Monday, February 04, 2008

The Art of Helping a Prospect to Catch Themselves

Fly fishing is all about putting the right fly in the water near a fish in such a way that it looks natural -- and it looks and acts like what they eat. Sounds a bit like marketing doesn't it? It gets better....

The reason that fly fisherman wear a vest with 20 pockets filled to overflowing is that on any day the fisherman may have to try a lot of different fly patterns before they figure out what the fish will want. Sounds a little bit more like marketing and trying to target prospects, doesn't it?

In truth a fly fisherman never really catches a fish -- the fish catches itself. In the natural order of things the fish is really volunteering to jump on the hook just by responding instinctually within its own environment. That's marketing!

Marketing to me is to create, consider, experiment and keep placing messages in front of a target market until they volunteer to bite. No one message is going to work everyday or ever at all. I need to be open to changing my message or how it is delivered.

During the dot.com boom we were trying to attract more transactional work from early-stage incubator companies. We tried promoting our qualifications (which were stellar), we held seminars, we sponsored cool events, did a direct mail campaign, and even opened our Rolodex of finance community contacts. Nothing seemed to have much impact. Then, we raised our (billable) price to industry highs. Suddenly the prospects where calling us like we were the only answer to all of their prayers. Go figure.

At that time, in that market, the fly that worked was the perceived quality of the firm charging the highest price. I always try to remember that failure is only certain when I stop trying different ways to reach an audience.

Getting a prospect to volunteer to become a client is not always easy but very, very rewarding.