There’s one thing we can all agree on: there’s a lot to think about when it comes to marketing your fishing charter. Even the most organized captain can find it difficult to prioritize their to-dos and provide a great service while their phone just doesn’t stop ringing.
And these are some tough times to be a small business owner. Back in 2018, according to Forbes, about 70% of all new companies were able to make it through the first two years, but only half were predicted to make it to the 5-year mark. And that dropped to just 30% after a full decade on the job! After the COVID-19 pandemic, we hazard a guess that the trend is even more worrying today.
However, for most businesses, the difference between sinking or swimming isn’t in the quality or value of their product. It’s not even the passion and commitment they put into creating it every single day.
The success of any small business primarily comes down to its ability to market its product intelligently and effectively. Only through smart marketing can you hope to maintain a constant stream of new customers. And that’s true for fishing charters too.
But, how do you do that? Can you afford to spend your time and money figuring out exactly how Google decided to rank you on the third page for fishing charters in your area? How can you make sure your happy customers not only come back, but spread the word – and take advantage of it?
If you’re going to make it into that top 30% of small businesses, you’ll need to find the answers. We’re here to tell you how to give yourself more than a fighting chance!
1. Create an Attractive Website
According to a recent survey, more than half of all small businesses still don’t own a website for promoting their services. If you’re one of them, do yourself a favor and buy a domain name right now. It’ll cost you about $10.
A website is the main component of any company’s marketing strategy. Put in fishing terms, it’s how most anglers will discover you exist and then decide whether to book a trip with you. But, the first impression will be made in an instant, so you want it to look good.
Research shows most users give an average website just 4 seconds to load before they get out and move to the next one. Try not to fill your website with widgets of singing fish, or anything that may slow down the page’s loading time. Simply make sure to create an appealing, user-friendly interface, with your contact info clearly visible.
But more than that, you’ll want to address the needs of customers. Make sure you answer the following:
- Which fish will I be able to catch?
- How comfortable/safe is the boat?
- How experienced are the captain and crew?
- What type of trips do you offer and how much do they cost? Are there any additional costs?
- How can I get in touch with you?
It should come as no surprise, then, that the two pages that get the most attention on charter websites are galleries and fishing reports pages.
People love seeing what you usually catch. They want to know what your biggest catch of all time was, as well as what’s biting when they plant to come. You should always carry a high-quality camera, and make sure you regularly update your reports page with fresh angling stories.
This lets potential customers know that you constantly put your clients on fish. And you’re letting everyone know that you’re still in business and are committed to maintaining a strong online presence.
Pro Tip: More than half of customers now visit websites via mobile devices. But 9/10 websites still aren’t mobile optimized! Get ahead of the game and showcase the key points you want to stand out, along with a clear call to action.
FishingBooker Tip: Every captain registered on FishingBooker is encouraged to share reports directly onto the platform. They’ll show up in Google search results for customers all over the world to see.
2. Spend Money to Make Money: SEO and PPC
Your website is of no use to you if no one can find it online. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-Click Marketing (PPC) are two routes that lead to where all young and naive websites dream of getting eventually: the number one page on Google.
When done right, SEO can ensure your website appears naturally as an organic search result for a certain query – say, when a customer types in “[your city] fishing charters.”
PPC, on the other hand, lets your website quickly be featured in that advertisement box above the natural search results. But you’ll have to pay for each click you get to your site.
According to research, fewer people click on advertised links than organically-ranked links, so SEO is key. But acquiring natural search engine rankings is a long-term goal and a slow, tedious process. Even when you reach the top, you have to work hard to get there. Meanwhile, PPC lets you get to the front page of Google right now, and you can witness the results within hours.
PPC works by letting you bid on a certain keyword or phrase. Say you run an inshore fishing charter business from Tampa. If you want your website to be featured in the advertisement box whenever someone searches for “Tampa Fishing Charters,” you can bid for the right to do so. If your bid is higher than that of the other bidders, you’re given the spot. Then, whenever someone clicks on your link, you pay a small fee to the search engine.
If you decide to try PPC (which we strongly encourage), be very specific with the keywords you bid on. Rule of thumb: bid on a combination of [Your Location name] and the words “Fishing Charters” or “Fishing Trips.” This will give you the highest probability of “conversion,” – turning the people who click on your website into paying customers.
Why? Well because people searching for charters and fishing trips are more likely to be interested in booking a trip than those just searching for “fishing.”
Pro tip: Build an army of back-links. That is, web links to your website from other quality websites that are relevant to your keywords. Search engines will think of you as a more reputable business and boost your ranking, and customers will have more ways to find you.
FishingBooker tip: We invest heavily into PPC, so by listing your boat with us, you actually get access to the same traffic you’d otherwise have to pay for absolutely free. And we have a professional team of writers to optimize your listing to rank for keywords on search engines.
3. Promote Yourself through Various Media
You should be very aware of the power of social media by now. While Facebook and Instagram offer valuable PPC opportunities for companies, creating a profile and connecting with customers is completely free. And should make the most of it!
