The Most Overused Marketing Statistic (and How to Make it Irrelevant)

Goldfish Attention Span: Overused Marketing Statistic

You’ve heard it often, especially if you’re in marketing. It’s by far the most overused marketing statistic. Can you guess what it is?

Yep, you got it. Our attention spans (eight seconds) are now less than a goldfish’s (nine seconds), according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Researchers blame the decrease on the increase of external stimulation. Many marketers equate the increase with the overwhelming amount of content we’re bombarded with every day.

The stat gets used in presentations, webinars, social media, blogs, you name it. I get it. It’s attention-getting. I even posted it myself when I first heard it. But, has our attention span shortened because of all the content? Or, do we put out more content because our attention spans have decreased? What’s the chicken and what’s the egg?

We marketers already know that we’re inundating people with messages and content. But, some (not all who are reading this, of course!) look at the attention spans and churn out more content in the hope that something will stand out.

But, consumers now have a million ways to tune out messages if they don’t want to hear them. They don’t have time or patience to sit through commercials or wait for something to download.

Despite this Marketing Statistic, Consumers Aren’t Tuning Everything Out

That said, they don’t tune everything out. It’s like when the Great Recession was starting. All we heard about was how people weren’t spending. But, when my wife and I would go to a restaurant, there were plenty of people there. I worked for Cox Communications at the time, and we didn’t lose a ton of customers. Some customers cut back on a few of the bells and whistles, but they stayed.

People weren’t completely cutting back on spending. They were being more selective and looking for more value for their dollar. It’s the same with marketing. Consumers will tune in for truly relevant, valuable content.

How do you make this overused marketing statistic irrelevant? Here are three ways to make sure your content hooks your customers and doesn’t end up swimming circles in a fishbowl.

1. Build and Document Your Content Strategy

How do we break through all the clutter? You’ve been hearing or reading it for months, if not longer—it all starts with a documented strategy. See Joe Pulizzi’s article “New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy.”

Align your strategy with the company’s business goals. Identify your buyer personas and their pain points. Then, create your content to solve them. There are analytics tools available that make it easy to track what your buyer personas care about and what earns a response.

This isn’t groundbreaking. Make your first goal to put your strategy in place. Document it. Review it often.

2. Less is More

Another big trend that I’ve heard many times is to focus on less, but more relevant, content. It’s about quality over quantity. Three great posts are more valuable to your customers than 10 so-so posts. In “The Wizard of Moz Talks SEO and Shares Tips for 2015,” Rand Fishkin recommends concentrating on attracting the right kind of customer instead of forcing out daily posts. Let that dictate the content you produce and the rate at which it comes out. Make an impact.

Don’t worry about length (unless it’s Twitter, and you have no choice). If the content is compelling and relevant, people will read it. You can make it easier on them, though, by using bullets, sub-heads, photos, etc.

Reallocate the time you’re saving to analyze what content is working best. Look for opportunities to improve your conversions from your top-performing content.

3. Don’t Forget Your Hook

Finally, make sure your headlines are eye-catching and interesting. Spend as much time as you need to create titles that will stop readers in their tracks and hook them in.

As Jay Baer says in Youtility, “Your company is literally competing for attention in social media and email against your customers’ and prospects’ closest friends and family members.” Give them a reason to pay attention to you. But, make sure you deliver once they do. Do it consistently and you’ll hook in your audience.

Note: This post was originally posted on

Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons photo by James Demetrie

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