I was recently in a restaurant that I really like locally that had undergone some ownership changes and observed a few differences in how things were working including something that made me hug the owner. What was that single thing? Fish bowling. Now if you look in the Urban Dictionary for fish bowling you’re going to see something quite different than what I’m referring to so first let’s define what fish bowling is.
Simply put, fish bowling came from business owners who have a retail location putting a fish bowl on their counters and asking for people to sign-up for their regular mailing. I remember in the olden days of marketing how we would treasure these names and would carefully create newsletters using a program like Aldus PageMaker to craft newsletters that would get printed and actually mailed to the recipients. Where are those PageMaker skills today?
Things haven’t really changed all that much today. Now that fish bowl on the counter might be a sign-up form on a website or Facebook Page and I’m still working on regular newsletters. And, frankly, they’re still an effective tool for many kinds of businesses when done correctly.
When I sold the resort and started this adventure I only had a very few friends on my mailing list. I set some goals and worked on the sign-ups and soon I had a whole lot of people on my mailing list. In fact, once I missed a Monday Morning Marketing email and I got a ton of email with howls of complaints. My goal is to provide as much value as I can by pooling the various sources of information I have access to and I guess I’m doing that. Or, at least I hope so.
This is also an effective way to market your business but a lot of people don’t see the value of sending out emails. I can see why as we all get too much junk in our email. But what if what you’re sending isn’t junk?
If someone is kind enough to give you their email what has worked for me and for the case studies I’ve looked at and been a part of is to provide value to the recipients. If you’ve been part of this email family for long enough you’ve seen me write about fire hosing in social media - you don’t want to do that with your email either.
Your emails to clients can’t really be a one-sided “buy now” story - there has to be some value to them. And I’m not talking coupons.
For example, one of the people whom I’ve worked with owns a restaurant and we actually share some kitchen tips in their newsletter. Since everybody eats, this has proven to be a great part of this newsletter. In fact, several of the short videos we worked on actually got huge organic distribution because they provided value to the recipients.
People love behind-the-scenes information and tips. If you’re manufacturing a product, perhaps videos or information on some insider ideas might give your recipients a glimpse into why your product is better. Restaurants can do cooking tips or even recipes. Resorts, perhaps, can share some of the tips for how they keep their rooms so clean. I’ve already shared how a local winery is giving tips on wine tasting and selection.
Each of these ideas duals as a useful tip and a statement of having great knowledge in the area, establishing the newsletter writer as an expert. Win, win.
The extreme of delivering value and the “wow” factor is Dr. Anissa Holmes, a dentist in Jamaica who has used social marketing and the power of video to grow her dental practice to the point that she now speaks on social media marketing. Among other things, they choose a charity each month and offer free dental service to that organization. They also have shared videos such as how crowns are made and how they’ve answered customers’ requests for changes/upgrades.
Their testimonial videos are the most powerful part of that story and, for those, they simply use an iPhone to shoot a video of someone attesting to the gentle nature of their dentistry experience and share it on social media and in their newsletter. Nothing fancy, just honest content.
Fish bowling can be a very effective part of your marketing strategy. For a traditional storefront business you literally can have a fish bowl and, perhaps, offer incentives to those who sign-up for your email.
Oh, another thing. If you do have a sign-up form make sure that you have an email that lets people know they’ve signed up and asks them to put you in their address books. A lot of spam filters block these emails so you’ll want to be sure you’ve let them know the emails are coming and that you’ll be delivering value right in their email inbox. There’s nothing fishy about it, fish bowling can be a great marketing tool on a grand scale. You could say it’s a whale of a tool.