The Three Attention Stages

Not every attention is the same.

When marketing our consulting services, attention is the scarce resource you and everyone else are competing for.

Just like us, our clients and prospects are being continually bombarded with new information and have only so many hours in the day. The only way to adapt to this world is by dividing our attention.

This leads to a shorter attention span. According to this study, we spend nearly 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we are doing. The side effects are obvious: A tendency to continually multitask, high levels of distractibility, and so on.

So how do you make people pay attention to your work and how you can help?

First, you need to recognize an ugly truth: your expertise has nothing to do with it. The "quality" of your content and message is not enough, per se, to make people pay attention to it. Vincent van Gogh only saw one of his works sold in his lifetime, which is a good example of what happens when you have talent and skills but lack proper marketing initiatives.

Ben Parr, in his recent book titled "Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention", suggests that lasting attention must be built up gradually through three sequenced stages:

  1. Immediate attention. This is governed by our body's automatic responses and reflexes. If I call out your name or break a glass by your side, you will naturally turn to me.
  2. Short attention. This is activated by actions that trigger dopamine release in your audience and help them focus. Sharing something new about a topic they care about, or surprising them by violating their expectations of how the world should work, do this well. Your message will reside in their short-term memory.
  3. Long-term attention. It's the ability to own your audience's attention and interest for a longer period of time. The key here is familiarity and empathy. Do this well, and you will tap into other people's long-term memory.

The book is not the most pleasant read in the marketing aisle but contains great insights. Parr lists triggers and specific tactics that work to capture other people's attention for each of those stages. He could have included more case studies and examples, but there's value in there.

Every time you plan a new marketing initiative, ask yourself: Which kind of attention am I trying to earn? This will save you time and money when keeping your pipeline full.

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