Fast Five: Q&A with Joe Chernov on Marketing in the Attention Economy

Q&A with Joe Chernov

Recently, we curated The Attention Economy – The Impact of Attention Scarcity on Modern Marketing. In this eBook, we asked 12 modern marketers to share their best practices for winning the battle for their buyers’ attention. To broaden the discussion and keep the conversation going, we’re reaching out to other marketing and sales leaders with five quick questions on marketing effectively in the Attention Economy.


1. The Attention Economy was first coined in 2001 by Thomas Davenport and John Beck to describe the scarcity of attention and how to measure it, understand it and use it. Fifteen years later, do marketers understand the true nature of their buyer’s attention today?

I think we started down this path, but we took a wrong turn along the way. The content marketing movement emerged in large part in response to the realization that the buyers’ attention is the most precious resource. But that movement has been co-opted by the “currency” of B2B marketing: conversions, form-fills, MQLs. We’ve unwittingly turned marketing back into a transactional discipline, and it’s helping neither our buyers nor us.

2. B2B buyers today are busier and more distracted than ever before. What do marketers tend to get wrong in their rush to capture their buyer’s limited attention?

We keep trotting out yesterday’s idea. Maria Pergolino innovated when she wrote Marketo’s “Definitive Guide” eBook series back in 2009. I still see companies trotting out Definitive Guides – literally, they use the actual branding – today. Results decay because ideas aren’t fresh, and while the solution should be, “Let’s do something new,” it becomes, “Let’s increase our output.” We’re caught in a vicious cycle of our own making.

3. The Internet and mobile have dramatically changed how buyers consume content. How are marketers adapting their strategies to align with how we research and buy today?

I’m of two minds on this one. Certainly when it comes to mobile, B2B marketers aren’t doing very much. For most of us, responsive design is our mobile strategy. But at the same time, I think we’ve made major progress in the area of supplying content that helps buyers make product decisions. We’re being mindful of buyers’ journeys, and mapping content to stage. We have a better understanding of how buyers consume content – I think LookBookHQ’s research into “content bingeing” is very revealing. And despite all of the “be your own publisher” talk, we still license credible third-party content from analysts. We’re doing well here.

4. Marketers have vastly more technology options than ever before. Looking at the marketing tech stack, what’s one solution that stands out in helping marketers sustain buyer attention?

The clichéd answer is that technology doesn’t solve a problem. Process and thinking does. Technology is just the means to the strategic end. That said, Engagio – the account-based marketing platform founded by Jon Miller – is central to our strategy, as is Infer, which helps us prioritize the right accounts. The two of them are crucial to us.

5. How do you combat attention scarcity in your own life?

I trust sources. If someone I admire shares content or recommends a product, that matters more than any number of posts from strangers. The messenger is the best filter. 

Joe Chernov's Workspace

Joe Chernov’s work space: “I don’t like anything on my desk.
It’s a sickness, as evidenced by the tissues.”

Joe Chernov is the vice president of marketing for InsightSquared, a sales performance analytics company. He was previously a marketing executive with HubSpot, Kinvey and Eloqua. He’s been a marketing leader during two successful IPOs. The Content Marketing Institute awarded him “Content Marketer of the Year” and AdWeek named him one of the 100 most creative people in advertising. Joe serves on the board of advisors for several tech startups and is part of Flybridge Capital's advisor network.