Leverage The Attention Economy At Your Place

Do you hear that sound? Sure you do.

It’s the din of businesses selling in a hypercompetitive 24/7 marketplace. Today, via websites, blogs, social media, direct mail, trade shows, and countless more channels, companies (yes, ours included) are selling their products and services nonstop—and noisily.

But consider this: No matter which communication channels your company is using, you’re talking at the same time as your competition. In other words, you’re selling when your customers’ attention is divided.

Take this very post, for instance. Odds are we’re competing for your attention against incoming emails, open browser windows, music, cubicle chatter, and more. The reality is that this “channel” isn’t ideal for making a meaningful connection.

Your business, especially in this economy, can’t afford to get drowned out by the din. Regardless of what you’re selling, and whom you’re selling to, you need to really connect with people. So while we still have your attention, let us get to the point: The best place to sell is at your … place.

What is place? In this context, place refers to the physical places where you engage with customers and other stakeholders—your corporate headquarters, hospital, college campus, sports stadium, retail store, restaurant, or so on.

What makes place special? By simply visiting your place, customers are already investing in your business with their time and interest. They’re also offering you something even more precious: their attention.

Author and marketer Seth Godin talks about the “attention economy,” saying companies such as Google and Amazon recognize that attention is their primary asset. “Every interaction comes with a cost,” explains Godin. “Not in cash money, but in something worth even more: the attention of the person you’re interacting with. Waste it … then you are unlikely to get another chance.”

Selling at your place is special because it may be the only time you have your customers’ full attention. Don’t waste it.

Why do most companies overlook place? Place is overlooked, particularly in the corporate world, because it’s traditionally managed by a solely internally focused Facilities department.

In our experience, few companies ask their Sales and Marketing teams to weigh in on facility decisions. Those organizations that do, however, consistently see a positive impact on business results.

How can your company unlock the power of place? There is no better way to get started than with storytelling. Your company has a unique story—its distinct history, culture, values, achievements, etc.—and your place can, and should, be your chief storyteller. This way, you can connect with customers when you have their attention, when they want to be sold. And when your competition has been silenced.

In an inspiring TED Talk on storytelling, Oscar-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton says, “Stories affirm who we are.” He also shares the greatest story commandment: “Make me care.” To do both in your place, use physical displays all through the environment. Highlight key moments and messages from your company’s story and integrate them into the customers’ experience and your marketing and sales strategies.

If you were to visit Astellas, for example, you’d discover the breadth of the pharma giant’s business on an illuminated two-story corridor wall. At Bradley Corporation, a leading manufacturer of commercial plumbing fixtures, you’d take a virtual walking tour of the 90-year-old company’s iconic products. At Samsung, you’d learn about the telecom leader’s core values on a black glass wall reminiscent of the company’s sleek product designs. And at Mesirow Financial, an independent financial services firm, you’d follow the firm’s rich history and growth on a large glass mosaic. Through the power of place, each one of these organizations is telling its unique story, differentiating its brand and culture, and selling its products or services—all while having their customers’ undivided attention.

Now we’re not suggesting that your company should abandon your website, social media, and other channels. You need those channels to build brand identity and awareness. But if you really want to connect with customers in a channel that is all yours, unlock the power of your place. It is, pure and simple, the place to sell.

What place have you admired recently?