I’m not shy about it; I like to fish. I like the outdoors, the beer, and the professional education that comes with silent thought while catching my own food. Not that I constantly think about business when I fish, but there are similarities. You want to catch a bass? Fish shallow waters around the brush piles. Wiggle a shiny lure in a taunting way. But if you want to catch a channel catfish, you have to put some smelly bait on the bottom, in deeper waters, and keep it still. Different fish need different baits and presentations. Marketing is like that.

For example, you shouldn’t put snazzy graphics on your vehicle if your prospects don’t live in your town (because your prospects will never see them), and you shouldn’t pay for print ads if your customers don’t buy magazines or read the paper. Every audience is different; so the bait (or media) should be different.

Of course, consumers are more complicated than fish, but bait and placement are still key to choosing your company’s branding tools. If you’re targeting 19-year-old college students, think about how they get their information: online, online, online. If you’re not using social media, videos, and Search Engine Optimization (or SEO – a way of attracting specific consumers to your website), you’re presenting the wrong bait, in the wrong way, in the wrong waters.

What about “old-school” advertising methods?

Yes. More traditional advertising methods can connect very well with other audiences. If you sell home or lawn services, a direct mail campaign can help you efficiently target zip codes where homeowners are more likely to buy what you offer. Special promotions and coupons can also be effective in both direct mail and newspaper ads (LOTS of people still scan the paper and scour the coupons once or twice week).

Cable TV spots can also be targeted to specific audiences in small geographic areas. If you sell products or services to special interest groups (sports fans, car enthusiasts, homeowners, etc.), TV allows you to place the right bait where the right fish are.

If you meet your prospects face to face, some of your best bait can still be fliers, brochures, giveaway promo items and a stack of business cards. Wear branded clothing. Use signage when appropriate. There’s still no replacement for this kind of brand credibility because, ultimately all of us still have to desire to meet the people we buy from, face-to-face, whenever possible. And people do hold onto cards, literature and promo items when they have an interest in your product or service.

You are the company brand

And let’s never forget: your best bait is your personality. Whether you’re a first-day salesperson or the owner of the company, people buy you, first. If you’re genuinely excited about your product, and it’s a good product, the fish are already listening. Video is a great way to put your personality in front of a larger audience and make that “hand-shake” online. It almost doesn’t matter what you talk about on the screen, as long as people get a chance to see what kind of person you are, what kind of passion you have for your brand, and what kind of knowledge is floating around in your head. It doesn’t have to get a million views; it just needs to get the right views to generate new business. Here’s a Wichita accountant whose personality is his most endearing trait: https://youtu.be/9o7O3NtCY9w. Not only is Boyce good at what he does, he has a groundbreaking online tax document tool, and found an interesting way to talk about it.

Digital marketing is like a fish finder

Online media can put your message in front of the people who are definitely looking for your product or service. When you produce even a simple Youtube video, it can be optimized so that your target audience is the first to find it. Your website can be optimized in the same way.

The beautiful thing about these online marketing methods is that they allow you to fish, not only the right waters with the right bait, but to present your bait only when the fish are hungry. If someone types in a Google search for what you sell, they’re not just another prospect; they’re seriously considering a purchase at that exact moment. Google calls these time-sensitive opportunities “Micro-Moments,” and they turn sporadic “fishing trips” into more of a “shooting-fish-in-a-barrel” experience.

The important thing is to utilize the right media for your audience and get it in front of them at the right time, without wasting money on people who will never buy from you, anyway. Choose your media: print, promo items, video, branded apparel, signs … it all works cost-effectively when you put the right bait in the right waters.

Wynn Ponder has been a fisherman and marketing professional in Wichita, Kansas, for over 25 years. He now manages video marketing services at US Logo Companies in Wichita.

Marketing is like fishing