As keen fly fishers, we’ve travelled to a variety of rivers throughout Scotland, Wales, Ireland and, more exotically, Iceland and Russia for Atlantic salmon, Arctic char, sea trout, brown trout, greyling and any other species that is prepared to jump on the end of our lines.
Despite my propensity to fall into rivers (tricky in chest waders which can fill up fast if you get it wrong), the experience has always been delightful. Not just for the fishing, but also for everything that surrounds it – good company, the sight, smell and sounds of the river, the scenery, the wildlife, and the good company that almost invariably accompanies a week of fishing.
So what does this have to do with marketing? Actually, pretty much everything.
Understanding your customers
Firstly, whether you’re fishing or marketing, you need to understand your prey and their circumstances. Is the river in spate? Or is it a dry ditch? Are there likely to be problems reaching the fish? Or indeed, landing them? In fact, where are the fish? What are they doing? And how many are there? Are they migratory? If so, when will they run? Are they a good size? Are they fat and healthy, or diseased and thin? Are they young or old, male or female, shy or aggressive?
Reaching your customers and prospects
Then you need to consider how to reach them. Is it tricky to cast? Is it too deep to get in and wade to get closer or a better angle? What’s the wind direction? Is the water too warm or too cold? Is it a long, arduous climb to the hill lochs? If so, is the end result worth the effort? Having invested the time and energy in climbing the hill, is it a good idea to spend a little more time up there? Perhaps even pitch a tent and spend a night or two to catch the dawn and evening rises and make the most of the opportunity? How can you best stalk the fish in the clear waters of a chalk stream? How can you avoid the weed – either before or after hooking a fish!
What are the fishes’ motivations for taking a fly? Is there a particular size or colour that will appeal? How should it best be presented? At what angle, depth and speed? How frequently should you cast over a fish? Especially if you can’t see it so can’t be absolutely certain that it’s even there. And what do you do if a fish takes your fly, but not properly? Vary the speed? The depth? Change the fly? Go for something larger? Or smaller? Or a different pattern?
In addition to all of that, there’s a need to identify and understand the competition – Seals? Otters? Commercial fisheries? Bears, or other predators?
Depending on the answers, you need to use appropriate and varied techniques to catch your fish. For example, sea trout are shy creatures, best caught at night. This means fishing in the dark, so you need to do your research during the day – spotting fish where you can, identifying likely fish-holding lies, working out the length of cast you’ll need, the speed and depth of the water. That way you have the knowledge you need to have a fair chance of getting your fly out to the right place and fishing it well.
In a chalk stream where the water’s very clear, you need to stalk your brown trout, making sure you can’t be seen, then lay the fly gently upstream on the surface of the water so that it drifts right over their nose and becomes irresistible.
Salmon are different again. Here you need to be able to read the water and understand where the fish will lie, then make sure you put the fly where they can see it and make them want it. And it has to be the right fly, moving at the right speed and in the right way. And when one takes, you don’t “strike” in the same way as for a trout. Actually, Atlantic salmon don’t even eat when they’re in the river, so they need to be enticed to take your fly for other reasons.
Understanding your customers and prospects
Though it might be more accurate – and certainly more tactful – to refer to your potential customers as prospects rather than prey, all these issues equally impact marketers. What’s the economic climate? How much money is out there for consumers to spend on your products? How much effort and budget is required to acquire a particular customer – and are they worth it to your business? Where do they go to buy? Online? Over the telephone? Bricks and mortar? Do you need to segment your marketing to appeal to different lifestyles and demographics? And is your product a must-have? If not, how can you encourage consumers to buy – particularly in a poor economy, when your competition is as hungry as you so you need to fight harder to win – and keep – customers.
Stage one is understanding your prospect. Who are they? Male? Female? Young? Old? Parents? Single? Homeowners? Students? Living at home? Renting? Where are they in their lifecycle?
Where do they live? What’s on their mind? What, why, when and how often do they buy? Is there a seasonal bias? What’s their disposable income? What do they read or watch on TV or online? What technology do they use? Tablets? Smarphones? Smart TVs? Or paper? Or all of those? Do they interact with social media? Consumer or business? What are their hobbies? Are they in debt? And so on. Whether you’re in retail, or publishing, financial services or telcos, technology or utilities, charities or even politics, the above issues all need to be considered within a marketing campaign.Does your product appeal to a mass market or a specific segment of the market?
And that kind of knowledge requires data – both historic behaviour and research from your own customer database, also data from third parties, which is readily available and can provide you with a wealth of geo-demographic, lifestyle, behavioural, purchase history, financial, risk and fraud data.
Of course, data’s of absolutely no use at all unless it’s turned into meaningful insight that your business can use to allow intelligent, informed decision making. Not only that, but the ever-growing volume, sources and complexity of consumer data can be overwhelming, so it’s essential that effective, relevant and actionable data and insights are identified for strategic and selected to provide the best data strategy for the business throughout the customer lifecycle. The basic goal must be to use the right data to have the right customer conversations at the right time through the right channels.
Once you know enough about them, you can start to understand the size of your market, and where to go to find prospects who look like your own customers and consider how best to attract them. Which will be the subjects of upcoming blogs.
One final thought. The first time you visit a river, it’s helpful to take a ghillie, who will know where the fish lie, and how best to fish for them. Listen to every word they say and all the advice they give, so that you can learn as much as you can for the next time you want to fish that – and other – rivers. Ghillies are a canny breed, so they’ll know what you’re doing, but will generally be helpful.
The same is true of marketing. At TVA we are happy to act as ghillies or guides – so if you’d like to discuss how you could use and benefit from advice on data or any direct marketing channels, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. As ever, if I can help, I’ll be happy to. If not, I’ll make sure I point you towards people who will provide sensible, strategic advice.
Victoria Tuffill, Partner, Tuffill Verner Associates – Multi-channel and direct marketing
Tel: +44 (0)7967 148398 / +44 (0)1787 277742