Flailing for attention

Why we need to do more than get noticed

Most marketing acts as if all a business needs is attention.

The billboards that just try to get their logo in front of as many people as possible, assuming the rest will take care of itself.

The ads that grab attention but don’t articulate why the business is my best option, as if a funny or sad video is going to make me change years of habitual purchasing.

Or the clear attempts to just get something up on social media, like a stock image paired with an awkwardly-cropped logo, or a post about a brand new holiday recently discovered in a desperate Google search for inspiration.

So much marketing merely announces itself, as if that’s enough to make a customer.

But what, really, do these efforts accomplish? More than that, what could they accomplish?

If marketing were that easy—a matter of merely announcing ourselves—no business would ever struggle. If all it took to succeed was to throw a video up on TikTok and wait for the orders to pour in, no business would face challenges.

But the job of a marketer is not to make marketing assets, or to implement tactics. Or to just get attention. The job is to get customers.

So we need to spend less time hoping our marketing will work, and more time considering whether it could work.

We can ask ourselves: Is the content I’m planning communicating directly, specifically, and clearly to one audience in particular? If not, why would I assume they’d notice?

Does it provide real reasons why my business is a better option for that particular customer set, in a way they’ll understand and appreciate? If not, why would they break their current buying habit?

Does it give them something to do in this moment that will make it more likely that they’ll remember me in the future, when they need what I provide? If not, what are the odds they’ll think of me at the right time, when they’re ready to buy?

Marketing that only gets momentary attention is no better than nothing at all.

In fact it’s worse, because we wasted our time and our effort and our resources waving our arms around, like an inflatable tube man at a car dealership, as if that was enough.

But attention is not the goal, it’s the floor.

It’s what we do with that attention once we’ve got it that matters.

And we do need to get noticed, we need to make a splash. That’s where surprise, novelty, news, emotion, and creativity come in. But that’s the starting point for our marketing, not the end.

Anybody with a loud enough megaphone can get people to look at them—but to get people to act? That takes so much more.

Nobody cares about our ads, our social media posts, our videos, or even our newsletters. They care about their own problems, their own lives, their own jobs.

So if we don’t identify our target audience, understand the true problem we’re helping them solve, and why we’re the very best company to help them at their moment of need, we’re just waving our arms around.

We’re flailing for attention, hoping that that’s all it takes to create a profitable business.

But that path leads to disappointment, and deflation.

Instead, we’ve got to work, not just to get attention, but to be remembered.

We do that, first, by getting noticed, addressing our ideal audience in particular.

And then we demonstrate that we understand their struggle.

We next give them a taste of what it’s like to work with us.

And we reach them at the right time, when they’re most likely to need our help.

When we do that, there’s still no guarantee our every effort will work. That takes experimentation and time.

But it at least ensures our efforts can work.

Which is the best place to start.


If you’d like more tips on how to make your marketing more effective, please reply to his email or write me at joel@familyknife.com