The Battle for Attention (Hint: It’s a Losing One)

Attention spans are shrinking and digital marketing is becoming even more competitive. So where do we go from here?

Most people probably watch Mad Men for Jon Hamm (guilty as charged). But it’s also incredibly interesting to watch from a marketing perspective and how fast things have progressed. As someone who jumped into marketing during the digital age, I never had to worry about magazine ads, posters, or radio commercials.

I just had to log into Facebook, select my audience, upload an image, and hit publish. The ease of use was incredible, and the conversions just poured in. Sound simple? It was. But that also explains why everyone is into digital ads now. It’s the easy thing to do.

Digital ads are great for businesses even with today’s increased competition and cost. But it’s also what “everyone else is doing”. And for me, that’s my sign to start looking elsewhere.

My current view of digital marketing

Ads are shoved in our faces everywhere we go. We literally can’t escape them unless we ditch the smartphone, drive the car into the wilderness, and then run even deeper. At this point, it’s the price we pay to live in society.

This contributes to what I call “ad numbness”. Basically, the ability to completely ignore or remain oblivious to sales-related media. As marketers, our job continues to get more challenging because we constantly have to invent new ways to “hook” our audience. Ever fallen victim to a clickbait title only to end up on a completely unrelated page? That’s MaRkEtInG.

Every big online platform sees this kind of cycle:

Marketing trend catches on > agile marketers jump on it > users are engaged > everyone else jumps on the trend (quality lowers) > users get burned > ad numbness takes place > new marketing trend catches on > repeat

This cycle continues to pick up pace as well. It’s happening faster and faster, and it’s increasingly more challenging to grab someone’s attention.

Overall, this trend has encouraged a quantity > quality marketing style in the hopes that something lands and “goes viral”. I’d argue that this is neither good for the customer nor the business.

Why? It promotes a “feast or famine” style of business and marketing. If you go viral, you get a swarm of new purchases. And when you don’t, you’ve got a bunch of obsolete marketing material.

This is short-term marketing. You quickly burn through ad creatives, no meaningful relationships are built, and businesses end up with a revolving door of users.

Don’t get me wrong, this methodology can work. And there are plenty of marketers that do it well and can capitalize on these swift changes. But for most of us, it’s just highly stressful and provides little-to-no certainty.

So what’s left?

My thoughts on where marketing is going

I’ve never been a fan of the direct sales approach. Yes, I’m a millennial and I tend to avoid confrontation. But also because direct sales is just a numbers game. It’s the “brute force” way of doing marketing, and I prefer to be more strategic.

People are tired of the in-your-face, pushy marketing styles, and I predict these types of campaigns will continue to decrease in effectiveness.

Now more than ever, strategic, indirect marketing is needed.

Just look at case studies like Alex Hormozi, the guy literally doesn’t sell anything. He just provides a massive amount of value via education. Then, once he releases a book, it sells out within minutes. That’s the power of creating relationships, connections, and community.

So as the world gets more resistant to ads and direct sales, new opportunities emerge. And for me, these opportunities come in the form of creating content that offers value first, then comes the sale.

This can come in many different forms, but some popular ones that I personally like include:

  • Lead magnets – ebooks, white papers, etc. Any form of valuable content that offers insight and direction to the audience.
    • Example: Offering a high level guide of a process that builds into your service or product. Make sure it offers a lot of value an demonstrates the need for your offering.
  • Articles and guides – SEO can provide huge advantages to those who put in the effort. Creating value-oriented content can help establish authority, build goodwill, and attract traffic you might not otherwise capture.
    • Example: Let Me Cook is our internal SEO project, and its ultimate aim is to provide excellent information to help SaaS founders market their projects. We hope that once they get going, we can help scale their efforts even further.
  • Insightful social media content – Everyone does social media. But very few do it well. Throw out the clickbait, surface-level content, and actually provide some insight, or personal experience. This will set you apart from every other “Here’s 3 AI Tools To Use Today…” post.
    • Example: Discuss personal experience and what you’re seeing in your industry. Try to stay away from generics and build your own view into your content.

A lot of these things work together very well because people like to consume content in different ways. And since 99.99% of companies don’t have an unlimited amount of cash or labor, repurposing content can be a great way of being more cost-efficient.

What might repurposing content look like? Here’s a bit of how our internal process works:

  1. Create an in-depth and comprehensive article on a topic relevant to your audience/customer. This can be anywhere from 1,500-5,000+ words. It depends on the topic, SEO competition, and how much value you can provide.
  2. Take your article and break it into bite-size pieces. That means pulling out knowledge “nuggets”, interesting facts/statistics, and summarizing sections. These tidbits can then be posted on social media while also encouraging people to read the article for more info.
  3. Take your article and make a PDF out of it, stylize it, and make it look clean and appealing. When someone navigates to the article page, ask if they want to download it in a PDF form in exchange for an email. Boom. Lead magnet. You can also offer it on social media to attract followers, likes, etc.

This is obviously high level, but you get the idea. It doesn’t have to be incredibly time-intensive and expensive to create high-value content. You’re already an expert in your field, and most others aren’t. So think about what you know that others don’t, then share your expertise.

This not only creates a warmer audience, it positions you as an authority and expert in your field. And now that you’ve given value to others, they are more open to engage with you. Start interacting with them, and turn that cold lead into something much warmer. That’s the indirect way.

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