Market Like a Fisherman Fishes

Pick a fish, any fish.

If I go fishing and have no idea what fish I’m going after, what are my chances of success? What rod should I take, what bait or lure will work? Where will I fish? Without knowing which fish, it’s all random hope. Welcome to the most common small business marketing practices.

He who aims at nothing, hits it every time.

Small businesses have one over-riding fear – there is a customer out there that I might not get. I need them all and can’t afford to miss even one. That fear is the basis for the worst, most common marketing practices – going after every kind of fish at once in the hope that I might catch one.

As the old Russian proverb says, “A man who chases two rabbits catches none.” We fish wide, when marketing success comes from fishing in a very narrow, specific way for a narrow, specific customer.

Which Fish?
A good fisherman decides which kind of fish they are going after. It’s the FIRST thing they do. We think we do that, but we we’re really doing is deciding to go after all fish that are wet. A realtor will go after anyone who MIGHT buy a house ANYWHERE within an hour’s drive of their house. A financial planner will go after ANYBODY with two nickels to rub together. A photographer will go after businesses, families, pets, weddings, events, and landscapes.

Why? Because if we don’t go after every fish that is wet, we might miss one. And we’re hungry. We need every fish we can get. We’ll guess what? The best way to ensure you won’t go hungry is to PICK ONE fish and only one, and pursue it with relentless focus.

Once a fisherman chooses one very specific fish (not just “bass” in general, but “small-mouth pond bass”, they then study that one type of fish thoroughly – what they look like, where they live, when they eat. They study what they need, what they want, and what they like (sometimes all three are different). They know everything about that fish, and as a result, they set up their entire strategy and all their equipment to find that one fish.

Contrast that with the local business owner who aimlessly throws money at advertising, direct marketing, and public relations just to see what happens. And they advertise all over the place to everyone who is a possible client.

A successful business owner picks ONE very specific type of client, and builds their entire marketing strategy around that very narrow niche. The rest of us go hungry.

A woodworking guy. . . . . . . . . . The stair rail guy
A financial planner. . . . . . . . . . .Focus on teachers.
A realtor.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To a specific niche.
A contractor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I do bathrooms; nothing else.
A photographer. . . . . . . . . . . . . .I shoot pets, period.
An insurance agent. . . . . . . . . . .For single women.
A travel agent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cruises – period.
A computer tech. . . . . . . . . . . . . Mac and only Mac.
A bookkeeper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . For doctors only.

A Meaningful Specific or?…
Every one of the above are real business owners who are highly successful because they know who their fish are – a VERY narrow niche. I could also name a thousand I know who don’t focus like this. They are all violating Zig Zigler’s question – “Are you a wandering generality or a meaningful specific?” All of the generalists are struggling, and all of them are spending more money on marketing than any of the above specialists.

Probable vs. Possible
The key? Don’t go after POSSIBLE clients, people who MIGHT buy. Focus on PROBABLE clients and people who WILL buy, and do it in the smallest pond you can define. It will make the fish much easier to catch.