Prospecting In New Markets: Fish Where The (Fat) Fish Are

Prospecting In New Markets: Fish Where The (Fat) Fish Are


Full disclosure…


My idea for this post came while reading Chris Brogan’s post of yesterday, Fishing Off The Back Porch.

The driving theme of Chris’ post:  We often get lazy in our lead generation efforts.

Chris painted a great picture of fishing off your own “back porch” when you should grab your gear and walk down to the stream.  Throwing a baited hook into the swimming pool, from our comfortable patio chair, isn’t good enough.

This mental illustration made me think of another such picture, from my first real job in sales.


Fish Where The Fish Are

I stepped right in to deep water in a sales management job — New York State Manager for a major California winery, Sebastiani Vineyards.  From journalism to sales management, without any experience in sales!  Whoa!  Somehow it worked out.

In light conversation, here’s how we often prioritized accounts at Sebastiani:

“Fish where the fish are.”

This expression painted a simple picture.  It was memorable.  It was easy to recall.  Not a lot of sophisticated metrics, but intuitive.

And intuition works:  “Hmmm, nothing but minnows in this pond.”  Or, “Oooh yeah!  There’s gotta’ be a fat bass lurkin’ around this lake!”


But Don’t Fish Amongst A Feeding Frenzy

A few years later, I found myself working in sports marketing.

I loved going to the big sports marketing conferences.  Easy to understand why.  I was making all sorts of industry contacts, especially my first year.  I was learning a lot.

In my second year, I liked it even more.  Also easy to understand why.  I was in my comfort zone.  I was busy chatting in the corridors, building a relationship with a keynote speaker, having a beer at the bar, and learning a little bit more in the process.

But I wasn’t selling.  I wasn’t meeting buyers with appetites.  Buyers weren’t even looking at my bait… or anyone’s bait for that matter.

These sports marketing conferences were filled with sports marketing agents… and sports brokers, consultants, branding gurus, project managers, you-name-it… but don’t name “qualified buyers.”

The only buyers at these conferences were the ones invited to speak.  Sure, as speakers, they were high-profile and worked for organizations that had big budgets.

But it wasn’t long before I noticed two things:

  1. There were only a few qualified buyers at any given conference, and they would be among the conference speakers.  The rest stayed away.
  2. These few qualified buyers were swarmed by other agents, brokers, consultants… and they weren’t very pleased about being swarmed.  They were the “feed” in a piranha “feeding frenzy,” and they felt sharp teeth all around them.


Fish Where The Fat Fish Are

I used to work with Rob Prazmark, a rain maker in the sponsorship sales world.  Rob’s done billions of dollars in sponsorship deals around the Olympic Games and other blue-chip properties.

Sure, Rob attends most of the big sports marketing conferences.  He has to.  He’s one of the industry’s top guns.  But he doesn’t stop there.

Rob and I shared a cab back to Atlanta airport once, and we got talking about the scant opportunities at the Olympic-related conference we had just left.

Rob cut right to the chase.  “You leave a conference like this?  Maybe you have two business cards worth following up on.”

He paused.  I knew his big point was coming.

“You want qualified leads?” he asked rhetorically.  “Go to other industry conferences.  Right now?  Telecom is hot.  You’ll get two dozen leads in one day.  A lot of them are fat, and a lot of them are hungry.”


Stray Into Uncharted Waters

So, you want to develop new leads?  Pick an industry where you think your offering has a good fit… and not your industry.

Your fit is within a lot of industries, you say?  Good for you.  So get a sense of what’s popping.  What industries are going through a lot of growth, innovation — perhaps even downsizing if your offering has a fit related to cost efficiency or change management.

I use the example of conferences only to illustrate the bigger point.

Identify a new industry.  Market yourself there by exhibiting at a conference… or by cold-calling, warm-calling, networking, tweeting, blogging, whatever is appropriate to that industry.  Just don’t stay in familiar waters, in markets where you’ve been.

It’s comfortable but, by definition, it’s limited.

Stray into uncharted waters.  Fish where the fish are.

Fish where fatter and hungrier fish might be waiting for your cast.


What kind of opportune waters might fit your offering?
– Where might you find fatter and hungrier fish?


 Photo of Mike Halstead, from whom I also learned a lot in my good ol’ days of sports marketing.