Bait the Hook to Suit the Fish

“Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want. So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”  Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit with a friend of mine on a deck she was putting together. She had an idea for an app and was hoping to convince an organization to partner with her and fund development. When she walked me through the deck, I immediately saw that there was a major flaw, and that it was related to the quote above.

Allow me to explain. The app focuses on a certain area—let’s say “fish”. It has two key elements:

  1. a game involving fish
  2. an interactive tour guide for use at the local aquarium

However, to be more accurate, the KEY key element was the game. Why?

  1. My friend loves games; she’s been playing computer games since she was a child.
  2. My friend has small children and a background in education, so she likes things with educational content.
  3. My friend is mad about marine life and protecting the oceans.

Put these all together and it looks like this:

Now, I think we can all agree that learning tools are great and that fishies are great (especially mine) and children learning about fish while playing a game is truly delightful. But that doesn’t mean that you or I are going to be willing to cough up piles of cash because my friend wants to play games about fish with her kids and/or get paid to develop an app which allows other children to play games about fish. Nor will the aquarium.

But that was what the deck was. Slide after slide talking about the game, and how it worked and the cute cartoon fish, and how it’s educational and even text talking about how my friend is annoyed that there just isn’t much out there in the way of games featuring educational content. So now let’s say my friend goes to the aquarium and presents this deck to the director. Within 10 minutes, they will be tuned out. Because, honestly, the director has their own list of concerns. For example:

  • They have an aquarium to manage. It’s a lot of work.
  • The budget is okay right now, but thanks to the current political climate, it’s probably going to be slashed next year. Or even next month. Because “helping young families” gets more votes in national elections than “helping fish”. The same applies to donations.
  • Kids today are lazy slugs who prefer to spend their time glued to their phones rather than visiting an aquarium. (In defense of today’s young, replace “phone” with “book” and this describes me as a child, in the 70’s. Actually, it’s me today, but now you can add the phone).

Notice that nowhere in that list is there anything along the lines of “there isn’t enough educational content in game apps and I think the aquarium should fund some”. In short, by the end of the presentation, my friend is likely to have gotten exactly nowhere. And that would be a shame.

Why? Well, remember her second key element? An interactive tour guide for use at the local aquarium? The one she mentioned almost as an afterthought “it could also be good for this” fashion? The one that still isn’t in her deck and will probably be added in at the end, in general and without the same level of focus as the game? Not only is that a great idea, but it would help to solve some of the director’s problems. For example….

  • Embrace the machine! An app that provides a series of interactive tours through the aquarium, complete with augmented reality features (“follow the rainbow parrot fish”) will enhance the visit. Unlike signs on tanks or even recorded guides, apps can easily be made available in multiple languages, can be updated for new exhibits and can be linked to GPS so that if someone detours into the shark room, they don’t hear about jellyfish. There can even be multiple versions of each tour for different age ranges; older sister doesn’t have to be bored while little brother follows the peewee version with dad.
  • Visitor management tool. What if the app allowed visitors to pay for entrance fees and simply scan a QR code on arrival–no waiting in long lines with antsy preschoolers on arrival? Add in GPS and a detailed map of the complex and that same parent will be able to get that preschooler to a bathroom or to a kiosk with ice cream that much faster. Happy children = happy parents.
  • Money! What can’t you sell via an app? Annual memberships, tickets to events, aquarium merchandise, or even a call-out to people to join the Aquarium team in the next Jerusalem Marathon and raise Money for the Guppy.

And of course, the app would have to feature a game—chock full of educational content— that children can play at home so that they can learn all about the fish they are going to see when they visit the aquarium that weekend or earn points to exchange for a free fish magnet on their next visit. 🙂

Would all of this interest the director? It probably would! My advice to my friend was therefore: bait the hook to suit the fish. Flip the presentation to focus on the interactive tour—focus on what the director wants—and frame what she wants (the game) as a part of the overall package to solve the director’s problems. And of course, convince them that she is the one to manage this project.

2 thoughts on “Bait the Hook to Suit the Fish”

  1. My favourite post yet for your writing style. I love the humour and examples that bring your points to life. ‘Kids are lazy slugs’ is the best line yet.

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