We've all said it: Someone tries to convince us to watch or read or listen to something, and we ramble off everything else we have to do and usually end with, "There's only 24 hours in a day."
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That concept is the catalyst for Doug Binder's philosophy on experiential marketing. "We have streaming, we have social, we have podcasts and webinars, not to mention all of the binge opportunities...but we still have 24 hours in the day," he explains." You have to choose, what's worth my time, what is going to deliver value to me."
In Episode 529 of Marketing Smarts, Doug and host George B. Thomas get into content, attention, and the appeal of "choose your own adventure." Prospects are presented with so much noise, after all—what's going to get them to listen?
"There's so much out there, so much noise, just give me what I want," says Doug. "Don't waste my time. Get me to what I need and let's make it a good relationship for both of us."
That's the attention economy, and you know you've got it right, Doug says, when time becomes irrelevant.
"You've been to those dinner parties or sitting around the table where three hours has passed by, and you didn't even know it. It kept your attention, you didn't look at your watch, you're not worried about the babysitter. That, to me, is when you are successful."
Listen to the entire show from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.
George B. Thomas: I don't mean to scare you, but can you realize and understand that we're already more than halfway through the first month of 2023? Q1 will be over before we know it. Are you grabbing the attention that you need starting out in 2023? Today we're going to be talking about the attention economy—how time impacts your customer journey, content, events, and other B2B marketing efforts. I'm super excited, we have Doug Binder on the episode today.
Doug Binder is an expert in event design and production. Having staged corporate events and campaigns around the world for some of the most important companies and visionaries in high tech, biotech, automotive, entertainment, hospitality, and shoes. A writer at heart, Doug has expanded his mastery into video production, digital media, graphic and experiential design. A Virginia native by way of Michigan, Doug's career has included stops in New York, Silicon Valley, Santa Monica, Orlando, and Las Vegas. He is the author of Gather: The Business of Coming Together, equal parts how-to, manifesto, and memoir.
We talk about what keeps Doug up at night, what B2B marketers are doing, should be doing, and the hurdles that get in the way, and his words of wisdom. Let's go ahead and get into the good stuff. I'm super excited because we're talking about something a little bit different, the attention economy. We're also going to talk about things that you might think you know about, customer journey, events, content, the things that marketers do, but today we're going to be talking with Doug Binder and I have a sneaking suspicion that these conversations might go a little bit in different directions than you as a B2B marketer may be thinking of at the beginning of this, so keep on listening and let's get into the good stuff.
Doug, first of all, I have to take the high-level question here. When we talk about attention economy and how time, which is vitally precious, impacts things that we as marketers do around the customer journey, content, events, and other B2B marketing efforts, what the heck keeps you up at night?
Doug Binder: I'll tell you what used to keep me up at night was what's the new thing, what's the shiny toy, what's the new tech we can roll in. These days it's more about, we have so many great toys to play with, how do we put them all together?
What I do mostly is experiential, so you have tech, you have hybrid, you have virtual, you have all sorts of platforms you can play with. I feel like coming out of the pandemic we're rejuvenated, we get to think of all this stuff afresh, and we're like pioneers trying to find the right chemistry to bring the audience in and keep their attention. As you said, time, I don't think there's a more valuable commodity anymore. I think we're doing really good work and it's a great time to be in experiential.
George: I love to think of myself as a pioneer, so I'm glad you threw that out there. It makes me be able to say words like you young whippersnappers might think that time isn't affected, but the older you get, the more that becomes a premium. Let's dive into that and this need for attention. What I want you to do for the Marketing Smarts listeners is unpack this idea of what is the attention economy.
Doug: It's been around for a long time. Near as I can tell, it began its rise back in the mid-'90s when we young whippersnappers back then all of a sudden had 100 to 500 cable channels, we had AOL and Yahoo for the first time, and that's when the internet was born. Folks started saying you only have so much time in a given day, but there's all this content out there. What are you supposed to do with that? TiVo will help you record anything, so you could just watch it when you wanted to.
Twenty years later, thirty years later, it's 10,000 times that. We have streaming, we have social, we have podcasts and webinars, not to mention all of the binge opportunities, so it's even crazier now, but we still have 24 hours in the day.
