Fishing for the Big Picture

With the end of 2009 just around the corner, I thought it would be useful to write a "big picture" post here instead of a specific "how-to" article.

I was recently asking myself "where do customers come from?" and "how do I reach out to more of them?" I've long been a big fan of metaphors, so I started brainstorming metaphors as a way to visualize the many dimensions of how customers come to know about one's products.

After a few false starts, I remembered the "fishing for customers" metaphor used by Daniel Jalkut in Episode 19 of Core Intuition. I decided that this is a great metaphor, and it's worth thinking about some more.

The question is: Who are the fish and who are the fishermen? (Uh... fisherpeople?)

Metaphor 1: Your Customers are the Fish

This is the metaphor from Daniel's podcast. Think of your customers as swimming by in a stream, and you are trying to do whatever you can to get them to notice you and become a customer. A net to catch some might be a newsworthy event or review or word-of-mouth recommendation that the fish come across. The more (or bigger) nets you cast, the more fish are likely to notice you and get caught.

Of course, some nets are more effective than others. And if you start to catch a fish, but your website isn't effective in convincing the fish to pull his or her credit card out from under their dorsal fin, this is a case of "the fish that got away."

(Hey, this metaphor is really working!)

You can keep this picture in mind when thinking about marketing. Are there any times of the day or days of the week or months of the year when the stream has more fish than others, where it will be easier to catch them? What can you do to increase the number of nets in the water, either permanently or temporarily?  How can you make your net hold onto the fish it caught? Is there anything you can do to get other people to help you cast nets into the water? And are there other fishing techniques that could map from metaphor to reality?

There are plenty of fish out there.  Potentially millions of them. They are swimming by all the time.  What can you do to catch more of them?

Metaphor 2: You are the Fish

The previous metaphor seemed complete, until I thought about how a large percentage of the people buy our application found it because they were searching for an application that would fill their needs, not knowing any app names. (Yes, we track that so we can tell when we make a sale how the purchaser originally got to our website. This includes what search string they used in Google, if that's how they found us.)

I think that the above metaphor has to flip around for this case. When somebody has a need and they are searching for a solution, they are fishing and you are, potentially, the fish that they will catch. (But unlike a real fish, getting caught is a good thing!)

If you rank well in search engines for the kinds of terms they are going to be using, you have a good chance of getting caught. If neither you nor your competitors are easy to find and catch, the potential customer may get discouraged and give up. But watch out — if your landing pages don't convert well, you may slip off the hook!

With this metaphor in mind, what can you do as a fish to help get yourself caught? Certainly, the higher ranking you have for important keywords, the more likely you will get found. The better your <title> tag and meta description — what I like to call the aspect of your website, since that's the headline and summary that will usually show up in a Google results page — the yummier you will look to your potential catcher.

Here around the San Francisco Bay, I see people fishing from all different cultures. Correspondingly, the people fishing for software may not just be English-speaking. If your software is localized in multiple languages, is there a way that people who use those languages will find you using the keywords that they put on their hook for bait?

What else can you do to help more people find you in the water?


A metaphor is a powerful structure to wrap your head around an abstract concept. Hopefully with these two metaphors in mind, you may come up with some additional ways of thinking of the challenges in getting more customers.  Here's to your success in 2010!

(If this post has made you hungry for (actual) seafood from your nearby restaurant or market, I recommend downloading the free Seafood Watch app for your iPhone. It had localized, up-to-date recommendations for types of fish that are good to eat, and tells you which ones to avoid as well.)

Fish - Photo by cogdogblog -

Photo by cogdogblog

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