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Best Practices

Fast Five: Q&A with Steve Woods on Marketing 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?

There’s always been a realization that attention is the most precious resource.  However, the difficulty of getting a buyer’s attention has increased lately at a pace that has caught most marketers flat-footed. Most marketers are well aware that they are not doing well in the battle for attention, but are at a loss for what they should be doing without just adding to the noise.

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 often fail to measure the negative effect of their efforts. If you put a message in front of 1000 buyers and get the attention of 5 of them, you are tempted to repeat again and again and again. We measure the 0.5% response rate, not the 99.5% ignore rate, but most buyers are extraordinarily good at automatically tuning out distractions.  Once you’ve ignored a marketer’s message three times, your subconscious mind will pretty much block it out automatically.

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?

Badly. If you look at this from the perspective of buyers, there are two things that have happened.  First, content is universally available. Second, connections between people are infinitely more available. If I want to find out the best build automation tool, I don’t look at “marketing”, I go to my CTO network Slack channel and start a conversation thread with other CTOs I trust. Marketers are focused so heavily on messaging about the product, they are losing touch with the fact that the message is the product.

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?

We’re in an interesting era right now. First, there’s the ability to better understand exactly where a buying org is at in their process. Then, there are tools to precisely target a message, on any channel, to specific people and specific organizations. Finally, we can understand the web of connections and influencers that guide how ideas actually get through. Rather than any one technology, I’d call out the ability to seamlessly snap together multiple technologies to “envelop” a buyer at a certain stage of thinking with the right people and messages that would best guide their attention.

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

Poorly. I’m easily distracted. I keep a single piece of paper in front of me that I use as a scratch-pad of all the things that come in at any given moment. If I scribble it down, I know I won’t forget it, but I can stay focused on the task that I’m actually trying to do. If I feel my focus waning, I give myself permission to do something significantly different for 45 minutes or so, before coming back.

Picture of a busy open concept office space with employees stationed at their desks

Steve Woods’ work space: Nudge at work. Many distractions!

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