Despite your best efforts to imitate the "Single Ladies" dance at that one wedding, chances are you, as a hard-working entrepreneur, don't have too much in common with pop icon Beyoncé. But even if you're far less glamorous and less musically gifted than the singing sensation, she still has plenty to teach you about capturing an audience's attention, according to a new book.
Her fifth album, he reminds readers, received absolutely no marketing and was announced without fanfare via a midnight Instagram post. Within three hours, it "sold 80,000 copies. In one day, it sold 430,000 copies. By day three, it had broken iTunes records with an astounding 828,733 digital copies sold," Parr explains.
Overnight successes aren't
All of which is a phenomenal achievement for an artist, but what does this have to do with the type of business person who is not known to go to work in miniscule sequined dresses? Plenty, says Parr. The essential lesson of Beyoncé's "overnight" success is that what appears to be instant achievement almost never is.
"The media loves to talk about overnight successes. Pinterest, Angry Birds, and Psy's 'Gangnam Style' all seemed to come out of nowhere to become billion-dollar companies and international superstars. But what if I told you Pinterest was founded in 2008, three years before it became an 'overnight sensation'? Did you know Angry Birds was the 52nd game released by game studio Rovio? And did you know that Psy had been topping the charts in South Korea for nearly a decade before his horse dancing swept the globe?" Parr writes. "The truth is that most 'viral' moments are years in the making."
And what's true of Psy and Pinterest is true of Beyoncé too. "She has carefully developed her craft, image, and reputation to create long-term interest in everything she does," Parr says.
There are no shortcuts
The takeaway lesson here for business owners is that there are no shortcuts when it comes to winning the sort of attention you really want--the sustainable kind that won't fade in the time it takes to click on the next hot YouTube video. "Long" attention should be your goal. Any hijinks intended to garner short-term interest are only a means to that end.
"Familiarity is the key to long attention. We build shortcuts for the activities and ideas we're familiar with. In some cases, these familiar occurrences and daily routines become instinctive habits. You don't have to think in order to brush your teeth or take a shower, but you know you need to do both, and you know how to do them almost automatically," writes Parr. Your goal as an audience builder is to make what you're selling nearly as indispensable for everyday life as that daily toothbrushing.
"The secret to creating a successful lesson plan, advertising campaign, or long-term relationship is finding effective ways to capture short-term attention and then transitioning into long attention. It's not enough to have an audience watch an entertaining ad--it has to generate followers, fans, and most importantly, sales," he concludes.
Want more information on exactly how Beyoncé managed to capture this sort of "long attention"? A fascinating interview with Parr on Big Think gets into the details, including the singer's savvy use of something called the "acknowledgement trigger."