in Business Development Mindset

Think Like a Fish

Captain John Rade catches a Sea BassLegendary copywriter Gary Bencivenga tells an insightful story about Long Island fisherman Captain John Rade.

Rade was a rod fisherman who out caught all other fishermen day-in, day-out. In his little motorboat he'd put out to sea and regularly come back with a bigger haul than boats with dozens of fishermen on them.

A local journalist interviewed him once and asked him what the secret of his success was.

“Well” he said, “when other fishermen set out to sea, they think like fishermen”.

“I think like a fish”.

OK – so it sounds simple, trite even.

But how many of us really think like our clients?

Rade apparently studied fish, and the ocean, obsessively. He knew what different currents meant, different weather conditions, and how the fish would react in each. He was able to go where the fish were, and offer them the bait he knew they'd take.

Are you a real student of your clients? Do you know what they really feel like when they've got the sort of problem you deal with – or they're thinking of hiring a professional like you?

Sure, you've probably skimmed the market research. Maybe even read the results of feedback or focus groups which reveal what clients feel comfortable sharing in public.

But how often have you put yourself in their shoes? Immersed yourself in what it must be like in their position?

What do they feel when they first approach a professional if they've never hired one before?

Here's a starter: fear.

Fear of looking stupid. Fear of being ripped off. Fear of losing control. Fear of what might happen if things go badly. Fear of what might happen if things go well.

Next time you meet with a client for the first time, think like a fish, not a fisherman.


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  1. I like it Ian.

    Gary Bencivenga is the next copywriter on my list to study.

    It always surprises me when people don’t try to see things from the other side’s point of view. It’s such a revealing place to be.