Jul 062017

Marketing Better – What Happens If The Fish Are Not Biting?

Almost every entrepreneur I’ve met would like to be marketing better. Why not, right? If you market better, your business should be more successful, at least on the top line.

So, speaking of “top line” – not as in revenues, as the term implies in business, but as in fishing line, the kind you use to catch fish – let’s talk fishing for a minute.

What does fishing have to do with marketing better?

I would say learning to fish well is a lot like learning to market well. Here’s why.

My son was asking me yesterday if I’d ever gone pond hopping. I asked him what he meant, as I wasn’t familiar with the term. He said, you know, where you drive from pond to pond, trying to catch fish, then keeping track of the results at each pond…

That got me to thinking of just how much fishing is like marketing!

Just as in fishing, in marketing there is always a temptation to go “pond hopping”. The less informed version of pond hopping in marketing would be where you try something in one “pond” for a short time, then quickly conclude that because you haven’t “caught something” right away, the pond is no good, so you move on. You figuratively jump in the car and drive to another marketing “pond”.

Does this approach to marketing make sense?

To answer this question, let’s go back to fishing for a moment. For example, ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of fish are you trying to catch?
  • How much do know about the eating behavior of the fish you’re trying to catch?
  • What sort of fishing equipment do you have at your disposal? For example, do you have a boat?
  • How long are you spending at the pond before “hopping” to the next one?
  • What else is happening at the pond you’re fishing in? Are fish jumping to catch flies?
  • How many different lures did you try before you moved on to the next pond?
  • Have you fished at that particular pond before? Did you learn anything?
  • What season of the year is it?
  • Did you try just one place in the pond, or did you move around at least a bit?
  • What time of day is it?
  • Have any other fisherpersons given you tips about this particular pond, or about the type of fish you’re going after?
  • If you catch a large fish, or any fish for that matter, are you prepared to get it into the boat or onto the shore?
  • Are you fishing for sport, or is it your business? Or do you need the fish to eat, as you’re in a survival situation?
  • Is there anything else in the water about which you should be careful – things that could kill or harm you, such as snakes, gators, or sharks?

This list could go on quite a bit, of course.

What does this have to do with marketing? Everything. It has everything to do with marketing.

If you would not (should not) travel to a pond to go fishing without having the answers to the basic questions, should you go to market without answers to basic questions about the customers you are seeking to attract? Absolutely not!

You should have every bit of data, qualitative and quantitative, that you can get your hands on, before you go to market.

In reality, you should have as much of this information as possible before you even build your product or service offering, so you know that you are building something that your market will want to buy!

Marketing better must become a habit. You must become an entrepreneur who doesn’t simply hope that the “fish” will bite. You need to stack the odds in your favor by gathering and tracking as much information (metrics) as possible.

How do you get this information about your market?

  • Ask them. Talk to your customers and prospective customers directly. Gather all information you can, but don’t take everything at face value – people often behave differently than even they realize.
  • Ask others. Just like you’d ask other fisherpersons, ask others in the market how your target prospects behave. Ask them in person and also look at data and reports that they and other service providers publish.
  • Observe them. My son bought a big fish tank and stocked it with the type of fish he goes after, rather than with tropical fish he’d never fish for. He feeds them daily. He changes it up. He sees how they respond. He appreciates them and treats them well. Pretty clever! And no, you can’t keep your prospects in a fish tank (except roughly the equivalent during a focus group), but you get the idea.
  • Take notes. Don’t just “go fishing” and not pay attention to what happens. Be observant. Note what works and what doesn’t, and under what circumstances. Track metrics that help you make better marketing decisions. Don’t just make mental notes; write them down. As the saying goes, the dullest ink is better than the best memory.
  • Experiment. I read a headline recently that said “your intuition is probably wrong” — I don’t recall where I read it (should have written it down), or I’d give them credit. You need to conduct tests and pay attention to the results – often you’ll be surprised by what works and what doesn’t. Do more of what works.
  • Don’t hop too fast. Give each approach and each “pond” a chance before writing it off. If you hop from pond to pond or method to method too quickly, you may never find out what actually works! You may end up thinking, mistakenly, that nothing works, as you will have given nothing a real chance to work!

Marketing better does not happen by mistake! Well, it might from time to time, just as you may catch a fish “by mistake,” but if this is your approach, it won’t be repeatable, except on a totally random basis.

In trying to market more effectively, you are looking for an approach and tactics that are repeatable and that deliver better than purely random results!

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.


Paul Morin