In this episode we’re using a fishing story to illustrate how to ensure Marketing and Sales work together when it comes to customer acquisition.
There have been many meetings over the years where I’ve shared a story about summer weekends with my grandparents as a child to help companies understand upstream and downstream marketing, to address Sales and Marketing alignment, and to improve their lead qualification process to support better customer acquisition. At the end of a recent Sales and Marketing gathering where a Chief Growth Officer asked me to retell the story, he asked me if I would record it for his team.
What a wonderful request. This story is the focus of this episode of What’s Your Edge. Here’s how the fish tale goes.
My grandparents have five grandchildren. And when we were young, between the ages 4 and 11 years old, it was a treat to spend the weekend with them. One child would be dropped off on Saturday and then all of us (my parents and siblings, my aunt and uncle and cousins) would meet at their home on Sunday afternoon for dinner. My grandfather, whom I called Papa, had several hobbies – from card playing to fishing to movies – that we all learned to enjoy. Fishing was often the activity of choice in the summer months. We’d prepare on Saturday and head out on Sunday, back with fish in time for dinner.
Two Questions Set Up Everything When Regarding New Customer Acquisition
When I tell this story in a meeting, I say, knowing that we’re going to be fishing, “what do you think is the first question Papa asks?” There are usually a variety answers. Very rarely does someone ask his question. This was always Papa’s first question, “What kind of fish are we fishing for?”
This is the most important question of the weekend. Why? Because it determines everything that comes next! Where we’re going to fish, when we’re going to fish, the tackle we’ll need, and the bait we’ll use. As a small child, I would answer this question with something like, “blue fish.” My grandfather would parlay this into an actual fish, usually blue gill, which is plentiful in the small lakes at Forest Park. He would then send me off to my grandmother with the information so she could make the bait, while he would pull together the tackle and pack up the rambler.
We’d get up early the next morning, gather up the essentials for the day, blankets, lawn chairs, food, coloring books and cross word puzzles, etc. and head out. Now here’s the real reason we loved spending the weekend. Our first stop. The IHOP for all you can eat pancakes. After we had our fill, we’d get in the car and make our way to where we would fish.
We’d park and head to the shoreline and that’s when Papa would ask the second most important question. Did you guess? If you guessed, “Where should we fish from?” you guessed correctly. Why is this the next most important question? Because you have to have insights into the fish to decide where to place your pole. Does the fish prefer the shoreline or out deeper in the water? Does it prefer sunny spots or shade? Does it like it reedy or bare? And of course, where is the competition, that is the other people fishing need to be taken into account. Based on our conversation, we’d pick our spot.
Now before I finish the story, have you made the connection between the fish tale and Marketing? Knowing what fish, that is who is the customer is the, what they need (bait) and where to find them and when to find them, this is all part of what we refer to as upstream Marketing.
Back to the story. We’d set up our chairs, put down our blankets, and grab our tackle. And this is when Papa would remind us (grandma and me) what kind of fish we’re looking for, the general size we need, and how many fish we need to bring home. He gave us our lead qualification criteria and quota so to speak.
Papa would then bait my hook, suggest where to stand, I’d cast my line, and then put my pole in the holder. Doing this over and over with some slight variations in location until we had caught enough fish. Now we’re deep into the downstream of Marketing.
Once the lines were cast, Papa and grandma would take out their coffee thermos, I’d take out my hot chocolate thermos and we settle in and wait. What are we waiting for? We’re waiting for the bobber to go down to tell us we have a fish on the hook.
As soon as the bobber would go down on my pole, I’d jump up and grab it. Of course, when you’re 4-6 years old, everyone is giving you advice. Give it some slack, reel it in, and so on. And sometimes when I’d reel in the line, there would be no fish and no bait. The fish stole it. Prospective customers sometimes do this too.
Other times, there’d be a fish, but it would be too small or not the right kind, and declared not a keeper. It didn’t meet the fish qualification criteria. That happens too when it comes to new customer acquisition; some prospective customers are not a good fit.
And then, sometimes, it’d be a whopper, perfect. I’d reel the fish in. Papa would cut it off the line and plop it into the bucket.
We’d fish until we had what we needed for dinner, or in some cases, we’d have to call it a day even if we didn’t have enough fish and stop at a grocery store so we’d have enough food for dinner.
Clarify the Customer Acquisition Handoff to Align Sales and Marketing
As I wrap up the story, I generally ask where in the story does it go from Marketing to Sales? Some people will say, once then hook is baited. Others might say when the pole goes into the water. And still others might answer when the fish is on the hook. It can be any of these, as long as the team agrees on where the work of Marketing ends and where the work of Sales begins. This discussion typically initiates a very essential conversation around Marketing and Sales alignment.
While we don’t eat our customers, it’s important to remember that new customer acquisition is a joint effort between the Marketing and Sales teams. As you think about your organization in the context of the story, how would answer these three questions:
- How well have you addressed the upstream and downstream?
- Are your lead qualification scoring and customer criteria well-defined?
- Is the handoff between Marketing and Sales clear?
We hope so. If not, hope you’ll consider my grandfather’s wisdom because the answers to these questions, what fish are we fishing for and where should we fish from, impact your fishing, that is your new customer acquisition success.