It was a warm Florida summer day. I rode my bike up to the A&P, side baskets loaded with fishing pole, tackle box and a bag lunch. Just a quick stop for bait before heading to the fishing pier. Fingering the few coins in my pocket, I approached the man at the meat/seafood counter and asked for a package of his cheapest fish scraps, a bait my friend had assured me was highly affordable for one in my current income bracket. (My “earnings” were partially garnered from searching the sofa for lost change, but my key cash cow was finding old soda bottles along the highway and turning them in to the A&P for the 2 cents-per-bottle deposit.)
The man behind the counter looked down at me and asked what in retrospect was a profound marketing question: “Son, are you looking to fish or catch fish?” Seeing my puzzlement, he translated. “Do you just like to hang out at the pier, laze in the sun, shoot the bull with the other folks, then go home? Or do you want to catch some fish?”
Any fisher will freely admit that days where just lazing the time away with a line in the water and never catching a thing are among the best times of life. But there are other times when coming home hot, sweaty, tired and fishless is the height of frustration. At that time of my life, I didn’t understand that fate was not the prime determiner of which day I would have. How many times I had heard grizzled fishing veterans far wiser than me pack up their tackle with a sage, “Guess they just weren’t biting today. Maybe tomorrow.”
Now, here was a butcher at A&P telling me I had a choice? Pier fishing wasn’t just the ocean equivalent of ‘throw it against the wall and see if it sticks’? Or was he just yanking my chain, thinking I was naive enough to be sold the bait equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge?
Seeming to understand my reluctance, he reached under the counter and handed me a package stuffed with small shrimp. “I’m not saying you won’t catch any fish with those scraps. But if you really want to haul them in, use bait they love. And the fish around that pier love shrimp. I guarantee you they’ll hit your hook with these. Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. These shrimp are more expensive than the scraps. That’s why I asked what kind of fishing you wanted to do. If it’s a lazing-around day, go with the cheap scraps. But if this is a fish-catching day, try the shrimp.”
I had to admit his pitch was starting to make sense, but there was still the reality of my limited “fish marketing” budget. After a bit of what I thought was shrewd negotiating (more likely his sympathy for a broke kid), we settled on half the original package for 50 cents, and off to the pier I rode.
I had never had a fishing day like that in my life. My previous catch ratio was so low that catching any fish, no matter if it barely exceeded sardine size, was a thrill. I went to the end of the pier, pushed some tiny shrimp on a triple hook, and lowered my line into the ocean. Any fisher knows the sheer joy of feeling that first tug on the line from a fish nibbling at your bait. Hope springs eternal and patience is a virtue as you decide just how to jiggle the line to get that “prospect” fish turned into a “client.” Many is the time I felt a fish toying endlessly with my line, never to take the hook. To add insult to injury, after some time of no further tugs, I’d reel in the line to find my meager bait long gone.
Not this day. BAM! That line jumped, and I hauled it up like a madman to find not one but two small fish dangling from my triple hook. I’m sure I screamed like I’d just won the World Series, because three older guys came running and hung over the rail to inspect this clearly amazing catch. Upon discovering reality, they all had a good laugh, slapping me on the back and praising my fishing prowess.
But the life changer came after the first two guys returned to their spots. The third took a good look at my two tiny victims and said, “You know, son, you caught a couple of good bait fish there. Take a quarter each for them?” In one moment, I had transformed from a kid hanging out at the pier into a bait shop entrepreneur. The mathematically astute among you may have also noted that I just covered my initial marketing capital outlay and still had quite a few shrimp left. By the end of the morning, I had cleared more than $5 COI (the rough equivalent of three weeks’ income at the time). Add in the bonus of sheer excitement over hauling in fish as fast as I could drop that line, and the FOI that day was truly priceless. As you might expect, I did a lot of additional business with that A&P butcher.
So how about you? How many marketing gurus out there today are really selling you on the joys of a day of fishing rather than FOI? As with a day at the pier, river or lake, either approach can be fine. Just be conscious of the difference, and don’t confuse one with the other. That butcher asked exactly the right question. Now I ask it of you: Do you blog, tweet, pin or buy yellow page ads because you enjoy the process? Or are you looking to catch some fish? And if the latter, do you know the best bait for attaining your FOI/COI goals?
What current insurance “marketing” do you think is more R&R than FOI? I’d love to hear your fish stories.