advocacy. That worked pretty well pre-pandemic—and might still work for you, depending on what industry you’re in and how sophisticated the organization is. 

But as we looked to convince a sales-oriented CEO that the PESO Model can tell stories that drive leads that nurture to customers, we had to look at attaching it to the sales funnel most organizations use—at least from a B2B perspective. That looks like awareness, interest, consideration, and action. 

If you looked at that process from the view of the “old” sales funnel, it would be top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, and then sales. But it’s no longer cool to use that simple funnel so we use awareness, interest, consideration, and action instead.

PESO Model: Awareness Activities

Awareness is the top of the funnel (look at me breaking the rules!): it is the activity that drives people to your website. From a PESO Model perspective, that’s typically owned, shared, and earned media. It’s the type of activities that communicators typically do—build awareness. We do this through third-party influencers, current customers, journalists, former customers who are still brand ambassadors, and other stakeholders.

When you are using the PESO Model for the awareness stage, you will create content—blog posts, videos, podcasts or other type of audio, and social media snippets, such as Reels or TikToks. This is the type of content that showcases your culture, your products or services, your team, and your organization, 

Once the content is created, you use shared media to promote it and reach your audiences and earned media to validate it. Paid media doesn’t typically come in at the awareness stage because most people have never heard of you or your organization and your goal here is to give them a little introduction and insight into how you might help them.

Now that you have their attention, it’s time to build their interest. This is what we used to call the middle of the funnel. 

At this point, they’ve read some blog posts, they’ve followed you on social media, maybe they’ve left a comment here or there, and they’ve subscribed to your content. #winning!

PESO Model: Interest Activities

Now it’s time to kick up their interest and motivate them to give you more of their time. This is where they become a marketing qualified lead. They’ve shown the right kind of interest so far, but they’re not quite ready to move on to sales. 

Your goal here is to push them to consideration—where they’re willing to make a decision to buy from you. They’ll spend even more time with your organization at this stage. 

What that means in the PESO Model is that you’re creating longer-form content—webinars, white papers, eBooks, lead nurturing campaigns, improved SEO, resources pages, surveys, and more. It also means that your shared media efforts have higher save, share, and engagement scores, your earned media efforts are being repurposed through social, email, and content, and your paid media efforts are amplifying the work you’ve done to new audiences. 

When they attend webinars, read and share your media stories, download bigger content, and engage further on social media, they’re ready to go to the consideration stage—or the bottom of the funnel, which we don’t talk about anymore. We don’t talk about funnels, no no no. 

PESO Model: Consideration Activities

Now let’s talk about the consideration stage. This is where your leads are very happy with what they’ve seen so far and are ready to move on to consideration. This is also called a sales qualified lead in a B2B organization—they’re ready to talk to sales and have a high likelihood that they’ll become a customer.

At this stage, your PESO Model program is going to help them make that decision. You’ll use influencers and brand ambassadors, journalists and bloggers, and customers to tell your story for you. Segmentation is key here because you want to nurture the leads with the right kinds of content.

For instance, if I were in the market for a new media database, I’d want to hear from small PR firms that use the database and if there were new and interesting ways they’d found to use its features. I wouldn’t care so much about how the large, global agencies were using it.

To that end, if you’ve segmented your list correctly, you can begin to send the types of content that is relevant to them. From the PESO Model, you’ll use owned, shared, and paid. 

First, create the content and be cognizant of the different types of brand personas in your audience. It could be small, medium, and large businesses. It could be different titles. It could be different departments. Or myriad other options. The point is to understand who your marketing qualified leads are and create content specific to them.

Then use email, social media, and digital advertising to reach them. Each of those things can be targeted to an individual and the messaging can match. In some cases, you can do this work on your own and, in others, you’ll have to work with the marketing team. Either way, your goal is now to convert your marketing qualified leads to sales qualified and hand them over to sales.

PESO Model: Action Activities

And now your job is technically complete. You’ve nurtured a website visitor from awareness to interest to consideration and now they’re ready to take action.

In most organizations, this means sales has been in contact with them. They’ve requested a proposal, done a demo, requested pricing, or simply just bought (depending on the type of business, of course). They’re ready to buy.

There may be some additional work you can do to help the sales team. In cases like that, we’ve produced some really specific content that they’ve asked for—or we’ve simply just kept our email and social media (organic and paid) campaigns up, delivering the lead new content every few days.

Once they become a customer, there is an entirely new PESO Model campaign you can begin—one that helps them become brand ambassadors. They’ll be stars in the case study and video testimonials you create for the new marketing leads, they’ll provide references, and they’ll champion you on their own social networks.

But that’s another topic for another day. For now, your PESO Model program should be focused on awareness, interest, consideration, and action.

Exploding Your PESO Model Knowledge

If you’d like to learn more about using the PESO Model for the buyer’s journey, check out the certification we offer with Syracuse University.

It’s for communicators who want to gain advanced skills and a comprehensive understanding of how to build and scale an integrated program within any sized organization.

You will learn new skills and strategies, increase your value and marketability, and evolve your career—all while putting the things we’ve talked about this month into play.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich