10 Surefire Ways to Land More Customers

image of fishing lure

So many people all around the world have great ideas, products and services. And yet some businesses do well, and some fail.

What separates the businesses that starve from the businesses who feast?

For the answer, we turn to another way people have been setting their feast table for hundreds of years: fishing.

Landing a fish, just like landing a customer, requires strategy and know-how if you’re going to come home successful.

Here are my top 10 ways to land the catch of the day.

1. Know what you’re after

In fishing, you always use the best bait possible for the particular type of fish you’re after.

So many times clients come to me and say, “I don’t have a target market”. They’re always wrong.

At a minimum, you should understand:

  • The problems your customers have
  • Their buying habits
  • Their potential objections to your product
  • Where they go to find information
  • What influences them (their heroes and idols, TV shows they watch, websites they enjoy, magazines they read, etc.)
  • What their core demographics and psychographics are

Even if your product “appeals to everyone,” typically 20% of your audience will generate 80% of your revenue. Your job is to figure out who those 20% are, so you can find the kind of bait that appeals most to those customers.

Bait that works for trout won’t necessarily let you land a great white shark.

2. Know where to fish for your customers

Determining the right fishing location can be the difference between a successful fishing trip and going hungry.

Knowing the places where your customers hang out online gives you a much greater chance for marketing success. Figure out which sites your customers frequent and you’ll have a much better chance of reeling one in. Try seeking out:

  • Blogs they read
  • Forums they participate in
  • Social networking sites and other membership groups
  • Entertainment or other non-work related sites

You don’t want to use a top water lure if the fish you want are feeding on the bottom.

3. Be aware of your competition

All fishermen guard their secrets closely, but newcomers can still pick up plenty of tricks by watching what their competition does.

I’m not saying it’s smart to copy your competitor exactly. “Me-too” marketing doesn’t work.

But learn from them and get a feeling for the overall marketplace you’re in. Incorporate those insights into your own marketing and content strategy.

By analyzing your competitors you can also figure out how you can position your brand to stand out from the crowd.

4. Use good bait

When you’re hoping to catch a fish standing side by side with a row of other fishermen, you have to make sure your bait is the most appealing fish food dangling the water. Otherwise, that fish is liable to go for one of your neighbor’s hooks instead.

Consumers have lots of options and offers dangling in front of them in any marketplace. You’ve got to have some pretty juicy bait to stand out from that crowd.

So what makes good customer bait?

5. Setting the hook

Just because a fish bites doesn’t mean you can reel it in. Many a marketer has a woeful tale about the big one that got away.

Once a customer is interested and bites by clicking through to your sales page, you have to set the hook by making an offer that’s so great it’s practically unfair.

6. Forget catch and release

Remember, it’s a lot easier and more profitable to re-sell an existing customer than acquire a new one.

So if you land a big fish, keep it! Don’t throw it back for someone else to catch.

Re-marketing, high-quality affiliate offers, and up-sells are great for keeping the customers that you currently have, instead of letting them drift back into the stream for some other savvy marketer to reel in.

7. Test the waters

Fishermen often track different variables, like what time of day they went fishing or what bait they used. They measure their results over time to figure out the smartest way to get certain fish.

Similarly, in marketing it’s always wise to test various aspects of your marketing campaign. Measure your results to see what works best, and track your results over time.

Try different images, headlines, or layouts to see which one maximizes time spent on your site, lowers bounce rate, and produces the best ROI.

8. Don’t get discouraged

Some days the fish just aren’t biting.

Sometimes you are not going to be as successful as you’d like, but it’s a process. Continue to educate yourself about business and marketing, keep analyzing your competitors, keep talking to your customers and refining your message.

Keep going and don’t get discouraged. Tomorrow’s the day you’ll get the big one.

9. Partner up to get a bigger catch

Fishing with a buddy helps you to both cover more water and come home with a bigger catch than usual.

If you’re hoping to land more customers than you’ve ever reeled in on your own, find a partner. By knowing your own skill set, you’ll be able to effectively select partners that complement your skills. This strategy can also help you get bigger customers than you could have handled on your own.

10. Enjoy the trip

It’s definitely a lot more fun to catch the big one than to see it get away, but no matter what happens, remember to enjoy yourself.

Entrepreneurship is a lot like fishing. Even when it’s not going as well as we’d like, it’s still a privilege to be able to spend our days doing it.

About the Author: David Brim is the founder and CEO of Brand Advance, an interactive agency that provides marketing consulting, web design, and marketing staffing to emerging companies. David is also the founder of GroupTable.com, collaborative software to increase group productivity. David blogs at Filled to the Brim, and can be found on twitter @davidbrim.

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Reader Comments (52)

  1. says

    Hi David, this is a fun article.

    I think #2 is important because a lot of online marketers spend more time on #3. The temptation to keep connecting with people who understand where you are coming from, has many swimming around trying to sell to each other instead of finding and engaging new customers.

    I think that is behind part of the “launch fatigue” many have experienced in the last few weeks.

    I see it in myself and am tweaking my focus to spend less time in freelance writing forums and more time in the forums where non-writers hang out. I need people who don’t compete with me to buy my services.

    What if coaches spent a little less time wooing each others’ lists and more time developing joint ventures with other niches entirely?

    Hmm, I need to find a way to work that.



  2. says

    To explain my last comment or question suggestion I mean that you can also
    1. Follow up for monthly resells? Depending on the niche.
    2. And get customers who refer new customers.
    Again great article

  3. says

    Hey David,

    This is a great article! I like #3, when I started my online marketing business. I was following the best individuals and purchased their materials. Because of that I’m able to accomplish what I’m doing today. This is a powerful strategy!

    Chat with you later…

  4. says

    Ah, yeah Darren … I agree that should be part of “Forget catch and release,” or perhaps “Use Good Bait” is a more appropriate place to include referrals. Nothing better than a personal referral from a happy customer.

  5. says

    I think treating your customers with respect and providing excellent customer support goes a long way to actually bring in referred customers… as long as you’re providing high value.

  6. says

    Some people throw their fish back – this must be people like Seth Godin who make 0 direct funds from their blog. I guess the fish empathize so much they come tell their buddies and then the Seth Godin fishing boat comes (unmanned by him) and swoops up all the fish. :)

  7. says

    Ross, Seth sells a lot of books thanks to his blog, and commands a rumored $100,000 fee for keynote speeches.

    Sometimes you’ve got to look deeper at how a blog is “monetized.” Seth’s no dummy.

  8. Noah Michaels says

    With the rapid pace of change marketing can be intimidating to those on the outside. Great article on breaking what you do down into layman’s terms and making it digestable to the non marketer.

  9. says

    6 and 9 are the big kickers. Way too often, budding small business owners will spend all of their time and effort trying to make the new, beloved sale, when they have a huge batch of free customers that have already done business with them. Repeat customers are what makes a business successful.

    When you partner up with someone, all with the goal of helping each other succeed, then you can really leverage each other’s lists, gathering new customers for both of you that you would never have otherwise.

    I like the fishing analogy. It’s really what marketing and copywriting is all about.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  10. Bill says

    David: I was just contemplating your mention of #5 on how I could offer folks my products so they have to buy sooner or later, when I received the Copyblogger notice revealing this post.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this post and the timing was perfect.

  11. says

    Enjoyed this article very much. Great read.

    Often times I wonder if I’m fishing in the wrong pond. Many of the people I meet say they can not afford my web design prices, and I’m at least a grand cheaper than most of my competitors who do the same level of work. I’m still trying to figure out where to fish. The low level networking groups aren’t cutting it.

    I really need to dive in and make sure I’m using the right bait and fishing in the right pond.

  12. says

    “… the right fishing location can be the difference between a successful fishing trip and going hungry”

    A very important point.

  13. says

    Getting discouraged is my main problem. I just work and work and rarely see the light. But I will not give up.

  14. says


    When all else fails, go back to the basics! When I get caught up in strategies that don’t pan out, it’s usually because I didn’t take the time to analyze my market and apply what I know about consumer metamorphosis.

    Even if you’re not a fishing enthusiast, this post is great. For those of us who’ve spent many frustrating days whipping the water, it’s especially meaningful.

    Thanks for the reminders.

