Should you go hunting or fishing?

All businesses are interested in finding new customers – particularly in a time of recession, when existing customers are likely to be spending less, or even worse. Employing the most effective methods of “catching” new customers is a key driver to ensuring success: the choice, in broad terms, is between hunting and fishing  







“Hunting”, as the name implies, involves targeting a specific prey, or group of prey. A hunter tracks down his quarry and then, setting his eyes clearly on the target, takes him out with a specific shot or similar action.

Hunting for customers is similar. If the customers are limited in number, then a “hunting” approach is likely to be the most successful. When an organisation can name it’s target customers (for example, if you can say “I would love to do business with Sainsburys”, or “I need to be speaking to John Smith at Gardenia Interiors,” then you should almost certainly be employing hunting methods of marketing.


Hunting methods include:

  • Traditional B2B sales techniques (telephone calls to make appointments, making sales presentations…etc)
  • Hospitality and hosting
  • Targeted sales letters
  • Gifts and giveways
  • Targeted emails (normally personalised)
  • Networking (ie, asking for introductions, attending events that you realise may be attended by your target client…etc)
  • Trade press advertising

If your target customers are few in number, then you are unlikely to find that blanket marketing techniques (such as national TV advertising) are likely to be effective. Why spend a fortune on reaching an audience of millions, when you are really only interested in a few hundred individual people within a few hundred organisations?


In contrast to hunting – when there are specific target clients – fishing should be employed when the target customer group are numerous and diverse. For example, if you are selling products directly to the consumer – such as replacement windows, for example – then “hunting” methods will almost certainly prove too specific and ineffective.

For this reason, most products that are sold directly to consumers – as opposed to businesses – will require “fishing” techniques to be employed.


Fishing methods of marketing and sales include:

  • TV advertising
  • National media advertising
  • Local media advertising
  • PR
  • Publicity
  • “Guerrilla” marketing techniques
  • Viral marketing
  • Online marketing – through websites
  • Blanket leaflet/flyer drops


In the real world, life can rarely be defined into neat boxes – regardless of how helpful and illuminating these definitions may prove. Marketing is no different, and understanding the dynamics and profile of the market are key to ensuring that good marketing decisions are made.

For example, a company selling uniquely-styled toothbrushes will need to employ a mix of “hunting” and “fishing” techniques. “Fishing” will be required to build end-user awareness and desire for the product, and set it apart from all the other toothbrushes on the market in the minds of consumers. The company may wish to employ TV and media advertising, or other such mass media methods, to achieve this awareness. They may also wish to sell via the internet to “catch” customers who go looking for the product online.

In conjunction with ”fishing”, the company may wish to employ “hunting” techniques to establish sales channels. For example, if they wish to sell their products though retail outlets such as supermarkets, they will need to approach the supermarket buyers directly, through traditional B2B sales techniques, for example.

The key to the mix is understanding the product, how and where it is likely to be purchased. Once a business enjoys a genuine understanding of these factors, they can make informed decisions about which methods of marketing should be engaged.

Happy hunting – or fishing!



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