Stop wasting attention, it’s in short supply

In my childhood years, my mum used to tell me “If you haven’t got anything useful to say, don’t say anything at all.”

And now she wonders why I don’t phone her as often as she’d like… 😉

But it was good advice that many marketers would do well to follow. We live in an age of unprecedented communication levels. Attention is a rare commodity, and we abuse our customer’s time at our peril.

Skype fell foul of this rule today. I’ve been having problems getting a particular microphone to work with Skype and posted a question on their Community Forum. Several people have given suggestions to fix the issue but the problem persists.

I posted a thank-you note to one of the forum respondents who had been particularly helpful. The result: an instant email back from Skype which explains:


At last an answer to my microphone issue, I thought. This must be worthy of my attention.

Back to the community site once again, to be greeted with this:

Yes, you read that right. Skype has awarded me the distinguished rank of “Visitor” for my contributions to its support community.

I have no interest in being an active member of this community and I was never asked why I had visited the forum. If Skype had asked they would understand that I only want a fix to my problem, not to start a long-lasting relationship as a contributor to their tech support forum.

And it’s not just Skype; ‘Attention Abuse’ is rife.

American Express emailed me today to excitedly welcome me to their new iPhone App, neglecting to consider that I, along with the majority of human beings, don’t own an iPhone:

Amex announces its new iPhone app

Worse still they waste more of my attention by inviting me to wait expectantly for something that doesn’t yet exist, an irresponsible act as I described yesterday:

Amex thinks its customers care about something that doesn't yet exist

The lesson? It’s simple really. Never abuse your customers’ attention. If they didn’t ask for something, don’t assume they’ll want it.

The solution? Try living in your customers’ shoes for a change then ask yourself: “does this stuff warrant my attention?” If it doesn’t, package up the news into a monthly digest or post it to a less intrusive opt-in channel like a blog.

Attention is a rare commodity. Don’t abuse it, because you never know when it will run out.