I think the word economy is really important because you only have so much time you can spend in a given day. You have to choose what's worth my time, what is going to deliver value to me. As a consumer, I have a lot more say in where I'm going to spend my attention, so marketers have to get clever and serious about how they're going to get attention and hold attention.
George: I love this idea of being clever and serious. Marketing Smarts listeners, first of all, I know that you are hyper-intelligent. But sometimes connecting the dots is something that I feel like we need to do on the show for people who are maybe just starting with B2B marketing or marketing in general. In your words, Doug, why is attention crucial, especially to B2B marketers?
Doug: In order to affect behavior, in order to sell something, in order to create an engagement, you have to start with attention. Again, open up a mailbox, open up a feed, and you have so much stuff coming at you. The ones that I pay attention to are the ones where it seems like they tried to get to know me a little bit. That's the serious part of this. Don't just get clever and come up with taglines and slogans and whatnot. Really take the time to get to know me, or at least give me the impression that you have.
These days, it's hard to catch people at work. The blurred lines between when I'm at work and when I'm home, back in the day, if it was B2B, it was 9:00 to 5:00 or somewhere around that. Now, 9:00 to 5:00 I could be walking my dog or I could be at a spin class. That's where you have to understand when and how to reach me, and then respect that. Respect that I may not get back to you right away, but that's just how I work.
I come from an experiential background. Events are no longer let's all meet in Vegas. It's everywhere. We have to treat audiences differently. I know we're going to talk about content and things like that. We are getting into hyper-personalization when it comes to the kind of content we're creating in order to get and keep people's attention.
George: I love this so much. I hope people realize it really has changed. The understanding of I'm at work or I'm at home is literally one door away behind me. It is going from my home office to my kitchen, that's the only change. I could even be on the golf course, pick up the phone, and be "at work."
In that last segment you talked about if you want to change behavior, if you want to drive revenue, get to know me. As soon as I hear words like those, the marketing nerd in me comes out and I'm like we're knocking on the door of customer journey. Is there any advice for the B2B marketers listening on how to begin the customer journey?
Doug: I think it has to be based on trust. Hopefully, if I'm your customer, it's not a one-off, it's a relationship that we're going to build. It's a partnership with not just customers, but in B2B you want to build five-year, ten-year, twenty-year, and longer relationships. That has to be based on trust. In order to start that relationship, like I said, get to know me.
There are so many tools out there. We don't even need to get into AI yet, we can just talk about go check out my feeds. I've volunteered so much information, it's out there and you can have it, but still, people don't. I really want you to just get to know me, understand what I need and how to speak to me. I also think that is, going back to experiential, really understanding how I like to be treated because now I'm actually experiencing what you're giving me. I'm smelling it. I'm tasting it. I'm touching it. I'm talking to it, and it's talking to me.
There's so much out there, so much noise, just give me what I want. Don't waste my time. Get me to what I need and let's make it a good relationship for both of us.
George: So good. It's funny the way my brain works, it just starts to segment things that you're saying. What I heard is give me a reason to trust you, don't be lazy, actually figure out who I am. Once you do your due diligence, how about you add a little value to my life? That might be the three-step process to being an amazing B2B marketer that grabs more attention than you actually know what to do with.
Here's the thing. We live in a world, I like to call it a Yin-Yang scenario, some people say there's always two sides of one coin. How does the lack or abundance of attention impact the customer journey?
Doug: It's balance. In the book Gather, going back to experiential, I think there are four kinds of experiences or four ingredients that go into experiences, and these are based on our personal lives. This is based on real life, emotions, and all of those touch points.
One of them is community. Show me that I'm part of a community, make me belong, make me feel like this is my tribe and that I can contribute and I can also take from it.
The second is personal growth. Show me the benefits, show me what I'll get out of this, show me how I can gain status in that community that is going to help my career, help other relationships. Also, that it's not just B2B, it should help me in my real life.
The next one is celebration. Give me a reason to cut loose. We achieve something together, there's a milestone, a birthday or a promotion, give me a reason to celebrate.
The last one, which really has a place in B2B, is pleasure. A lot of times that gets cut out or folks don't make the time or budget for it, but pleasure is where all of the other things come together. It's being with other people, it's feeling good about myself, my confidence, and then just having this moment of release with my tribe.
