April 22, 2003

Now That I've Got Your Attention

"You haven't been writing much these past few weeks," a colleague observed.

While I understood the reasoning behind the observation, in fact the opposite is true. I have been writing a great deal the past few weeks, but I have not been posting. Given what has been going on in the world around us, it seemed foolish to think any observations I might offer would merit your attention.

In New Rules for a New Economy published several years ago, author Kevin Kelly noted that, "In a world abundant in information, the only thing scarce is human attention." This powerful, yet simple assertion was explored in greater detail in The Attention Economy by Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck in which they assert that most individuals and organizations suffer from an attention deficit. .

How effective are you and your organization at attracting, managing, and sustaining the attention of your members, customers, and leaders?

We live in world overabundant with information, so managing attention is a critical competency for all of us to master. I have been pondering how we can streamline the number of times we attempt to capture others' attention and then how we can potentially do more with that attention once it has been offered to us.

Example: a registration brochure for a conference or a conference promotion on your web site. Let's assume either has attracted my interest enough that I am reading the content. Presumably, my attention reflects the fact that I have needs or aspirations related to the topics being addressed at the conference. Might this not be a prime time to direct me to other related programs, books, or resources on the topic that you might offer, etc.? What if you offered me the chance on the registration form to purchase a set of related resources at a discounted price? Upselling in that manner is unlikely to come across as, "Do you want fries with that?"

As usual, Amazon.com has been using such a strategy almost since its inception. Purchase a book and what shows up on the page confirming your selection? A series of additional books related to the topic of the one you’ve purchased. What is powerful about how Amazon.com does this is that they don’t ask you to go to an additional link or in any other way try to consume more of your time. They simply display this information alongside of the information you want to see (the confirmation of your order) and do it prominently enough that it may indeed command your attention.

Well-designed web sites understand that speed and clarity is of the essence. The engineers at Google are obsessive about how fast the home page downloads and how quickly search results are delivered. That’s part of what has made the site such an overwhelming success.

Well-designed association communications and publications should do the same. Devote some attention to your current communication efforts and how they can be redesigned to better command your target audience's attention and to further leverage that attention once it is offered. Look at the forms and reports you require of staff and volunteers to determine if the attention they require merits how the information is actually used.

In short, it is time to pay more attention to how you ask others to pay attention.



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