The Title Of A book by John Gierach
By Roger Ewing
Part sport and part art, with a little Zen wisdom thrown in, fly- fishing imitates life, and is a good allegory for business. In his well-read book, Sex Death and Fly Fishing, Gierach shares insights on mayflies, men, fishing, love, and the meaning, or lack thereof, of life.
When I visit Rick’s Sporting Goods in Mammoth Lakes, I am in awe of the quantity and variety of gear that is available to satisfy my fishing addiction. Everything I crave is here. I see a staggering array of colorful flys with names that a nail polish marketer would envy. There are floating lines, sinking and tapered lines, weighted tippet, forceps, waders, float tubes, knot tying tools, and beautifully crafted willowy fly rods. This, I think to myself, must be heaven.
The businessman in me makes the B2B connection to fly-fishing. I have determined there are three important similarities between fly-fishing and marketing that the careful fly fisherman and the enterprising marketer should consider.
Choosing The Correct Fly
Fly fishermen never refer to the fly, a small bit of steal, feathers and thread, as bait. This would be a sacrilege. Likewise, in business it’s best to avoid the temptation to offer “bait and switch” strategies. Success in business, as in fishing, requires that we be real, genuine and always truthful.
Marketing efforts are best described as initiatives. We research our target market and manage our product to ensure that we have created a strategy that will likely succeed. When fishing, I like to nymph the stream. Using a small net to collect insects at various levels of the stream, I match the insects I find with a fly from my fly box, dramatically increasing my chances of success.
In business as in fly-fishing, the correct product for the correct audience is a sure fire recipe for success.
Fly-fishing appeals to me because it is esoteric and provides a level of intellectual stimulation that I find very satisfying. Trout on the other hand are much more pragmatic. They are attracted to my fly because it is mealtime in the stream. It’s a sort of dance.
The perfect cast will present my fly in such a manner that it will not occur to the trout that this is not a swimming Callibaetis, or a floating Caddis about to dry it’s wings and lift off the surface of the water.
Similarly, marketing pieces must be compelling, memorable and eye-catching. Will my message be framed in the correct context and arrive at just the right moment to cause the client to react in the desired frame of mind?
For example, my goal is to deliver direct mail that has a valuable and worthy message. I want my print ads to resonate with the reader and cause them to think about themselves in a way that is in concert with their lives and my product. I have found that basic human needs and desires are the best means of getting a buyers attention. The more exciting the better. Sex, as Madison Avenue reminds us, sells.
Fly Line Management
Once the trout has taken the fly, the way I manage the fly line becomes very important. All the gear, preparation and careful planning in the world will not result in landing a beautiful trout unless I keep my wits about me. The line must not have too much slack, but it must not be too taut either. I literally fish with my hands, feeling the trout’s energy in the rod and the line.
I’m careful not to tire the trout to exhaustion. It is important to me that I keep this trout alive in the stream to help maintain the precious fish population. A barb-less hook, a gentle net and underwater handling will ensure the fish swims away healthy. For me, releasing the trout is the most exhilarating part of the fly fishing experience.
In the world of business the analogy of fly line management is obvious. Managing the client relationship is the most critical aspect of ensuring that our clients provide us with quality referrals and then return to us for service in the years to come.
There is a fine line between appearing to be a stalker in a business relationship and actually being available when we are really needed. Staying in touch, and keeping our clients informed will make our clients feel valued and make us look professional. Accurate, quality information is important to our clients, and to us, if we want to make sure the net is filled at the end of the business day.
Creating a mutually positive end result for both parties is the active goal of any fly fisherman or entrepreneur. Whether you are finalizing a winning marketing strategy or wading in a trout stream, remember these simple rules. Choose the right fly, make the best presentation and manage your fly line well.
The Zen part? We’ll leave that to John Gierach and the trout.