Marketing Lessons from a Fisherman

Posted on July 30, 2009

OK, so the title of the post has captured your attention — now I hope the contents will keep it.

As marketers struggle to find new customers and keep those that they already have, they seem to be overwhelmed with their tactical options (social media, promotions, advertising, events, grassroots, etc.)  However, that’s because many marketers tend to bypass strategy and gravitate straight to tactics — and getting the sequence wrong produces results that fail to meet expectations.

To think about the strategy marketers should follow, we need to look no further than the fisherman.  Fishermen realize that catching fish is dependent upon several factors, but the first is to define the type of fish you want to catch.  Why?  Because every tactical decision that follows (location, bait, technique) is dependent upon the answer to this first question.

Next, the fisherman must deciden where (stream, lake, ocean) to focus his search in order to find the fish he seeks to catch.   Third, the fisherman must map within the stream, lake, etc. the specific locations where the fish are biting as to not scare them off with the sound of his boat.  Fourth, the fisherman must know something about what type of bait will attract the fish and the casting technique required to get the fish to bite.   So before the rod, tackle box, and beverages ever hit the bed of the pick up truck — the fisherman has had to analyze the target, location, and “offer” that will get the fish to bite.   Failure to pinpoint these factors means the fisherman could waste days motoring around the lake, scaring off the fish, or even arriving at a good fishing hole but with the wrong bait — thus, no catch.

So if Bubba can do it, why can’t some marketers?  Because the fisherman gets up at 5am and sweats the details and some marketers don’t.  It’s simply easier to buy ad reach and interrupt everyone (e.g. motoring around the lake dragging a fishing line and hoping the fish will bite).

It takes rigor to do what the fisherman does, and it requires equal rigor for good marketers to do their homework.   Not everyone is a prospect for your product or service — in fact, assume nobody is and you have to win them over.   This flies in the face of the “advertise to everyone and measure nothing” approach that many marketers pursue.  Oh sure, their ad agency says the ad reach is targeted, but what’s targeting — a demographic slice of 1 million people?   How about a target of one!   This would require CRM data and relationship exchanges to built intelligent profiles so that communication can be targeted to an audience of one.

Does the fisherman try to catch a school of fish at once?   Does he try to throw 50 lines in the water and “advertise his offer (bait) to every fish in the lake?

Let’s review the fisherman’s routine and see if we can learn from it:

  1. Know your target
  2. Know where your target resides/congregates
  3. Know how your target behaves and their tendencies so that your can construct the right offer (bait)
  4. Target your offer (bait) to individual recipients — not the masses
  5. Apply the appropriate technique to engage the target so that they approach you and accept the offer (bite the hook)

OK, so I’m not trying to reduce customers to fish or marketing value propositions to bait — but you get the point.

Think about it.


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