Those are the four areas that I think are where we start creating some balance about planning in experiential or any kind of campaign is hit those four things.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, I hope you're taking notes on your iPad, phone, pen and paper, chalk on a wall, or something. If you list those four things and ask yourself some specific questions on if you are not paying attention to those, or what tactics or strategies you have equated to them, it may impact your B2B marketing in 2023 and beyond.
I want to shift gears a little bit because we've talked about experience and customer journey and some really good stuff in that beginning portion, but one thing is as B2B marketers, many of us have come to the point where we're paying attention to content. It's about creating content that adds value whether it be textual, audio, video, it's some type of content. I'm going to give you this question in maybe a little bit of a rubric way that will allow you to answer it wherever your mind goes.
I want to start how I did with the time and attention part of this and the lack or abundance part of that question. When you think of all us humans who want to do all those things that you just mentioned, how does attention and time, or lack or abundance of either of those, enhance the content that B2B marketers should be creating now and in the future?
Doug: The stakes have never been higher, because I can tune out just like that. You've seen in broadcast advertising we're getting 15-second commercials, now we're at 5, and someday I imagine it will just be a frame. Make that count. On TikTok, if you're going to teach me how to change my oil, you're not going to start with a big preamble, you're going to get to find this, do this, do that. First off, again, don't waste my time, get to the message. If you want to give me your brand, do it, but do it in a clever way.
When I start imagining an experience or videos or a campaign of some sort, I think of my brand as a person. I try to think what qualities they have that I hope are going to draw people in. I want them the be fascinating or funny, I want them to be trustworthy. In the case of experiences, I want them to be protective. But you don't want them to become clingy, you don't want them to be cloying or preachy or demanding of your time. That's what I see. In experiential, we have a captive audience, we'll play a walk-in video or an opening video that is two minutes of just words that we really like that you probably don't really care about, and I think that's become the cue to 'should I take a bio-break' because nothing is going to happen here that needs my attention right now.
My biggest piece of advice is be objective with your content. Does this really matter, is there value? I don't care if your brand wants to say it, does your audience need to hear it, do they want to hear it? Because again, it's so easy to check out. It's one click, I'm past you, and I'm on with my day. Make every second count.
George: Does your audience need to hear it? Make every second count. To be honest with you, when you said they can tune out in a second, I got sad because I started to think, "Marketing Smarts Podcast listeners, are you still there, are you still with us?" I hope you are.
Doug: Hang on, because this is good stuff.
George: I hope they are. The funny thing about that is it led me to the question, and I think it's a very important question. If you have this realization of the importance of attention and time, and the fact that your customer, your audience, your prospect, your lead, whatever words you want, the humans that happen to be circled around what you're talking about could tune out in a second, how the heck do we keep the attention of these humans?
Doug: Humans like to be surprised and they like to be delighted. Don't get predictable. Don't get lazy. Remember that you maybe have five seconds or ten seconds, maybe a minute, to grab my attention and hold it, but you have to keep redoubling your efforts. I'd say surprise and delight is a big one. Those four pillars that I talked about—celebration, personal growth, community, and pleasure—play with those also, because that releases the chemicals that keep people excited, engaged, involved.
George, do you know what this is?
George: I'm not sure what you're showing me right now.
Doug: This is a ticket book to Disney World. Back in the day, you didn't buy just one ticket, you bought a passport of tickets. The E-ticket was the most valuable, so that was It's a Small World, Jungle Cruise, Hall of Presidents, Haunted Mansion. What Disney did is they created an economy of excitement. You had three E-tickets, so you had to decide how to use them. You had D-tickets, you had C-tickets.
I actually interned at Disney World, and I drove the little jitneys up and down Main Street. That was an A-ticket, which that must be the lamest, but that's the connective tissue, that's where people came and they used their time to relax. I was driving them up and down the street, they could take in the sights, they could kick back a little bit and get their bearings on where everything was.
That's kind of the way I look at keeping people's attention. Give them the big moments, but give them other moments as well. The moment to reflect, the moment to step away. I think all of those are really important when we think about campaign landscape. When I think about an agenda for experiential, I always come back to that. Show people everything that they can do, but give them the ability to choose their own adventures as they go, which includes adventures that might not be the sexiest, the most brand fantastic.
