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Two Surefire Openings to Grab Your Audience's Attention

by Tim Riesterer  |  
April 23, 2013

I recently read this article describing a radically different job interview approach being used by Heineken, the Dutch brewer. The company conducted quirky video interviews with candidates, then posted the videos internally and asked current employees to vote for the most appealing candidate. Then, the company took the whole process public and posted the videos on YouTube.

Seriously? Must everything we do require an American-Idol style freak show? (Side note: One of my daughter’s friends recently made it to the second round of tryouts for the TV show but was told that while her voice was good enough to get her on the show, she didn’t have an interesting enough story for television. So, it’s not a talent show, it’s a made-for-TV dramatic series.)

Here’s how the Heineken spokeswoman described the process: "At a time when it's very tough to catch a career break, Heineken wanted to encourage young adults to stand out from the crowd by being inventive, resourceful, and innovative.”

You Need Some Grabbers?

So now, let’s bring this concept back around to what it means to you and me as marketers. It is all about standing out from the crowd.  And it’s getting harder to do and outdo the next person when it comes to crazy, made-for-TV antics.

At a minimum, you need to make sure that your message captures the attention of your audience very quickly, regardless of whether it is a tweet, your website, a campaign, or a sales presentation. In our recent book, “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale,” we described a technique called grabbers. As the name implies, grabbers are designed to be hot openings for your message that get prospects and/or customers emotionally involved---both figuratively and literally---in your message.

Here are just two examples of the grabber ideas we cover in the book to help you get started:

Number Plays

Wrap several numbers into a story to capture your attention.

Example: Opening a meeting with a prospect

“When does 1 equal 11? (Draw “1 = 11” on a whiteboard.) Well, according to McKinsey and Company, a 1% change in discounting can have an 11% impact on operating margin.

"With that in mind, these four numbers tell a story: 10-100-9-11 (Write the four numbers on the whiteboard.) Your current average discount is 10% on $100 million in operating margin. If you could reduce that to 9%, it would mean an additional $11 million in potential profit for your company.

"Where are you going to find that 1%? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about in our meeting today.”

Now, compare that to the typical opening of a meeting... You put up your PowerPoint slides and talk about your company, such as how big you are, how old you are, and how many locations you have (with the obligatory map of the world with dots). You also show the logos of all your customers; you describe the operating units, along with your products and services…  You get my drift.

Guess what? Those are the same opening slides your competitors showed. Where’s the difference? How do you stand out? You’ve lost attention before you even started. There’s no leaning into your message from the audience.

2. Words-in-Common

Use a set of words or phrases that have something in common but don’t immediately or obviously connect them to the situation you are in.

Example: Highlighting a key differentiator during a new business presentation

“What do these three things have in common?” (Write them down on a whiteboard.)

  • Hail Mary

  • Buzzer Beater

  • Walk-Off

"If you are a sports fan, you will recognize these words. They are all risky, last-second plays, often in desperation, to win a game. In football, it comes down to that big bomb into the end zone hoping for a miracle catch. In basketball, it’s the half court heave in the hopes it will go in the basket. In baseball, it’s the big swing for the fences to win it with one blast of the bat.

"They all make for spectacular highlights, but no team counts on them as a part of their strategy for delivering a winning season. They prepare a full game plan designed to win the game outright and avoid these last second do-or-die attempts.

"In the same way, it’s hard to salvage profits in the waning moments of contract negotiations with purchasing agents. What’s different with our approach is that you will be creating and capturing value upfront with the executive decision maker instead of trying to ‘rescue’ it at the end. This improves your ability to protect more margin when the deal eventually gets to procurement.”

I hope you were able to put yourself into these role plays to see how a grabber can be used to stand out from the crowd and create a memorable impression on your prospect or customer.

Hey, it’s got to be better than turning your fate over to a fickle voting public!

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Tim Riesterer is chief marketing officer and SVP of strategic consulting for Corporate Visions. He is also the co-author of Customer Message Management: Increasing Marketing's Impact on Selling.

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  • by Meka Tue Apr 23, 2013 via blog

    Very clever tactic to use in presentations! I will try it. Thank you. If you can think of others, please share.

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