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I was preparing recently to clearly explain to an executive the different marketing channels we use in demand generation. It can all get technical very quickly, and I didn’t want to cause his eyes glaze over. I was trying to come up with an analogy I could use.
I’m not sure why fishing came to mind. I was in the pool when the analogy popped into my head, but I don’t fish empathy triggered the idea. The image of hooking a lead may have shaken loose in my skull. Or perhaps it was the memory of a former sales colleague who continually brought up this old Chinese proverb:
Bring a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
In any case, the analogy did the trick with the executive. As I thought more about it, I realized it could also be instructive for marketers in figuring out their marketing mix. So I am going to teach you three ways to fish, and when you should use each. There are more than three ways to catch a fish, of course, just as there are more than three demand gen channels. But I thought about these three buckets below as convenient for segmenting, without diving too deep.
First we have trap setting. Trap setting is low and slow. You bait the trap. You put it under the water. You wait some period of time and come back and see what you got. To me, this feels a lot like SEO. You do your research. What keywords is someone looking for? What’s your bait going to be? Where are your prospects searching for answers? Just like a captain figuring out the best waters to set his traps, and the best and most effective bait.
I’ve wasted many an hour watching “The Deadliest Catch.” It’s a guilty pleasure, and addictive even to a landlubber like me. That sense of anticipation, and then elation or despair when the haul from a each trap is realized. Will all of that effort and planning pay off? This is SEO.
A second method for catching is drag netting. Drag netting to me is most like a big trade show. Especially if you have touts or booth babes pulling people into your booth. You’ll take whatever you can get, large or small, good fit or not a good fit just to build your list. Just like the fisherman, the marketer who employs the dragnet is disruptive and inefficient, but scoops up some of what he’s pursuing. When you are planning your spend for the year, ask yourself if you should be going to a lot of events, or baiting and setting more SEO traps.
The third technique is spearfishing. Whaling has been on my mind recently, as I just finished Ian McGuire’s wonderful but gruesome The North Water. You’ve got a big and elusive animal, rare and dangerous – a CIO, CFO, perhaps even a CEO. This is man on man. It takes careful study of the hunted. Spearfishing takes both patience and courage. Typically you’ve only got one shot to make it, and if you don’t, your quarry is lost. Whaling is difficult, dangerous, and expensive, and I think the same can be said for any kind of spearfishing. If your strategy is to target C-level executives, keep this in mind.
Like I said, these are merely three examples, but you get the idea. I’m also positive there are wags out there who can make ironic parallels about their marketing department’s skills in hauling in leads. Ice fishing, a truly hopeless recreational activity, sitting on the ice in the worst possible conditions for catching fish. Not only are you cold, but the fish is half asleep. Or fly fishing, what some see as rich men going on long walks to catch very, very small fish (and not many of them). Chumming, where you blow a big chunk of your marketing budget on a fancy party. Lots of people come to eat your food and drink your liquor, and then just leave. Those are pursuits for marketers who – as my wife likes to joke – enjoy the fishing more than the catching.
How many demand gen channels is enough? I recently told my sales counterpart that you can’t have too many poles in the water. You just never know where you will get the hit. But don’t boil the ocean and try one of every possible marketing channel. A good fisherman knows when it’s time to reel in and move on. Just get started. Or as an old salt would scowl, fish or cut bait.