Bait the hook to suit the fish.

(Reposted from my email newsletter–subscribe to the Tribe to get more letters just like this.)

I'm re-reading Dale Carnegie's “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (for the umpteenth time – part of the “Better Me” program I've placed myself on).

I ran across this gem:

“Bait the hook to suit the fish.”

(I will run a mini-series on this, on the blog, so stay tuned.)

What does this mean? First, a little background.

I love to fish now, but it wasn't always this way. I first started fishing, with my grandfather, when I was a kid. We'd go out to the California aqueduct, near my house, between Brentwood and Byron. We'd sit there for hours and catch half a dozen to a dozen catfish. Not big ones, but big enough to keep and pretty damned tasty.

Well, I should say my grandfather caught all the fish. I caught all the snags at the bottom of the canal. I hated it. I'd spend all my time trying to get un-snagged.

It sucked. But that's not why I'm writing you today.

My grandfather had an innate ability to know what those catfish wanted, and when they wanted it.

For example, we never went fishing at 1pm. The fish weren't active then. We'd go early in the morning.

But just as importantly was knowing what they wanted. He knew. And that's what he offered them.

There's an old joke about selling stuff to fisherman – the goods are made to get the fisherman to bite, but not necessarily the fish to bite.

All those brightly-colored lures, with all the tails and legs, spots, and rattles, etc. – they catch the fisherman's eye. That's what sells those lures.

But they rarely work as well on the fish.

Catfish like smelly stuff. They don't care what the bait “looks like”. They are attracted mostly to the scent. So you have to place that scent where the fish are when they're ready to eat.

Now, predatory fish are opportunists – they will strike their prey when the prey is an easy catch.

However, they kind of lay dormant during certain parts of the day and you have to offer them something really special to get them to bite when they're not actively feeding.

So what is the point, especially when it concerns sales & marketing?

You have to offer people what they want, when they want it, and where they want it.

The first part is what we'll be talking about today.

All too often, we “marketers” decide what we want to sell before we find out what our audience wants.

We may even make this decision without ever considering what our audience wants.

This is most definitely putting the cart before the horse! I know I've done this before:

I get an idea, decide it will be really fun to create a project around it, and then I create a product. It could be an ebook, a video, or a tutorial I put on my blog.

Do you see what's missing?

I've left out the most critical component – my audience!

What does my audience want? What do they need? (Often, two different things.)

It doesn't matter what I want at all. I'm the fisherman attracted to the lures. I have not considered – at all – what the fish want.

That's the BIGGEST mistake I see aspiring marketers make.

So you may be asking, “How do I know what my audience wants?

A few ways:

  1. Ask them. If you have an established audience, like a list of subscribers, simply send them a question or a survey. Ask what they want. Offer several options and ask them to choose.
  2. Go to where your audience (or your target audience) hangs out. Listen. Ask questions. But don't be *that* sales guy, okay?
  3. What are other people offering? I bet you could make a better product or service, OR put a unique twist on what's already out there.

The signals are all around you. Take a step back. Sometimes, the trees really do get in the way.

You may be surprised at what you find out when you actively listen to your audience.

The first key is offering what your audience wants. So nail that before you move to the next step.


what your audience wants

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