How To Create A Simple Lead Funnel For The Digital Attention Span Economy

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Have you noticed that it's getting harder to get customers to buy your digital products?

First, it's tough to even get your prospect's attention. There are over 4 million blog posts published daily and there are 317,000 Facebook status updates every 60 seconds.

But even if you do get someone to click through and read a blog post, the average email opt-in rate is only 1.95%.

For your business to survive, you need consistent leads...but how can you get those leads if you can't get noticed and the few that do won't give you their email address?

The word "frustrating" doesn't even begin to describe it.

But there is some good news.

Companies like Hubspot, Wistia and Closio are dominating their niches. Marketers like Pat Flynn and Neil Patel have cult-like followings.

What are they doing different with their lead funnel?

Much Simpler Than You Think.

Not too long ago,  I was reading a post on Hubspot, then immediately looked at one about a similar topic on Pat Flynn's blog.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. 

They were doing something very similar with the way they were converting visitors into leads.

I immediately looked at the sites of other successful marketers and companies that have also had rapid growth the last few years.  The same repeated patterns were in their lead generation funnels.  

Then, I began researching more of these successful companies and entrepreneurs, and saw many of the same patterns.

And it was nothing to do with being a prolific writer, being an SEO master or having the latest technology on your site.

So what is it that makes them so special?

They use a formulaic (but very effective) approach in their lead generation strategies that is different than what almost everyone else is doing.  Most marketers and companies use certain elements of what they are doing, or even all of them, but they are not linking them together the same.

These sharp entrepreneurs have become masters at marketing to their prospects in what we named the "Digital Attention Span Economy".

In this post, I'm going to introduce you to the concept, share my research, break down exactly what those successful marketers are doing in their simple lead funnels, and show how you can do it too.

Let's dive in.

What Is The Digital Attention Span Economy?

"The currency of business is attention."

-Gary Vaynerchuk

In a 2015 study from Microsoft Corp., we start to lose concentration after about 8 seconds. This is a drop from 12 seconds in the year 2000 when the mobile revolution began. 

Microsoft theorized that the changes were a result of the brain’s ability to adapt and change itself over time and a weaker attention span may be a side effect of evolving to a mobile Internet.

This report took the marketing world by storm...and in a panic, marketers began creating an endless supply of shorter content.

We now have one-second radio spots, six-second videos, digital billboards that change ads displayed every six seconds and infographics instead of articles.

Shorter content for shorter attention spans...makes sense, right? Well, maybe not.

So if our attention span is just eight seconds, how can we spend 12 hours watching “The Walking Dead”?

Think about it this way:

People have become much more selective of the content to that they give their limited time to consume.  

This means that people will only spend about 8-seconds figuring out what they like, they'll spend much longer with content they actually like.

That eight-second attention span appears to be more like an EIGHT-SECOND FILTER.

But this doesn’t just apply to entertainment - it's the same in business too.

The median average time spent reading a business blog post is only 37 seconds.


47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson.

So...what can you to do beat that 8-second filter and get your prospects to engage with your content?

It all boils down to this...the Digital Attention Span Lead Funnel.

In a Digital Attention Span Lead Funnel, you want to focus on capturing the attention of the right person, get them to quickly trust you, keep them engaged with quality content, then make it easy for them to start working with you.

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It's pretty obvious when you think about it, but small changes in execution seem to make all the difference.

At a high level, it looks like this:

Share This Image On Your Site

Now it's time to get into the actual meat of this post and break down the three lead funnel stages above and give actionable tactics you can implement.

Step 1: Get Past The 8-Second Filter

Embed from Getty Images

"When I was growing up, I'd buy an album and I’d listen to the album.  I didn’t have that much music so when I bought an album I’d listen to it and if I didn’t like it, I’d still listen to it."

- Trent Reznor

We have instant access to almost every song ever recorded. No one will sit and listen to a single song, much less an entire album if they don’t like it anymore.

Just like a song has to hook the listener right away, you need to quickly win your visitors over.

During this 8-Second Filter Phase the quality of the content doesn’t really matter (we’ll get to that in the next step), because if you misfire here the visitors won’t stick around to even give it a chance.

Our benchmark for success here is to get them to STOP SCANNING / SWIPING / SCROLLING. Once we’ve done that, we’ve interrupted the filtering process and they’ve opened their mind to what we have to say.

The most effective way to that is by addressing two of the biggest questions on your prospect's mind.

