If you’re in business, you’re always trying to figure out how to get people to pay attention to you. The thing is, people don’t want to pay attention to you. They want you to pay attention to them. In the world of making a living, we’re all intensely focused on ourselves and the need to make the next mortgage payment. That’s just the way it is.
In the large scheme of things, when we’re trying to make a living or pursuing our passion, no one cares about you. Don’t be sad—it’s not personal. The people whose attention you need are just not thinking about you as much as you’d like (or need) them to, for hundreds of reasons. But if you want to succeed in business, you’ve got to get them thinking about you, at least once in a while, by giving them a reason to pay attention. It’s a human nature thing.
When people are paying attention to you, it means they have put aside their own internal agendas for a moment and opened their minds and hearts just wide enough to hear what you’ve got to say. It takes some doing.
So, what does it take to get people to pay attention to you? By attention, I mean the good kind, of course, the kind that inspires trust, admiration, a loyal following and, best of all, the confidence to do business with you. Pay attention to the people you admire, and notice some of the characteristics that make them stand out:
They have strong opinions, ideas or convictions
The people who express their beliefs with unwavering consistency are the ones who make us sit up and listen. Develop your own list of strong beliefs. Think about the good of mankind, or about why your industry matters. What do you wish for the human race? What injustice is going on out there to which most of us are blind? What is the solution? How could this be a better world? How could people be happier/better prepared/more successful? One of the reasons that the TED talks are so popular is because the speakers are sharing important ideas with conviction, passion and unique points of view.
To get a crowd’s attention, or to be interesting on radio and television, you must crackle with energy. Turn yourself up about 10 notches—to 11, if your amp goes that high. This is a conscious effort, and it takes practice. If you’re an introvert, it puts you way out of your comfort zone, because in the beginning, it feels unnatural. But you can, over time, learn to turn it on when you need to. It takes courage and the willingness to stretch yourself, but you can do it. There are many notable personalities in the world who have trained themselves to be “on” for the sake of their brands, but who then turn it off again when they’re home and safely in their jammies.
Frequent, regular, consistent content over a period of years
Your face (brand) and your content should be out there all the time. Blog weekly. Post helpful content several times daily. Share the good stuff. Secure media coverage. Get mentions, shares and followers. Attend events. Host events. Give speeches. Do these things relentlessly even though you think no one’s paying attention. Eventually, they will. It’s because you stuck with it, and because of that, you’ve earned people’s trust. They’ve been trained to know that you’re the expert. You have to earn this. It’s work. Too many business people give up because they’re not seeing the results fast enough. What you don’t realize is that there is a silent, growing group of admirers out there who are paying attention to you. Give them time to emerge from the shadows.
Most people look at me strangely when I say this, but have you ever tried to tame a bird or squirrel? This is my big metaphor for the process of gaining trust. Birds and squirrels (i.e. your target audience) flee at the sight or smell of a human. They don’t trust us for nothin’. You cast some food on the ground and sit quietly nearby. You do it every day. In time, a squirrel creeps up, snatches a crumb and skitters off up the nearest tree. (The rest of the squirrels may have double-dog-dared-him to do this.) In time, perhaps a looonnngg time, the squirrel is taking food from your hand.
Can you get immediate attention? Sure! Do something totally outrageous on video and hope it goes viral. But the buzz lasts about 10 seconds before fizzling out and becoming yesterday’s news. Fifteen minutes of fame isn’t enough to put food on the table.