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Effective Content Has to Hurry

EffectiveContent2A major U.S. newspaper once marketed itself by promising readers “an economy of words, a wealth of information.”

We took the same approach when I was involved in starting USA Today. Why tell a story in 1,000 words when you can tell it in 500? This helped differentiate USA Today from other newspapers, and readership took off.

An economy of words is dramatically more important in creating digital content now that marketers have only a few seconds to get their messages to buyers, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C); that is, unless you’re selling to a goldfish.

It has been estimated goldfish have an average attention span of nine seconds, according to research by Microsoft. Humans lose focus after about eight seconds.

I’ll bet attention spans are even shorter among busy executives, those who generally make the decisions whether to buy your products and services—procurement officers, brand managers, department heads, marketing directors, and many others.

From the Associated Press:

  • Attention spans have declined by 50 percent over the past 10 years
  • 90 percent of adults watch a product video for 19 seconds or less; again, it’s a safe bet viewing is even lower among B2B target audiences
  • 17 percent of page views last fewer than four seconds

It’s almost a certainty reaching your target audiences digitally will become more difficult; but, it’s also almost a certainty developing effective digital marketing content will be more important to your success.

More than six-in-10 corporate buyers say their purchasing decisions are significantly determined by content they see on social media, a significant increase over the past five years.

This is particularly true in the “weeding out” phase, when buyers decide which suppliers to consider.

Digital users can access, in seconds, information from almost every part of the world, including online product reviews, references and customer experiences, on which more than 60 percent of B2B buyers base their purchasing decisions.

Here are some suggestions used successfully by Integrated Marketing Services to engage buyers in your messages before they move on.

Don’t waste your first eight seconds.

As stated above, that’s about all you have to make an impression.

The most common way to waste this time, talk about your company and products. Nobody cares!

Buyers want to know, “What’s in it for me? How is this going to help me or my company.” Tell them immediately before they move on, or they will.

When I was national editor of Gannett, CEO and USA Today founder Al Neuharth gave me a plaque that read “Why should I give damn?” The idea: tell people why a story is important to them personally, and they’ll read the entire thing. And they did.

At Integrated Marketing Services we have seen thousands of digital content posts that began, “Introducing a new technology (or approach)…”

Again, buyers don’t care and aren’t impressed. Would you promote an old technology?

Don’t waste your next 22 seconds.

Even if you hold a viewer’s attention for the first eight seconds, you probably still only have 22 seconds left.

Research shows that 30 seconds is the average maximum time a digital user will stick around.

Build on the first eight seconds by focusing on tangible benefits products or services provide, and not on the product itself or its features.

Content should be short, simple and active and not passive. Some marketers think they need to be cute. Cute doesn’t matter. Convey a direct promise of something important to users.

Remember, buyers are people, too.

Buyers’ personal emotions play a key role in up to 60 percent of B2B purchase decisions, according to a wide variety of research.

Conveying trust, security, ambition, aspirations, gratification, and others goes a long way in determining if people read your content. Appealing to these personal emotions also goes a long way in driving sales.

(“Nobody ever got fired by buying IBM,” was a common saying when IBM dominated the electronics market. It represented security.)

Create “stopping power.”

Many digital marketing campaigns start with emails. Most are just a waste of money because they don’t stop users scanning their screens.

Here, for example, are just a few email subject lines I received in one day:

  • “Introduce you to…”
  • “You would be interested in…”
  • “Explore all we have to offer…”
  • “A lot has happened since…”
  • “Introducing our new technology…”

No stopping power here. No compelling promise of value. No hint of personal or corporate benefits.

Unlike consumer marketing, the goal of B2B marketing content is to generate interest and credibility, as opposed to direct sales, although that occasionally happens.

Your goal is to get on the screen and “make the cut”.

Keep your content short, simple, to the point and focused on customer goals (personal and corporate), priorities, needs and concerns. There’s time to focus on one or two key points; get right to them.

That is, unless you’re marketing to goldfish.

Anthony Casale
CEO, Integrated Marketing Services