Last weekend I competed in a Fly Fishing tournament.

Before you picture me perched high on a rock over some pristine river, casting my line like Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It, delicately casting flies to the surface of rising trout, let me explain…

This was no ordinary fly fishing tournament. We were fly fishing for Carp.

Catching a carp on a fly rod is hard to explain. Here’s the best analogy I could come up with: it’s a lot like taking one end of your fishing line and tying it to the rear end of a train leaving the station.

Believe it or not, carp are one of the most complicated and challenging fish to catch on a fly – almost 50X harder to catch than any other freshwater fish, including trout. In recent years, fly fishing for carp has become immensely popular in North America. They’re called the “freshwater bonefish.”

Carp are extremely skeptical and careful. They’re easily spooked and willing to walk away the moment something doesn’t feel right. A carp requires very careful and delicate presentation.

Too often we assume that we know enough about our ideal customers and clients, that if we simply toss a big enough bait, they’ll bite. It almost always doesn’t work that way. [tweetable alt=”The Big Data Trap: If the data says it’s true, then it must be!”]We also fall into the trap that if the data says it’s true, then it must be true.[/tweetable]

Businesses today, more than ever, are collecting huge amounts of data to help them make important sales and marketing decisions, but sometimes it’s about looking beyond the data to really understand your customers likes and dislikes.

No amount of data will help me catch a carp, it’s about knowing precisely how to find them, what they like, what spooks them, and how to present the fly in the right way. To learn that, I can’t be at home reading books and collecting massive amounts of data, I’ve got to be on the water experiencing them directly.

In my upcoming book, Evergreen, I share the story about Starbucks, who needed data from over 7-million loyalty card holders to give them an insight that should have been obvious – loyal customers were less interested in discounts and coupons, and these efforts should be more focused on customers spending less, but who could–or showed the potential to–spend more.

One place you can almost always discover these insights is with your employees on the front-lines dealing directly with customers. Talk to them. Learn from them. [tweetable alt=”What important insights are your sales and marketing people missing?”]What types of things are common knowledge to them, but your sales and marketing teams aren’t aware of?[/tweetable]

Today’s Key Question: Are you making key sales and marketing decisions based on data, and if so, are you missing the profitable insights that can’t be seen without spending time on the water?

If you want to learn more about the fish, where to cast your line, and which fly to use, feel free to call me.