Start by creating a business page which people can like or follow. Remember what your clients want to see on your website? Use these sites to upload new photos from your trips and chunks of fishing reports on a daily basis. Also, be sure to give prompt responses to any customer questions, as well as be relatively engaged with most discussions on your profile.
Video material is becoming recognized as increasingly relevant by businesses and search engines alike. This is where that high-quality camera carries an added value. Keep on the lookout should anything of potentially “viral” value happen on any of your trips.
YouTube is a must, but other video-based social apps like Tik-Tok and Snapchat are exploding as well. I know it might seem overwhelming to keep up with all of the latest fads of online social activity, but guess what? That’s exactly what the 70% of companies that failed thought as well.
Pro Tip: Consider holding a contest on social media, where someone can win a discounted or free trip. Announce the contest everywhere you can and call your previous clients to inform them about the prizes. This will generate traffic to your profile, and once the people swarm in, it’s your time to shine.
FishingBooker Tip: Head over to FishingBookers’ Facebook and Instagram pages for inspiration. You’ll see that we advertise catches, locations, and even certain charters! This helps generate traffic to our site, but also gives you the chance of extra exposure!
4. Keep Customers Coming Back
If your contact with the customer ends the moment that they step off your vessel, you’re losing a potentially invaluable resource. Providing your customer with a great fishing experience is a good start for repeat business but it won’t get the job done by itself. Your primary goal after the trip should be to make sure the customer remembers you in a positive light. You can do so in a few easy steps.
Keep in touch with your customers. Tools such as newsletters or regular emails to existing customers are a clever reminder of just how amazing the entire experience was for the clients. And, you can let them know exactly what you think will make their next fishing trip even better.
Make sure to give your newsletter a personal touch. Was there anything especially fun or memorable that happened during the trip? A couple of jokes you couldn’t stop laughing at? Integrate those moments throughout to create a nostalgic environment which compels the customers to want to come back again.
Offer discounts to loyal customers and offer gifts that carry a personal signature. Do you have any merchandise? Did your customer catch anything that they were particularly excited about and you managed to snap it? The options are limited only by your budget and your imagination. In the end, it’s all about creating an experience that will last long after the trip is over.
With all of this, you’re sure to get a good review. That breeds confidence among potential customers and encourages them to book with you. One of the first things customers look at when they want to buy or book anything is the star rating and comments previous buyers have left before. Keep up the good work, and the opportunities are endless!
Pro Tip: Never be afraid to ask for referrals. If your customer had a great time on board, why wouldn’t they be more than happy to let their friends know about your service? Word of mouth is one of the best marketing methods. It makes your clients your very own brand ambassadors!
FishingBooker Tip: You can offer discounts with the option to customize trips, and our newsletters for captains and customers will keep you up-to-date with all the fishing action, and any changes to our service.
5. Sell Like Your Life Depends on It
At the end of the day, you, the captain, are the heart and soul of your business. And as someone whose livelihood also depends on the survival of this whole charter thing, you need to be able to sell.
You’ll probably need to get out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t literally mean morphing into a walking sales pitch, bu you should take every chance you can get to promote the business further. After all, you know that what you’re selling is good, so there’s nothing wrong in promoting it! If your sale goes through, it’s a win-win for both you and your customer.
Consider applying to speak at a seminar. Track down local sportsmen groups or fishing associations’ events where you can give talks. If there isn’t anything, create an event yourself. You know the ins and outs of the business, so why not use that knowledge to your advantage? if your expertise becomes more known locally, chances are you’re going to be picking up more referral business as a result.
Attend events in your industry in order to promote your business, learn more about your competition and form mutually beneficial partnerships. Many charter fishing trips are booked at trade shows. Establishing a consistent presence on such venues will go a long way in helping you fill out your schedule.
Even if you’re not leading a discussion, try mingling. Get unique business cards and hand them out to everyone you meet. This is where creativity comes into play once again. Make your business card stand out, and potential customers will take notice – it’s more than just a name and number on some paper, you know.
Pro Tip: Try and find a related business venture that you can partner with – a service that complements, but doesn’t compete with your own. For example, a regional fish store local restaurants where your clients can eat the catch afterwards. This will enhance your presence and the customer experience.
FishingBooker Tip: List your boat on FishingBooker to promote your services. We already cover most of the points raised above with our teams of specialists, and have the ability to market you to thousands of people daily.
And You’re Ready to Start Nailing It!
That covers our five steps to improve your fishing charter marketing. We know it’s a lot of information to digest, and it’s only natural if you feel a little overwhelmed by it all. But using even just a couple of these tips is sure to help you take advantage of the potential customers out there. Feel free to always refer to this guide, and tackle any tip whenever you feel ready to!
Now over to you. Have you ever tried any of these tricks to improve your fishing charter marketing? What have you found to be the most useful? Let us know in the comments below.