1. Does this person understand my problem?

2. Is this person qualified to solve my problem

For the first question, keep in mind we're not even talking about solving their problem… yet. That would be pretty tough to do in 8 seconds. We just need to address their problem to let them know we understand.  

Luckily, many of your prospects are likely experiencing the same or similar problems, and you can find out what those very easily.

So here we go...

1.1 - Let Prospects Know You Understand Their Pain Points

Some quick research on two popular sites will take you inside the mind of your potential customers and reveal what issues they need help with the most.

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organized by its community of users. You can research your market here and find their most common questions.

Reddit is a massive collection of forums where people can share news and content or comment on other people’s posts. Find your market's forums and you'll see their struggles.


Get the step-by-step process to find the best questions to answer in your content for both Quora and Reddit.

The most important thing to focus on here is finding a very specific problem, and not a generic one.

Let's say you have a social media course for business owners.  

BAD:      "How do I get more customers?"
GOOD:   "How often should I post on my business Facebook page?"

The first one is way too wide open.  But the second is a very specific question and while it obviously doesn't encompass your complete solution, it's this type of question that is on the minds of your prospects while they are in that 8-second filtering mode. 

Once you have the question, you should check out this post I wrote on how to change a prospect question into a headline that gets clicked

1.2 - Let Prospects Know You're Qualified With Trust Triggers

Without knowing it, your prospects are actively searching for the mistakes you’ve made in order to validate their feelings of mistrust.

During this quick process they are looking for “trust triggers” - something that connects with their reptilian brain instantly and say, “Okay, this is the real deal. I'm safe.”

There are many types of trust triggers, but I want to focus on 3 right now that you can easily implement on a blog post in under an hour.

3 Powerful Trust Triggers You Can Add In Under An Hour


In the age of native advertising, the lines between journalism and sponsored promotions have blurred, but there’s still a certain mystique in being able to say that Forbes, for example, has found your company noteworthy enough to mention it in an article.

Those “as seen on” montages of publisher logos that you see on many B2B websites are great for boosting confidence at a glance.

Below we can see the power of media logos in a credibility bar on the website of sales trainer Ryan Stewman.

Why? People like knowing that other companies trust you.

It’s social proof at work. 

2. Influencers & Celebrities

Influencers have already acquired trust and loyalty in their market, so by strategically blending them in your content, visitors associate the influencer's trustworthiness with you.

Eventually, they may also become loyal to your brand if they get what they expected.

Robert Cialdini, author of the groundbreaking book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”,  explains why influencers increase trust.

Cialdini says:

"People look towards those they consider an authority when they aren’t sure how to act in a situation or what to think about a product. In other words, we tend to believe an authority or celebrity when they tell us a brand is good."

Reference influencers and show that they agree with you on the topic you're proposing.

If you want to really grab your visitors attention, you should include their picture too (like what I did above with Cialdini and earlier with Gary Vaynerchuk).

Some influencers, like Cialdini and  Vaynerchuk have photos you can download from their site to use in your articles.  Just make sure you follow proper procedures for using them, and in no way imply an endorsement.

Also, look at including celebrities in your content. People’s attention perks up when there’s a celeb involved. We recognize the name and when they’re integrated into subjects we’re interested in, we get even more interested.

You can use Getty Images embed feature to post celebrity images in your blog posts for free.  I did this with the Trent Reznor image in this post. Again, just don’t imply an endorsement. 


In 1995 Amazon introduced public product reviews and everybody thought they lost their marbles.

Possibly the best review on Amazon ever.

Today, we can't imagine buying online without knowing what others are saying.

Neil Patel from Quick Sprouts says that while the main purpose of testimonials is to increase sales, you can also use them to help establish trust and credibility - which is at the core of beating that 8-Second Filter.

A trust building testimonial should explain a specific way your service helped them and also include a profile photo, full name and their job title.

A powerful technique is Content-Based Testimonials where specific testimonials are displayed on each post that relate to its topic.  

If the content is about how to get more leads from Facebook, the testimonial should be about how you helped them with Facebook.  It should not be about getting them a top Google result or even a general "he's a great guy" testimonial. 

In this post's bonus section, I dig into the topic of Content Based Testimonials: the very specific places you want to place them, how to format them and I share a WordPress plugin that makes it managing this process push button easy.


Learn the where and how to properly place content based testimonials , plus the way to automate getting and displaying them with a WordPress plugin.

