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Marketing Lessons Learned On A Fishing Trip

It occurred to us today that marketing is not dissimilar to fishing. At first this seems a little odd, but let me explain.

Fishing Lesson 1: Fish where there are fish

Seems pretty simple. You wouldn't go fishing in a pond that had no fish, right? Choosing a pond or a lake or a stream or a fishin' hole in the ocean is a lot like picking a market or an ad medium.

When choosing a market, it's critical that you select a market that contains people who are easily reached, have demonstrated a propensity and ability to spend money on a product/service like yours, and have demonstrated a need or a want for what you're offering (or at least shown a want/need to resolve a pain).

Just as it would be foolish to fish in a pond with no fish, it is foolish to operate in a market that doesn't fit this criteria. But people are doing just that all around this. Here's how it happens: people develop products/services that they want to sell - not that people want to buy. That's interesting. Think about your own offering. Is it something you want to sell or something someone else wants to buy? If you find yourself constantly pushing your wares uphill, trying to convince people why they need it, you are either selling an unwanted/unneeded item or have failed to highlight the aspects that are desirable.

Which ever it is, it's like fishing in a retention pond - good luck.

Same analogy works for choosing an ad medium. Let's say you have chosen an appropriate market. If you fail to choose media appropriate for the market, it is again like fishing in a pond with no fish. You must carefully examine the addresses in your universe, the papers and magazines you run in, and ask yourself if the fish you are hunting swim in that stream.

Fishing Lesson 2: Bring a hook

Have you ever gone fishing without a hook? (OK, you may have used a net - but that doesn't count here). Of course, a fishing pole with no hook is worthless. You're no more likely to catch a fish without hook than you are catch a fish in a lake that has no fish.

So what's a hook got to do with marketing? Everything.

You must use hooks in your marketing. Hooks are offers that have sharp edges. When you lure someone in with your bait, your hook grabs a hold of them and allows you to reel them in.

But I see advertising every day that has no hooks. To me, that looks as silly as a boat full of fisherman with rods and reels, but no hooks. Sometimes they have hooks but they are dull. Dull offers and dull hooks work the same way - they just annoy the fish and your target. Generally once they get wise to a dull hook they avoid you like the plague.

Essentially, hooks are strong, specific, clear offers. Hooks feature quantifiable benefits or unique guarantee or a believable discount or an offer for credit or a bonus or a combination of many. If your ad doesn't have at least one of those, your pole doesn't have a hook.

Fishing Lesson 3: Choose the right bait

If you've ever done any fishing, you know that you must carefully choose the correct bait for the location you're at and the fish you're hoping to catch. For instance, you can't catch bass with live shrimp. Likewise, you can't catch grouper with a fly lure.

Before you drop your line you must decide what you are fishing for. In lesson #1 we learned that we have to fish where the fish are so if I want to catch bass, you should be standing at a lake that has bass in it.

See when you choose a place to fish and a bait to use you have to know what you are fishing for. You can't tie 10 different lures to one rod and expect to catch anything. One type of bait or one lure for a certain type of fish. The type of bait that this specific fish just can't resist.

If you handle your marketing the same way you'll be a BASS MASTER of MARKETING. Most people pick any lake (media) before thinking about what's in it. They just want fish (customers). Then they drop any kind of bait in and hope to get something, anything.  They don't care, they just want a bite.

This method is foolish and you usually don't catch anything unless it's by chance. We don't like to leave our fishing up to chance and we don't like to leave our business success up to chance either. Pick the right lake (media) for the fish (customers) you want to catch and when you get there you know you are fishing for a very speicific type of fish. Use the bait that they are starving for.

Not only must you choose the proper bait, you must position the bait properly. Some fish feed on the bottom and some on the top. You must choose accordingly. Fishing on the bottom requires sinkers. Fishing on the top requires bobbers or a buoyant lure. Bottom line: wrong bait/wrong position = no fish. Thanks for playing.

Same thing happens in marketing. If you present your offering to your market, but it is not appealing, you don't reel anyone in. It doesn't matter how sharp your hook is or how many fish are in the pond, if you don't offer something they're really interested in, you go home empty handed.

Likewise, if you fail to position your offer correctly - perhaps by being viewed as a peddler instead of an expert - you won't get any bites either.

So how do you choose the right bait and the right hooks? There are two good methods:

1) Ask around. Get advice. Ask the experts. What's gettin' bites?

2) Test. Go out to the pond every weekend and test different baits looking for the big winner.

It depends on what you have more of - money or time.

Fishing Lesson 4: You must cast

Fear of having the right bait or hook or being in the proper pond often ties frightens the uninitiated fisherman right off the dock. She thinks to herself, "This is way too complicated - I'll never figure all of this out," and she walks away. Another common scenario is the guy who hangs out on the dock, but drinks beer all day - never actually casting his line.

Both of these people are guaranteed to catch nothing.

Same holds true in marketing. Sometimes it can seem confusing. Sometimes you feel lazy. It doesn't matter. If you're truly committed to success in your business, you must cast that line with whatever tackle you've got and see what happens.

Just keep testing and measuring and you'll be farther ahead of most other fisherman around you.