Fishermen use a variety of techniques. Different types of lures and hooks attracts different types of fish and sea creatures, and the success of a day’s work is highly dependent on what kind of “motivator” the fishermen present to the fish.
After all, fish have to be motivated to take a bite at your hook if you ever want to reel one in. We know that fish bite at whatever they consider to be food, therefore the lures and hooks used to attract the fish is designed to resemble their natural consumables.
Companies are very much like fishermen — except not focused on attracting fish. Instead it’s about attracting customers, or more to the point: it’s about motivating customers to send their hard earned cash your way.
Therefore, to be successful, you have to find the types of bait, lures and hooks your customers care more about than their own money. And in an ocean with a multitude of other ‘fishermen’ you have to ensure that what you offer is more attractive than your competition.
And yes, people are not fish; they are — to the best of our knowledge — far more complicated. Understanding your customers is more difficult than understanding fish, especially since people’s needs are always changing. For that reason, you should consider how you work as a company.
In order to catch more fish, fishermen can choose to fish more, or change their equipment. In much the same way, your business can choose to expose its product more (i.e. advertise), or alter the product. Both strategies will inflict you a cost, and will yield various outcomes. Both come with a risk and potential reward. Most often, the optimal choice is unclear.
However, it is important that you keep in mind that you can do both. Too often companies forget to research and adapt their own product to match their customers changing needs. Instead they focus solely on investing in marketing. This neglect of their own product will often open the market for new competitors, inviting them to come solve the market needs better than your product currently does.
So, how do you find out what your customers want? One tactic would be to do what fishermen do while at sea: attach a new lure, toss it into the water and check if the fish bite. If not, try another and take note of which ones works well. Or in business-speak: implement, learn, adjust, iterate. You might call this ‘agile development’ or ‘Lean Startup’.
However, in order to leap from ‘fishing rods’ to ‘fishing nets’ you need to work differently. You have to take one step back, look at what problem you’re really trying to solve (e.g. catching as much fish as possible as cheaply as possible) and from there look at how technology might solve this differently. Keep in mind that it’s your customers’ changing needs that are of interest, not your static solution.
Generate hypotheses, create prototypes, test, learn and iterate. Organize in cross-disciplinary teams, and collectively understand the problem, and from there craft a new solution. In business, we call this design thinking. After all, the best designs exist in a perfect synergy between what customers need, that we are able to build and that will help us achieve our business goals. New technological opportunities may offer far better solutions than what they get from your product. We all remember what happened to Kodac, when they failed to adapt to the age of the digital camera.
So the next time your company experience that the fish don’t bite; should you fish more intensively; could you change the lure to better attract the perfect catch; or do you need to take one step back and find a new way to solve the problem?