3 ways to capture your attention

I have your attentionThe clock is ticking. Your audience is scanning, opening, clicking . . . time is running out. Bam. Trashcan. All your well-intentioned, fundraising efforts are dead. Your best marketing idea is gone. Your carefully crafted email . . . deleted! In less than 20 seconds.

Sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it. That’s the point. When it comes to marketing and fundraising, it’s life or death in 20 seconds — I’d even say many times it is less.

Plus I have a mathematician who can help me prove it.

Theresa Christy works for Otis Elevators. She’s spent years (as in decades) crunching numbers and developing systems to make elevators run smoothly. What’s that have to do with marketing? A bunch, I think.

According to the Wall Street Journal, after 25 years in the elevator biz, the most important thing Theresa has discovered is that once you push the elevator button if you have to wait more than 20 seconds, you get impatient. Agitated.

Only 20 seconds. And that’s just waiting for an elevator, which you know will come eventually.

When it comes to marketing and advertising, I believe if you don’t hook your reader, viewer or prospective donor in the first 20 seconds, you’re dead. Your email, letter or brochure is in the trash never to be thought of again.

So what can you do to hook your audience in the first 20 seconds? I’ll give you three typical strategies for capturing atteniton. Plus, I’ll give you 1 bonus strategy that trumps them all (nearly a Lord of the Rings reference).

3 ways to capture audience attention:

1. Shock Value I don’t mean scary, disgusting shocking. I mean “unexpected” or “surprising.” A data point or fact that catches me off guard. Can you pique my curiosity? You need a surprising photo, or an intriguing subject line or envelope teaser (obviously connected to your theme or topic). You’ve got to grab your audience and make them want more.

2. Scanability Your piece should be easy to read and “scannable” so your audience can get the gist of what you’re saying quickly. No one is paying close attention to what we email, broadcast, post or print. You can help scanability by using bold type, bullet points, headlines. It depends on your medium or channel, but make it easy to scan. When you are doing it, don’t get caught up with bolding everything you think is important. Pick the stuff that will make them want to dig deeper (see point #1).

3. Emotions I know this can sound “gimmicky” and maybe it is, but the truth is if you involve my emotions,  I’ll want to be involved. I’ll want to know more, and  you’ll have a chance to keep me reading (listening, watching or whatever).

Those are easy. And they’re the ones everyone is trying to do.

Here’s one strategy for capturing attention that rules them all. While more difficult to pull off, it will change everything. (It doesn’t get a number because it’s more powerful than the other 3 combined).

Relationship When you have a real relationship with someone the 20-second rule goes out the window. When someone loves you, knows you love them or loves what you do, the 20-second rule doesn’t apply. Careful, that doesn’t mean you can ignore reality and that attention span no longer applies. What I mean is that a real relationship will double or triple that 20-second rule. Your audience starts out leaning in (or at least isn’t on guard and leaning out)

Remember, this is a relationship from your audience’s perspective — their perception not your hope. Think this is too fluffy to be real? How about a business advertising guy who thinks relationship is primary for increasing sales for his big national brand clients? The guy is Mitch Joel and the book is “Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It.” According to the Kindle app on my iPad I’m 27% finished with his book and he’s referenced relationships (real relationships, not FB “Likes” or presumed relationships) about 20 times with great examples from the big-time business world.

The guys who are trying to ring cash registers are now focusing on consumer and brand relationships. Shouldn’t you?

Relationships trump everything in the nonprofit fundraising world . . . and it turns out in the business world as well. Tweet ThisI guess Hoots and I weren’t so crazy afterall when we trademarked: It’s all about relationships.

So what do you think? What’s captured your attention in less than 20 seconds?

And if you have 20 seconds to spare (disclaimer: ok it may be up to a minute depending how fast you type) and haven’t signed up for our newsletter yet, do it now. It’s free, easy to scan and the next one will talk about building audience and relationships. You can sign up here .

I’d love to know what you think.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: MacRJ)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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