The Attention Economy

On behalf of millennials, I apologize. (I’m not authorized to speak for all of us. But I’m going to do it anyway.)

We know our phones are more like rectangular, digital appendages, permanently attached. We know we could put them down, but we’ve been plagued with fear of missing out for too long. It feels impossible. What if that one time I put my phone down, the most incredible thing ever happens and I miss it?

I know, I know – we make you a little bit crazy, always half-connected to some conversation other than the one we’re having. I think if there’s one thing other generations could easily agree upon, it’s the fact that us millennials are perpetually distracted.


That perpetual distraction has led to what’s commonly known as the attention economy. One of the most important currencies in today’s marketplace is people’s attention. Of course, if it’s valuable, that also means it’s rare. And undivided attention is one rare commodity.


Our culture is constantly overwhelmed with choice. It’s no surprise that people get a little panicked when so many businesses are scrambling to get their attention. This persistent, blatant promotion often leads to one of two scenarios: either a potential customer will get overwhelmed and tune you out, or they will recognize their position of power and start using their influence. Both scenarios come with their own set of challenges.

In the case of the overwhelmed consumer, it’s quite simple – stop chasing them. That might seem counter-intuitive. But, sometimes, taking a more laid back approach really works. Take an example from a real-life, introverted, non-morning person. Seriously, I am not a morning person. I do not wake up perky. It takes a couple hours and a good cup of coffee for me to accept the fact that the day is, in fact, taking place.

How do you think I’d respond if a super-bubbly person came bounding up to me and attempted to wrap me in a giant hug, chattering all the while?

I’m not an aggressive person. I would not be rude or nasty. But there’s a good chance that I would try really hard to get away from them.

It’s similar with an overwhelmed consumer. If they seem to shut down when you provide them with an abundance of offerings, then leave them the equivalent of a voicemail. Don’t push your information to them, but leave it somewhere they can easily access it. The trick with overwhelmed consumers is to draw them in with value. That’s right – inbound marketing. Create highly-personalized, segmented content, and let them pick and choose their points of interaction. If you give them the chance to pick and choose, they’ll come to trust you. Be careful with that trust. Make sure you maintain it once it’s earned.


On the other end of the consumer spectrum are those who are aware of their own power. They embrace the wealth of choices, because it means that they can choose exactly what they want. If you don’t have what they want, they’ll go looking somewhere else. This might sound a bit intimidating, but there’s a very simple way to keep these consumers engaged: responsive customer service.

In these scenarios, consumers want to know that your business is available to them. This means answering questions promptly, updating information regularly, and keeping yourself available on as many channels as possible. Social media may have a difficult-to-measure ROI, but it’s still the best place to communicate with your customers. They’ll love that they can conveniently post their questions and receive timely answers. As you communicate with them, you’ll show them that you care about their business. They’ll love it. And they’ll keep coming back.

Remember that, regardless of what type of customer you’re working with, you are working with a person. Make the experience as personal as possible. It takes extra effort, yes, but it brings you better business. The investment is completely worthwhile.