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Think Progressive Engagement to Fight Short Attention Spans

by Hank Barnes  |  February 27, 2013  |  1 Comment

Update (July 24, 2013): I spoke to Sam Greengard, a writer for, about progressive engagement for this excellent article that is well worth a read.  Includes additional research from others on the drivers of distraction.

We are now living in an era of total information and sensory overload. It is possible to find anything  on the Internet, but that can also be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Additionally, multi-tasking is the norm with figures showing the number of people using Smartphones and Tablets while watching TV rising at rapid rates.  The same would probably be true at sporting events (although my local venue, PNC Arena where I go to watch Carolina Hurricanes hockey, does not allow tablets for some unspecified reason).   Multi-tasking and information switching is the norm today.

Woman distracted by phone while shopping

While we have all heard about search engine optimization, I don’t think that is the key capability for this era.  It is a tactic, that needs to be supported by a higher level strategy.

That strategy is Progressive Engagement.  And its a must for technology marketing today.

The idea is simple, rather than try to tell a whole story, or everything that matters, about your products or services, tell it in bite size chunks that are interesting.

Focus on one key point that is short and easy to digest.  Your goal–get the viewer to think, “Tell me more.”   As you capture more of their attention, you can provide more detail and depth.  But do it to quickly or you risk losing them to other stimuli.

As you design programs, messaging, and collateral, think Progressive Engagement.  Put yourself in the mind of a distracted, multi-tasking viewer.  Find ways to capture a moment of focused attention and leverage that to earn more of their time and focus. 

By thinking and using progressive engagement, you’ll be more likely to stand out in the crowd.


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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: engagement  marketing  messaging  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Think Progressive Engagement to Fight Short Attention Spans

  1. […]   But remember, that your real goal is to build interest in deeper exploration, something we call progressive engagement.    It’s really about spurring enough interest in the customer, that they say “Tell […]

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