I heard Greg Caruso of Successful Exits share a story recently that I found valuable for my clients because of its simplicity and truth. When he was young, Greg loved to fish. When he grew older, life got in the way until one day he made a conscientious decision to restart his childhood hobby. He started fishing again in his favorite pond. However, now as an adult, he didn't seem to be as lucky. He caught very few fish. One day, as he was unloading his car after another disappointing day, his elderly neighbor returned home from fishing. Greg’s neighbor unloaded his truck and had a cooler filled with fish. Greg asked the man how he was able to catch so many fish. “Well,” replied the neighbor, “I only fish in ponds where the fish are.”
This simple tale struck a chord with me, because I've heard some of my new clients bemoan the fact that their sales are dwindling or they’re off from last year’s numbers. Others are frustrated because competitors seem to be thriving, while they're struggling. What should they do?
Why not fish in ponds where the fish are instead of fishing where you’ve always fished?
This is easy to say and hard to do. I know. I've been there. It’s hard to accept the fact that the customer group that had been the bread and butter of your business is no longer the right target market for you. Even though you've had great relationships with them, you’ve shown mutual loyalty, and you've helped each other grow and succeed, things have changed. They no longer need or can support your products and services.
It’s time to go fishing.
You need to realistically – and quickly – look elsewhere to find new opportunities. It’s time to stop – immediately – reminiscing about how great things used to be. It’s time to start – immediately – looking at your industry and identifying what market segments in it are hot and which ones are “biting.” Next look at why they’re hot. What is propelling their growth? What economic, cultural, political, gender, etc. issues are feeding this market – and why? Now ask, “How might our current products and services help them continue their growth?” “How might we modify our products to better fit these markets’ current – AND future needs?” When we start asking these types of questions, we start seeing opportunities instead of stagnating markets; we see ponds of new fish, instead of ponds without.
If you’re continuing to pound away at your traditional target markets with limited results, why do you continue?
Why – as the saying goes – are you doing things the same and expecting things to change? Accept the fact that your traditional market isn’t right for you anymore. It may be right for another business, but not yours. It’s time to move on. It’s time to identify the markets that will provide sufficient opportunities to allow you to achieve the level of success you deserve.
It’s time to start fishing in the right ponds.