By Jim Sheridan.
This week I’m going to share with you what I consider to be perhaps THE ultimate business secret. I don’t use the term ‘secret’ lightly because it’s little known. And even the few who do know about it, don’t all fully understand it, or use it religiously. And that includes me, so this is good revision for me, if nothing else.
Seven years ago I started giving a series of seminars on direct marketing. I needed a way to quickly teach students the principles of it, and I developed this analogy that follows. At the time I presented it, even seasoned and successful marketers welcomed its clarity. So let’s dive right in.
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It begins with a game…
You’re stranded in the wilderness, and you must catch and eat a fish if you’re to survive. For the purposes of this exercise, please consider these 4 things involving catching and eating a fish:
1. Equipment: a fishing pole.
2. Fish processing method: to turn fish into an edible state.
3. Lake: a mass of water with fish in.
You of course need ALL of these things to catch a fish and survive. The task is to prioritize these things in the right order of importance.
Please re-read the above.
Okay, so without cheating and reading ahead, please take a few moments to honestly complete this exercise. Go ahead and place those four requirements in the correct order of importance.
Stuck? Really picture yourself in this situation. Imagine you only had an hour to spend on catching and eating that fish, and then consider how you would allocate these sixty minutes between these four requirements…
No peaking ahead!
Okay, here’s the correct order of importance:
3. Fishing Equipment
4. Fish processing method
Surprised? Don’t worry, most people are. Let’s consider why the priority is this way…
(Sidebar: Please, any fishing enthusiasts reading, resist the urge to correct me, or nitpick. This is all for demonstration purposes only.)
If your fishing pole was an old branch with a piece of string and a rusty, bent nail for a hook, BUT you had superb bait that you dangled in a lake brimming with fish… would you catch a fish?
Yes, you would. That’s why fishing equipment is number 3- it’s not as important as the lake and the bait.
If you had the best fish processing method in the world, but lousy bait and/or a dead lake, would you catch a fish?
No, of course not. That explains number 4.
So that leaves the bait and the lake…
If you had the juiciest, best bait in the world, but you dangled it into a lake with little or no fish, would you catch a fish?
No, it’s highly unlikely, unless the bait was supremely exceptional so that it drew out what fish there were. That’s why the top of the list of importance is the lake. Think about it: you can forget all the other things, all bets are off, without a lake full of fish!
Okay, let’s now unmask this analogy. Below is what each of these four things stand for in the marketing sense:
Lake = Market (customers with a specific want)
Bait = Offer (the sales headline, the pitch, your unique selling proposition)
Equipment = Product
Fish processing method = Product fulfilment and support.
Take a moment to digest this.
The key message here is:
You can have the best marketing idea in the world, but unless you get it to the people who want that particular thing, it’s dead on arrival.
Let me restate something, because some people get confused and upset at this stage:
You of course need ALL of these four things to catch a fish and survive. The task is to prioritize these things in the right order of importance.
Of course you must have a top quality product! But its priority is third.
Now, which two areas do you think most people allocate most of their time, especially when starting out?
Yep, number 3 and 4- product and fulfilment!
If you already have a business, which of these four areas take up most of your time? If it the time allocation ratio is all wrong, change it immediately!
So your first goal is to find a marketplace (lake) of people who are proven buyers of whatever. Priority 1.
Next step is to discover what these proven buyers’ hot-buttons are. What are they buying? Why are they buying? What fears and dreams make them buy? You need to get inside their heads so you can create a good sales offer for them (bait). If you read a fishing magazine, the ads in the classified section will be for fishing-related products, not cosmetics. QED. This is Priority 2.
Next we need to translate your sales offer into a product. What promise did your sales offer make? What did it claim to do for the customer? The fish have been attracted to the bait, but our equipment needs to keep them on the hook… by not refunding. The product must be of premium quality and value, it must deliver. Again, I am NOT advocating that your fishing equipment be an old branch with a piece of string, the exercise was one of prioritizing.
Finally, we need to deliver the product, we need database systems and support (fish processing equipment). We need the customer to become a REPEAT customer by having a good experience with us.
Is the fog lifting? What I hope this does is allow you to focus on the right things at the right time instead of being overwhelmed with it all, as I know many people starting out are. What you should now clearly understand is that your quest begins with finding a lake, and you’d be amazed how few people do start off that way…
Wait, no. How about one better? Find fish in a barrel. Fish in a concentrated area, that are circling around impatiently, looking for a very particular kind of bait.
That’s what direct marketing gives you (Internet marketing and direct mail)- fish in a barrel with very specific bait requirements. Direct marketing makes life easy because there are listings for lakes full of certain fish, and what kind of bait these fish are attracted to. In direct marketing, the customer lists (lakes) are all given to you on a plate.
So let’s never forget what occupies the number one spot in this success formula: the customers, or as it’s called in direct marketing: the list. The man who mentored me into direct marketing told me that the three most important things in this business are:
1. The List
2. The List
3. The List
And he had a point. Perhaps if my mentor had played this little fishing game his answers would have been:
And I probably wouldn’t have argued.
As a direct marketer, armed with this knowledge you could turn up at any Western country, anytime, and make all the money you ever needed… IF you get the priorities in the right order.
And if you aren’t a direct marketer, these principles apply to ALL businesses. Plus, if you’re not a direct marketer, why not start being one?
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