Whilst on my summer holidays I spent some time pursuing one of my favourite pastimes – deep sea fishing. And while I watched and waited for a really big fish to take the bait I reflected on the idea that the science of fishing was a lot like the art of marketing…
First, a fisherman (or woman in my case) needs to understand the overall prevailing conditions. The season, the weather, migration patterns, food sources, pollutants and all the other myriad factors affecting water quality and so the quantity and quality of the various breeds of fish available. In marketing, we undertake broad and long range scanning to identify those trends and factors in the economy, political, technological and sociological scenes that may affect our markets.
Second, a fisherman will know their water extremely well – the deep bits, the shallow bits, the dangerous bits, the over-fished bits and those little nooks and crannies that so far are undiscovered by others. And they know that fishing waters change over time – some become more popular with different types of fish and others appear to become empty and barren. Sometimes you need to be quite innovative or seek our new waters. It’s a bit like doing your market research to identify the best place to find the best clients.
Third, you really need to know your fish. The different breeds of fish have very different feeding preferences and habits. What time of the day do they feed? What is their favourite food and therefore the best bait? Sometimes, the fry (the babies) and juvenile fish have different feeding patterns to the mature adults. In marketing, you have to really understand the different segments of your market and the impact of lifecycle on consumer spending patterns – which we do with lots of market and client research.
Fourth, you have to have the right equipment, the right skills and the right bait. You need to know what line strength and rod and reel equipment is appropriate for the different conditions and fish and there is a real skill in choosing the best bait and how high or low it “sits” in the water. If all the other fishers are using one type of bait, some novelty and originality in yours might pay dividends. In marketing terms we have to think about how best to reach and communicate with our prospective clients and also to have exactly the right offer to entice our clients to choose our “hook” rather than one of the others.
Fifth, once you have hooked your fish you need care and skill to actually land it and get it into the boat. Rushing things along and the line might snap and the fish breaks free. Too slow and another, much bigger fish might help itself. This is where selling skills come to the fore in marketing – to convert a good prospect or lead into a profitable and happy client. Of course, in fishing we often throw our fish back but in marketing we will want to retain and nurture the client and build a long term relationship.
And just like marketing and selling in professional services, it helps you a great deal if you have an expert to help and guide you – or even to just reassure you while you wait it out – but sometimes you can just throw a line out there and catch a real whopper!