The Great Fishing Pyramid … but not the one in Memphis

One of these days I’m going to sit down and write a diatribe about how we in the sportfishing industry lie to ourselves about the size and avidity of our audience. I’m going to call it “The Big Lie.” Perhaps luckily for you, today is not that day.

Instead I want to write about a related matter — the customer pyramid that exists in any hobby- or leisure-based industry, like fishing.

I’m sure I’m not alone or nearly the first to envision anglers as part of some sort of participatory pyramid — not a bell curve. At the very wide base are the most casual anglers. These people go fishing once or twice a year (though not every year), may or may not buy fishing licenses to do so, are not aware that new line can be put on a fishing reel, and if they’re lucky enough to catch a fish they probably cannot identify it. Let’s create a persona for this demographic and call him “Semiannual Sam.”

Moving up from that base, anglers on the pyramid are increasingly avid, increasingly skilled and spend larger amounts on fishing gear. They are also increasingly rare. At the apex of the pyramid are those who are extremely knowledgeable, fish just about every weekend, own expensive boats equipped with expensive electronics and may even fish competitively. Fishing defines them. We’ll call our persona for the apex group “Kevin VanDam.”

In between Semiannual Sam and Kevin VanDam is everyone who’s in-between — millions and millions of us. Yes, some are closer to the top than the base, but just about every one of us can be plotted somewhere between Sam and KVD.

Now, my assignment for you — whether you’re a retailer or a manufacturer — is to draw such a pyramid and then make a circle around the part of that pyramid that you are targeting with your marketing efforts.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

OK, if you drew a circle around the entire pyramid, looping in both Semiannual Sam and KVD, I have news for you. You are either (1) an industry giant like Pure Fishing or a big box retailer like Bass Pro Shops or you are (2) doomed.

I don’t say that lightly, and I’m not trying to be edgy or controversial. It’s just that trying to please everyone is the surest way I know to please no one at all.

On the other hand, if you drew a circle around a particular segment of the pyramid, I think there’s a better chance that you know who you are and what you have to offer. I also like your chances of success a lot more than the big circle folks.

It reminds me of the first time I went duck hunting and saw a large group of ducks come into my area. I pointed my shotgun at the flock, pulled the trigger and the gun fired, but no ducks fell. For just a moment, I sat there wondering what happened. Then I realized that I had failed to identify my target and aim before squeezing the trigger. I mistakenly thought there were enough ducks in front of me that success was guaranteed.

I was wrong.

“Ready … fire … aim” is never as good as “Ready … aim … fire!”

A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.