“We catch fish using fishing rods, nothing else"

Recently, while at an event, I had a discussion with a marketing director at a large law firm here in Boston. The subject of online lead generation was brought up and here was his knee-jerk response:

“We are not interested in online lead generation at the law firm, because we’re primarily a business to business law firm and we only get business from known referrers.”

I found this response odd, as most of our clients are in the B2B space, but not surprising. Many people are not privy to the current data and trends surrounding social media, online marketing, and purchasing behavior for the B2B buyer. I immediately informed him that we work with many law firms, accounting firms, and consulting firms in the B2B space. I supported my statement by sighting recent data and statistics from reports and studies by Forrester Research, MarketingSherpa, MarketingProfs, and B2B Magazine. I stated that nearly all of the data and qualitative analysis suggests that B2B buyers of technology and/or services are influenced by social media, and that most B2B marketers plan on increasing their online marketing spend in 2009.

Here was his second response:

“Well, we don’t want that type of business that you get online”

Huh? It was like someone claiming that they don’t want the business they get from public relations, advertising, direct marketing, or even networking. In my response, I explained how one of our professional service clients (that offers audit, tax, consulting, and wealth management services – with over 400 employees) is averaging over 20 new business leads per month, and has generated over $600,000 in new contracts that directly resulted from, and are tracked by, our efforts over the last 6 months. I also cited how when I have made purchasing decisions for our 20+ person agency in the past, I was greatly influenced by product reviews and advice/referrals from individuals in my LinkedIn groups, as well as from content that I downloaded online and from search results on Google. He still wasn’t buying it and so I moved on.

fish-stocking-1Later in the day I asked myself, “Why wouldn’t someone want this type of business (from online sources)?” I thought about what he said and equated his statements to something like “We catch fish using fishing rods, nothing else. We don’t want to try using nets, fishing boats, or any other means because we don’t want the type of fish that you catch using these tools.”

Thinking in these terms helped me to understand that there really was only one answer to my question… It wasn’t that this marketer didn’t want this type of business (as I am sure the firm’s leaders would agree); it was just that this person didn’t want to engage in an activity that he didn’t fully comprehend. This is a very common issue among c-level marketingfishing execs.

My conclusion led me to another question—with social media adoption (for general usage) among B2B buyers growing at a much higher percentage rate than that of B2B marketers (for marketing purposes), wouldn’t it make sense that the marketers who embrace this shift in purchasing behavior at an early stage also be the ones that realize the greatest benefit (i.e. the largest “catch”)?

My advice to any person in a senior marketing role is to educate themselves as quickly as possible on the current trends, data, and purchasing behavior of the B2B buyer and how the Web is influencing and impacting their purchasing decisions.

If you don’t like change, you‘re going to like irrelevance even less.”— General Eric. Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U. S. Army

AJ Gerritson

AJ Gerritson is the Founding Partner at 451 Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @AJGerritson

7 thoughts on ““We catch fish using fishing rods, nothing else"

  1. I think this boils down to the questions of “Is Twitter a fishing rod, or is it dynamite?”. Twitter can drive a lot of clicks (raise a lot of fish) but what’s the total sell through (how many of they edible) on this traffic?

  2. I have talked with lawyers about using social networking and online marketing in general to generate leads, and I often get the same sort of responses.
    This is especially true for lawyers who focus on high-end business services (M&A, etc).
    I don’t understand the response.
    In my view, LinkedIn especially is a terrific tool for professional services firms to use to generate leads.
    Even more so because many of those deals are based on relationships.
    LinkedIn is about relationships, as is Twitter (though I think it’s much harder to convince a lawyer to Tweet).
    I would love to hear ideas from folks about how you can show someone in this group how LinkedIn can help them.
    -Josh

  3. I think the problem with Social & New Media “pushers” is that they (you) lack the understanding of someone’s ignorance. Meaning, if a C-Level exec (usually in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s) says no to your offer, you automatically assume that they are no embracing some sort of change. I tend to think that not everyone is living in the same world as the people that are on Linkedin, FB, Twitter, etc. (ie: US). That doesn’t mean that they are stupid; after all, they are C-Level and we’re trying to tell them how to run their operation – stand lightly on your soap box. The world (business & otherwise) is still full of people NOT engaging in social media. So what, everyone uses the internet; keep in-mind that not everyone using it as a tool like many of the readers of this forum. To dismiss is ignorance and at times it may be your own.

  4. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for your response.

    In response to your comments-

    (1) “I tend to think that not everyone is living in the same world as the people that are on Linkedin, FB, Twitter, etc”

    I know that there are many people who are not on LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, etc.. I was simply trying to inform this gentleman about the millions of people (over 40 Million on LinkedIn alone) that were engaging in these networks and about all of the data surrounding how purchasing behavior and B2B buyers are being influenced through social media.

    (2) “That doesn’t mean that they are stupid; after all they are C-Level executives”

    I definitely do not think they are stupid, do you think they are stupid? When I said “it was just that this person didn’t want to engage in an activity that he didn’t fully comprehend. This is a very common issue among c-level marketing execs” I was only stating that many c-level executives do not fully comprehend social media – nothing else. The way I see it… I don’t comprehend quantum physics, definitely won’t try to apply the principles of it at home, and certainly don’t consider myself stupid because I don’t understand it.

    (3) “So what, everyone uses the internet; keep in-mind that not everyone using it as a tool like many of the readers of this forum”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Our firm develops strategies based upon our clients and their clients/prospects behavior. We are completely aware of the fact that people use the Web very differently, and educate our clients on data surrounding online behavior for their prospects (e.g. how most fortune 1000 CEO’s are more likely to use search engines rather than be involved with social networks)

    AJ Gerritson

    P.S. I think it’s funny that you label me a New Media “Pusher” when you sell advertising! Didn’t you guys invent “push” marketing?

  5. I enjoyed this string and has me thinking about the velocity of change we are all experiencing. Fact remains that we dont know what we dont know, and frankly we are all tired of being reminded of this constantly. So this sunday, I am going to think more about it while enjoying a glass of wine and the end of the golf.
    your truly
    C-level executive.

    go Tiger!

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