How do you hook your audience’s attention?
It takes a strong message to hook your audience’s attention. The strongest messages reflect a solid understanding of:
- What your audience wants
- What it takes to gain attention
- What you’re up against: the status quo and competitors.
Too many marketing messages are flimsy, like the houses built of straw or sticks in The Three Little Pigs. When a challenge or crisis comes along, weak messages collapse.
Make your message a brick house. Build a strong foundation with a Message Map.
What the audience wants
Your main message or home base must answer your audience’s top of mind question: What’s in it for me?
Messages that succeed are all about what you can do for your audience. What are the benefits you deliver? Why do you do what you do for them?
Messages that resonate with customers reflect their worldview. Show that you understand what makes your audience tick – their questions, needs, pain points and obstacles.
While messages need facts, facts alone seldom change minds. When the facts conflict with your audience’s worldview, in fact, they reject the facts.
Changing minds takes a story that taps into your audience’s emotions.
Facts without stories are dead. Stories give soul to facts.”
– Deepak Chopra
Where do great stories begin?
To differentiate your story from others, put customers first. Begin with their unconsidered needs.
Unconsidered needs add urgency and uniqueness to your story. In the eyes of customers, they make your message stand out.
Unconsidered needs increase the uniqueness of your message by 50%, says Tim Riesterer. Compared with other messages, the unconsidered need message is the most thought-provoking message you can deliver.
Tell a provocative story about unconsidered needs that leads naturally to your solution.
“If you tell the customer something surprising but don’t have a way to resolve it, you’re just a jerk,” Riesterer says.
While marketers look at competitors as their biggest threat, “The true competitor is the status quo,” Riesterer says. That’s because a whopping 60% of B2B sales opportunities lead to no purchase decision.
Don’t sell against competitors: Sell against the status quo
Sellers who win the sale are usually those who were best at helping customers understand why they need to make a change. Show customers:
- Why the status quo is untenable
- What are the hidden sources of friction, costs and penalties
- How much those disadvantages will grow in the future.
Riesterer says, “74% of executives buy from the seller who helps them see the need to change. Create a ‘why change?’ discussion.”
Hook your audience’s attention with a short message
Too many people try to win attention with TMI: too much information.
But TMI never works. To break through with audiences, serve up the right size message: create a Message Map.
Your Message Map gives you a 7-second, 23-word message with 1 home base and 3 positive points to support it. That’s the right size, which audiences are receptive to.
A short message cuts to the quick
The average sound bite in news media is about 7 seconds – which breaks through people’s short attention spans.
Want to hook your audience? Think of your first 7 seconds as a taste of your message, an hors d’oeuvre.
Once you’ve got the audience salivating with your initial message, scale it up. If your audience loved the hors d’oeuvre, they’ll want the full meal.
Offer bigger and bigger bites of content – 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes or more.
Most important, keep your main message consistent so it endures. Most messages change far too frequently – and are forgotten fast.
Consistency makes it possible for your message to sink in with customers. That’s because consistent messages win a place in your audience’s brains called place cells.
Place cells never run out of storage space, unlike other places in the brain where memories are stored but quickly erased.
Be disciplined: Repeat one home base message consistently over time. That consistency gets audiences to remember your story.
Train everyone in your company to deliver one consistent message. Like a choir singing from the same songbook, a team that delivers one consistent message brings beautiful harmony to your story.
Simple, consistent messages endure
Jesus’ message of forgiveness and Buddha’s message of compassion have lasted thousands of years.
Make your message endure, by reflecting:
- What your audience wants
- What it takes to hook the audience’s attention
- What you’re up against: the status quo
- Simplicity and consistency, so audiences remember your story.
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.