Don't Be Bullheaded
I recently wrapped up an evening by spending 30 minutes on the phone with one of our industry's leading branding- and marketing-strategy gurus. I initiated the conversation with a desire to pick his brain for a piece I'm doing for my newsletter, but when the topic turned to marketing strategy, he said something that piqued my interest.
"Many companies lack an adequate understanding of the consumers they're marketing to," he said. "Without that, you're dead in the water."
That got me to thinking about the companies I talk to on a week-to-week basis. Many, if not most, have no idea who they're marketing to. Yes, they know their product is geared to anglers – maybe even avid anglers. But beyond that, they're lost. I mean alone in a strange place. Blindfolded lost.
They have no idea of consumer buying behavior – where he prefers to make his purchases, how often she purchases fishing tackle, what features make a brand stick out. And so many of these companies have no idea how to effectively market to those consumers, and whether Internet, TV or print is the best medium to reach their core audience.
The consultant told me, "These companies think 'Well, it's a fishing lure, we'll market it to anglers.' Never mind they have no idea who the anglers are."
If this sounds like you, or some of the folks inside your company, I have a three-step, self-help plan for you. If followed to the letter, you're well on your way to being successful.
1. Get out of your own way. No one creates a product thinking "This won't work," but far too many folks I talk to suffer from delusion of "If I build it, they'll come." First, you don't even know who "they" is, and second, until you know who they is, you can't be assured that they're interested in what you're offering them. Develop a target plan for finding out who your core customer is, what his buying habits are, who your primary competition is and what void you can fill in the marketplace.
2. Admit you need help. People don't get into fishing because they love gardening. They get into fishing because they have a sincere passion for fishing. Unfortunately, that's where things often go awry. Too often folks who have been very successful in other industries enter ours and think that a passion for angling alone will carry the day. It won't. You need to know how this industry works, who the players are, what the competition is doing and what you can do differently. And likely, you're going to need help as you navigate that minefield. There are a number of agencies, firms and consultants that can be of help in this regard, but I caution you to choose wisely. Knowing how business works doesn't equate to knowing how the sportfishing business works.
3. Listen to those you hire. A chief frustration I hear all the time from strategists and consultants, both inside and outside our industry, is that the folks who hired them won't "listen" to their input. Yeah, they pay lip-service to the ideas shared and the research conducted, but in the end an attitude of "I know what I'm doing" prevails. From what I've seen and experienced, this disconnect is the source of many of the ails in this industry. It's tough to move ahead if you're resigned to do things your way, without regard for efficacy. My advice is to challenge authority – don't mindlessly refute it. If the advice you're getting makes sense, it's worth a try. In the end, it could be the very advice that gets your company over the hump.
(Image courtesy of LuRoGo)