I was talking to Mark, my new business guy, and he wanted to know if I respond to the new business leads I find with Google Alerts. When I told him I do, he asked what my success rate was. It didn’t take a second of thought to come up with the answer – almost zero.

After talking about it for a few minutes, we determined there are three different ways to fish for new business: Casting, netting and setting bait.

Casting is the most common and the least effective new business method. While cold calling is the most extreme example, anytime we’re pursuing disinterested prospects we’re casting. We throw our lure out to where we think the fish are feeding and hope to drop our hook exactly when someone’s interested. It works, but not very often. Besides its low hit rate, casting is also time-consuming and emotionally draining. It’s often the method of desperation and last resort.

Netting is similar to casting but provides better results simply because the odds are greater. We throw our nets far and wide and hope we ensnare some good leads along with all the toss-backs. Many public relations and broadcast advertising schemes are various versions of casting – articles, speaking opportunities, features, blog posts – all are ways of reaching a lot of people with the intention of enticing some of them to your brand. But with a little thought and adjustment (the right bait) netting can be turned into a much more successful method of attracting new business.

Setting bait is the most strategic and usually the most effective way to get new clients. In this scenario we create enticing bait that our prospects are interested in and will respond to. Then we use PR, social media and advertising to distribute our message. The downside, of course, is that we have to wait for response (which is why we often resort to casting, it’s an activity that we can keep busy with). The upside is that when potential clients respond to our bait, they are interested in what we have to say and open to our suggestions.

How do you make your offers more enticing? It’s easy. Just remember that everything you communicate should be All About Them (the first point in my book, Building Brand Value). Instead of talking about what you do and how you do it, spend your time talking about what your prospect cares about. If you do this, you’ll find that your prospects will be much more open to your overtures. And the big fish will bite a lot more.