Paul Nolan

Ben Parr, venture capitalist , startup coach, former coeditor of Mashable, author and public speaker, lives at the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. In his new book, “Captivology,” Parr identifies seven “captivation triggers” that he says are the essential tools for capturing attention for your ideas and products.

SMM: You’ve been traveling the country trying to capture attention for your book about capturing attention. What have you found to be most effective?

PARR: I’ve been using all of the triggers in my marketing, in my presentations and in my public speaking. I don’t think of it as some being more effective than others. I just think of it in terms of long-term attention building. The only thing that will make the book successful is long-term interest and acknowledgement – people saying, “This book really helped me, now I want to go share it with other people.”

SMM: Early in your book, you make it clear that you are not a fan of the “build it and they will come” philosophy. Why not?

PARR: The idea that if you just build something great , people will inherently recognize it, find it and reward you for it, that’s only half of the equation. Thinking that the only thing you have to do is build something great shields you from the reality that you have to be an advocate for whatever cause is yours. Whether it is a startup, politics or a charity, you have to be proactive captivating others, capturing attention and courting attention. Only those who are actively courting truly succeed in the end.

SMM: You said in an interview that if people start doing one thing from your book it should be to violate people’s expectations. But there must be more to it than just shock and surprise, right?

PARR: Any violation does capture attention, but the key questions really are does it sit with the values and will it lead to sales? Will it lead to long-term attention? Those are the questions I want people to be asking regarding the disruption trigger.

SMM: Do the seven triggers work as effectively in a B2B world as they do in consumer marketing?

PARR: The triggers work because they are innate to human nature. That said, the tactics you use are different. In B2B, it’s about convincing key players of your value and to be on your side. The tactics are more individualized. The framing trigger matters more because you have to know the details of your audience more and give them what they actually want.

SMM: Your rewards trigger extolls the value of surprise rewards rather than traditional carrot-and-stick incentives. Incentive plans have become ingrained into so many salespeople’s compensation mindset. Would surprise rewards work?

PARR: There is a place for incentives. Clearly they do work if you have the proper reward. But you are losing out on potential opportunities if you only use the standard model. Incentives treat people as Pavlovian dogs – if you do this, I’ll give you this. The science shows us that we are much more delighted and have a higher positive brand affinity if we are surprised by a reward for a behavior that you wanted to do anyway.

SMM: Does sex sell?

PARR: To an extent. I actually interviewed one of the leading researchers on attraction and the thing about sex is that in the short term it can it gain your focus? But in the long term, stronger things like acknowledgement and relationship win out. It’s all about short-term versus long-term attention. And you have to consider your brand identity. Do you want your brand to stand for sex? A lot of times people use it and they get some backlash as a result, and they don’t know why. Well of course it didn’t work – it makes no sense that you used it in the first place.

SMM: You said in an interview with CNN that if you could give advice to your 18-year-old self, you would tell him to learn programming deeper and sooner and that every kid should learn how to program. We reach a sales and marketing audience. How is computer programming applicable to what they do?

PARR:  All programming really is is mathematics. It teaches you logic skills. It teaches you knowledge skills, and it’s going to teach you math skills that you can use for the rest of your life. The lessons you learn in learning how to program make you a better student and a better productive member of society.

SMM: What is the most important thing for salespeople and marketers to know about capturing attention?

PARR: Know the three types of attention – immediate, short and long. You can capture someone’s immediate attention and get them to listen to you. You can capture their short attention and give them something to think about. But more than anything, it’s about capturing their long-term attention. Building that relationship is what really makes sales happen. In the end, friends buy from friends. Too many salespeople don’t put in the effort to build the long-term relationships and the brands don’t do enough to build the long-term relationship and brand identity. You can’t skip all the way to the front, but if you do it right over the long term, suddenly instead of you having to sell all of the time, you’ll find that people are coming to you.