    Steve Benedict

  15. says

    Great practical advice. #5 really stands out to me, “making an offer that’s so great it’s practically unfair”. Obviously you mean a offer or a product that really helps your customer and gives a solution and not building a fake value by adding infinite “$ Value” claims in your 10 pages long sales letter.

  16. says

    I completely agree with #2–When a lot of my clients come to me they are discouraged with new media as a sales tool. Without understanding where their target market lives and plays, they’ve been casting their nets randomly and then are disappointed with the results yielded. It’s like shark fishing in a lake.

  17. says

    @Tammi- you’re right. If you’re able to craft a blue ocean strategy and essentially create a new market through innovation and collaboration you can demand a premium for your product/service. The trick is to constantly improve, keep your ear to the crowd and innovate or else you’ll have copycat competitors over time that come into the game and under cut you on price…Changing your offer to more of a commodity and less niche.

    @Jeff / @Josh- Absolutely agree about harvesting the power of current customers…Top of mind awareness through remarketing and customer engagement is very important to help facilitate this because people get so busy in their daily lives and may neglect to think of your brand when it matters.

    @Bill- I’m glad my post helped out when you needed it! good luck

    @Will- Knowing how and where to fish for big budget fish is very important. Marketing to a small budget client making a purchasing decision often on price is much different than reaching a customer who sees your value and is willing to pay for it. You may like this guest post on my blog: http://davidbrim.org/know-your-worth/

    @Steve glad you enjoyed it…I bet you’ll think of it next time you’re hitting the water. Hopefully the principles will bring you lots of fish and customers!

    @Michelle- good points. Love the analogy about not understanding your customers and marketing in the wrong location: “It’s like shark fishing in a lake.”

    @All- Glad you guys liked the post. Thanks for the retweets, stumbles and comments!

  18. says

    I enjoyed the fishing analogy – gonna have to keep that one in my back pocket.

    However, unlike fishing, Spam should NOT be used as bait in the business world. :-)


  19. says

    Appreciated the mix of practical and emotional points in this post. Amongst a sea of great points, I’m with Katie today – #8 about not getting discouraged sets my sails at this particular moment in time.

  20. says

    Thanks for the excellent article; really concise and to-the-point on the important aspects of customers and leads.

  21. says

    “Some days the fish just aren’t biting.”

    “Keep going and don’t get discouraged. Tomorrow’s the day you’ll get the big one.”

    What an excellent motivation for Internet Marketers!

    This is so true. And to compare it with a beautiful hobby like fishing, is really smart.

    It makes so much sense, some days the fish just don’t bite.

    Many people online get discouraged TOO quickly, and quit. They have no patience whatsoever. They want to make money in the first week after starting!

    I mean would you expect that in any OFFline business?

  22. says

    Great tips and I love the analogy. Especially forgetting catch and release. If you are getting repeat business from a client, it means less work in sales and marketing AND it means you are doing something right for that client.

  23. says

    Good work David, we are starting a blog. I hope we will be as successful as you. You definetley have the knack. Any tips from you will be worthwhile. Best wishes Peter

  24. says

    Hi guys,

    David thanks for sharing your tips. My favorite one is #9 “Partner up to get a bigger catch.” This is so true, because no matter how hard you try it’s not easy to run a business by yourself. Thanks for sharing.

    Kind regards,

  25. says

    Once you’ve caught the fish, you have to work hard to keep it from flipping out of your hands.
    Great post. Very interesting indeed.

  26. says

    Great post! This article let’s me know I’m on the right track. The one big fish you land, make sure you love them to death! In enough time, landing the smaller ones will be a breeze.

  27. says

    Fantastic article David, I also loved the analogy with fishing. I’ll have to think of that when times are tough.

    @Karl & @Katie marketing can be frustrating especially when getting started. Remember the key is persistence, which I often remind myself of before bouncing back on course. :-)

  28. says

    ok all this info is great and I love the fishing thing as I am a fisher person.
    I would love to know though how do you find out where your customers hang out. Some examples of ways to find a great fishing whole would be a bit more in depth to all this information.
    I do try to ask customers where they found me but most will not reply.
    This would give us a much better use of #4 using good bait. If you don’t know where to throw your bait there really is no point.

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