Are you making this mistake with your marketing? This concept was formulated by one of the world’s greatest showmen and marketers — P.T. Barnum himself. It explains why so many marketers and entrepreneurs never make the kind of money they should. When you get right down to it, they just don’t want to put in the effort required to step up their game and do the things necessary to make their business a phenomenal success. They’ll put in minor efforts sometimes, but you don’t get big results from the smallest efforts — and that’s what these people want.
They want the hard body without the hard work. They want huge results without expending the time, effort, and money those results require. They don’t care to study the secrets of good copywriting, to learn how to write it or at least recognize great work when they see it. They want to make a lot of money by spending little or no money — and that’s probably the biggest marketing mistake there is. In the direct response business, they all want to mail postcards — because postcards are cheap.
I recall working with a local financial consultant who wanted our advice on what he could do to land more of the best clients, whom he called (coincidentally) “the whales.” So I asked him, “How do you define a whale?”
Once he explained their commonalities, I started giving him some ideas I knew were making other people huge sums of money. I told him that he had to become an expert, for example. I told him he should do some seminars and workshops, because many of the people he’s looking for are managing their own portfolios. You see, the Internet has made many people feel like they’re qualified to make their own decisions on which financial products will best serve them, providing the biggest bang for their buck; so they might appreciate live events in which he teaches them some of his best ideas.
For example, there’s an attorney out of Salina, Kansas who does little seminars throughout his local area. He specializes in living trusts; and through the process of teaching people about them, he proves that he’s an expert. As a result, many of his attendees want to do business with him.
This fellow we consulted with did nothing but cold calls. There he was, approaching 60 years old, still basically being a salesman. That’s all the people he contacted every evening thought of him as. People don’t really respect that — but they do expect an expert. Cold calling was the worst thing he could do, but in the end, that’s what he decided to keep doing. What I was telling him to do required a tremendous amount of effort on his part — and he didn’t want to make that effort. He just wanted the results. He’s going to keep using a minnow for bait as long as he can keep convincing himself the results are good enough.
It’s a crying shame that so many marketers aren’t willing to swap out that worn-out little piece of bait for something that’s big, juicy, and fresh. They want maximum results from minimum effort, and that’s just not how the world works. You’ve got to have the right-sized bait if you want to bring in the big fish — or the whales, if you will.
You also need the right gear to maximize your success. About 20 years ago, my mentor sometimes attended the meetings of the San Diego Direct Marketing Club with its vice president, the late George Stern. They did a tabloid newsletter every month for the membership, and for one issue, they were planning a front-page story called “Fishing for New Business.” The illustrator prepared an image that showed people in a boat with some fishing rods going out to sea, with a huge whale in the distance. The illustrator asked George, “What do you think of this?” and he said, “That looks good.” But my mentor noticed that the rods they had were all small rigs, the kind used to catch bluegills.
When the illustrator asked my mentor what he thought, he said, “If they’re going after that whale, those little rigs aren’t going to work.” He suggested that he outfit them with a couple of huge harpoons… and a bucket labeled “Tartar Sauce.” That got him some funny looks, but the president of the club said, “That’s a good idea — do it!” Hey, if you’re going after the big fish — if you’re targeting huge sales and trying to expand your business — then you have to think big all the way around!
Think about the bait, the type of hook and other tackle you have to use, the rig, the boat — everything it takes to get that enticing message to the people who spend the most money. They call those people whales in Las Vegas and Reno, too. They give them all the free food and drinks they want, they provide them with luxurious penthouse accommodations, and they treat them just like royalty — because they’re spending the big bucks. The casinos are willing to pull out the big tackle and pile on the bait to attract their business, because they know these people usually spend a fortune.
Any fisherman knows you size your hooks and bait based on what you’re after. If you’re after sunfish or you’re fishing in a small pond, you don’t pull out the biggest lure in tackle box. That’ll just scare the fish away. Instead, you use little jigs or a kernel of corn on the end of the small hook. If you want to catch a great big catfish, put a sizable weight at the end of your line to drag the hook to the bottom, where they live, and put on some aromatic bait. If you’re in the ocean and you’re after a shark, put a larger hook on, along with a metal leader, and bait your hook with a bloody chunk of raw fish. You’ll automatically exclude the smaller fish that you don’t want to deal with.
It’s not much different in business. Little offers catch you little fish, though you may catch quite a few. If that’s what you’re after, fine. But the big offers are the ones that bring in the big spenders; and ounce for ounce, they’re your most valuable customers.
So you have to start by knowing who you’re trying to attract, and adjust your offers in an attempt to attract them. If you don’t, you’ll attract the wrong customers, or none at all.
If I had $1000 for every time I asked one of my best customers, “Where do I find another 10,000 people just like you?” then I’d be a billionaire, because I say that to all of my best customers when I meet them face-to-face. They view it as a compliment, which it is — but I’m dead serious. Such people are rare, and we all need to find as many of them as we can. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can catch them with minnows. It’s going to take plenty of time, effort, and money to find good, profitable customers — and keep them.
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