Harvesting Vs. Hunting — Which Company Branding Strategy Works Best?

In a “down economy” (are you just a bit tired of hearing that phrase?) it’s easy to resort to knee jerk reactions when it comes to marketing your brand. When business is good, it just seems to pour in with little to no effort. When things slow down, it’s tempting to start hunting clients vs. cultivating them. What’s the difference?

Hunting clients is externally focused behavior. It involves identifying your target market (assuming you know it) and going after them with compelling messages to lure them in. Hence you hear phrases such as an “advertising hook” or “bait and switch” or “call-to-action” etc.

Harvesting clients, on the other hand, is more of an internal focus. It involves creating the right environment, conditions and company culture to foster natural, organic growth.

Both approaches are valid, and I spent many years at my full-service ad agency utilizing the hunting method. Clients wanted me to go out and acquire new customers. It involved a lot of measuring, quantifying, calculating, pinpointing, spending, evaluating and justifying. In short, it often felt exhausting. And we were shooting at moving targets. All research is based on past behavior.

One of the reasons I transitioned to a purely naming and branding firm, was that I felt companies would be better served by creating the right image, message, and environment where potential clients would feel invited to come in and take part. In other words, a well-branded, highly congruent company could attract customers rather than grasp at them. Much of their growth would happen by word-of-mouth and referral. Like-minded customers would seek them out in much the same way a flower attracts bees… with natural ease. And here are a few reasons why it might be an option worth considering…

• Hunting clients assumes you know your target audience. In many cases companies have found, much to their surprise, that a product or service appealed to a completely different audience, age group, or gender than originally planned.

• Hunting clients shifts a company’s energies from aligning to acquiring. Rather than becoming more internally congruent with its core mission and values, the company becomes sales focused and appears aggressive and overly eager.

• Hunting takes on an “us vs. them” mentality where the customer is someone, or something, to be gained rather than served.

This is not to say that research, planning, and the smart use of technology and advertising don’t have their proper place in the marketing mix. What it really comes down to is the intent behind their use. Are these tools utilized to serve customers or to leverage them? One of the emerging traits of the Internet age is the demand for authenticity. Consumers are empowered with so much access to information they no longer want to be sold — they want to be engaged. And to engage them, we need to cultivate relationships. This involves a shift in perspective from “targeting” clients to “matching up” with consumers who share your values.

[bctt tweet=”…a well-branded, highly congruent company could attract customers rather than grasp at them. ” username=”phillipdavis”]

Take a look at your own marketing mix. What percentage is hunting based and what percentage is harvesting? Tools such as blogging, social media, and company newsletters offer the opportunity to develop a community of enthusiastic supporters. It’s this sense of connection that most consumers respond to, and one that should be nurtured and developed. It’s no longer about creating a “killer” ad campaign. Just as in human history, the hunters eventually gave way to the harvesters. So tend to your brand promise, keep internally congruent and align your company with its core values. Put away your gun and get out your watering can. Then and only then, can you reap the bountiful rewards of great branding.


About the author: With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.

BY Phil Davis

Brand Naming Expert

With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought-after naming expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.

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