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You’ve Got 8 Seconds to Grab a Customer’s Attention. Here’s What to Do.

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It’s official: We now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. Clocking in at an impressively low eight seconds (a goldfish’s is nine, FYI), a short attention span spells trouble for concentration.

So when it comes to marketing, you have eight seconds to hook your customers before their short attention span whisks them away.

Are you up for the challenge?

How to grab a customer’s attention in under eight seconds

Sure, an attractive storefront can grab the attention of people walking by, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, I’m talking about your marketing efforts:

Think about how many websites you scroll through trying to find where to go out to eat. How many ads do you see on as you’re scrolling through posts at night? And, don’t even get me started on the copious amounts of emails and mail you receive, glance at and send straight to the trash.

You’re constantly inundated with stuff (information, ads, etc.). And guess what: Your is, too. But you already know that, which is why you strive to make a good first impression. And you only have eight seconds to do it.

Catchy copy

What do your website, social media posts, emails and snail-mail all have in common? They all use copy. And copy’s a pretty important thing when you think about it—I mean, it’s everywhere. Plus, a lot rides on it.

Think about things like subject lines, website headers, social media posts and advertisement copy. It may be one of the first things someone sees, even before they get to the beautiful design or seamless navigation (below).

Like a good book, marketing copy can appeal to potential customers, grab their attention and get them to keep reading. Or, it can become a snore-fest that makes them keep scrolling, add it to the trash (virtual or literal), or close their browser altogether.

If you want your copy to keep someone’s attention beyond eight seconds, you can get started with these tips:

  • Understand your target audience (aka conduct a market analysis)
  • Tell a story
  • Don’t overload with information
  • A/B test your headers, website copy and email subject lines
  • Proofread (or risk losing someone’s attention due to grammatical errors)
  • Personalize your copy to your audience (Hello, business owners. I’m glad you’re here.)
  • Ditch the industry-specific lingo and jargon
  • Use tools (e.g., spelling tools, headline analyzers, etc.)

Related: 6 Reasons Your Marketing Copy Isn’t Converting — and How to Fix Each One

In short, copy is king (or is that cash?) for keeping someone’s attention. But to work, it also needs appealing designs. This brings me to…

Appealing designs

Sorry, copy — design actually has the biggest influence on people’s first impressions of a website, according to a study.

And since 65% of the population are visual learners, appealing designs are must-haves to keep someone’s attention past the eight-second mark—and help them retain information.

Make design work for you through:

  • colors
  • White space
  • Visual hierarchy
  • Typography
  • Eye-catching icons

If you don’t have a graphic designer in your business and don’t want to outsource, consider using templates to help you design emails and other marketing materials.

Related: Understanding the Power of Design and Branding

Easy navigation

Here’s the situation: You’re excited to put together your brand new vacuum with all the extra gadgets and gizmos. But after a couple pages of confusing instructions, you’ve had enough. Your attention begins to wane. So, you throw down the instructions, walk away, and vow to return (someday) to finish putting things together.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Confusion can quickly lead to burnout, frustration and lost attention.

So here’s the scoop: Don’t let this happen to your website visitors or email recipients. Don’t let them get so confused or frustrated with navigation that they leave.

Instead, make things as easy and clear as possible through:

  • A simple interface
  • Quick load times (the probability of website bounce increases to 90% if page load time goes from one to five seconds)
  • Mobile-friendly design (57.38% of all web traffic comes from mobile)
  • A good UX (user experience)
  • Easy-to-understand labeling

Consistency

Who here agrees that inconsistency can be pretty jarring? Let me give you an example: You’ve gotten accustomed to your favorite business’s brand (e.g., colors, logo, style, etc.). One day, you start receiving emails from them that are completely off the wall compared to what you’re used to (e.g., new colors in each email, new logos, etc.). Initially, you’re intrigued. But after a while, you have pretty bad whiplash…

…So, your attention shifts to someone new.

Customers don’t want to see a website and marketing materials that change from day to day. They want consistency to keep their attention. Why? Because consistency increases consumers’ trust in a brand (remember that “New Coke” marketing blunder?).

Destroy your customers’ trust in your brand, and bam! You’ve just lost their attention (because who wants to pay attention to someone they can’t trust?)

A clear call to action

Why do you share blog articles on social media? Or advertise a one-day sale via email? Your goal is the same: Get the recipient to take action. So whether you want them to read your blog article or go to your sales event, you need a clear call to action (CTA).

A CTA encourages someone to take a specific action. If you want to hold someone’s attention, you need clear instructions so they know what to do next.

Here are a few examples of calls to action:

  • Subscribe today
  • Try for free
  • Add to cart
  • Sign up
  • Learn more

The last thing you want to do is confuse a customer whose attention you have (that’s just plain rude). So, as tempting as it might be to cover your bases with multiple CTAs, limit yourself to just one.

Is it possible to keep someone’s attention past 8 seconds?

The answer is yes. Our attention span may be shrinking as time goes on, but that doesn’t mean keeping it is impossible. It simply means that we need to come up with better ways to do it.

So as time goes on, revisit the strategies you use to capture your customers’ attention. You can do this by:

  • A/B testing everything
  • Researching new trends
  • Asking customers for feedback
  • Refusing to stay stagnant

Related: 4 Ways to Make the Most of A/B Testing Right Away

Oh, and one last thing — you’ll know it’s possible to keep someone’s attention past eight seconds if you read through this article from start to finish (and if you did, kudos to both of us). Best of luck, budding entrepreneurs and marketing extraordinaires!

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