Let's talk about fishing — a subject near and dear to my heart. From early spring until late October, if I'm not working, I'm fishing. There's nothing quite so exciting as watching a monster bass break the surface of a still lake on a cool morning, as he savagely strikes at the bait, and there's nothing quite so satisfying as landing him, knowing that it was your skill in presenting the bait, coaxing the strike and then managing the battle that brought him home. I think that's what makes fishing so fascinating for me. This sport is analogous to so many other pursuits in life, like, for instance, managing your channel relationships and cultivating new ones.

Consider for a moment the breadth and depth of your channel presence. You are probably working multiple channels and using multiple methods to maximize the impact of your corporate message in each. Your channel landscape is like a system of waterways with different game fish spread among the rocks, snags and streams. Your job is to identify where to cast your bait among all of the likely hot spots to catch the species you want. Before you can do that though, you need to identify which species you're going after.

You could simply put a worm on a hook, throw it out in a random pool or brook and chances are you'll get a nibble. This isn't a bad strategy to approach an entirely unknown body of water, but you are as likely to end up with a carp as a trout. When you are spending valuable dollars on your channel message, the random worm-on-a-hook approach is not much more effective than cold calling potential customers. You may get lucky, but most of your time is going to be wasted waiting for something to take your bait. On the other hand, the wise and successful fisherman determines what he wants to catch before he even considers his bait. Then, when the target is identified and the proper bait is selected, the fisherman can be reasonably assured that he'll be successful in catching what he had originally intended.

Still, even with a clear target species and the right bait, you need to present the bait in an effective manner and in a location that is likely to produce strikes. Effectively angling for customers requires that you are fishing in the right spots and presenting the bait in a way so as to cause the customer to want to strike. There are some savage and hungry bass out there that will strike at most anything, but most are skittish and require a little coaxing, something to get their attention. Does your channel presentment entice a strike by dangling the right bait, in the right spot or are you hoping for that one hungry super bass to come along and snap up whatever was convenient in the top tray of the tackle box?

So, while you're out relaxing this summer, enjoying the sun and the great outdoors, take a few tips from my favorite summer sport as you consider whether you're effectively fishing your channel:

  1. Identify and isolate your target market
  2. Select the right message to reach that market
  3. Put that message in the right channel for the market you're targeting
  4. Present the message effectively to induce a strike

Now that that's done, it's time to go fishing.

DAVID MARTINA [david.martina@NEPS.com] is the vice president of systems integration for NEPS, LLC of Salem, New Hampshire, a firm that provides solutions for the automation of document-intensive business processes.