So, here’s my last marketing surfing lesson for you. It’s about “staying in the pocket.” The pocket is the part of the wave right in front of where its breaking (“the curl” as you may have heard it called). It’s the steepest, fastest part of the wave. Good surfers learn to use this part of the wave to generate speed for other maneauvers that slow them down (airs, cutbacks, off-the-lips, etc.). But as soon as possible, they always return to the pocket for more speed.
There are two lessons to be learned from this analogy of the pocket.
Don’t get too far in front of the wave.
- When you’re surfing, its easy to get excited and pump down the line only to realize that you got too far out in front of the wave where there’s less energy. You lose speed, can’t get back in the pocket, and you lose the wave. Bummer!
- In marketing, its also easy to get excited about where you’re going and the endless possibilities. You see huge growth in future markets and you go after them too early. The problem is, the marketing message gets diluted because you’re trying to talk to too many people at the same time. Eventually, the message means nothing to anybody because its trying to say something to everybody. I’ll quote Geoffrey Moore in his book Crossing The Chasm. He recommends, “focusing an overabundance of support into a confined market niche,” because “the efficiency of the marketing process, at this point, is a function of the ‘boundedness’ of the market segment being addressed.” Later, he says that “the more tightly bound [the market niche] is, the easier it is to created and introduce messages into it, and the faster these messages travel by word of mouth.”
- The lesson is, don’t try and go faster than you should. Stay in the pocket. Focus on your market niche. Dominate it before you move on to the next opportunity.
Don’t fade too far back.
- In an effort to get “barreled” (be totally covered up by the wave), which is the ultimate experience in surfing, you stall your board to slow down and fade back into where the wave is breaking. The result is the most exhilarating thing in the world — yet is a very fine balance. Fade too far back and you don’t come out of the barrel — instead you get thumped by thousands of pounds of crushing water. Get too eager and you’ll shoot out of the barrel and lose that opportunity. Getting it just right is all about managing your appetite for risk. Those who are willing to risk getting thumped will get more barrels. Risk too much and you’ll get thumped every time. Those not willing to risk it will never experience that awesome feeling of a “tube ride.”
- In your marketing efforts you also need to manage your appetite for risk. If you’re not ready to risk a little, you’re never going to taste success like you want. But, be careful not to get too risky. Getting thumped over and over is not fun and only exposes you to more problems (sharp coral reef, rocks, etc). You should be willing to be aggressive in your marketing. Even be a little over-the-top if that’s what you need to do to get the word out.
- Be edgy and controversial if that fits your style. But don’t blatantly attack competitors. Don’t be sour and pessimistic. Don’t push on your prospects pains so much that your brand gets a dark feel to it. Find a way to balance your marketing and your appetite for risk in a way that allows you to win most of the time. That’s what staying in the pocket is all about.
[Photo credit, thelastminute, on Flickr]