George: Everything doesn't have to be mind-blowing. Here's the thing, too. I would say that might be a little bit of a rewind point where you rewind, listen to that, and ask yourself questions. Are we creating an economy of excitement, or are we being like I knew that was coming, saw that coming 10 miles away? We have to figure out how we can surprise and delight those that we're serving.
It's funny that you mentioned Disney, because as you were talking about that I started to think about Disney has changed over time. You literally raised paper tickets that you could get, which probably no longer exist. That got me kicking around if Disney has changed that much, the world has changed that much, obviously marketing and B2B marketing has changed, and that leads my brain into level of technology.
In your words, what is the role today of technology in getting and maintaining this attention and time from the people that we're serving?
Doug: In the book Gather, I talk about two types of technology, even though it's infinite. The most tangible, obviously, is devices, the relationship you have with the technology you can hold in your hand or on your lap. We've certainly integrated that into experiential. We also mentioned Disney, theme parks, attractions, shopping malls, everywhere, you can have that app that helps you to do different things, follow schedules, make schedules, sign up, connect with other people, download content, and all that. It's really handy. It also is really sustainable, so it took away a lot of the paper and stacks of stuff that you would fly home with.
But I do fear that sometimes we're getting too dependent on technology and letting our audiences get too dependent on it as well. Gamification is big, it keeps people involved. Some people, especially sales audiences, are very competitive. But that can be an impediment to being able to access and understand your content. Your content can be secondary to all of these other activities that have been thrown at folks. Yes, younger audiences can process a lot of that.
With gamification, I was thinking about an event I went to three or four years ago, and a guy in the row in front of me was just taking pictures of his shoes and posting them, and he was getting 50 points every time he did it. He wasn't listening. The feed all of a sudden had this guy's shoes all over the place, so everyone else then is getting distracted by it. That was an impediment to clear access to content, keeping my attention there. I don't know what they were talking about because I was watching this guy take pictures of his shoes.
I think when it comes to the personal devices, find ways to complement the human experience. Use it to maybe find someone, but then instead of emailing them, Slacking them, or whatever, meet up, go for a walk, get a bite to eat or something. When it comes to tech, that's the personal side. The other side is AI, machine learning, whatever we want to call it. There's so much promise.
Already with experiential, and I think in a lot of areas of marketing, people are willing to give you all of their data. They understand that it's a two-way street, so I'm going to give you all this stuff. We have tons of data, but I don't think that we analyze it as well as we should. I think that we look at the stats, we look at the numbers, we put it on a slide, but do we really understand what's behind that data? I don't think that we do.
When I talk to our strategists and our data miners, we need to understand these folks on a different level. I don't want to know that we have a bunch of officers or automotive experts or dieticians. I want to know what's behind that, I want to know what drives them. They've given us this data, they've given us qualitative answers. Really use that to come up with who are these people and how can we create a personalized journey for them.
I respect what we're all doing in AI, but a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for an air fryer. I went to all of the different sites, and I bought an air fryer. For the next three weeks, all I'm getting sold is air fryers on every feed. Okay, you knew that I was looking for an air fryer. You also should have known that I bought one, especially the site where I put my credit card in or you already had me, but no. You're acting as though he bought an air fryer, he probably wants another one, and another one. That's the kind of thing we can cut through the data really quick and just get to that's not my motivation.
That's where I think there's really a lot of promise with AI across marketing, but definitely with experiential. Not only understanding it, but then acting on it and giving people what they want without them knowing that they wanted it.
George: It's so amazing, your story about the air fryer was a master class in autopilot, automation, automatic, or annoying. Those As can line up real quick depending on what you're doing in your marketing efforts. I'm also geeking out a little bit because in the beginning you used the word pioneer and in that last section you said data miners. So, we have pioneers and miners in this episode of the podcast. Listeners, you know how it goes.
I do want to dive into some more of the good stuff. I want to dive into this conversation of getting started. How can the Marketing Smarts B2B marketing listeners start to create marketing efforts—content, events, the list could go on and on—that drive more or better attention?
Doug: That's a great question. You stressed how to begin, and I was going to say with the data, but I think it starts before that because you have to know what questions to ask. You want to know what behaviors you want to modify and understand how to the key audience. Again, what I go back to with the book Gather is think about the human behind this. These aren't just prospects, they're not just customers, they're not just targets. These are real people, and ideally you feel that they have a need for your product or your service.
