Marketing is Like Commercial Fishing

May 18th, 2011 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

We are facing a major challenge in marketing with the over-automation of market communications. Let me explain with an analogy about Commercial Fishing .

 Most marketing organizations don’t feel comfortable deep sea fishing. Too expensive, too resource intensive, and too much risk. They tend to stick closer to shore and troll the bay. It is a lot easier to crisscross the bay with nets and pluck out the fish.  Doesn’t require a real understanding of how fish think or even what bait would be used to lure them. We just pluck out our net and they pop into the net.

 The challenge is that their competitors do the same. When markets are new, there is plenty of fish for everyone. We all go out together in fishing fleets (trade-shows) and there is a collegial atmosphere. Plenty for everyone, why get testy? Except as markets mature, the amount of fish in the bay is reduced and all of a sudden tempers flare, competition becomes more intense, the activity becomes more intense, and the fear creeps in around making sure we can reach out limit. What if we don’t hit our numbers? What if our hold is half-full?

 Now, introduce marketing automation. Marketing automation was an innovative way to increase the yield per catch. Nets not working, well then let’s start using depth charges. Drop one of those and those babies will float to the surface. We don’t even have to use the gas to crisscross the bay. Boom!! We got fish!

 But, what the bay fisherman didn’t realize is that the fish aren’t as stupid as they think. The fish have a natural fear of predators. It don’t take many “booms” before they start to avoid the boats. As a matter of fact, the fish now have fled the bay. They fled the bay to seek refuge from the sharks in the ocean, but the bay sharks seem to have a much worse bite. They will take their chances in the ocean.

 So, the fish have fled the bay, the fisherman have to start fishing in the ocean, but don’t really know how to target the fish, don’t know what bait to use, and are starting to feel desperate. But, they have great nets and depth charges. Too bad the fish won’t come near the boats.

 The challenge for many marketers is that they face difficult options. Option 1 is the government imposes severe restrictions designed to protect and encourage the fish to come back into the bay and prevent overfishing. Option 2 is that the number of fishing boats will be reduced and the size of the boats will shrink to reduce costs and right size to the current size of the catch. Option 3, the fishermen will have to relearn how to fish in the ocean and figure out how to read the patterns of the fish, entice them with bait, and judiciously use nets so as to not scare the fish.

 If direct marketing has been the bay, then social networks and the Internet are the ocean. Buyers are becoming shy about raising their hands for direct marketing contact because they know they will be SPAMMED voraciously. If your company has rules about limiting the amount of contacts per month across the company to prevent annoying your market, you may want to rethink your approach as obviously your communications are seen as self-serving. If your buyers now have gate-keepers for their gate-keepers, you may want to rethink why they feel the need to protect themselves from you? Do they see you as part of their ecosystem or as a predator?

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at or contact him directly at