How to Engage Your Audience in Five Seconds

I like to look at a potential customer the same way I look at a potential mate (Don’t make it weird). And in this mindset, there is one tenet I follow above all else: less is more.

The more time I spend trying to convince a girl that she should kiss my face, the more time I have to make a mistake, have an unmanly voice crack, or offend the girl without realizing it.

As marketers, it’s pretty easy to imagine all the ways we scare off our would-be online customers:

  • Giving them too much information
  • Not telling them where to go next
  • Asking them to buy too soon
  • Asking them to buy too much

The courting process is different and difficult in the online world. If you can pack a punch that will knock out your customer, then swing fast. And no one swings faster than…

5-Second Films

5-Second Films was started by Brian Firenzi in 2005, “after being disappointed by so many 5,400-second films.” The 5SF crew puts out a new short film every weekday. And they are hilarious.

Is Five Seconds Enough?

Short answer: yes. Remember how Ernest Hemingway did the equivalent? The literary master had cranked out dozens of lengthy works when he claimed he could write a short story in only six words. Only six words? How could you tell a story with that much brevity?

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

70 years later, 5-Second Films takes it from six words to five seconds. They get to the point. Shouldn’t marketers do the same?

Instead of scaring away your customers, follow 5SF’s example.

Cut the Fat

Everything that isn’t essential must go.

Nothing Too Skinny

Cut the fat, but make sure your pitch isn’t too skinny afterwards. This means that everything that doesn’t belong must go, but everything that does belong must be painfully obvious. Take the first film above — in five seconds you get:

  • What is happening. We’re going to Funland.
  • How to do it. Get your fun key/fork.
  • Where to do it. Put your fun key/fork in the fun lock/electrical wall socket.
  • The end result. You have fun/get electrocuted.

It doesn’t look too different from the traditional sales funnel, does it?

Nothing Too Heavy

5SF could make their films differently. Actors could try to ramble off as much dialogue as possible in five seconds, and hopefully some of the words stick with the viewer.

Some of our landing pages do that, don’t they? We know we only have brief moments to deliver information to a potential customer, but then we weigh a page down with far too many words. Please don’t make me think that hard.

All Roads Lead to the Ocean

A quick look at the 5-Second Films website shows you that they are focused on their product.

  • You can watch the most recent, top rated and most viewed videos on the homepage.
  • Their blog is a collection of videos from behind the scenes of their films and hilarious recaps of the best video comments.
  • You can chat on their forums about the films, or showcase your own.

There is nothing on the site that tears you away from the matter at hand. The opposite is true — everything on the site pulls you back towards their core product.

Incredibly Sharable

As social media continues to play a bigger and bigger role in marketing projects, you better make sure your product is shareable. Get your product in front of the right audience and you can start generating some real engagement.

5SF nails this. Share buttons don’t jump out and distract you, but they pop up in the right places when you’ve finished watching a film. The few static social buttons on the site pop against the dark background, but they’re not excessive.

The Point

The point is that marketers need to get to it (the point). I’ll try to turn that into a palindrome later if I have the time. Questions? Thoughts?

And how about one more film from 5SF?

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  1. Oh heck these are some excellent ideas Jack… I’ve been doing my landing page waffle for weeks now.. time to cut the fat and get to the point then.
    First 5 sec vid was a bit worrying tho… hope kids dont copy that hmmmm

    1. Thanks Karen. I’m often reminded of George Orwell’s writing rules that include “If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.”
      It often feels barbaric to chop my copy down time after time, but it works.
      And yes, 5SF might not be suitable for children. Hopefully everyone reading the Portent Blog is over 18!!!

  2. You’re right. At times, less proves to be better for converting visitors into customers. However, in my experience it is always been better with a longer copy. I do understand that it is important to “cut the fat”, but overloading with information can also prove to be a very beneficial marketing tactic at times.

    1. Thanks Abdul. I always have trouble with longer copy because it just… takes longer to read, I guess. It’s about content in digestible bites. So if I do have a lot of information that needs to go on a page, I try to break it up as much as possible.
      The biggest problem I see with most long online content is long paragraphs and limited subheadings (like Ian was talking about on Conversation Marketing a few days ago).
      Overloading with information has always been frustrating for me as a reader, so I try to stick to the “only what is essential” mantra when I write. If there’s more information that some readers might want, a link to another page or pop-up info box might work better than flooding a page with words.
      I will always trust a simple landing page with just the important stuff more than I will trust a page where I have to trudge through swamped copy that is extra information or phrased above my comprehension level.

  3. Tried the fork stuff. Liar, it was no funland there!
    *lol* Seriously, I share your outlook towards lengthy copies. Add in the overused CTA buttons that shows up in every 600 pixels vertical distance interval. Do they want me to continue reading or what? If I were to click on this button now, would I miss reading more important points below that? If it’s impossible to cut off the long paragraphs, they could be better off using jQuery accordions or just simple Javascript with headings in a bullet list.
    Awesome post, Jack!

    1. That’s a really good point, Bibiano. Why would you put more info beneath a CTA button? As a reader, it just confuses the heck out of me, you’re totally right.
      A great landing page is going to give all of the information needed to make the conversion, then have just one CTA right at the end. If you’re thinking about the conversion funnel, the funnel should work not just for a series of pages, but even each page should have its own funnel right to the one CTA.

  4. Jack,
    Thank you for the wonderful information you have shared. Being in the Real Estate business forces you to get straight to the point when it comes to accruing clients and potential leads. The five second videos were a great example to show how to cut out the non-sense. I also agree with your statement in reply to Bibiano about having a great landing page. This is extremely important because it supplies you with what works and doesn’t with your audience. Great post!

  5. Most marketers i think are not aware of this. I have seen internet marketing strategies and most of them are not direct to the point. They give info such what other stuff their customers can get after purchasing and less information about the product they are marketing. This happens most of the time and at the end of the day, they get no sales.. Internet marketers must know about the 5 seconds habit and direct to the point practice.

  6. Hi Jack,
    Nice points and I am going to try them more seriously. However, for customers in Asia Pacific, more is beautiful as I realize..They want more information, all the possible answers, even though it may only be to justify their decisions to their bosses..

    1. Yes I definitely understand the need for more information. It shouldn’t be left out. But you also shouldn’t put bulky, difficult to digest information at the top of a page. Save that for later. Link to additional information. Not everyone needs it.
      When you do include all the additional information, you can still apply these principles to it. Cut out the fat. Don’t be repetitive or overly worldy, just get it done.

  7. This is a really good post! It reminds me of a blog we did earlier this week about tips to make your story more engaging.. I really like the style you write in too, will definitely take your tips on board.

  8. I will definitely be implementing these strategies. Thank you for the informative and very helpful post. I can see these making a big difference.

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