Forget the Big Fish

Imagine we're in a deep sea fishing contest. You and me. It's a fishing contest for a full day. At the end of the day the winner is the one with the most fish by weight. Though we're in the same contest we have two different approaches. You have assembled the best deep sea fishermen you can find. You have expert marlin anglers since the marlin is one of the biggest (one marlin can weigh over 800 pounds...here's a 560 pound marlin) and most prized fish you can catch. You have the best boat and technological advances for finding the marlin. Catching a marlin is hard work but you've hired the best in the business and you know when you come in at the end of the day with several big marlins everyone is going to be very impressed with your catch.

My crew has decided to take another route. We're going to fish with nets. Our boat and crew is smaller and less impressive than yours and we're going to catch salmon. Salmon are considerably smaller than the marlin weighing anywhere between 6 and 100 pounds each. I know, however, that salmon swim together and a good catch could put us in contention for the prize.

At the end of the day we return with our catches. You had a great day with nine large marlins with a total weight of 5,300 pounds. We only had one catch with 400 salmon. As we offload our salmon on the scales we estimate the average fish in our catch is 28 pounds, much smaller than your large marlins but our team's total catch weight is 11,200 pounds. It turns out the cumulative weight of many smaller fish is much heavier than a few really big fish. We win.

New media marketing is a small fish strategy. I think that's why traditional marketing mindsets are unsure of it. They've never considered a small fish strategy because it's the exact opposite of their focus. Big fish are traditional promotional strategies. Big fish marketing tactics include magazine ads, television and radio spots, billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail campaigns and the like. Small fish marketing includes new media tactics like blogs, podcasts, social networking, online video, social media, etc.

Big fish know they're prized and know everyone wants to catch them which makes them harder catch. They require more effort and more expense with less yield. Small fish are numerous and concentrated. They're cheaper and easier to catch with a higher cumulative yield.

Marketers are fishing every day. Most are going after the limited supply of big fish. A few are going after the hundreds of thousands of smaller fish. Sure, it's great to catch a big fish if you can. Catching big fish is what the industry was built on. Sometimes a really big fish gets you raises and recognition and may even bring a high return.

A funny thing is happening now though. There are more and more small fish all the time and the means to catch them are widely available, easy to use, and often free. Once you know how to catch a lot of smaller fish why would you ever try to catch a big fish again? Forget the big fish.


Ray said...

Great analogy! We still need to hook up soon and talk about this stuff!

Anonymous said...

Smaller fish have longer tails.
Nice post. Love the analogy.

Kevin McIntosh