Content Marketing Job No. 1: Getting Their Attention

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Content Marketing Job No. 1: Getting Their Attention

attention getting is job one in content marketing

If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone care? If your content has no consumers, what's the point? The first step in content marketing and demand generation is getting people's attention. Without that, you have no readers, no viewers, no visitors, no leads, no marketing qualified leads and no customers. Nada. For emails, it's opens. For ads and calls to action, it's clicks. There has to be a motivation on the part of the viewer to do something, and if your content is ignored, there is no chance of getting any kind of conversion. So we should be working hardest on the opening line—the attention-getter, right? But what's the catch? The catch is that we get attention-getting stuff shoved in our faces 24-7-365. We're used to the bold headlines, the free stuff and the last chances at salvation. We're immune to all of it. So what's a marketer to do?

Traditional Marketing Tactics

The simplest approach that works well, according to a lot of marketing gurus, is to appeal to your audience's primary senses and emotions using key words in your headlines and subject lines.

  • Greed - using words like "profit,” "fortune,” "goldmine" and "rich"
  • Thrift - using words like "free,” "save,” "rock-bottom" and "cheap"
  • Power - using words like "dominate,” "take-over,” "leader" or "owner"
  • Violence - using words like "killer,” "destroy,” "blast" or "boom"
  • Security - using words like "protect,” "insure,” "defend" and "safe"
  • Fear - using words like "worst case,” "disaster,” "catastrophic" and "failure"
  • Pride - using words like "best,” "leading,” "award-winning" and "top"
  • Comfort - using words like "warm,” "cozy,” "relaxing" and "satisfying"
  • Curiosity - using words like "discover,” "explore,” "insider" and "secret"
  • Love - using words like "adorable,” "cuddly,” "sweet" and "love"

Do these tactics work? It depends on how they are used. The trick is to be just a little bit over-the-top but still believable. Here are a couple of examples:


"Top 10 Killer Tactics for SEO That Will Skyrocket Your Website Search Rankings"


"The Truth About SEO - 10 Game-Changing Strategies"

Now for me, I probably wouldn't open either email or click through on an ad, but the first one is worse because it's too over-the-top. The word "killer" is overused and it sounds like total BS to claim any set of tactics will skyrocket your search rankings these days. Granted, some people still believe this is possible, so there will be some takers. The second headline, while still a bit hyped, sounds more genuine, like there could be some useful information I might not know yet. Not everyone has my instincts and sensibilities, though, so an A/B test would be in order.

More Effective Marketing Tactics

While I don't completely discount the use of emotional language to get people's attention, I wouldn't go to the well too often. We get this stuff in our email, social networks, texts and blogs all the time, so we have learned to immediately discard most marketing messages. What I would recommend is attempting to make a real connection through some common ground, for example:

  • Timely commentary or helpful review of a current event, new product or announcement
  • Insider information that really hasn't been covered before (do your research)
  • Personalized content that specifically addresses the pain points of likely readers
  • Invitation to participate in something real—a discussion or a live event, not a one-way webinar or infomercial
  • Thought leaders—get your CEO involved in marketing and make sure your communications come directly from him/her
  • Authenticity—All communications should be sourced from a real person with a real email address

Pay Attention to the Details

Finally, it's crucial to dot the i's and cross the t's. Proofread every bit of copy and make sure there are no typos, grammar flubs or formatting errors; people will bounce immediately when they see those. Also, make sure all of your communications are branded and attractively designed.

The key to getting attention nowadays is being someone people want to hear from and delivering something of value. Focus on those two things, and your conversion rates will skyrocket!

Photo credit: 16 Miles of String

john mctigue blog photoWith over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.

content marketing guide


This is some great advice. I like the keywords you highlighted that are tied to readers' most basic emotions. Another category I might add to that list is "Knowledge," consisting of words like "how" and "why." From my own experience, I know that I frequently click on how-to articles.
Posted @ Tuesday, March 12, 2013 10:01 AM by Brett Langlois
@Brett - good suggestion. Education is one of the primary motivators for online visits. I thought about including sex and entertainment, that are also primary motivators, but I chickened out...
Posted @ Tuesday, March 12, 2013 12:31 PM by John McTigue
Good advice.  
My personal cringe is the tenuous connection - "ten things the Superbowl teaches us about email marketing" type of headlines. 
On the personalised front, I was shocked recently when I complained to a major blog about getting bombarded with invitations to a show in the US (I'm in the UK) - it turned out they had no way of separating this sort of event promotion from the regular blog. 
But I had to laugh at your ironic last paragraph. "It's crucial to dot the i's and cross the t's".  
Both of these are plurals - there should not be an apostrophe with indicates either something missing or creates a sense of belonging to. 
Rather undermines your "Proofread every bit of copy..." sentence.
Posted @ Wednesday, March 13, 2013 8:59 AM by Peter Johnston
Great article, and it got my attention and stopped me for a full read. The point about putting garbage is a good point. I have old stuff out there from my SEO days that is a bit of an embarrassment. Those articles were whisked up quickly for their link building power and now they're around to haunt.  
Peter's comment about the apostrophe's is interesting. Although it is proper to not use the apostrophe's but every does, so it's almost uncomfortable for readers not to see it. What do you do?!
Posted @ Monday, March 18, 2013 8:09 AM by Gord Collins
@Peter, I beg to differ. Without the apostrophe, "i's" spells "is" and "t's" spells nothing and looks like a typo. PS - I did say proofread everything, but I didn't say every blog post has to be grammatically perfect. Blogging is a different skill... 
@Gord, yes, link building now is all about writing great stuff that people want to share...
Posted @ Monday, March 18, 2013 8:14 AM by John McTigue
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