The perils of fishing from your couch

By Dave Hytinen

I’ve seen something disturbing in the marketing community, and I’m calling it out. My name for it is “couch fishing”.

Couch fishing = passive marketing; i.e. waiting for qualified prospects to find you, rather than seeking them out.

Think of it this way: You’re wearing your comfy clothes and relaxing on the couch, when you suddenly get the urge to go fishing. So you grab your gear and cast out into your living room… It’s possible that someone will come along and put a fish on your line for you, but you might be waiting for a while, so you should probably order a pizza.

Hoping to attract new business via social and online is much like couch fishing; you cast the bait (social media posts, content or ads) and passively wait for the fish (prospects) to find you.

This approach may work for some businesses. Certainly, larger, well-known brands with loyal customers (the Nikes, Starbucks and Apples of the world) can rely on their fish to find them. But many other businesses don’t have this luxury – at least, not yet.

A better option: Take an active approach by going directly to your prospects via print, email and live contact.

This active approach (also known as “direct marketing”) takes the responsibility off customers and prospects and puts it back on us – marketers. It allows us to make it increasingly easier for customers to buy our products and services, request more information or do whatever it is we want them to do.

Actively marketing to customers means reaching them where they are – delivering a direct mail piece straight to their homes, sending a relevant, targeted email that they can’t resist clicking through or calling them at a convenient time.

And it works. A 2015 study commissioned by Canada Post found that:

  • 74% of Canadians always or sometimes notice advertising in direct mail
  • 51% of Canadians prefer companies to use a combination of mail and email when communicating with them
  • 70% of Canadians said they are curious to find out what’s in their mailbox

Furthermore, the 2015 DMA Response Rate Report found that the average cost-per-acquisition for direct mail is very competitive; direct mail stands at $19, mobile and social are both $16-18, paid search costs approximately $21-30, while internet display is $41-50. Email offers the lowest cost-per-acquisition at $11-15.

The key to effective active marketing is, as always, measurement. Keeping with the fishing metaphor, tracking and measuring your response rate is much like counting your catches in a certain pond or with a certain lure. You might find that one lure works today, but won’t work as well next week.

Ultimately, successfully fishing for prospects relies on putting the right bait out at the right time. In other words, knowing a prospect’s decision-making cycle, and serving a convincing message at a critical time, will help yield more fish in your cooler.

This applies to all laws of attraction – the right magnetic field attracts the right metal, the right song pulls on the right emotion, the right chocolate brings you the right feeling, the right tree attracts the right nest – and the right marketing, at the right time, in the right place, attracts the right customer.

Cast into the right fishing hole, with the right bait, at the right time of day and you’ll surely get to eat.

Cast from the couch for new business and you’ll likely be hungry.

Note: This is not to say that social and digital marketing don’t have their place in your marketing plan. Rather, I’m a firm believer that passive marketing works best when supported by active marketing. Use direct marketing to gain brand awareness, promote your social channels or bring customers to your website (or a physical location). Once you’ve earned that engagement, you’ll have the opportunity to turn them into loyal customers who WILL seek you out.


Dave Hytinen is VP of business development at Extend Your Reach. He has been with Extend Your Reach for 21 years.

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