This is how you get people to pay attention

Image for post
Image for post
Our focus is out of focus. So is our attention. Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

Sales and marketing pros are always looking for peoples’ attention. We will cajole. We will beg and plead. We will offer freebies. We will keep the slide deck going even when it is obvious our audience has left us and the room for the fantasies in their heads.

Let’s face it: Earning and keeping peoples’ attention is hard. You can’t just walk into a room and expect people to give away their attention to you. Even for those experienced with working the room. Every day, multiple times per day, it is a battle for attention. Not only on the part of the seller or marketer, but also for the buyer.

For public speakers these days, good public speakers, it is hard to earn and keep the audiences’ attention. It is hard because if you don’t change something that’s going on in front of the audience about every 15 seconds, you lose them — to the smartphone in their hands. That is one formidable foe for the attention contest. Most of us lose.

Granted, speakers can shoot themselves in the foot out of the gate by talking about themselves, their credentials, their experience, and their lavish successes. Anyone who thinks this is a good speaking practice ought to be subjected to listening to 1,000 experts actually do this to their audience 1,000x in a single day. Then, we’ll see how good an idea a lead-in like this is.

It is easy for us to forget that people don’t believe your successes until they believe your struggles. So, lead with your struggles, and make them relatable to your audience. Your struggles prove that you don’t have it all together. Your struggles prove that you are on the journey. Your struggles prove that you’re human.

So, back to attention. How do you gain it? How do you get people to pay attention to your course? To your webinar? To your book? To your PDF download? Even to your talk?

You make them pay.

When we pay, we pay attention. Even if it is just a small amount, even $19, a micropayment, it acts as a fortifying force to our attention. We think, “Hey, I paid for this — I must really want it. So, I had better pay attention to this because it ain’t free.” It’s not free. It wasn’t designed for free. It adds value beyond free.

Image for post
Image for post
When we pay, we pay attention. Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

If you’re a sales and marketing pro like me, you have a love-hate relationship with free. Since you’re an active student of your profession in particular and your industry in general, you realize that people love free. They expect free. They’re conditioned to think free. They fantasize about free. And, of course, at the retail store, they buy one, and get one free (BOGO).

We cannot undo this conditioning, nor should we expect to. This is years and years of social programming all done in the name of free. Instead of taking on free in battle, let’s align with it, and then complement it with paid value.

For the modern day thought leader, say, a speaker, getting paid speaking engagements is their bread and butter. While they get paid to speak to specific audiences, there are likely a few each year they’ll perform for free.

Further, our modern day thought leader likely has other lines of business she will offer her market, such as teaching online courses, consulting, and book sales. Since she’s savvy about free and peoples’ perception of it, she offers a lot for free on her web site and social media accounts. Since she’s been an industry expert for two decades, she has a lot to offer in advice and counsel. Moreover, she is consistent with her content, putting stuff out there regularly and on schedule. She is aligned with her market’s perception of free even though she also gets paid well to deliver her talks and online courses.

Let’s talk about her online courses. These are not free. Our savvy thought leader is experienced. And through her experience, she has discovered that whenever she gives away access to her online courses, people do not complete them. In fact, they don’t even come close to completing them.

Let’s get curious and ask questions. Why is that? Why aren’t they making their way through the entire course? What’s the difference?

The difference is they did not pay for access. They got in for free. Therefore, they valued the online course and its content far less. They thought about it far less. And thus, they did not complete the course.

As if not completing the course is bad enough, the end user also did not experience the transformation that the course promises. Why do we take online or in-person courses, anyway? What are we seeking when we enroll? We seek transformation. We seek to become a better version of our current selves. We seek improvement. We seek status. We seek bragging rights. And we seek to show off our new, transformed self with our status badge to our friends, to our family and to our co-workers. Transformation is largely about status. We have made it to the Promised Land.

Give them the gift of making them pay.

By offering the course for free, the marketing pro knows this steals the transformation from the end user, the one seeking the transformative experience in the first place. Why would you do that? Stealing is wrong. Even the reverse sort of stealing, which this is. By giving them the online course for free, you’re stealing the transformative experience away from them. The solution? Make them pay. Give them the gift of making them pay.

We don’t listen to free advice. We listen to paid advice. We don’t pay solid attention to the YouTube video. We pay solid attention to the Netflix subscription for $8 / month.

We don’t pay attention to the professional speaker in who’s room we got in for free by sneaking in the side door. We pay attention to the professional speaker where we paid $1,000 for admission.

Dad and mom don’t pay attention to the free local carney festival just in town for the weekend. Dad and mom pay attention to the $10,000 Disney Vacation package they saved up and aspired to for months.

A big part of Disney’s gift is making you pay — a LOT — for their magical experiences and promises. And thousands and thousands and thousands of people from across the world choose to pay them in exchange for the value they provide their guests.

It may seem like a stretch to you that when you pay, you pay attention. But if you put on your anthropologist hat and observe where people actually put their money (i.e. analyze bank account and credit card statements), you will find that this is where their focus truly lies. It is these things that get the lion’s share of their attention. And it is these things that they are willing and able to pay for.

It doesn’t have to be much money in order to generate a hit. Netflix still charges $8 / month for all its content. Apple charges $10.99 / month for access to all its wonderful music content. Prime customers are charged approximately $6 / month for everything Amazon delivers to them, including fast, free shipping. But the principle applies: make them pay and you earn their attention.

But won’t I lose customers? Undoubtedly you will. And they were never going to pay you anyway. There are many, many freebie-seekers out there. And there are also customers out there who will pay $297 for your online course even though there are free alternatives out there. Are they suckers? Some might say.

But these are dedicated students of a particular discipline. They’ve got skin in the game. They’re here to learn, to grow, to transform into someone else. They’re in it to win it. They’re not here to jack around in freebie land, grappling and grasping and lunging at anything free they can get their hands on. They’re specific. And they don’t want to waste their time and attention on junk. They desire quality. They desire experience. They desire expertise. And they desire community, the cohort of students they can commiserate with about their discipline and their investment in it.

These are your people. Pursue them. Help them. Transform them. They’re waiting for you.

Written by

I’m a sales, marketing and tech Pro who creates content designed to help people solve problems and shift perspectives.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store