goldfish

Conventional marketing wisdom says consumers are so time starved we need to grab their attention with ever more hyperbole, strident claims and noise.

There's actually growing evidence that in this instant, online-focussed marketing world, the opposite is true, with long and considered beating quick and superficial.

That great marketing mind Albert Einstein once noted, in a less politically correct age, that: "An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour."

Of course there is little doubt that the modern consumer's time is felt more preciously, and people are more harried and stressed. It is almost a mark of shame to not be busy.

In a recent study of the issue, The Economist magazine cited a Harvard University survey showing 94 per cent of professionals in the United States worked at least 50 hours a week, and just under half over 65 hours. They cited other research that 60 per cent of those who use smartphones are connected to work for 13.5 hours or more a day.

Ironically, according to The Economist, overall people in rich countries actually have more leisure time than they used to. On average American men work for nearly 12 hours less a week than they did in the 1970s.

Women are doing more paid work now, but the volume of unpaid work they do has on average dropped due to improved modern appliances and the fact that men are more likely to do at least some share of the work around the home.

What The Economist study identifies is that as educated, professional people are being paid relatively more, they put greater value on their time, and become more determined to maximise the use of it. The more cash-rich people feel, the more likely they are to think they are time starved.

There has been a switch in circumstances between rich and poor. Well paid professionals are tending to work longer to maximise their earning, while poorly educated workers get stuck with lower-paid, more casual type work with a greater amount of leisure time.

The result is that especially for business-to-business marketers, target audiences are feeling more time poor, and face greater volumes of information delivered by an ever increasing number of channels.

According to the marketingtech blog, 55 per cent of website pages get less than 15 seconds of viewing from consumers and 40 per cent of consumers abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.

The US National Center for Biotechnology Information published a report in April that found the average attention span had dropped from 12 seconds in 8.25 seconds, comparing that to the average attention span of a gold fish which is 9 seconds.

A natural response from marketers is to try and package marketing information more, shout a bit louder, try and be more outrageous.

What needs to be understood that as in Einstein's quote, time is relative to the value you are receiving. If you can provide information that is "relevant" enough, people will want to consume it. And the more relevant, the more they will want to consume of it.

Amazingly, in this instant, online, 24/7 world, relevant in-depth marketing information does actually work.

SerpIQ, a provider of search engine tools, completed a recent study that found that top rated posts in search engine results were usually over 2000 words. That is about 10 minutes of reading time.

Local software company Pivot Software are clever users of online marketing. The most downloaded piece of content on their website over a period of several years has been a detailed 29-page guide.

This content is a "pretty girl" in Einstein's terms because it offers useful business advice to the kind of managers who would buy the software Pivot sells. The guide isn't about their software, but about the problem it solves. That's what makes consumers passionate and willing to invest time.

Pivot's target audience are willing to spend time with this content; where a screaming, hype-filled advertisement might feel like the "hot stove".

It is actually the fact that your target audience perceives themselves to be time poor that great long-form content actually works. In the midst of an avalanche of short, sharp, hyped-up marketing messages, something that gives them information of value cuts through.

In-depth content ranks better on search engines, gives you something to promote through your email and social media channels, typically results in people spending longer periods of time on your website, and positions your brand as an authority in your area of focus.

It seems counter-intuitive that the long and considered would work in this era of sub-gold fish attention spans, but it does. The challenge for marketers is to provide pretty girls instead of hot stoves.

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