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Fishing for Customers

Not long ago, I was on a call with a potential client who was lamenting the fact that he didn’t have enough leads in his business. “Once I get in front of them, we can close the sale,” he told me. “But getting in front of them—that is the issue.” Some variation on that theme is one of the three most consistent complaints I hear about growing businesses.

Getting the attention of your ideal client is not easy. But, at the same time, it is far easier than most businesses expect. As soon as they realize that they stink, everything begins to change. 

You see, my dad used to take my brother fishing during the beautiful summer months. My dad was a pretty decent fisherman but my brother, well, he couldn’t seem to catch anything more than seaweed and the occasional rotting boot.

My dad was determined to help my brother catch fish, so he tried everything: new gear, new tackle, new bait, new locations. Nothing helped and my brother was getting pretty down about it. My dad brought this seemingly hopeless case to a prize-winning fisherman he knew through work for advice that would save his father-son fishing adventures.

The man looked him dead in the eyes and said, “I think your son stinks.” 

All humans stink... to fish, anyway. Turns out, humans excrete oils from their skin that are repugnant to certain types of fish. Some of us, like my brother, are a little bit stinkier than others. My brother’s odor was so strong that, while undetectable to us, it sent fish swimming in the opposite direction of anything he had so much as brushed up against.

The man suggested a simple fix that allowed my dad to wash away the sent from any bait or lines or hooks that my brother touched prior to casting them into the water. They tried it and what ensued was simply magic: my brother caught fish.

When our marketing efforts are seeming to alienate the very people we are trying to attract, we need to stop focusing on where we are advertising, how we are advertising and the lack of results. We need to start taking a closer look at our messages and our ideal client.

Are you really speaking to their true concerns? Are you writing copy with our exact ideal client in mind so they can see themselves in your ads, words and in your solutions? If not, you’re like the stinky fisherman. Make simple changes to your messages to wash away whatever is repelling your customers.

Need some more direction on your marketing message? Email our editor to make sure you receive the author’s expansion on how to ensure your message resonates with your ideal client, to be featured in a summer issue of Window & Door magazine.  


Madeleine MacRae

Madeleine MacRae

Madeleine MacRae is founder and owner of MM MacRae Coaching & Consulting, where she brings her clients real-world experience from working for over a decade with contractors, dealers and manufacturers in the home professionals industry. She can be reached at