In business, capturing customer attention is half the battle. Few have done that more successfully lately than Randy Freer, Hulu's CEO. Under his leadership, Hulu has grown faster than any other streaming service. Last year, it increased its customer base by almost 50%, acquiring 8 million new customers.

Despite this rapid scaling, Business Insider reported that Hulu is still operating at a loss, a fact that underscores the fierce competition in today's digital marketplace. Part of the challenge is the fragmented attention that is the new normal for consumers. Between mobile apps, text messages, ads, radio, weather reports, stock market updates, social sharing, tweets, and on and on, the average person is bombarded with information.

This means that marketers can't just fall back on old strategies, like running traditional TV ads--few people now give TV the undivided attention they used to. Some marketers instead lean into long-form content that tells a compelling story, such as Tile's short film of a lost stuffed panda bear. Other companies pair up to develop co-branded products and amplify their messaging, as Everlane and The New York Times have done recently with The Climate Collection. Many brands pursue "omnipresent" advertising, in which brand messaging is promoted across traditional mass media as well as through social networking, email, out-of-home media, and online ad buys.

It's all done in an effort to catch a fleeting glance and capitalize on the elusive target of consumer attention. If you, too, wish to cut through the noise and reach more consumers, here are three ways to engage their imagination and excitement on behalf of your brand.

1. Cater to audience expectations.

Sometimes what your customers want and what you as a business owner would prefer can come into conflict. An example of this is selling your product via your own website versus selling it on Amazon or Instagram. Sure, your margins may be better when you sell directly from your site, but customers often want to use other platforms to find and buy your product. Adobe's 2019 Brand Content Survey indicates that 48% of consumers prefer an online marketplace over a brand's website (44%) for purchasing and product research.

The point is that companies can't afford to restrict their potential customers' options just because it's more directly profitable for them. Vimeo gets this point: They recently made a change such that their premium users can now instantly publish their videos not only to Vimeo, but to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn's company pages.

2. Share the spotlight.

Sometimes you don't have to do all the marketing heavy lifting by yourself. One of the best ways to share the load today is through influencers. They come with built-in trust and audience engagement, so your brand will appear more credible when it's touted by an influencer than if you promote it yourself. According to Relatable's 2019 State of Influencer Marketing report, what 62% of marketers found most valuable about this approach is the opportunity to make their brand part of that special bond between influencers and their audience.

How can you make sure you won't squander this opportunity? Carefully choose influencers whose personal platform and experiences align with your brand messaging. To promote its donation-matching campaign to Resolve: The National Infertility Association, for example, Ferring Pharmaceuticals chose an influencer, Janise Burrafato (aka @mamainheels), who had dealt with infertility herself. Janise's sponsored post discussing her experience with fertility treatments received more than 1,800 likes in one day.

3. Use tech to compete on a budget.

Finally, ensure that you are using technology to its fullest to get the most value from your marketing dollars. That doesn't just mean spending less, but competing effectively with bigger companies that can spend more. Consider the example of weight loss company Jenny Craig, which competes with big-budget rivals like Weight Watchers. 

In partnership with media agency Generator Media + Analytics, Jenny Craig used media platforms to target dynamic messaging to qualified consumers based on factors such as geography, the customer's history of interaction with the brand, and website cookies. This tech-driven approach boosted Jenny Craig's customer lifetime value by more than 20% and reduced customer acquisition costs by 23%, resulting in four consecutive years of growth for the company. 

Customer attention is one of the most valuable commodities in today's marketplace. It can be a challenge to capture it, given all the distractions in customers' daily lives. By meeting their expectations while leveraging influencers and technology, your business can do it effectively--and on budget.

Published on: May 26, 2019
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