I like movies, and one of my favorite actors is Robert DeNiro. He’s impressive in every role, but one of my favorites was from “Taxi Driver” (1976). In it, DeNiro plays an obsessed cabbie named Travis Bickle.
The most famous scene in the film shows Bickle in front of a mirror, armed to the teeth and imagining that he’s being accosted in the street.
“You talkin’ to me?” he repeatedly asks his reflection before pulling a gun on his imaginary nemesis.
It may be a strange connection, but it’s what I think of when I look at marketing and advertising in our industry. I see a lot of ads, a lot of packaging, and I interact with a lot of companies — manufacturers and agencies, rep groups and distributors, retailers large and small. Some are very impressive in their communications and some obviously have no clue.
How successful they are usually boils down to two things:
(1) How well they know their audience, and
(2) How well they tailor their message to that audience.
The ones who know their audience best and speak to it most effectively are invariably the most successful. The ones who don’t know their audience very well are short-timers. They’ll be gone soon — the individuals will be replaced or the companies will go out of business — unless they happen to be supported by cavernously deep pockets willing to throw money away.
At FTR, we see the good and the bad. We’re staffed by avid anglers who work in the business of fishing. As North America’s only business-to-business publication in the tackle industry, we see the gamut of communication skills, but most of the bad communicators don’t fail because of poor grammar or stage fright. They fail because they don’t understand their audience.
It doesn’t matter if you have the writing skills of William Shakespeare and the stage presence of Elvis Presley. If you don’t know who you’re communicating with and what they need to get from your message, failure is just around the corner, coming up quickly behind you … or maybe it’s the light at the end of the tunnel that’s actually a train about to hit you head-on.
Count me with Darwin when it comes to business. Survival of the fittest applies to the marketplace, too.
So, when I’m talking with tackle industry people about their business, I usually start with very basic questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do or make?
- Why is it special?
- Who should care and why?
Maybe they think I’m dim-witted, but I almost always ask “Who do you think you’re talking to?”
I’ve learned that the most basic questions deserve the most serious attention.