“If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence. Determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down 70 times and get up off the floor, saying, “Here comes number 71!”
–Richard M. DeVos
This is the story of two fishermen, Frank and Joe.
Frank loves fishing. He goes fishing every day. He’s always trying new fishing spots. Sometimes he catches a lot of fish and sometimes he catches none. But that doesn’t really bother him; he just gets up the next morning and goes fishing again. He reads books and magazine articles about fishing, and hires a fishing guide.
Frank invests in new lures and fishing poles. He even tried fishing with a net, then with a spear. Sometimes he uses a fly and sometimes live bait. Sometimes he fishes in a lake and sometimes in a stream. He’s even tried the ocean.
Sometimes Frank wonders if he isn’t wasting his time and money trying to catch these crazy fish. But most of the time he enjoys it.
If the fish he catches is too small, he throws it back and rebaits his hook. If the fish is the right size, he takes it home, and cooks a delicious meal. If he has more than he can eat, he puts them in a freezer.
Occasionally, he fishes all day in the cold rain and trudges home empty handed, feeling like he’ll never catch another fish.
Every now and then, Frank catches a whopper, and feels like he just won the lottery!
Frank finds that as time goes on, he gets better and better at fishing. He learns the techniques that suit him best, which lures work in which locations, the best time of day to catch each kind of fish, and which spots are best in different kinds of weather.
He knows that he can never think that he’s found “the secret” because the fishing is always changing. Fishing holes that were great a year ago are now dried up. Rivers where he couldn’t catch a cold before, are now full of fish.
Interestingly, every time Frank goes fishing, he meets other fishermen, who are only too happy to share fishing stories and to tell him what techniques and locations have–or have not– been working for them.
But most of all, he just keeps fishing every day.
Now let’s meet Joe. He isn’t at all sure that he likes fishing. He wishes someone else would catch the fish and just let him cook and eat the fish, which is, he explains, what he is trained to do. He doesn’t feel he should have to fish.
When someone proposes fishing, Joe wants to know how much it costs to go fishing and if he will be guaranteed to catch fish that day.
If he does go fishing, he doesn’t bother to learn anything about it. He rents a pole and some lures, making sure he gets the cheapest ones possible.
He goes to the nearest body of water, because he can save money by walking there instead of driving. He casts his line in the water a few times and — when he doesn’t catch any fish –drops his pole in disgust and declares “Fishing doesn’t work!”
He does this once a year.
A fishing guide offers to take Joe to the best spots and teach him what he knows about fishing, but Joe turns down the guide because he’s too expensive and he won’t guarantee how many fish Joe will catch.
The guide does offer one guarantee to Joe, however: “I guarantee that if you don’t go fishing, you won’t catch any fish.”
In your opinion, who will catch more fish, Frank or Joe?
When it comes to marketing your services, are you Frank or Joe?
Are you simply interested in cooking and eating the fish, but not interested in investing the time and money that is required to ensure a steady supply of fish?
You don’t have to be a marketing wizard. You don’t have to have all the tools, all the knowledge, all the methods, all the experience, all the personnel and all the expertise. You don’t have to do anything, except one thing: You have to be committed to catching fish.
Try, Try Again
“Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
— Calvin Coolidge
The secret to successful marketing is the same as the secret to success in all other areas of life–persistence.
Or, to quote Woody Allen, “Ninety percent of success in life consists of showing up.”
With a few exceptions, people fail for one simple reason: They give up. They are not really committed. They give it a half-hearted try, willing to “accept” huge success as long as they don’t have to work too hard, or spend too much money or accept any disappointments.
Imagine an actor who doesn’t commit to his craft, doesn’t spend any money on lessons, doesn’t rehearse or train, doesn’t invest in make-up or costumes, doesn’t do any research on what roles are being cast or what the name of the show is. Now imagine this actor goes to a couple of open auditions to Broadway shows, and is disappointed not to be offered the leading role immediately, and decides to stop going to auditions.
Now imagine another aspiring actor. He reads the trade magazines. He circles all the auditions that might want someone like him. He prepares material that is similar to that of the show being cast. He shows up on time, dressed like a professional. When he’s turned down, he smiles and thanks the casting director for the opportunity to try out.
He does this once a week, every week, forever. He’s losing money. He has to work nights as a waiter. He has to invest in his wardrobe and his acting lessons and in a printed resumé and photo card. But he keeps going and he keeps getting rejected.
What do you think? Who will succeed? Our second actor might or might not succeed. But my guess is that eventually he’ll get a couple of call-backs. Then he’ll get a role. Then, depending on his talent, his continued hard work and luck, maybe he’ll get to be a star.
There’s no guarantee–except the guarantee that applies to the first actor: He’s guaranteed to fail. He’s given up. He’s not even showing up. That’s just how it works with marketing. I have seen it over and over again. If you market consistently, you will succeed and you stand a good chance of succeeding spectacularly. If you don’t, well, you can sit home and wait to win the lottery.
A Long and Winding Road
Can you succeed by working hard for 40 years and building your network, your reputation and your referrals? Yes, but you can fail that way too. At best, it’s going to be a long hard slogging.
In my job, I come into contact with thousands of attorneys each year, and what I see is always the same. The ones who market consistently get the clients and the revenue. The ones who don’t, don’t.
You must be committed, not just interested. You must be willing to accept disappointment. But in the big picture, you will succeed.
Think about friendship. If you go out into the world with a consistently friendly attitude, you’ll be disappointed a fair amount of the time. You’ll meet people who mistake your friendliness for gullibility and seek to take advantage. You’ll meet people who reject your friendliness because they are angry, or disappointed in their own lives, or bitter. You’ll meet people who don’t like your looks or your accent. You’ll meet people whom you don’t want to have anything to do with. But over the course of a year, if you go about your business with a consistently friendly attitude, I guarantee you’ll have made a many new friends, as well as friendly acquaintances, and you’ll feel great about yourself and the world.
But if you ask me, “If I go to this party tonight, and I’m friendly, can you guarantee I’ll make 20 friends?” Or, “If I’m friendly to Joe, can you promise he’ll like me?” The answer is no. I can’t guarantee any individual transaction. I can only guarantee that in the long run, you’ll have lots more friends than someone who doesn’t try.
Marketing is just like that.
The military theorist Carl von Clausewitz said, “In war, planning is essential, but all plans are useless.” This is equally true in marketing. You have to have a good idea of what you’re trying to accomplish and how you plan to get there. But it almost never turns out the way you planned. When you market consistently, money comes to you. Not, perhaps, in the way you planned. Often, in some very strange chain of circumstances that took place only because you were out there marketing. You “showed up.”
“They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent, there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.”