Remember, even if you’re legit, and you’re running a real business that truly helps people, new visitors don’t necessarily know that.

You’ve got to help them “see” that you’re the real deal in just a few seconds. These trust triggers will get them to stick around longer.

Now you're ready to win them over by helping them solve a problem.


Embed from Getty Images

“This whole idea of an attention span is, I think, a misnomer. People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.”

 - Jerry Seinfeld

In the past, “marketing strategies” were no more that pounding out the message that your stuff was better than your competitor.  ​

But the internet changed everything.

These days, if you want attention, you need to give your prospects something that traditional marketing strategies can’t: real value.

Click to Tweet

Real value isn’t about how good you are at promoting. It’s about how you good you are at solving a problem.

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing said:

"It never gets easier to hear this, but at the end of the day, people don’t want or care about what you sell. All they care about are that their problems are solved, and your products or services are simply a means to an end."

Create Content That Answers The Question

After using the methods in Step 1 to find a pain your prospects are having, you're ready to help them find the solution.  

Solving a problem is the most important component to creating a trusting relationship with your audience. 

The other critical elements for content in this marketing funnel is for it to be easy to read and engaging.

These are three simple structures work perfectly for this because they can be scanned and read easily:

  • How To Guides (5 Steps to Fix X)
  • Listicle (12 Easy Ways To Achieve X)
  • Curated List (7 Types of X That Will X)

Now, you are ready to get started with creating your content.

There are many different formats that can work here, but BlogTyrant's Ramsay Taplin has a great step-by-step process for writing content that meets Digital Attention Span Marketing objectives.

A couple of other things to consider...

Hubspot analyzed their stats and found that the ideal blog post length is roughly 2,100 wordsMedium and serpIQ had similar findings.  

You should also cite quality references. Every blog post you write not only delivers content to your audience, but also shapes their perception of you, your brand, and your authority and expertise. That’s why using only high-quality, primary sources for your content is critical.

Some good places to use as references are industry articles, thought leader blog posts, research studies and main stream news articles. Make sure you cite your sources properly and follow copyright laws.

But the best content in the world means nothing to you as a business owner if your visitors don't take the next step and get on your email list.

STEP 3: Make It Easy to choose you

Embed from Getty Images

"You stick out of the crowd, baby, it's a no-brainer
It ain't that hard to choose

- DJ Khaled

So, what happens when a potential new lead discovers and consumes your content? At least 95% of the time, they read it and move on with their day.

The "Subscribe Now" optin box you see on every blog gets less than a 1% optin rate. 

So, if you can’t get people to sign up for your emails, then how do you get their contact information? Simple. Give them what they want.

Fortunately, they’re already telling you. They want to learn more about the topic they’re currently reading.

Take advantage of this knowledge with Content Upgrades

For example, imagine you've written the post "10 Ways To Get Your Home Ready To Sell" and provided detailed examples for each item.

A Content Upgrade might be a PDF checklist the reader can print out so they can work their way through the list on their own.

VideoFruit's Bryan Harris calls it "The Grocery Store Formula".

The analogy is that shoppers love stopping by the sample booth at the grocery store for free stuff.  The grocery store loves doing it because the more samples they give away the more products they sell.

It works online too.

Give away good free content, and people will be happy to "pay" by giving you their email address.

Visitors love getting the free information, and you will love doing it because the more information you give away the more prospects will join your mailing list.

Clay Collins and the LeadPages team implemented Content Upgrades and increased their subscriber rate from 0.5% to over 10% in a 30 day span.  

Before:  For every 1,000 visitors they collected 5 email addresses.
After:     For every 1,000 visitors they collect 100 email addresses.

Wow.  Now, that's the difference between a side hustle and a 6-7 figure business.

The key to a successful Content Upgrade is for it to clearly tie into the problem you are solving in the blog post...and make it even easier to solve.

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If your content is "The 10 Highest Converting Email Headline Formulas" your bonus could be "100 Email Headline Samples Using This Formula".  

It's a clear tie-in that someone looking for help writing email headlines would find very beneficial.

Something like "How To Get 1000 Twitter Followers in a Week" would not be closely related to that content on email headlines.

Example Of A High-Performing Content Upgrade

One of my more popular posts gives the steps to become a contributor for Forbes and 8 other authority sites.

The Content Upgrade for this post is The Ultimate List of Guest Contributor Opportunities which shows how become a contributor at over 100 other places.  

