by Amber Erickson-Hurdle, adapted from an article in the Winter 2023 issue of Terra Firma magazine.
Over the years, I've fished a lot.
I skipped 37 days of my junior year in high school to go fishing. Yep, the attendance principal loved me.
So, while I'm no Bassmaster Angler of the Year, I've learned a thing or two about fishing over the years. Here's what I learned in high school alone:
When I wanted to catch catfish, I left chicken livers out all night, or perhaps shad I had previously caught, to get them good and stinky. Then I traversed through a cow pasture to get to murky creek water, preferably after a decent rain.
If I wanted to catch bass, I carefully selected my lures, set my alarm for the middle of the night, and went to the large pond where I liked to go night fishing because I found more fish at 3 a.m. than I did during the day.
If I wanted to catch a red snapper, I took a boat ride out to the ocean's deeper waters, used squid as bait, and kept a steady stance in rough waters while praying the wind would cooperate.
I would never anticipate catching a snapper in a creek with chicken liver.
So, just like I had to know what type of fish I wanted to catch, what kind of bait I needed to catch them, and what body of water they were swimming in, you must be clear on who your ideal customers are, what it takes to "lure" them in as customers, as well as where they are hanging out.
What Type of Fish Are You Trying to Catch?
Let's start the process by understanding what type of "fish" you are trying to catch by developing your ideal customer profile. This process is not a guessing game. There are tangible, actionable ways to clarify this for your brand.
First, select your five favorite customers you enjoy working with, who spend a lot of money with you, refer you to their friends, and maybe even do repeat business with you. Then, identify what they have in common. Next, explain from a big-picture view who your ideal customers are collectively and what motivates them. Where do they live? What is their annual household income? What inspires them? What do they believe about life? What turns them off? What do they value? Go as deep as you can to explore the characteristics that are consistent across all of your favorite customers.
If you don't know what is driving your ideal customer's behavior, how can you understand what to grab from the ol' tackle box to get them to bite?
What Type of Lure Do You Need?
Once you establish identifying characteristics, go even deeper. Clarify what generation they belong to so you can understand what communication channels, cultural references, and tone to use. This enables you to understand what motivates your ideal customer versus what irritates them. You gain insight into how to emotionally connect with them based on their known life experiences and values.
Study other brands your ideal customer follows. It’s a fun hack that gives you instant access to visual elements, sales copy, social media strategy, campaign examples, and more that your ideal customer will likely respond to favorably.
In What Waters Do You Need to Fish?
Now that we know your ideal customer and what objective and subjective motivations influence their purchasing decisions, we need to find out where to market to them or "fish" for them.
Based on the information gathered from your research, we can start to look for where your ideal customer hangs out online, what podcasts or traditional media they consume, what organizations or associations they belong to, what conferences or local events they attend, and more.
This exercise is critical when creating your omnichannel marketing strategy and allocating marketing and advertising spend. These top-of-funnel decisions are crucial to pulling through your consistent brand messaging until you earn their trust to become your customer.
What Gets Measured Gets Done…and Improved Upon
Raise your hand if you roll your eyes when a youth sports league doesn't keep score. Are you annoyed because it lacks the competitive spirit for which sports are fundamentally known? Or does it ultimately come down to the fact that if you are not keeping score, you don't know if you are winning?
With that in mind, please be equally annoyed whenever you fail to update the scoreboard attached to your marketing strategy.
Decide on the KPIs you will measure to determine what success looks like in your marketing and sales efforts. While this can get fancy and complex, start with what you can and will measure. Keep it simple. Examples include: sales growth, number of leads generated, lifetime value (LTV) of a customer, cost of customer acquisition (COCA), website or landing page conversion rate (meaning what did it cost you to "lure" a customer from their social media channel to your website to gain their email address or phone number), website traffic, social media reach and engagement, email marketing delivery, open and click through rates, and beyond.
Just like you would count the number of fish you ended up putting on ice or weigh your trophy fish, measuring your success will help you further refine the process of selecting the best lures and the best bodies of water that work for "catching" your ideal customers.
Fishing Should Be Fun
Some people prefer the lazy day experience of throwing out a line for a catfish in a small stream, then patiently waiting for a bite. Others like the active and more complicated experience of trout fishing in a quickly moving river. Now you can decide what type of "fishing" experience comes with ease and fun for you.
So, grab your fishing pole, decide what type of fish you want to catch, select the lures you want to try to catch them with, and then go to the body of water they are swimming in. Measure what works and what does not, and then keep refining your strategy until you are fishing like the pros!
Amber Erickson-Hurdle is recognized among the top 10 branding professionals in the world, according to Global Gurus. She teaches the combined value of business brands, personal brands, and employer brands to increase market share and profitability, reduce turnover, and amplify satisfaction among customers and employees alike.
Amber will bring her passion for branding to the 2023 National Land Conference as our Opening Keynote Speaker. Register to join us for Amber’s talk and more March 5 – 8 in Denver, CO.