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Every company struggles to target the right audience and, just as important, to grab the audience's attention long enough to drive real action. After all, consumer attention spans have now waned to a mere eight seconds—down from a whopping 12 seconds not even two decades ago.

But blaming consumers for a lack of interest in your digital marketing efforts isn't going to solve the problem. Nor will all those tools that keep you abreast of every click, like, and share. They serve only to confirm that something isn't working, but they do nothing to tell you how to actually improve performance.

Creative that inspires action is still key to improving response rates. Even the subtlest mistake can keep consumers from doing what you want them to do.

If your response rate is falling short of expectations, don't rush to overhaul your marketing strategy or media spend. Instead, check for some of the following less-obvious mistakes.

1. Using 'Clever' Headlines

Telling consumers that your construction company "raises the roof" or that your record shop is "always in tune" may seem like shrewd messaging, but neither says much about your business. If a headline doesn't make clear why readers should keep reading, then you need to come up with something different.

Moreover, consumers aren't voluntarily seeing your messages. Countless ads and articles pop up in their search results or distract them while they're checking email and social media feeds. They certainly don't care enough to click on a cute or vague headline just to see what you're offering.

Alternatively, a clear, benefit-oriented headline such as "How to Improve Marketing Response Rates" will outperform a clever one virtually every time. And the headline is critical: An article on Upworthy can generate up to 500% more traffic with a good headline versus a bad one, according to co-founder Peter Koechley.

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image of Tim Carr

Tim Carr is the chief lifter at LIFT Agency. His specialty is to generate positive results for any direct and digital markering objective, and to improve response for CRM, acquisition, retention, and winback.

LinkedIn: Tim Carr

Twitter: @weareliftagency