The 10-Second Customer Attention Test

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One thing becomes more urgent with every passing year: Marketers need to communicate their value propositions more quickly and clearly to capture customer attention. The sheer amount of content vying for your prospective customers’ attention is staggering—and growing nonstop.

Our target audiences are perpetually bombarded with an ever-expanding volume of content vying for their attention. As marketers looking to capture potential customers’ attention, we must minimize the time we take to explain the value our products provide.


The 10-Second Rule

10 seconds. That’s about how long you have in order to communicate your value proposition to keep customer attention, according to a report by Neilson Norman Group. That number can vary depending on whose attention you’re trying to grab.

For example, the exact amount of time you have to capture the attention of a first-time prospect depends on whether they are visiting your website or landing page, reading a brochure or email, passing your booth at a trade show, or encountering your message through some other means. Meanwhile, existing customers will decide whether to stay on your website or abandon it in 10 to 20 seconds.

The Three-Part Customer Attention Test

To evaluate the attention-grabbing power of your website, landing pages, sales collateral, promotional emails or event displays, apply the 10-second customer attention test. Determine whether the average customer prospect will understand three things after 10 seconds of interacting with your content

  1. Who you are: Clearly express who your company is. Your logo and company name should be prominent and easy to read. This may seem obvious, but it’s not always implemented.
  2. What you do: Don’t just indicate what you produce (i.e., “we design and produce quality [fill in the blank] products”). Identify the primary problem you solve—hit the core of what keeps your prospects up at night. Generally, this involves overcoming a critical obstacle or reaching a key business goal.
  3. Who you serve: Clearly define who you serve so that prospective customers can quickly identify themselves as someone you or your product supports. This can be based on a range of parameters, such as industry, size or type of business, role or title, or other defining and relatable details.

If your prospects understand who you are, what you do, and who you serve, they can make an informed decision about whether to learn more about your business or move on. If they decide to move on, so be it. What’s important is that their decision is based on an accurate understanding of the value you offer.

Meanwhile, an uninformed or underinformed prospect with a flagging attention span may turn away and move on—either believing your offering is not a fit for their business or simply lacking the right information to grab their attention. They may be an excellent candidate for your product or service, but your content has failed to tell the right story.

Beyond Your First 10 Seconds

Once your content passes the 10-second test, you’ve likely earned about another 20 seconds of your prospective customer’s attention, according to the Neilson Norman Group report on website attention. What you communicate in the time you’ve earned is also critical. This is the time to explain what makes you uniquely qualified to address the prospect’s critical problem or help them reach their key goal. To do this, you need to understand their pervasive issues—only then can you make them understand what differentiates your product or service and how you will help them reach their goals.

As you begin down the path to grabbing more than 10 seconds of your customers’ time, it’s important to remember that these businesses have alternative solution choices that extend beyond those offered by solution providers like you. In fact, most B2B companies lose more business to prospective customers who choose to do it themselves (in-house) or do nothing (status quo).

It’s easy to focus on proving why your products and solutions are better than your competitors’, but you must remember that your messaging and positioning need to prove why your products and solutions are superior to doing something in-house or merely maintaining the status quo.

Using the 10-second customer attention test is a simple, effective way to evaluate the attention-holding power of your content, and you can apply it to the sales tools that deliver your company’s first impression. As the proverb goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and, in today’s content-heavy world, it’s as true as ever.

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Rod Griffith

Rod Griffith

Rod Griffith is co-founder and chief client officer of of MarketReach. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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