8 Seconds to Get – or Lose – Your Prospect. Maybe less.
Marketing Ideas & Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Sales & Selling & Value Proposition

8 Seconds to Get - or Lose - Your Prospect. Maybe less.

March 25, 2022

by Tony Vidler  CFP logo   CLU logo  ChFC logo


You will get or lose your prospect – your potential future client – in just 8 seconds….well, actually it is a lot less than that.  The clock is ticking…and a lot faster than you realise.


In reality you have 3 seconds or less to get them to engage with you and your message, or they are probably gone forever.


Think about how you either source information, or select choices, or make shopping decisions.  We google everything on our phones, including those professionals who were recommended to us.  When we don’t know who in particular we are looking for (such as when we are searching for generic information) we scan the suggested list of possibilities and make decisions on whether to pause on any particular option in about 1-2 seconds.  The key filter for the prospect at this point is simply:

Does it look like what we are looking for?



If it made us pause and we decide to click on it to investigate the possibility, then we scan the headline and intro and make a decision to carry on engaging, or we disengage and head back to the search options within another couple of seconds.  Try it yourself…time yourself doing it.  It is an incredibly swift decision-making process we, the consumer, are going through.

The next key filter at that point for the prospect is:


Is it in on point…is it about the stuff we were looking for?


About 3 seconds for that entire decision making process is typical for an educated consumer who knows what (or who) they are looking for information about.


8-secondsIF we got past the first 3 seconds we have about another 5 seconds for the third critical decision-making point.


Does the content which they are reading, watching LIKELY to deliver what they are seeking?


“Promise to deliver” was the essential phrase there.  This is where they engage for as long as you need them to, or alternatively they make a deliberate decision that you are not an option.


Think about that.  If you are not an option there is virtually zero chance of them ever deciding to engage with you even if you turn up in “search” again in the future or run a fabulously enticing marketing campaign….in the prospects mind you become “I considered them and they weren’t right…..”


Gone forever.


Knowing that these critical engagement and decision-making points are occurring (being the first second or two, the next second or two, and then the following 5 seconds) enables us to create an effective structure for our marketing efforts.


Critical Decision-making Point 1:

Headline’s, subject lines, campaign offers, search terms or words or keyphrases….these are the essential items for that first second or two.  These are the initial decision-making points which will help the browsing prospect decide whether to give you another second or two.


It is important to understand that this is the sole purpose really of getting that initial positioning right: it buys you the right to have the prospect give you another second or two. But that is really all it does.

Critical Decision-making Point 2:

Immediate ongoing engagement by the prospect happens IF we immediately tell them how our offer or expertise (or whatever it is we are trying to sell) it will benefit them.   This is the time for the strong value proposition to be wheeled out.  Straight away.  We have to let the prospect know what outcome we are delivering…answering the “what is in it for them?” question is the thing which buys us a further 5 seconds of attention.


Critical Decision-making Point 3:

A judgement call is now being made very very swiftly by the prospect on whether you are LIKELY to be able to deliver on what you just promised.


The key at this stage is to move swiftly into demonstrating or evidencing credibility or plausibility.  Facts or Statistics; short process-focussed content (e.g. “the 7 things we do which achieve this result…”); testimonials; guarantees or warranties which remove risk for the prospect; service commitments….these are all examples of the type of content which help establish “probability” in the prospects mind.


If we achieve that then we have bought all the time we need to explain HOW we will achieve the promise of the value proposition, and WHY we are confident of being able to do so.   Forget all the stuff you read or hear about how long video’s should be, or how many words are in an ideal article or blog post, or whether a whitepaper should be 4 pages or 40….the length of the content which follows simply does not matter.  Prospects watch 4 hours video’s all the time called “training courses” or “tutorials”…or they will listen to 60 minute podcasts and webinars…..or they will read 400 page books on a specialty topic.


There is no rule that I can figure out which determines an ideal length or volume for content.  The only rules which matter are:

  1. Is it relevant?  Does it deliver on what the headline or intro promised, and, is it helpful?
  2. Is it engaging? Is it readable/watchable/enjoyable, or is it just plain boring – or worse, is the presenter actually annoying or the formatting/content of low quality?
  3. Is it as long as it needs to be in order to do the job of explaining How or Why this solution will work for them?  It needs to be as long as it needs to be to achieve this.  The perfect length for a video in this context might be 33 seconds….or it might be 1 hour.  The perfect article length might be 200 words…but it might be 200 pages.


What matters most is actually how you use those first 8 seconds, not the next 20 years.  The modern prospect will actually decide on the next 20 years of working with you inside those first 8 seconds, so spend the time figuring out how to get the right structure and right answers for them right at the front end if you want more prospects to choose you.


You might also be interested in this related article:
What Problems Do You Fix?
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