With the rapid pace of business today, it is easy to lose sight of how much things have changed. Especially when it comes to communication, buying behavior and our overall mental makeup.
However, if you sit back for just a few minutes and reflect, you’ll quickly see that how we communicate, where we spend our time and how we make buying decisions is fundamentally different today than it was just a few short years ago. Think about it …
- How we get from point A to B has changed thanks to Uber.
- How we purchase gifts and essentials has changed thanks to Amazon.
- How we watch TV has changed thanks to Netflix.
- How we access and consume content has changed thanks to Google.
- The list goes on and on.
These dramatic shifts along with the internet, on-demand content, texting, social media, mobile apps — and other advancements have fundamentally changed the way we consume and connect with stories and content. More specifically, they have rewired our brains. Creating the need for humans (buyers) to rapidly turn on and off streams of thought, filter information and, at the end of the day, decide what they will and will not allocate their precious time and attention to.
The reality is, our attention span and patience continues to decrease while the volume of content, messages and information we are asked to consume exponentially increases. I don’t know about you, but if you are anything like me, you can’t even wait in line at the grocery store, sit at a traffic light, or even watch a 30-second commercial, without getting frustrated or reaching for your iPhone.
What does all of this mean? Well, for business leaders who are tasked with developing and delivering a clear, compelling and consistent corporate story — our jobs just got a whole lot harder. Buyers have limited attention spans. They are constantly multi-tasking. And that makes it much more difficult to capture and hold an individual’s attention for any amount of time.
In fact, researchers in Canada studied the brain activity of 2,000 people and discovered that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, about the time the mobile revolution started, to 8 seconds today. Having a lower attention span does not mean that we are consuming less — in fact, we are consuming more messages and content than ever before. Researchers estimate that the average American will spend almost 650 minutes per day consuming media this year. That’s about 70% of the time that we are actually awake.
All of these trends have implications. And they underscore the need for us to rethink how our corporate stories are crafted and consumed. Yet, many companies are developing and delivering their corporate message (story) the same way that they always have.
Moving forward, the old-school approach won’t work. We need to recognize buyers are not consuming our story from start to finish, but rather in bite-size chunks over time. We need to be building our story as a collection of interwoven micro-messages … not novels. We need to be rooting our stories in simple, structured messages that emotionally connect with our buyers. Messages that are easy to consume in the hyper-connected, always-consuming world that buyers live in.
To deliver a story that will connect with today’s buyers — both mindset and context — we need to do three things. We need to simplify, we need to rethink how stories are structured …. and we must emotionally engage the buyer to capture and maintain their attention throughout their journey. Let’s look at all three of these in more detail.
The essence of simplicity is that less is more. Given today’s buyer mindset, we have to be sharing fewer messages … more frequently. That means the less that we say, the more meaningful it must be.
Every aspect of your story must be rooted in a simple, consistent and foundational concept. In the marketing world this is often referred to as your core positioning or brand promise. But I believe we need to take it a step further. No one is going to remember a lengthy positioning statement. Not your employees, customers or partners. Remember … our buyers have an 8-second attention span. They engage with us in … micro-moments. So, I am challenging you to distill your story down to just ONE WORD. That’s right — one word that crystallizes what you want your buyer to take away from the limited attention span they are willing to give you and the micro-moments you share together throughout the buyer journey. This one word then becomes the cornerstone for the rest of your story.
Gallup Research found the most successful companies determine what they stand for and how they separate themselves in the marketplace. This foundational concept then drives every interaction with customers, employees and suppliers. Without it, the story and customer experience falls apart. Think of the brands that you recognize. The brands that you instinctively know what they stand for. They simplify. They stay true to a singular message and they weave it into the fabric of everything they do. Into the employee experience. Into the customer experience. Every dimension of their business is anchored in a single, simple concept and their story reinforces that at every touch point. No one in these organizations has to even think about it. They instinctively know the cornerstone of the story and have the ability to bring it to life consistently in everyday communication and conversations. For example, Southwest Airlines’ story is all about friendliness. The Progressive Insurance story is about price — offering lower rates than its competitors. For these companies, their stories are more than just words on paper. They are at the center of every dimension of their business.
Structure is about thinking how your story will be delivered through a disconnected series of micro-moments. Not always intended to be consumed sequentially. But structured as a comprehensive set of simple, clear messages that are anchored in a foundational concept — and when knitted together they tell a clear, compelling and consistent story. That’s the reality of how messages are consumed by buyers today. On their time. On their terms. One bite at a time. Across a wide range of channels and devices. Structure your story in a way that no matter what dimension of the story they consume — your audience leaves with that simple, single concept.
The Academic Director at IE School of Human Sciences & Technology recently said, “Companies need to generate simpler messages, communicated in a sharper way — making them more emotional and engaging.” That statement is more true than ever. Now let’s talk about emotion.
Jerry Seinfeld once said, “People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.” To entertain means to keep, hold, or maintain in the mind. Sentiment is the feeling or emotion your story generates in the heart and mind of your buyer. It’s how you create and maintain their attention.
This is where many companies struggle in the B2B corporate storytelling world. They focus too much on what they do and not enough on why it matters to the buyer. They don’t engage the buyer from a personal and professional perspective. They fail to connect with both the heart and the mind.
According to Gallup, only 29% of B2B customers are fully engaged — that is, emotionally and psychologically attached to the companies they do business with. The other 71% of customers are ready and willing to take their business elsewhere. Your story can materially impact the degree your customers connect with your company.
In summary, your buyers have limited time, patience and attention. They consume your story in micro-messages and moments. That means how you develop and deliver your story must change. A new model is required whereby you construct your story in a way that aligns with the mindset and behavior of today’s buyer – and then bring that story to life consistently across every dimension of your business.