Start there. Tell me who these people are. Tell me what is going on in their lives or their careers where they would need your service. Then start thinking about your campaign that way. Helping people. Be empathic. Think about what might be missing in their life. Be humanistic to say that they have real needs and urges. Also, getting back to attention, they're all stressed, they're all moving so fast. How can you slip your message in and start winning their trust? Again, I go back to empathy and humanity when you're just starting out.
George: Empathy, humanity, trust, all the words that I love without a doubt. Folks are going to listen to this and be like, "I need to get on board with this attention economy. I need to impact my journey that my customers are going on. I need to create better content. I need to have amazing events, whether it be webinar, in person, hybrid, whatever. I need to make my B2B marketing efforts more in 2023 and beyond." I love it that you're thinking that way, listener.
Doug, my question for you is what are the hurdles? What's going to stop people in their tracks, what have you seen that most marketers face along the way of grabbing their prospects, their leads, their customers, their tribe, and they just jack up the attention economy?
Doug: I think everyone would say that we want this campaign, this initiative to cut through the noise. That's the first slide in your deck, we're going to cut through the noise. The next 30 slides are here's the noise we're going to create. Take a step back. Be objective about what you're trying to deliver. I know you want to get attention, you want to keep attention, you want to sell, you want to change behavior. But how do you do that without just creating more noise for people?
I don't have the answer, by the way, but I do take that very seriously. There are products out there... I mentioned before when we do events that we give people a chance to step away, so we're not going to create noise for you. In fact, even tech companies were having detox areas where you check your phone and your laptop in and they hold it for an hour, so that's interesting that the product we're selling we're going to take away from you so that you can have a real life. I think there are those type of moments in just about any industry. How can I make you think differently without shouting at you, without making more noise?
I think it comes back to really understanding your needs at a human level.
George: So good. We've reached the mountain top, we're sitting there in the Zen position, or maybe we're on that top pedestal of the Olympics with the gold medal around our neck. What does success look like pertaining to attention and time in B2B marketing in your mind?
Doug: I think most simply it looks like a conversation. It might be a dinner party. It might be a family gathering where you have the trust, where you have some familiarity, you have some kinship, have some skin in the game. As I look around the table, whether it's my family, my colleagues, my customers, my vendors, I want to feel that kind of kinship with you because I know that you value me, you value my time, you value what I can bring to this conversation.
When it comes to attention, you've been to those dinner parties or sitting around the table where three hours has passed by, and you didn't even know it. It kept your attention, you didn't look at your watch, you're not worried about the babysitter. That, to me, is when you are successful, when you tune out the rest of the world and you're just engaged with another person, a brand, a brand, a company, a cause. That's what I work for.
George: I love that so much. How can you enable your audience to lose themselves in the things that you're creating for value in your life?
This is one of the things I love because I just never know how people are going to answer it, sometimes they stick on topic, sometimes they go completely sideways and become the motivational guru that I didn't know they were. It's totally up to you, but the last question I always like to ask on every episode is for some words of wisdom. We've all been through the journey, we've all crossed our own hurdles, we've all done these things for ourselves and for others, and you wrote a book about it.
What are some final words of wisdom that you want to leave the Marketing Smarts audience as we send them back to their regularly scheduled day?
Doug: That's a good question. Any examples of advice that has knocked you over in the past?
George: No. You have to knock me over with your own advice.
Doug: I think that's just it. We all are human, we all have our struggles, we're all going through different things, we all have certain triggers here and there. Really respect that. We're more than just numbers. Treat me like a human being, treat me with respect, value my time, don't waste my time, and we'll get along just fine. I don't think you're going to etch that on Mount Olympus, but that's where I am.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Ahava Leibtag about how being strategic about content development can boost results and save time and money, something we all want to do as B2B marketers, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on January 19, 2023
Doug Binder, an expert in event design and production, having staged corporate events and campaigns around the world for some of the most important companies and visionaries in high tech, bio-tech, automotive, entertainment, hospitality, and shoes. (Yes, shoes.) A writer at heart, Doug has expanded his mastery into video production, digital media, graphic design, and experiential design. He is the author of Gather: The Business of Coming Together, which is equal parts how-to, manifesto, and memoir.
LinkedIn: Doug Binder
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