Catfish are named for their prominent barbels that are very similar to a cat's whiskers. Catfish have sweet mild flesh which makes them a very popular food choice.
This isn’t exactly the type of catfish we’re talking about here though. Have you seen the tv show “Catfish”?
If you haven’t seen Catfish the tv show, it is basically two hosts hunting human catfish. Human catfish are people who lure people into relationships by means of a fictional online persona.
They convince the admired that they are devoted to them and an entire relationship develops based on a core lie that they are not who they say they are.
As we’ve briefly touched on, catfishing is convincing someone to invest in the you that you have created.
Usually this is in a romantic sense...often inspired by betrayal or spite. But what about in business?
When we think about business it is all about making a good impression and connecting with your prospect which then leads to establishing a relationship.
Businesses catfish their prospects all the time.
Get yourself a piece of paper and jot down some ideas of how businesses lure prospects in with a fictional persona....
Once you start thinking about it, the examples will flow out of you and besides being completely unethical - it isn’t how you want to start off your relationship with your prospects.
We will come back to this a bit later…
There are several types of catfish and I’ve separated them into three categories…
Methodical - this is the catfish that purposefully designs campaigns and ads that do not represent their brand just to catch unsuspecting prospects.
Naive - this section are doing it without even realising it. They are scrambling to give prospects what they want and in their efforts are losing their authenticity.
Desperate - this is a tough one because when you’re starting out and you need to get those prospects to convert, you could be pushed to throw out all sorts of bait without considering the long term.
Catfishing represents dishonesty first and foremost which is the worst foundation for customer engagement because you haven’t taken the time to seek out your target audience, you’re just throwing out bait to whoever shows a bit of interest.
Businesses can be really creative when they catfish, here are some ways they can entice customers…
Products - by mis selling a product. If you are advertising consultancy and your expertise is in business planning but you find out prospects need marketing strategy so you suddenly bolt that on...you’re a catfish.
Reviews - this is a tricky one, but if you populate your website with reviews that are vague and don’t really share established results but are repetitive and unstable, you’re baiting.
Deliverables - a personal pet peeve. Setting expectations and not fulfilling them. This is calculated because you confidently tell your prospect what you can do for them and then don’t follow through. This isn’t just your reputation you are gambling with but their business.
Not having a customer journey - if you aren’t doing everything you can to understand who your customers are and what they want, how do you know that what you’re putting out there is valuable? This is like fishing in random pools hoping for a bite, any bite.
Trying to be what you are not and promising offerings you can’t fulfil leaves your prospects feeling betrayed and vulnerable.
Businesses can’t take all the blame here. Consumers can be just as guilty.
Imagine running a high end clothing boutique where you have trained personal shoppers helping customers. A customer comes in, has a glass of bubbles and dominates an employees time for 4 hours - only to walk out without putting money where her mouth is. Is this customer a catfish?
It depends. For the sake of this example, we’re going to say she was oohing and aahing, very impressed with the quality and showing all the right signs.
I’d call her a catfish.
Customer personas are what we base our marketing strategy on. They are what drives our customer journey, decides our segmenting and ultimately shapes our services.
If you create an ideal persona based on a fictional catfish, what would this do to the structure of your strategy?
So yes, prospects can be catfish and they can be damaging.
It makes the importance of a customer journey that much more important, getting to really know your prospects will help you build a trusting relationship.
The core reasons for catfishing are;
Low self esteem
A broken heart
Obviously these correlate more strongly with why people catfish for romantic reasons...because they don’t believe they are enough to be worthy of their target’s affection.
Business isn’t that different. Businesses may feel insecure in their ability to provide the level of service their ideal customer needs.
People catfish because they are striving to be the ideal version of themselves, so whilst (generally) their hearts are in the right place, the methods they use to achieve are cloaked in utter nonsense.
We know why people want to catfish and we know what motivates them.
Catfishing can also be easier...if you’re sending the same thing to your whole list even though they are behaving differently and wanting different content then you are not being intentional. You are basing your success on nibbles rather than active bites.
We know what, why and how. How do we combat catfish? With honesty and trust.
And what is the value of trust?
Trust is the core component to any relationship whether personal or business.
Sticking with the theme of business...you trust the service provider to take care of your business, you empower them to help you grow and you invest time and money with them because you need return on investment.
Trust isn’t just handed out like free coffee at a conference. You need to put in the graft to earn it.
Trust is what will ultimately drive your prospect to lifetime customer.
Building authentic relationships should be the basis of your business and this is why trust is such a valuable asset.
The most important investment you can make in your business is in your customers. So how do you build trust?
You create an effective customer journey
You build a long term nurture
You segment your list
You write valuable content
You track your customer’s behaviour
You wow them
You give them what they’re asking for
We have some great blogs in the vault that can help you get started on establishing those crucial relationships that are authentic and flow both ways.
You want customers who want what you have and you want them to keep coming back but you’ve got to put the work in to achieve that.
Succeeding isn’t always a gentle row around a lake, sometimes there’s bad weather and rough waters. Whatever you do, don’t just drop your bait in and hope for the best.
You deserve more as a business and your prospects deserve more from you.
Put in the work, dedicate yourself to attracting your prospects in an honest way and then engage with them effectively and authentically.
Don’t be a grubby catfish, be a transparent jellyfish.
The ninjas are a good bunch, if you’re veering towards being a bit fishy or you think your prospects are catfishing you - we can help.
Book a free Marketing Therapy Session and we’ll equip you with the tools you need to get back on track absolutely free.