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Best Practices

Fast Five: Q&A with Jill Rowley on Marketing (and Selling) in the Attention Economy

Recently, we curated The Attention Economy – The Impact of Attention Scarcity on Modern Marketing. In this eBook, we asked 12 modern marketers to share their best practices for winning the battle for their buyers’ attention. To broaden the discussion and keep the conversation going, we’re reaching out to other marketing and sales leaders with five quick questions on marketing effectively in the Attention Economy.

1. The Attention Economy was first coined in 2001 by Thomas Davenport and John Beck to describe the scarcity of attention and how to measure it, understand it and use it. Fifteen years later, do marketers understand the true nature of their buyer’s attention today?

I would argue that overwhelmingly, no they don’t, because marketers continue to do things that result in very poor engagement. If marketers understood what they needed to do to get and keep attention, then engagement rates would be considerably higher.

To be interesting and earn someone’s attention, you must be interested. Many brands aren’t interesting to the buyer because they’re not showing that they’re interested in the buyer. They’re just interested in pitching something.

I find the content I pay attention to through my network of humans, of people. Increasingly, this is the behavior of buyers because they’ve been disappointed so many times by “the brand” that they don’t trust companies anymore. But they follow people in their networks, and they’re more apt to engage with content that the people they trust share.

That’s why personal branding matters so much today, which is something I don’t think many sales organizations fully understand. Sales people are “on social” but they tend to just think it’s another way to cold call. Reps need to authentically share content – which means they need to read it! – and what they share can’t all be about what they sell. They must be down with other people’s content (“OPC”).

2. B2B buyers today are busier and more distracted than ever before. What do marketers tend to get wrong in their rush to capture their buyer’s limited attention?

Marketers oftentimes lead with what they know, care about, understand and can quantify and articulate. Sadly, this is overwhelmingly information about them, their company and their products. It’s not specifically about their customers and what the value is to the customer. You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about: “We have 722 customers worldwide and XX% of the Fortune 500 use our solution, yadda yadda yadda….” It’s all about them, instead of being genuinely helpful to the buyer.

Marketing content also needs to be human, not a lot of corporate jargon, and it needs to be where the buyer’s attention already is. Just to give you an example, I don’t have my own blog or my own email database. I publish on LinkedIn because there are 467 million business professionals on LinkedIn. You fish where the fish are swimming.

3. The Internet and mobile have dramatically changed how buyers consume content. How are marketers adapting their strategies to align with how we research and buy today?

Marketers are adapting by producing different types of content. Video has increasingly become more popular because, if you look at when I’m stuck in traffic in the car or on the treadmill, it’s kind of hard for me to read a white paper.

Video, infographics and images are mobile-friendly content. You have to think about creating content that can be consumed via mobile and also shorter content – more snackable bites of information. The content also should be entertaining because if you’re on your mobile device, you aren’t in that mindset of a white paper, so making marketing content pithier and more audiovisual is important.

The data shows that mobile today is still additive to our internet activity, meaning it isn’t having a massive decline on desktop viewing, so what it’s done is given buyers more time to read, research, connect and share. If I’m in the elevator, I’m not just standing there anymore. I have my device, so I’m scrolling, I’m swiping, I’m checking my Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. Mobile represents a huge “value-add” opportunity for marketers to engage with buyers where they are.

4. Marketers have vastly more technology options than ever before. Looking at the marketing tech stack, what’s one solution that stands out in helping marketers sustain buyer attention?

I would say that personalization is the big one for marketing and sales. The more relevant the content, the more likely I am to consume it. As the lines between sales and marketing blur, and sales people become “mini-marketers,” they need more tools to enable them.

I like Vidyard’s free tool ViewedIt that makes it super-easy for marketing and sales to incorporate videos into their communications, presentations and demos that can be personalized based on what an individual prospect cares about and wants to see. ViewedIt provides one-click screen and webcam recording, along with email and social sharing, and it notifies you when videos have been viewed, so you can follow-up while you’ve got someone’s attention. Seismic is another neat tool that enables sales to quickly and easily take a piece of more generic content created by marketing and personalize it so that it seems like sales created something just for me.

5. How do you combat attention scarcity in your own life?

I’ll be honest; the attention span is tough for me. I live in the moment and on the fly. There’s this instant gratification monkey that sits on my shoulder and he has literally cemented his little feet on my shoulder. As much as I try to get rid of him, he will not go away. I’m an insatiable learner and that complicates things even more because I always want what’s new. I want to have a broad and deep view and my interests are so wide that there’s always lots of information that I could be consuming. If I go for a run like I did this morning, I’m not listening to music. I’m listening to podcasts on how to be a better business professional. I judge the quality of a podcast based on how many times I hit pause to tweet about it.

I like to read physical books and print magazines – it’s very hard for me to read a digital book. But when I’m reading content in print, if there’s a compelling insight, I’ll snap a photo of the page and tweet that, giving attribution and tagging the picture, so again I judge the quality of the content by the number of insights that are worth sharing. I speak in tweets, I dream in tweets, my signature is “You are what you tweet.”