I’m always amused when clients tell me that they think marketing is all a mystery. It’s not. It’s fairly logical. You want to market your message to where the most real prospects are. You want to tell them things that are important and relevant. You want to say it in a way that is different from your competitors. End of marketing lesson.
The seasons moved in and out of the pawnshop heralded by lots of changes to merchandise and windows. In the winter, clothing took a strong lead in the store, with heavy coats and wool pants on all the racks. There were lots of holiday gifts on the shelves. The windows were dressed three or four times starting with Labor Day, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and finally for winter itself.
Spring was the season of hope. The windows were lighter and brighter. Lots of colors filled the store. Different kinds of merchandise peeped through in the spring. Our offering reflected the tastes of our clientele. We carried fishing rods every spring, which were hung straight up and down in a three-sided clothing mirror so that a dozen rods looked like an armada of fishing equipment.
We rarely had enough rods come out of hock to make a decent showing, so Nate bought new rods to fill out the presentation. The new fishing poles were light rods made of a new Plexiglas material. Nate loved to demonstrate the rod by holding the grip in one hand and grabbing the tip with the other. He could bend the rod almost in half.
Willie and I couldn’t wait to make a similar demonstration to a customer. When that day came, it was Willie’s customer. A woman wanted to buy a birthday present for her son. Willie gave a great setup about how the rod is made of a new miracle plastic. Then he demonstrated. "It’s unbreakable," said Willie as he bent it in half. The rod then burst into a thousand pieces. It didn't just break. It shattered.
Willie was horrified. Nate ran over and took another rod and demonstrated, knowing exactly where to hold it and when to stop bending it. Whether out of amazement or pity, the woman bought the fishing rod.
It was just another day in the pawnshop.
Fishing is a common theme in business books. It is a major theme in my life as well. I love fishing. There's nothing better than to stand in the surf and cast. Although the odds of success are slim, I’ve learned how to improve them. I read a lot about fishing and have talked to dozens of fishermen. I interrogate fishing experts on where and when to fish, and what bait to use.
The astounding lesson I've learned is that the key to success is to fish where the fish are. The big fish need deep water, so surfcasters have to find a place along the beach where the water drops off quickly, but isn't so far offshore that it can't be reached by casting. And, the fish have hours. They are more likely to be close to shore when they’re actively feeding, because that’s where their dinner is: the smaller fish. The bait you use should mimic what they are looking to have for dinner. It's pretty simple.
What makes fishing more interesting is that the fish can't be counted on to follow these guidelines. Fish are notoriously bad readers with very short attention spans. They might congregate in one spot along the shore for years, but winter storms change ocean bottoms, and what was once deep becomes shallow. So, the fish move on to new grounds. Sometimes, the fish change their eating habits and are more attracted to other kinds of bait. Sometimes, the changing seasons change the way the fish go about their business. And, sometimes, the fish just aren't interested because they're getting plenty of food elsewhere from a natural source.
The reason why fishing is such a wonderful metaphor for marketing is that the two are highly analogous. The same rules apply and the same results will occur if you violate them. Real success requires diligence. Your customers are going to change. Environments, habits, and diets change. If your marketing efforts are essentially the same this year as they were last year, you're probably missing some big hits. All of this requires constant attention and intelligence.
Most of us understand the concept of fishing. It's the reality of actually catching fish that sometimes eludes us.
Don't expect results from your marketing efforts unless three factors are lined up: You must be able to actually reach the target customers you are aiming for with a message that is relevant to them at a time when they are willing to take action. If you violate any of these rules, the whole effort will fail. Realize also that customers’ tastes and habits change, so that what worked last time might fail this time. Use research to stay current with the ever-changing tastes of your customers.
Jack Rossin is a marketing consultant who specializes in Presentation Skill Training. The most valuable tool a marketer has are the people in the company who talk to his prospects; Jack teaches them how to speak confidently. For more information about Jack please visit his web site at www.jackerossin.com, or call at 617-437-7990