This is one of the offers visitors see on that page:

Someone that wants to start writing for Forbes, would probably be interested in writing for other sites too, so this is a clear tie-in.

The most common Content Upgrades are things like:

  • Checklists
  • Templates
  • Swipe Files
  • Resource Lists
  • Case Studies
  • eBooks

Another key to getting more visitors to give you their email address is to not just offer your Content Upgrade in one spot...but in multiple places and different formats throughout your post.

Rachel Leist with Hubspot suggests, “You can increase conversions by including more CTAs on your blog if they’re several different types of CTAs, in different formats.”

She outlines 8 different types of CTAs to try - including a slide-in, sidebar, in-content optin form and a Bottom of The Post Smart CTA.

In the post you are reading right now there are: 2 in-content CTAs, a bottom of the post CTA and a ribbon CTA.


The Digital Attention Span Economy is here.

Think of this process as a lead funnel template: You need to grab your prospect's attention, build trust quickly, solve their problem, and make it easy for them to get on your email list. 

Everyone from marketing consultants to professional bloggers to corporations to mom and pop local businesses can build their content marketing strategy around this simple lead funnel. 

And once you have theses leads you can apply a typical sales funnel strategy to turn them into customers.

If you enjoyed this post, please post it on social media or email to someone that might enjoy it too.

If you hated it...well, please just keep that to yourself.


Now, let's take this somewhere awesome.

I've included some free bonus content that dives deeper into some of strategies, plus gives you access to resources and tools that make it easier to implement.

  • 1
    Step-By-Step Guide For Finding The Problems Your Customers Need Help With The Most Using Quora & Reddit
  • 2
    The 2 Best Places For Trust Building Testimonials In Your Content 
  • 3
    How To Automate Getting And Managing Testimonials With A WordPress Plugin
  • 4
    PDF Version Of This Post And All The Bonus Content
Brian Ainsley Horn

Brian Ainsley Horn, was the top SEO consultant for information marketers, pioneered the field of authority marketing, and wrote 5 best selling books. You may have seen him on the Howard Stern Show, Today, Entrepreneur, BuzzFeed, Digital Marketer and dozens of other media outlets. But he's most proud of his hot woman, cool kids, and their very lazy dog.

  • Neil Howe says:

    Great read! It is amazing how our attention span is so low, but we sit and binge watch Netflix for hours. It is getting harder to get and keep attention, especially on social media, so the use of trust triggers is smart to gain attention and authority from recognized platforms. At the end of the day, it is all about solving problems. That’s all people care about. So, following these steps you can show that you are willing and able to do so. Simple, really!

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      Thank you Neil! Yeah, thinking of the shorter attention span as more of a “shorter filter” changes the whole perspective.

  • Lee Baucom says:

    Brian, you followed your own formula. Great article that not only gives great content but proves the formula. My “scan” ended up being a deep-dive.
    The start is with the plan of providing great content. Then, as you note, you have to do that. But I loved the idea of the “grocery store” of samples and bonuses.
    Now, to apply on my own sites!

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      Yes sir! Love the concept of content upgrades vs other types of more generic optins.

      Love to see what you do on your site.

  • It makes so much more sense to see attention span as filtering time. I’ll happily binge watch a series or an evening of Slow TV on Netflix and yet it only takes me a few seconds to decide if something is worth my time. You highlight some excellent resources and lessons here, particularly using Trust Triggers and solving the users problem with how-to lists and other bonus content. I wasn’t aware of the ability to embed Getty Images and that would be really helpful for my colour and style coaching blog. Thanks so much Brian and Jack for explaining it in a simple and approachable way.

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      There are a lot of great images you can embed at Getty…more than just celebs. Good to mix those in with actual images on your site.

      Thank you for reading!

  • Brian- fantastic post. I just bookmarked it and will come back again [and again] as you have included so many aspects of successful [attention grabbing] marketing! As you show, it’s no longer enough to just put out content, it has to be relevant, attention-grabbing while solving the customer’s problem. The first step in grabbing their attention is the Headline/Title/Subject line. If that doesn’t draw a prospect in, the rest of the content might as well not exist. I wrote a post about how to develop your headline writing skills here

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      Thank you!

