Are the Fish Biting?

I recently returned from my annual fly fishing trip to the Black River in eastern Arizona.  For me, there is something special about standing in 3-4 feet of water, trying to figure out what the trout are eating.  It’s several days of pure bliss, accentuated by a complete absence of stress, and a time for me to think and recharge the batteries.  On this trip, as it often does, something happened, that made me think about how much fishing and marketing are alike and why both are such passions of mine.

Standing literally up to my chest in 47 degree water, I had tied a Copper John nymph to my line, hoping that this would be the right pattern. I cast two times, dead-drifting the fly through a pool, where I suspected there would be some nice trout.  After the second cast, I decided I would move my position slightly, as the ground I was standing on was a bit mushy and I didn’t feel like being wet.  As I moved, I left my line in the water and BAM! – trout on the line.  Immediately, I reacted, heart racing with excitement, as I began to slowly reel it in, allowing the line to retain some slack, as he darted in and out of the current. At one point he swam up and jump at least 2 feet out of the water, showing its beautiful color – it was an elusive Apache Trout – something you only find in the waters adjacent to the Apache Reservation in Arizona.  The excitement continued as I called to my friend to hand me my net.  You see, I had taken off my vest, so I could wade deeper without getting all of my equipment wet.  Now, I was in desperate need of my net.  As he crossed the stream to help me, I continue to feed line, then reel in this 15″ beauty.  Everything was going perfectly, but then, I got greedy.  I thought, wait a sec, I don’t need a net, I can just reel him in enough to grab the line, keep him calm, and it will be fine.  So, I began to reel him in closer, and he was calmer and he wasn’t jumping anymore and I could see him, just feet from me.  But as I leaned forward to grab the line – SNAP!  And with that, he was off, swimming away, not to be touched by a human today.  Almost immediately, my stress-free zone was replaced with a feeling of disappointment, and the realization that I would need to put a new fly on my line and try again.  Well, I did just that, and for an hour stood in the same spot, cast after cast, not catching another fish – at least not that morning.

As I walked back to camp, I began to think about my experience and, as I did, I had a thought about other times when I had felt a similar feeling of disappointment.  I thought about the countless times when I had worked hard with my team to put together a marketing campaign, and build a process for managing the leads, only to see lackluster results because someone upstairs needed to see “something now!”  Even as a Marketing Executive, the pressure was always there to grab that line, instead of being patient and sticking to a proven method of landing those fish.

Marketers today are faced with many challenges, not the least of which are impatient executives who typically focus on quantity versus quality – that is, until they see the lack of impact marketing is having on revenue and they start to dig a little deeper.  The truth is, marketing takes a plan, a process and patience.  It’s easy to be greedy and expect big numbers when looking at the results of a campaign.  But big numbers aren’t the key, taking the time to have a conversation with your prospects, ensuring they are qualified, both from a “fit” and “interest” perspective – that’s the key, that is what drives revenue.  So how do you avoid the impatience?  How do you avoid the executives prematurely grabbing the line?

First, devise a solid plan.  This typically consists of the following components:

  • Who are you targeting?  Are they in your database or elsewhere?  How will you know who they are?  Hint: This is your progressive profiling or data strategy.
  • Do you have content that your prospects can relate to?  Do you have content for the various stages of their buying process? Hint: This is your content marketing strategy.
  • How are you going to identify those who are ready to pass to sales? Hint: This is your scoring strategy.

Take the time to be sure your plan is solid.  Whether it is specific to a single initiative or if the plan is more long.

Second, make sure you have a process to support your plan.  Moreover, make sure your process enables action on your successes.  Key components of process include:

  • A defined lead lifecycle or lead process.  How are qualified leads passed to sales?  If they are passed prematurely, how do they get back to marketing?  And how does marketing ensure they go back into a nurture cycle?
  • How are you tracking your successes?  Do you have a closed loop process that you can report on?  Is sales doing their part to help you track a lead all the way through revenue?

Last, once your plan is in place, have patience.  Have faith.  Don’t jump the gun on pushing leads over to sales.  Make sure what you are sending them is qualified; at least to some degree. With a closed loop process and good reporting, you will be able to analyze your plan and make adjustments where needed.  And here’s a hint to keep the executives at bay and away from your line.  Prior to launching, find one key metric that they can relate to and ensure you can report on that metric early – success or not.

Like fishing, marketing is tough enough, without the “other things” getting in the way.  Taking the time to “shake your prospect’s hand,” learn who they are, have a conversation with them and determine whether or not they are ready to buy with save you a lot of broken lines, and a whole lot of lost fish.  And, if you ever find yourself in Arizona, I strongly recommend a trip out to the Black River, for some of our Country’s best fly fishing.  Here’s to your next big catch!

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At Digital Pi, we use technology to connect revenue to marketing efforts. We fuse marketing strategies, processes, data and applications to make marketing technology solutions work for clients' businesses.

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