Gaining The Attention Of Buyers In A Hyper-Connected World

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Tony Zambito

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User Attention by TMD
User Attention by TMD

As we have all experienced, our hyper-connected world is becoming more chaotic with more mediums vying for our attention.  Advanced digital technologies have meant more channels to hear, see, and search for information.   For many consumers as well as business buyers, the overwhelming availability of choices can create anxiety-laden confusion.   Causing a seemingly straightforward effort to turn into an exercise fraught with indecision.

When we strip away the layers and boil down to the kernel, what most businesses are vying for is the attention of buyers.  Attention is, nowadays, a very precious jewel organizations strive to possess.  Gaining the attention of buyers has become so competitive; we see many organizations devote more resources to getting it.

For instance, we continue to see spending in content marketing rise despite a very high effectiveness failure rate.  Surveys by Content Marketing Institute, Forrester, eMarketer, and others have shown B2B marketers continue to struggle, in the past four years, to break through the forty percent mark in terms of being effective or very effective with content marketing.  What this basically implies is much of the content being produced is not gaining the attention of buyers today!

Attention Is The Essential Piece Of The Puzzle

As channels have grown, the ability to gain the attention of buyers is proving to be even more difficult.  Getting “eyeballs” on an organization and its offering has become far more complicated than the straight TV or Print Ad buys of yesteryear.  Consequently, the Cost Of Attention continues to rise.  It is also indicative of the recognition that without the critical component of attention, no amount of content, advertising, marketing, and engagement will have an impact.

What can easily trip up companies is they actually forget about attention.  In the last few years, this is something marketers can be very prone to do.  Primarily, marketing can suffer from tunnel vision on the latest trends, such as seeking engagement via content marketing.  And, forget an essential piece of the puzzle such as attention.

Content Designed To Gain Attention

In order for content to be effective, it must first be able to gain the attention of buyers.  Marketers today need to distinguish this first step from the generic design of content intent on immediate engagement.  A hunch here is a good portion of content strategy fails because the focus is on trying to get buyers to engage without at least gaining their attention.

What this does suggest are a few things.  Summed up like this:

  • A lack of understanding on whether buyers are paying attention at all
  • A lack of insight into, if buyers are paying attention, what they are paying attention to
  • Little understanding of how to gain attention on the things they care about
  • Little understanding of, once attention is gained, how to convert into engagement and purchase behavior

Attention Is Linked To Goal-Directed Behaviors

The dilemma facing many organizations today, along with their teams of CMOs and CSOs, is how to gain the attention of buyers in the first place.  The path towards doing so lies in a critical understanding associated with attention.   Which is, attention is highly correlated to goal-directed behaviors.  This correlation has long been studied in the social sciences during the past forty to fifty years.

What this correlation signifies for marketers is people, both in consumer and B2B business buying, will pay attention to things which allows them to explore fulfilling goals and are motivated by goal-directed behaviors.

For example, one Fortune 500 company, a provider of ERP applications in the utility market space, struggled to gain the attention of buyers.  Believing new advances in application features would do so but found no measurable bump.  After conducting qualitative buyer persona research, what they found was changes and implications of state regulations were on the “attention” radar of senior managers.  This attentive behavior was associated with goal-directed behaviors related to avoiding significant fines and penalties due to regulatory violations.  The company then developed a monitoring component to their application and also began offering authority-based content on assessing the implications of state regulatory changes.  Resulting in a noticeable gain “in attention” from existing and prospective customers.

What the above points to is buyers’ “attention span” or more appropriately, “attention scan”, is closely related to significant goals and goal-directed behaviors.

Gaining The Attention Of Buyers

Marketers and sellers today will need to uncover the various levels of goals and goal-directed behaviors influencing buyers in order to get on the attention radar of buyers.  It is important to note that goals and goal-directed behaviors should not be confused with buyer profiling and the focus on initiatives and other related fact-based intelligence.   Deep-rooted goals and goal-directed behaviors usually reside in the unarticulated mindset of buyers.

Gaining the attention of buyers requires an investment in learning what buyers pay attention to and the correlation to goal-directed behaviors.  Just as important is learning how buyers pay attention.  The growth in the omni-channel nature of accessibility to information today makes this an imperative.

What can companies do then to get the attention from buyers they wish for?

  • Do qualitative buyer research on what buyers are paying attention to and why
  • Uncover goals and their related goal-directed behaviors tied to attention
  • Be certain buyer personas are representative of goal-directed behaviors and correlate to attention
  • Design marketing and sales approaches to begin with what is most on the minds of buyers, in terms of gaining attention
  • Map to how buyers pay attention to what they care about

Simply put in this way: if you pay attention to what buyers pay attention to and care about, they will pay you the attention you seek.