It looks like human beings are now on par with goldfish in our capacity to pay attention. Or so say the studies that place modern day attention spans at the 8 second mark. This, if you believe it, presents businesses with a unique problem. That is: how do you capture someone’s attention in less than 8 seconds?

The answer to this is simple: keep it short, keep it relevant, and keep it sweet. But how do you do that?

Being short

This applies specifically to text. If you want to get a little bit technical, you could calculate that, given the average adult attention span is 8 seconds, and the average adult reading speed is 300 words per minute, the average adult will read 40 words of marketing copy before potentially becoming bored. This isn’t an actual rule. But if you pretend that it is then you stand a chance of disconnecting the 8 second kill switch and capturing your audience’s attention. 

Think in snippets, because that’s how people read. Be brief and to-the-point. Remember that a passerby is more likely to stop and read a 30 word paragraph on a poster than a 500 word essay.

Being relevant (or: not burying the lead)

In journalism, if you ‘bury the lead’ it means you’ve started a story by sharing details that are of secondary importance to the reader. In other words, you’re not being relevant. But it’s not only journalists who can be guilty of this attention pulverising crime. Quite a number of businesses ‘bury the lead’ when trying to talk about a product, service, or offer. Sometimes they’ll provide unnecessary details of their company or its employees. Or they might just take too long to get to the point.

To be relevant, find the lead and lead with it. If you’re offering a 50% discount, mention it right away!

  Being sweet 

Whatever it is, it must look nice. Websites, brochures, print advertisements. If what you’re presenting isn’t eye-catching, then it won’t be attention-grabbing. There’s so much competition out there, and so much ‘noise’, that you have to make people double-take in order for them to pay any attention at all. So always aim to make your visuals exciting and enticing, no matter what. This same logic is why you’ll never see Werther’s Originals on display in a sweet shop window. They might taste nice (to some) but there’s nothing particularly appealing about the way they look.

For a more in-depth look at how to make your business stand out and grab the attention of prospective clients, download a copy of Red Square’s free ebook, How Good Design Makes Marketing Sense.