How To Utilize The 8 Second Attention Span

Chris Delany

Partner

Trying to get your audience to notice you is like trying to get a toddler’s attention. There’s so much going on in their world, you need to do something bold just to get them to look at you. At that very moment, you only have a few seconds to grab their attention and keep it there. And just as parenting has its ups and downs, so does marketing. You’ve probably found through the years that some tactics are almost always effective while others need to be perfected. And the rest - well those are probably best forgotten altogether.

It’s been said that marketers only have a few seconds to grab their audience’s attention. But now one study confirms that seconds really do count. According to Microsoft Corp, people generally lose focus after eight seconds. That’s actually shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.

Bottom line: You need to know how to utilize a person’s short attention span if you want to get noticed. This means that your marketing needs to be fresh, engaging and downright superb. You can’t slack or throw something together at the last minute just because it worked in the past. You must have a dedicated marketing strategy that includes mostly inbound marketing tactics and perhaps a few outbound ones, depending on the product or service you sell.

Inbound vs Outbound Marketing

Marketing takes on two forms: inbound and outbound. Inbound marketing has taken over outbound tactics in recent years, and for good reason. The buying process has changed, and no longer is the sale the first contact a buyer has with your company. Instead, buyers are online, researching products, reading reviews and exploring their options. Inbound marketing allows brands to create a positive image through educational content, positive reviews and a social media presence.

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is decreasing in usage and effectiveness, mainly because it doesn’t have the same impact on customers. With outbound marketing, you’re basically buying people’s time. Whether it’s a phone call, a television commercial or a print ad, you’re taking time out from your audience to share a bit about your product or service. That’s nice and all - if it were 1980. But today, connecting with your audience through inbound channels is a far more constructive way to build relationships and increase sales.

In short, here’s what you should remember:

  • Inbound marketing is the “new” marketing that relies on earning people’s interest rather than buying it.

  • Outbound marketing is the “old” marketing that pushes products or services on people.

Let’s take a closer look at how inbound and outbound marketing tactics stack up to each other and why inbound strategies are most effective at utilizing the three second attention span.

Outbound Marketing: Superficial and Loud

Outbound marketing is the marketing that we grew up with. It’s a traditional form of marketing that includes radio, TV, direct mail, newspapers, magazines, billboards, event sponsorships and more. Obviously, outbound marketing is not dead. Turn on any TV station and you’ll have commercials stuffed in your face faster than you can say “Oreo.”

The trouble with outbound marketing is that the loudest and most demanding messages are rewarded. Thanks to the increased costs of advertising and the high stakes for competition, brands will do anything to get noticed. And it’s often the ones that are most obnoxious that turn heads. Think about it. Is a clean, simple and sophisticated message on a billboard or magazine going to get your attention? Probably not. It’s the loud, wacky and tacky messages that demand attention.

Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t do much for the long-term relationship with customers. In fact, many customers have a hard time trusting outbound marketing strategies. Sure, the brand may get their few seconds of time, but that doesn’t mean the customer is embracing the message. And if the brand can’t deliver on what they promised, this compromises the brand-customer relationship.

Inbound Marketing: The Natural Way

Inbound marketing is the new marketing that the younger generations will grow up with. It may be new to us, but it’s quickly replacing outdated marketing tactics such as direct mail and billboards. The purpose of inbound marketing is to pull people toward your company so that they naturally want to be a part of it. In order to do this, you need to create quality content to attract people to your brand, then nurture these relationships and turn them into advocates of your brand.

Not only is inbound marketing more authentic but also it’s long term. With outbound tactics, you’re essentially buying people's time and using it to push your product on them. This feels forced and unnatural, even if the customer ends up buying it. Unfortunately, this sales approach doesn’t form lasting connections.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, establishes a strong foundation that connects people to your brand. Because you’re not pushing yourself on customers, they come to you and want to be aligned with your brand. This is how you build a community, identify key influencers and reward brand advocates.

It feels good not to beg people for their attention, doesn’t it?

Advantages to Inbound Marketing

Let’s explore a few key advantages to using inbound marketing practices.

  • Educational. Don’t fall into the trap of saying anything just to get a few seconds of time. Inbound marketing allows you to create messages that are specific and useful. It may take time for your audience to recognize them, but they will do so when they’re interested and ready.

  • Comprehensive. Inbound marketing is holistic, meaning that it utilizes all of the digital channels to create a strong foundation for your brand. Your brand’s story will  be based on a strong website, effective content creation and the implementation of measurement tools rather than one simple message.

  • In Control. With inbound marketing, you are in control of your audience. Rather than renting your distribution, you own it. It will take some time to grow this community, but you can start as soon as today.

  • On Demand. You don’t want to be the opening act at a show. You want to be the show. Unfortunately with outbound marketing, you are the opening act. The footnote at the end of a story. On the other hand, inbound marketing allows you to be in control of your messages and deliver them when the time is right.

  • Measurable. Because inbound marketing is digital, everything can be measured. You don’t need to assume anything as you often have to do with outbound marketing. Analytics can track your marketing efforts to ensure they are effective and evaluate whether you’re turning leads into customers.

Earning Attention Through Inbound Marketing

So what are some of the ways that you can earn your audience’s attention rather than buying it?

  • Be the Expert. You need to be outspoken in your industry. Not in a pushy, I’m-always-right kind of way, but rather a cool, confident I-know-my-industry-like-no-other kind of way. A business blog is the perfect platform for this, but you can also share insider tips and tricks with downloadable content like ebooks or whitepapers.

  • Meet Influencers in Person. Online tools make it easy to communicate, but nothing compares to meeting people in person. Nurture some of your key relationships with bloggers, analysts, reporters and other influencers. Meet them at a networking event, invite them to coffee if they’re local or touch base through video chat.

  • Create Engaging Content. Show your audience why you are to be trusted. Design a comprehensive content marketing strategy that outlines what topics you will write on, when it will be posted and to what channels it will be shared on. Keep your content varied, and consider having some of your influencers write for you as well.

  • Provide Insightful Data. What data can you present to your audience to prove your case? Surely you can come up with some interesting stats that encourage your brand regardless of what you do and what you sell. Even OKCupid.com was able to show that “How’s it going?” gets twice as many replies as “Hi.”

  • Give Back to Others. Since inbound marketing is a holistic approach, it doesn’t hurt to be active in your community. Local customers, particularly, will see you as a positive influence in your area and be more likely to support you. Find ways to donate your time, money or resources to organizations and charities in need. It will get you major brownie points and make for a great story!

Conclusion

It won’t be long before 2015 comes to a close, and you’ll be rolling out a new marketing strategy for 2016. In fact, you may already be crafting the foundation for this new strategy. As you work out the details and fine tune your marketing tactics, make sure that you are giving a good chunk of your advertising budget to inbound strategies. Inbound marketing doesn’t just “work;” it’s also the best way to shape a positive image of your company and develop meaningful relationships with customers that go far beyond the few seconds of time you get with outbound tactics.

About the Author: Chris Delany
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