"Modern Marketing" and the reality of "engagement..."

Time to talk "business."

Well, no- I’m ranting today.

Ignore and run from this man if you see him. And don't sit next to him on an airplane...

“Uh-oh, Here goes Fellman again, spouting off on something he has no idea about.”

So what else is new…?

Don't want to talk about pods and wood this morning...

Time for me to talk about Marketing a bit..Specifically, why “conventional” marketing is apparently played out, and why some of the “new” marketing needs to be better understood, or taken in context!

As a business owner, I am constantly approached by vendors hawking their systems to “help me reach customers through “Search Engine Optimization”, “Lead Generation”, Social Media Optimized Engagement, etc.

Yesterday, I was approached (on a VERY busy day) by a vendor with a very impressive phone presentation designed to make me realize how much better Tannin could be if we buy into his firm’s “SEO package.” The vendor seemed to take delight in basically telling me that we had no clue what we are doing, and that failing to embrace their “system” would result in us forever toiling in obscurity. He spouted out all sorts of statistics and “numerics” that allegedly show how various numbers quantify into this and that. It sounds very impressive. I had no idea what the heck he was talking about, which was pretty cool. I should have hung up as soon as the guy said, "You need to understand how this works because your current way of marketing is hurting you." HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW US! Yet, this...visionary could make that brilliant conclusion...Wow.

Didn't he know that I'm old enough to be crotchety, close-minded and opinionated? Probably not, either.  I mean, he was throwing out jargon and stats that were just completely bizarre to me. I'm sure there were a few kernels of goodness in there, but it was all so esoteric that it kinda turned me off. Having great "stats" for hits and such doesn't always equal success, right?

You could interpret all this stuff however you want, IMO. So who knows. To me, the real measure of success is the conversations we have each day, and how many of the people engaged in our conversations have become friends and customers. People who BUY STUFF from us. That’s a big part of why we’re in business, right?

I mean, our hobby is just a bit different, and fish geeks are not “statistics.” In fact, the behavior of fish people often defies classification and categorization. And people are not just dollar signs.

Okay, I’m not “Mr. Internet”, and I am certainly not the greatest, most technically-proficient aquatics-related businessman out there, but I do understand one fundamental thing: I know my customers, and I know my category. I find it almost comical when I’m approached by people and organizations promising me to increase my “reach” and “penetrate my market” through various means, often involving complicated software, numerics, foreign firms, and lots of gobbledygook that I can’t even decipher.

Why not just interact with hobbyists instead? (hmm, you can't sell that to someone, right?)

One thing I have discovered: Aquarists are a very specialized group of people. We aren’t just “consumers” that you can quantify and track and throw into neat packages of numerical data. We’re motivated by the love of our hobby, and we get excited by some pretty obscure stuff, and are not easily impressed by throwing out a random pic on Twitter or Instagram, or some exotic mobile-enabled application.

Oh sure, every aquarist likes to see a pic of a cool fish, or a nice tank, but the next question, after the “Ohh” or All!” or “Like” is, “Is that real, or totally photoshopped?”, “Who posted that?”, and “Is it available for sale?” Beyond that, fish geeks are social creatures, and are more interested in interacting and doing business within our “tribe.” Outsiders are both questioned and often not trusted…It takes time to penetrate the veneer of “aquatic culture”, doesn’t it? You can’t just send pics of fish, wood, plants, seed pods, etc. all over the ‘net and expect instant “street creed” as a top-notch aquatics vendor. Every vendor in this industry has paid (or is still paying) their “dues” to be admitted to this party.

The real "social media" for our customers...

What these “experts” don’t seem to get is that our hobby has its own “culture”, and to reach the culture doesn’t require some razzle-dazzle search protocol or fancy statistic-based algorithm. In fact, to REALLY reach a fish geek,  you don’t even need Twitter and Instagram. (What!?!). Yeah, you heard me. Just because someone “follows” us because we post a pic, does that mean that they will buy stuff from us, or even communicate with us? I think more people BUY from us when we TALK to each other.

“Humanistic” marketing is what works. Sorry obscure tech-talking gurus. Interacting in an authentic manner with fellow humans builds relationships which lead to people liking you and doing business with you. Not getting paying to get your name on every search engine in the galaxy, or buying "likes" on Facebook, or...

This was driven home recently when a fellow vendor complained to me about what he perceived to be the “lack of visibility” of his company. He was all over Twitter and Facebook, blah, blah. He had lots of “likes”, yet his growth and sales were flat. After talking with him a bit, I concluded that he had it all wrong in terms of his viewpoint. He should be quite successful…he’s a great guy with nice stuff. He needed a minor tweak in his attitude, thats all.

What you need is a DIALOGUE. A discussion…Talking with hobbyists, not AT them. To understand fish geeks, you need to BE a fish geek. You need to understand our problems, our thinking, OUR “world view” and position. We don’t just want to be shown pretty pics and told that we have 29 new fishes available to look at today. We want to be engaged- to be a PART of something. We want authentic community, real relationships and try engagement. (Hello, Mr. Zuckerburg and fellow “marketing” nerds- a “Like” is not “engagement.” It’s the electronic equivalent of “yeah.” ). Engagment is TALKING with a human being, not hitting the "like" button.

Seriously, right? In my humble opinion, we’ve gotten so caught up in this apathetic “acknowledgement” of our existence on a social media platform that we have failed to recognize what its true purpose was- to get people talking to each other. 

Fish geeks are...PEOPLE!

Sure, statistics are important and helpful, but they are not the measure of success in this game, IMO. Your brand is an “ecosystem”, with all sorts of connections to it’s external environment. And it thrives on one thing: People. Specifically, people who are into your stuff. People who you talk to.

OMG, where am I going with this? Does it sound like I am pounding my chest saying that all of the engineers and dot.combillionaires are stupid? NO, that’s not the point. The point is, we are a community of people with common interest, and to reach our community, you have to be a part of it. You can’t be an outsider and just expect that your greatness and product(s) will be your in. You have to eat, drink, live, pray, and digest this fishy stuff…

To be different, you have to be your authentic self. Period.

As a famous advertising executive once proffered, “If you’re not standing out from the clutter, you’re contributing to it.”

Wow, I think I may have a bit of an attitude today because I’m sick and tired of hearing people who know obscure "buzzwords", apparently have advanced degrees in unrelated fields, are great at pulling up weird statistical inferences and spouting internet-talk (like the term “bleeding edge”..Just stop.) calling me and telling me that they are “marketing” people, especially within the context of our category. I am even mad at MYSELF- I’m talking about stats and numbers, for goodness sake! Yikes! 

I don’t hate social media and all that stuff. You see us on there every day with both of my companies...I just don’t understand why we place so much stock in some of these things. It’s kind of funny. I’m not longing for the days of billboards and radio ads, but I think we are deluding ourselves sometimes thinking that all of this stuff at face value is “the way.”

Is this what I need today? Nah, maybe I'll just go surfing.

Okay, enough of me ranting for now…I need your feedback…I must be wrong, maybe…Right? 

Besides, it’s time for me to update our Facebook Page and see what we put up on Twitter this morning. 


As always,

Stay out of trouble..

And Stay Wet

Scott Fellman
Tannin Aquatics
Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


Leave a comment