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Two seconds.

That’s how much time the average visitor to your Web site or reader of your brochure will spend looking for something of interest. If you can’t pique interest in two seconds, your time is up.

Ironically, it takes hours of planning and research to create marketing materials that withstand the blink-of-an-eye test.

So how can you create materials that harness the power of rapid cognition? Here are some tips to make your audiences linger.

Pretty is pointless if it doesn’t work

Whether your marketing team is in-house or freelance, you need results-driven talent. And whether they are working in cyberspace or in print, your team should know your expectations, the goals you want achieved and how to measure results. A low bid and a concept with lots of bells and whistles mean nothing if the “product” fails to boost your bottom line.

One-hit wonders no longer exist

Don’t be change averse. If you rely on one ad, one mailing or a Web site that rarely changes, your business will stagnate. Remember, it takes multiple hits with consistent messages to make a lasting impression.

Avoid stagnation with sound strategy

Growth is essential. To promote it, develop a strategy that pushes the scope and structure of your business. Implement your strategy with a plan that is costeffective and fiscally maintainable. Shape the plan to yield consistent messaging and visuals. Mold it to reflect the organization’s mission and audience interaction. To do this, you will need personnel who understand the big picture and who know how to plan ahead for maximum momentum and impact.

Know the playing field

Once you have outlined your strategy and goals, it’s time to collect information. You need to understand your customers and your competition. Gather demographics and psycho-dynamics of your target audience. Then gauge your competition—know their strengths and weaknesses. From there, hone in on the factors that make your organization unique. Skip this step, as so many organizations do, and you are certain to misfire.

The power of collaboration

Be sure that your marketing team knows what you know. Your writers, designers and production people must understand your strategy and goals. They must be sympathetic to your organization’s mission. This is the first step to ensuring that visuals and words work together with budget and goals.

None of this will happen if you and your team are not interacting and collaborating throughout the process—from brainstorming to postproduction evaluation. Every member of the team owes the project a best effort. And every member of the team shares responsibility—and credit—for maximizing results.

Move your audience with strong information architecture

How do you communicate effectively and efficiently with your audience?

Start with sound information architecture. Think of this question as the foundation for your materials: What do customers want and need to know about this product or service?

Today’s customers want their questions answered immediately. And they want pertinent details. In other words, they want to know how your product or service will help them and why they should choose it over the competition. You can outline your product’s virtues, discuss its fascinating evolution and crow about its track record—but none of this will translate into results if you fail to communicate how it benefits your customer.

How you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Your graphics and packaging should connect cognitively, emotionally and even physically with your customer. A sensitive and savvy art director uses design, color, fonts and images to connect the customer with the message. Your text, meanwhile, should speak directly and personally to the reader. Through strong verbs and an active voice, the text should energize and encourage action.

Assessment: What worked? What didn’t?

Your site is up, your brochures are at work. It’s time to evaluate your efforts. How is your target audience responding to your efforts? What will make your materials better? Have the materials generated the expected results? Did the results justify the cost? Be honest and be critical. And don’t fret over mistakes. They are an essential part of the learning process and of bottom-line success.

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