Confession: I love to fish. When I’m up at my place in Montana, or a stream here in Colorado, or when I travel, I often find myself drawn to the beauty of a stream much like many of my friends are drawn to a picturesque golf course. It is my place of total relaxation, where I can fully disconnect from the world. It is also a place where I realize all too often that I am the student, always in “learning” mode.
When I go fly fishing, I prefer to go with fish friends and guides: people who are smarter than me that can read the water, the hatch and the shadows in order to find our elusive goal, the perfect fish. Which fly we tie on, do we amend the fly at all, how far we cast, how quickly we pull off the water, these are skills honed over years and years of fish whispering. So too is knowing where to cast; knowing where to drop in so that the fish will strike.
When you fish, you look for the pocket (aka, the “eye”). That place where the fish are hanging out to gobble up the bugs that are coming downstream, or the hatch coming up from the depths. While you may cast into rapids or faster water, it is not to live there, but to have your fly travel to meet the fish where they lie. If all you do is fish in the middle of the current, you will find that you’re doing a lot of casting (i.e. spending lots of energy) just watching your fly go down and having to pick up and do it all over again. Fun casting, but no fish.
This metaphor (fishing the pocket versus the current) is apt for business, as well. Far too often we are drawn to that form of messaging where things are fast moving; those places where commerce is conducted at the speed of light and everybody is competing. But think about it. Are the “fish” you are trying to attract living the swift current? Do they enjoy sitting in the faster water and hope you come by? Is this where your efforts can most pay off for the amount of energy you are expending? Or do your clients, those who benefit from what you develop, live in the pockets watching for the right “fly” to come to them?
The problem with living in the current
Today’s business landscape is so complex, so connected and so competitive that everyone feels they have to keep up with everyone else. We’re forever chasing the elusive because we are far too busy just keeping up with the speed and trying to emulate what everyone else seems to be doing better than we are.
Just like in fishing, in business those who realize they are always the student look for guides. Those that can read the current and the conditions and use the best techniques to get their customers or consumers to strike. In order to really make a mark, you have to go to your consumer with the right message, the right enticement for them to be interested. That means you have to be able to use the tools that are abundant today to get to the pockets. The “one-campaign/message-fits-all” approach will not get you the targeted success you are looking for. The idea of buckshot content that you then push out and hope to get bites does not work.
Guides will tell you that you don’t just tie on a fly and hope to get a strike. You have to read the conditions and put on the right elements to attract. Similarly in business, you cannot just create a campaign, a digital program, or anything focused on your end user and just assume you’ll find an audience. You need to think about this in a reverse engineering way: read the conditions, know what your consumer is feeding on today, what modes they are ingesting that food from, and then craft the right content to fit them where they live.
Incredible examples of strong pockets exist. PopSugar does a tremendous job of this. Vox, Vice, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, SoulCycle, Virgin and Apple are all tremendous examples of crafting enticing content and business concepts to get right to the pockets they are after.
Do you? Do you have the fisherman’s mentality when it comes to getting to your customer? Do you spend your time fighting the stream, or do you fish the pockets of success? Not sure? I’d love to help you figure that out! Come on… let’s go fishing!
Patrick Jager is the CEO of strategic advisory firm CORE Innovation Group and a thought leader in media, communications and business development.