      It’s all changing so fast now…

  • Terrific perspective Brian! I am guilty of creating and focusing on short-form content with the belief that I had to adapt to shorter attention spans online and in general. Viewing the 8-second window as a “filter” and not “reading time,” is an absolute game changer. It is difficult to really convey a quality, in-depth thought or insight in a short period of time, but thinking about the initial impression and then giving the reader/visitor a reason to consume my quality content allows me to move me focus back to sharing practical and problem solving insights. Knowing that visitors will consume quality content because, as you said, they are “highly selective of the content they consume,” opens the door to providing good bonus content which helps with list building and implementing trust triggers to create an instant connection.

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      I’m an SEO guy deep down, so I usually created longer content, but I’ve been guilty of not focusing on solving a simple problem.

      The deep dive into all the research totally opened my eyes to what’s working now.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Rick Brown says:

    Terrific analogy here, Brian –

    “We have instant access to almost every song ever recorded. No one will sit and listen to a single song, much less an entire album if they don’t like it anymore.”

    The music industry has struggled with this in recent years. Bands don’t make money on album sales anymore. Many give their latest album away with the purchase of concert tickets. They too are trying to figure out how to hook their audience in new ways.

    I’ve seen another analogy comparing our attention span to that of a goldfish. The idea being that we have to dispense bite-sized nuggets of information to capture the attention of our goldfish audience.

    I think many of us have taken that to mean that ALL of our content must conform to this new digital-age normal, but grabbing attention is only one step in this process – not the only step.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      Yeah…that quote from Trent Reznor speaks volumes about how everything has changed in media consumption. Business content included.

      Thanks Rick!

  • Jimmy Slagle says:

    I have to confess, I’ll go against the grain of most readers with my comments, but hey… that’s me.

    One of the things I loved most about this article, apart from the obvious lessons being taught, was the analytical approach Brian took when writing. It seems that most people buy on emotion and then back up that emotional purchase with logic… I think it has been suggested that 80% of the population does this (I don’t know if that statistic is true, but let’s go with it).

    I am a logical buyer and that applies to not only buying with my time but also my Benjamins. Therefore, when I got to the part where Brian said he was going to introduce, share, break down, and show how… I was sold.

    (Geez, I wish more article writers would do it this way… I freaking love logical approaches… and when you throw in some emotion… I will stand and clap.)

    I also loved the images with quotes, these ad a deep level of unconscious linking to authority. Even if you don’t like the authority figures mentioned, our brains just associate the writer with the authority as if somehow they are old friends… and we all love to hang out with people who are old friends.

    I love the statistical proof of what is covered in the article since 83% of all statistics are made up on the spot, it is refreshing to see the data behind the assertions.

    I had an amazing aha moment when I compared the 2015 study from Microsoft Corp. with the study from Netflix. Thanks Brian for taking the liberty to concisely point out what was obvious (when understood) but made most scratch their head when it remained surface level knowledge…

    “That eight-second attention span appears to be more like an EIGHT-SECOND FILTER”… I guess this is why Vine Died… people made it through the six-second filter and were now willing to invest only to discover there was nothing left to invest in… Aha moment for me.

    Once that truth (for me) sunk in the rest of this article was pure (world domination) gold.

    I could go on, however, I think you should read (or re-read) and bookmark the article for yourself and discern how to apply this knowledge to your own business (I know I will).

    And on a side note… I loved the tweetable takeaways.

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      I knew about the Microsoft Study for years. But happened to read it again recently, and immediately after saw the Netflix study.

      Then it all clicked…

      Thanks, Jimmy!

  • Mark Page says:

    Hey Brian, getting someone’s attention is getting much more difficult. I like how you break down the steps to improve your odds of success. Have you found a certain CTA to work better than others?

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      You mean the type of offer to make, or the format of it (hover pop, in-content, etc)?

  • Excellent work from you guys as usual. You really know your stuff and I would recommend anyone wanting to get into this field to take notice of this. It can accelerate growth. Well Done

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      Thank you so much Dave! Good to hear from you.

  • BAAAnanas! :)) … Lots of great insights here… in the comments as well. I bookmarked and Tweeted. Shameful admission, but rarely do I tweet. Call me old fashioned. I love these three simple steps. The paradigm shift to 8-second “filter” makes total sense… I look forward to digging into the bonus material. Already sent a few of the resources you cited to one of my clients. Thanks, B. Always grateful that you share your wisdom.

    • Brian Ainsley Horn says:

      That 8 second filter concept started all of this, and after really digging in, and looking at what other successful businesses are doing, changed my perspective on how to market.

      Thank you sir!

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