Four Powerful Steps to Engage Humans Not Fish

your audience likely has an attention span of just 8 seconds. 

One second less than a goldfish. 

This is what a Microsoft study discovered in 2015.  It suggested that all of our screens and the constant stream of distractions they provide has changed the way we think about and perceive the world. 

Leaving aside whether this is good or bad, and ignoring how they actually figured out the attention span of a goldfish, the point for marketers is this:

you have 8 seconds to grab the attention of your audience. 



Here is the good news: if you simplify your content and focus on your story, you can use those 8 seconds very effectively to engage your audience. 

Once they are engaged they will ask questions, either in their mind or verbally and this will draw them into your world. 

Then their attention span grows and they are interested in learning more.  


So how do you use your 8 seconds effectively:

1.    Focus on the problem you solve. 

Notice the singular here. 

You can’t focus on many problems, you have to pick one.  The key challenge, the fundamental problem that your target market has. 

There will be opportunities for nuance later but here it is all about the one problem.

At Engage, for example, we solve many problems: communication, marketing, funnels, websites, design, but these are all details. 

Our primary focus is on helping our customers develop messaging that connects viscerally. 

The rest comes later. 


2.     Use a story framework. 

Stories connect, lists of features and benefits don’t.  When you put your message into a story framework, you can use the power of story to engage your audience.



3.     Simplify your materials. 

Focus on reducing what you say, so that it is concise and expresses your story.  Use compelling images that express how you solve problems, summary headlines that communicate your story and simple language that engages. 

Remember that your marketing materials don’t need to communicate everything they just need to draw your market in to ask the next question. 


4.     Include a call to action. 

Define here what the next step is for your audience.  If they are interested, how can they continue their exploration? 

The first step can be as simple as encouraging them to scroll down or turn over the page.

From there, they can ask for more information, enroll in a newsletter or get a white paper.  Or something like: Download our story template here, just as an example.  

These steps will encourage them to take the next step as they continue the journey to being your customer. 

This is your marketing “funnel” and is key to using small blocks of attention to appeal to your audience.


A simpler, more refined, approach will make use of people’s precious 8 seconds so they will want to learn more and understand what you do.  These four steps will help you get there. 

Or you could take 9 seconds, but then only the goldfish will be paying attention.


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