In every facet of marketing, I see business owners being very safe. Rather than make a bold promise, their tagline is something generic like “It’s Our People” or “We’re Not Satisfied Until You Are.” Their ads are the same – a headline that most companies could use and lots of “let me tell you more about me” body copy.

Can you be successful that way? Yes, if you have a lot of money to buy enough advertising frequency so that we can’t help but realize you are talking to us, and for all those discounts you have to offer to get us to your website or store.

Or, you could be interesting and, dare I say it, you could be provocative. What if what you said actually made people take notice? What if how you said it actually got people talking? Can you imagine that?

As consumers, we’re being bombarded with more marketing messages than ever before. One of the biggest challenges today is to just stay focused because there are so many distractions out there, all vying for our attention.  

It doesn’t matter what marketing channel you’re using to communicate – TV, outdoor boards, Facebook ads, direct mail, phone calls, retargeting or any of the myriad other choices –  you’re surrounded by other people trying to push you aside so they can be the attention hog. How are you doing in that daily hand-to-hand combat?

If you’d like your marketing to actually earn you the attention of the people you’re trying to reach, here are some things to consider.

What are you promising with your brand? When you think about it, companies make promises all the time. We make promises around quality, on-time delivery and all sorts of other aspects of our business. But we don’t make them in a very attention-earning way.

Is your brand/tagline bold enough that it makes you a little nervous? Is it making a promise that you have to bring your A game to keep? We have a client in Durham, N.C., that runs an outdoor adventure-based summer camp for kids. The camp’s promise is “we’ll send your kid home dirty, tired and happy.” That’s a bold promise. 

Your guarantee: Remember the old “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” campaign from FedEx Corp.? Was there any question as to what they were guaranteeing us?

If I asked 10 of your best customers what your guarantee or promise is to them, do you think all 10 of them would tell me the same thing? If they can’t articulate it, what makes you think they’ll be able to repeat it to their friends and colleagues?

Your advertising: If I’m driving by your outdoor board at 60 miles an hour, do I even notice it? Does your ad, showing all of your employees standing together (often on a staircase or in front of your building) look like everyone else’s? In the blur that is online, do I even notice your ad about your 20 percent off sale?

You have just a few seconds to get someone’s attention. If you aren’t saying or doing something different and bold, you might as well toss your money into a wastebasket and light it on fire.

Your customer experience: When I call your office, visit your website, walk in your store or email a salesperson, what happens next? Very few companies know the answer to that question. And fewer have carefully orchestrated the experience. This is your best opportunity to earn not only their attention, but also their word-of-mouth referral. Do you have a plan, and does every employee know it?

I have a simple challenge for you – how are you going to earn your audience’s attention?