Just because you want to believe the best, doesn’t mean it’s true…
Sometimes, I can be a stubborn optimist.
Meaning, I see the best in people. Not even because it’s there. Or because it’s the whole truth. But because it’s what I’m looking for.
And like all of us, I’m subject to confirmation bias.
I see evidence of what I want to be true.
And I ignore evidence to the contrary.
I’ve been trying to ignore the fact that attention spans are shortening…
Maybe it’s because I’ve been so proactive in increasing my attention span and focus. Using meditation, mindfulness, and focus techniques.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t wanted to admit how getting screen-sucked into our technology all day is changing our brains (including mine, and the brains of my loved ones).
I don’t know why.
But I haven’t wanted to admit that attention spans are shrinking…
Sure, we can still sit through a 2-hour movie. If the MTV-style cuts are fast enough, and the explosions big enough. (Any coincidence CG-heavy superhero movies are all the rage?)
But as a society, we struggle to stick with ANYTHING for more than a few seconds.
(The most common complaint I get about my articles? 1,000 or so words every day is too long. Translate: TOO MUCH VALUE FOR FREE. I digress.)
Our attention spans are shrinking.
This is dramatically changing how long-copy works…
My best inside view of this happening is in the investment publishing world.
We talk about complex topics.
Transforming industries. Competitive advantages of companies. Breakthrough technologies. And so on.
We also tend to speak to sophisticated prospects. If you’ve got the net worth to actually invest ANYTHING, you should know that you’re already in the top 50% of Americans.
Among investors, the most proactive tend to be late-career and retired professionals. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and so on.
They are smart enough to understand a logical argument.
And especially in the direct mail days where your prospect would sit down with your copy over morning coffee and consider what you wrote, you could make a decent logical argument to support a strong emotional hook.
But even in the investment world today, everything is getting SIMPLER.
Yesterday I was on the phone with one of the world’s top marketing gurus, reviewing his copy for what could be the most innovative marketing seminar ever…
The topic has almost no DIRECT connection with marketing, but is the secret to transforming and dominating markets today…
It’s both an incredibly sophisticated, complex topic, and a simple one.
It’s simple like E=MC-squared is simple.
You can boil down the topic to a very simple, three-sentence description, that even a grade-schooler can understand.
But you can also talk about it in the thickest, most convoluted language that would make an topic expert’s eyes glaze over.
His copy kept it pretty simple — with STORY.
But he struggled to capture it in the headline and lead (that’s why he was on the phone with me — to help him make sure the copy was tight and compelling).
I found his answer buried deep in a 10,000-word document.
I wrote the three sentences for him that he tweaked to become the headline. (The previous headline said the same thing in about 15 punchy little statements strung together — but in being too complex, it said nothing.)
I also told him how to pay off that headline in the lead using elements pulled from even deeper in the copy.
The pitch went from intellectually stimulating to emotionally grabbing…
Near the end of our call, he started asking if he should string together a bunch of ideas to support the headline concept I’d give him.
I told him it was too much.
I told him it wouldn’t connect.
Basically, he wanted to go back to what made the idea intellectually stimulating. Which was an A+B+C+D+E=F formula. A logical argument.
But I told him that with today’s attention spans, prospects need A+B=C.
As much as he wants to position the event above the marketing fray of “Do this, get rich,” what I told him was that he basically had to say, “Do this, get rich.”
You have to set the emotional hook.
And that has to be so simple it’s understood in SECONDS. If not MILLISECONDS.
AND, it has to hit one of the most base desires.
It’s not about some heady idea of becoming a leader in your field, even if you know, intellectually, that could make you rich.
It’s first and foremost about getting rich, with a mechanism that points toward becoming a leader in your field.
(Struggling not to give away too much here.)
Your prospect won’t give you their attention for anything less…
You MUST find the most visceral benefit.
You MUST point to that up front, as the reason they engage with you.
You MUST make them VIBRATE in your headline, with the promise of the benefit fulfilled.
And then, you MUST make that believable by tying it to whatever mechanism you can use to logically support the delivery of the benefit.
And you MUST wrap that all up in a tight and tiny package that is understood the moment it is read, by even the dumbest, slowest, or most-distracted bottom 10% of your market.
This is how you bribe them to engage with the rest of your marketing message.
They won’t read because you put it out.
They won’t read because it’s based on a good idea.
They won’t read because it’s a well-thought-out logical argument.
They’ll read because they made the split-second decision after loading the page that, “Wow, this promises me something that’s really relevant and stimulating to me.”
Even if you succeed at all of the above, you haven’t won yet…
You might think you need to dive into the logic, to support the emotion.
Not so fast, Bubba.
You just lit a spark of emotion.
You need a fire.
You’ve got a little smoldering bit of kindling, a little flame, and a bit of smoke.
Now it’s time to pour fuel on the fire.
Tease the logical support you have.
But really, build the emotion.
You just promised a visceral benefit. Now SHOW IT.
Show how others have done what you are saying is possible. With the help of your mechanism.
Make it feel easy, even automatic.
Make it feel inevitable.
And just keep throwing fuel on that fire.
Your goal is to get them roaring hot with emotion BEFORE they hit the logic. BEFORE you require any critical thinking.
Because that emotion will make the sale. But they will eventually need some emotionally-fueled logical justification to feel confident forking over their cash.
All of this should be presented in the most SIMPLE way possible…
The more you make people THINK, the less you make them FEEL.
And if you want to hold their attention, you MUST make them feel.
Do it with story. Do it with punchy, concise language.
Do it with simple sentences and paragraphs.
Do it by supporting your copy-based sales argument with visuals.
Our goal used to be to get readability below 7.5 to keep attention off- and online.
Today, I think that’s dropped.
It’s probably around grade 6. And falling.
It’s worth throwing any copy you write into a checker tool like Hemingway. (So far this essay is written at Grade 5.)
Again think short attention spans.
If you’re going to make me read 10,000 words or watch a one-hour video, at least make it easy for me to get through.
Make your sentences short. Your ideas clear. Your appeals simple and direct.
Even if I can think, doesn’t mean you should make me…
I hate to sound so curmudgeonly, but I may have been wrong again. Assuming that people will think critically, when given the chance.
When you look at what people actually RESPOND TO, it’s not things that make them think critically.
Even sophisticated markets.
People respond to what makes them FEEL.
Make them feel, get response.
Make them think, lose their attention. Even if you’ve got the best damn rational argument on the planet and the truth of what you’re saying is undeniable.
It’s not the truth that wins.
It’s the feels.
That’s what gets attention and turns it into action.
And the above is a pretty solid pathway toward you getting more feels — and response — from your next marketing or selling message.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,