Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Are you commanding attention or demanding attention?

There’s a big difference between commanding people’s attention and demanding people’s attention.

Demanding attention

Most of the small business marketing we see is trying to demand our attention.

  • They send us emails we never asked for.
  • They pester us on social networking sites.
  • They call us in the office when we are busy and sometimes at home when we are relaxing with our family and friends.
  • They interrupt our TV and radio shows with their sales pitches.
  • They pursue us at business events.
  • In short, they do everything possible to demand that we listen to what they have to say.

Demanding attention is all about interrupting us and pushing us.  The problem with that approach is that our natural reaction is to push back.  Just because they demand our attention does not mean we are going to be receptive to them.  Quite the opposite.  For example, if a marketer walks up to you in the street and pokes you in the chest, he will get your attention, but it’s not the kind of attention he wants!

Commanding attention

A smarter approach, is to command our attention.  This is all about earning attention.  People command our attention when they do something that attracts and then either informs or entertains us; sometimes both.  Commanding people’s attention takes work and creativity, but the upside is huge.  That’s because we treat information that has commanded our attention very differently, from information that is trying to demand our attention.

Think of 2 things you will read today.  For example, this blog post and a spam email.

  • The spam email is something you will delete the second it arrives.  That spam message may be in front of you, but there’s no desire on your part to engage with the content.
  • However, you are already over 300 words into reading this blog post.  There’s clearly a lot more engagement here.

In short: When we command the attention of our prospective clients, anything we share with them is received in a far more receptive way, than those who use brute force to demand their attention.

Photo: bldheretic

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  1. Stop me if I make no sense, but I think the same is true of the businesses and careers we choose to involve ourselves in. A 9-to-5 job may demand your attention, but it can also leave you burned out and bitter. A job you love commands your attention, when every customer is a joy to work with and an adventure to take on. It’s the difference between my grumbling through my old customer service job, and my jumping for joy each time a new webcomic planning session takes place.

  2. Here is the problem with what you’re arguing. While I agree that there is a great difference between demanding and commanding, I think within the framework of marketing to real consumers, that difference loses significance. The truth is, demanding attention still works, if you look at the dollars and cents of it all. Emails, social networks, and phone calls all drive sales, even today. So it’s tough to convince a company to try something else when demanding our attention is working.

    • Hi Zach.

      Permission marketing (commanding) is now being used by brands as huge as Ford and as small as the entrepreneur on their kitchen table.

      Pestering and pursuing people, is becoming not only less and less effective, it’s becoming toxic.

      The target of the pestering now has social networking channels to share their distaste. You wake their kids up calling the parents at home because YOU think you have the right to, no longer works.

      Piss them off today, when they have a voice, and you not only lose their business, you hurt your reputation.

      Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing from a decade ago paved the way for those brands who wanted to attract (command) the attention of the marketplace AND save a fortune.

      I find it amazing you say you find it “tough to convince” people that pushing is less effective, when response rates for push marketing are decreasing.

      Ironically, the post you were just attracted to will be read by thousands of people, who will receive my message and engage with me, without it costing me any more than a little of my time.

      To reproduce those thousands of highly targeted connections every day, would cost me hundreds of thousands in push marketing; whilst pissing off a huge section of the marketplace.

    • Nicky Russell

      July 20, 2011 at 21:22

      @ Zach,
      Seriously. You say it makes commercial sense if you spam social networks and annoy people when they are busy with your calls to sell us your stuff?

      Thats Dinosaur Marketing. You can’t pull them strokes today my friend.

      We used telemarketing and saw response rates go from amazing a decade ago to garbage 2 years ago. Mailshots rates dropped too even though we hired the 2nd largest marketing firm in our state.

      All our marketing is attraction based using what I call tutorial marketing. We have built a list not bought one and we have never seen such good results in our company’s 23 years.

      • Hi Nicky. I have seen the kind of results you speak of over and over again, when people switch from pestering people, to earning their attention.

        The list you build through earned attention is of massively greater value, than anything you can buy. Why? Because those on the list you build WANT your information.

        Simples… ;)

  3. Clare Evans @clareevans

    July 21, 2011 at 10:30

    Another interesting article – the majority of my mailings are permission based. I never send out my newsletter to those who haven’t requested it – unlike many others who’s unsolicited emails I receive.

    There is a balance between demanding and commanding. Saying ‘hello’ and not shouting in someone’s face.

    As I’m about to embark on a direct marketing campaign I’ll be considering how to attract, engage and inform rather than demand their attention.

  4. There is nothing that bothers me more is when I meet someone new and give them my business card, which has my email address on it, and all of a sudden the person feels like I want to receive their newsletter.

    They don’t ask me if I want to receive it, they just assume I want it.

    Nothing turns me off the most about a business, when they do this. I would probably say. yes, I would love to receive your advertisements, if they would just ask.

    Thanks again for a great post, Jim.

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