Small Business Marketing: Are You Using a Net or a Spear

Jeremy Cohen

When I was back in college, over a decade ago, I decided that when I was done I would run off to Alaska and work in the fishing industry. The lure of hard menial labor and the outdoorsman’s life seemed so tantalizing to me after having toiled away in academia, not just for the past four years, but for most of my life.

I learned as much as I could about the fishing industry: working on boats, at the docks and in canneries. I learned that one of the popular techniques used by commercial fishing companies is to cast huge nets between ships miles apart and drag them through the sea capturing anything unfortunate enough to get snarled. While this technique netted prolific amounts of fish, the vast majority of the catch could not be sold at the market.

What a waste! Not only do these companies unnecessarily deplete a precious natural resource they also waste their valuable time and energy setting and hauling in nets and then sorting through their catch to identify and pluck marketable fish from the masses.

While large fishing companies can afford to expend their resources in such a manner, as a small business owner, you would be ill advised to follow such a path when fishing for new clients. Small business marketing tactics must be much more precise and efficient to be viable.

To continue our fishing example, consider a tribesman from a pacific island. Instead of employing large nets a tribal fisherman will stand and wait, knee deep in water known to be plentiful with the type of fish he seeks with only a spear in hand. When a fish swims by he lunges with his spear and voila! Dinner is served, or at least caught. The tribesman’s method is highly efficient and effective.

The methods you employ when marketing your small business or professional service firm should minimize waste and maximize sales.

Are you using a marketing net or a marketing spear to find new customers

Size Matters

A marketing net can take many forms. One of the most common forms of marketing with a net is investing in the belief that the larger the group you market to the better the chance of developing new business. This type of thinking could not be farther removed from reality. You can much more effectively generate quality leads and sales by focusing your marketing efforts on a smaller yet highly specific audience.

If you’ve ever placed a display ad in your local newspaper, paid for banner advertising on a popular web site or paid for a radio or TV commercial only to be disappointed by a meager response there is good reason dissatisfaction.

While there were likely a few potential clients who saw or heard your ad the vast majority of those you reached simply had no need for your products or services. What’s more, those who might indeed have a need for your product or service were likely not actively seeking what you sell at the moment they saw your ad.

You can improve the response to your advertising by marketing to a smaller but more focused audience. Your ad will not only appear in front of those who have a need for what you sell, it will be seen by more people who are actively seeking what you provide.

Take some time to identify periodicals and other ad vehicles that serve your market and fit your budget and then place your ads in front of a smaller but more specialized audience. You will sell more and get more for your advertising dollar. It’s amazing what a spear can do.

Sharpness Matters Too

Even if you trade in your marketing net for a spear focus your market your marketing results may still be disappointing if your spear is dull - you may squarely hit a fish with the tip of your spear but if it is not sharp the fish may squirm away.

You can perpetually keep your spear sharp with an outstanding marketing message. Your marketing message should speak directly to your buyers and clearly communicate why they should buy from you. If it does not your future customers won’t ever take notice of you, even if you are the ideal solution for their needs.

Many small business owners use a poor and ineffective marketing message because they do not fully appreciate the value of a good one. A strong marketing message will be noticed by those most likely to become your clients and will work to get your prospects to take the action you want them to take: visit your store or web site, contact you for more information and ultimately, buy from you.

Take some time to examine your marketing message. If you get the sense that it isn’t very focused, it probably isn’t. What words and phrases can you use to sharpen it up

Move Your Marketing Forward

Get rid of your net and sharpen you spear. Even if you hate to fish or have never gone fishing, you’ll find yourself looking forward to every opportunity to wade into knee deep water.

About The Author

Copyright 2005 Jeremy Cohen, Better Marketing Results. All rights reserved.

Marketing Coach, Jeremy Cohen, helps small business owners and professional service providers attract more clients, grow their business and be more successful with his coaching services and free marketing guide: Jumpstart Marketing: More Profits, Clients and Success. Get the FREE guide at:

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