coaching and the 5 stages of market sophistication

5 Stages of Market Sophistication

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce 

This may be why your marketing’s falling on deaf ears –  Market Sophistication was introduced by Eugene Schwartz in his 1966 book Breakthrough Advertising. The term addresses the different levels of client awareness and is divided into 5 stages. Each stage looks at how sophisticated your clients’ knowledge is of your market and what it’s going to take for them to click the “Enrol Now” button. If your market sophistication is in stage 4 but you’re using stage 3 strategies, you won’t be speaking to your client’s needs and knowledge of the subject. This is a must if you aim to show how much value you can create for your clients.

Here are the 5 stages of market sophistication and examples that apply to the coaching, training, teaching and online mentoring world.

Stage 1: First on Stage!

You’re the first to do things the way you do. You’re introducing a service to the world that nobody has seen before and there’s no competition in the market. This stage is straightforward and simple. You should be directly telling the world what your product is and the problem it solves. People who face this problem will buy your product to solve it. The goal is to capture as much of the market as you can before the competition arrives. You’ll never be here as a business coach or trainer because mentorship has probably been around since the start of ancient trade. It’s possible there may be technological innovations to come which will make you the first in some way.

What are the 5 stages of market sophistication for coaches


Headline: Get a business coach and make more money.

The product is business coaching and the problem it’s solving is the lack of money. Although this is still a valid product and problem today, being this simple about it isn’t going to get many sales. Our industry has moved past this.

Stage 2: Join a Panel…

Other businesses are starting to see the potential in the market with brands offering the same solution as yours. Because of this, there’s a slight increase in competition. In this stage, you need to be better than the competition and the only way to do so is by making your service stand out from the rest. The focus of marketing here is on being bigger, better, faster than the competition.


Headline: Get a business coach and double your revenue in 4 weeks.

Same product and problem, but now we’re doing it in less time than anyone else. We’re giving more information to back up the initial claim. Better than the first headline, but still unlikely to get us anywhere in our industry now.

Stage 3: Stand out from the Crowd

The increase in competition has made the market noisy.

Times have changed! People have seen it all and the claims made in the previous stages are no longer effective

So, what’s the best way to get the attention of your clients? You need to introduce a New Mechanism. A new mechanism is a new way of making an old promise work. It’s a different process, a unique tool, or a fresh chance for a new possibility of success where sadness has resulted before. The unique methods are highlighted and used in your marketing initiatives to show that your clients can get what they want just by doing it a different way.

How do you use 5 stages of market sophistication


Headline: With my LEAN Growth hacking method, double your revenue in 4 weeks.

Your clients have probably seen many coaching methods and tried a few, but none of them has stuck. They still have the desire to solve the problem, but their increased knowledge of the market makes them sceptical. Here, we have introduced a new mechanism to back up the original claim to get them interested again. We also lead with the mechanism, rather than the product.

Stage 4: It’s a Convention

Your competitors have all caught up and everything’s crowded and even more noisy with no space to grow. Clients have a ton more options to choose from and you need to give them a reason why it should be you. Adding more benefits to your product would be useless as everybody in the market has some variation of it already. This is the stage where you have two options – attack your competitors directly or niche down for a competitive advantage. Do a side by side comparison of your products and your competitor’s products. The features that you have, but your competitor doesn’t, should be highlighted and pushed to the market. Alternatively offer your product to a very specific market, in a very specific way or another unique feature.


Headline: Why X Coaching is better than Y Coaching. OR One-day intensive coaching at a luxury location for creative entrepreneurs.

Your clients are aware of the varied options and they have plenty of knowledge in the industry. Until quite recently this was the general arena that most coaching, training and mentoring what playing in, however, we have moved into Stage 5 now. The problem now is that many people are still marketing in this stage, but the clients have moved up in sophistication.

Stage 5: Telling your story!

The market has become saturated and clients know your industry inside and out. Nobody buys into direct advertising because of their vast knowledge. Now it’s time to relate on a personal level. Your company needs to feed into their emotions and create meaning through new experiences. Everything becomes focused on your clients and what they desire. Who do you want your clients to be and what are their values? This is where you have to get in touch with their emotions through your brand and storytelling, not your product. This shows that both you and your clients are aligned and they trust that you have their best interest in mind.


Headline: How I work 6 hours a day, from a beach town in South Africa and earn 5-figures a month in USD $.

The shift in this stage isn’t about discussing your features but rather your identity. This identity gives people what they truly desire and makes them feel apart of your tribe. The coaching, trainer, and expert industries are all at this stage.

To differentiate and gain more ideal clients, you have to be more proactive in creating a personal brand and telling your story to connect your intent with the people who align with you.

What are the 5 stages of market sophistication



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  1. Sandy on November 5, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    This popped into my inbox at just the right time – thanks Chanelle! x

    • Chanelle Segerius-Bruce on November 5, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      I’m so glad you found it helpful!

Business Coach Launching online courses and programs

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce

Chanelle is a business coach/consultant and personal branding specialist with over 20 years of experience. She's been featured in Forbes, Thrive Global, Stylist Magazine and COACH Magazine. She runs a global training business and works with women helping them launch, grow and scale their online businesses and create a freedom-based life through entrepreneurship.