How Instant Book Got Me over 250 Bookings in the past Year

Sep 6, 2022 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

It’s not a secret that we love the Instant Book option here at FishingBooker. With immediate gratification for our clients, more business for our partners, and an even smoother booking process for everyone, Instant Book is a game changer for all parties.

We could go on and on about this feature. Instead, we wanted to hear what our captains have to say about it as they’re the ones to use it 24/7. Naturally, we reached out to one of our Instant Book pioneers – Captain Payton Anderson of Southern Country Charters. What he shared with us was impressive!

Captain Payton Anderson standing in the marina in Destin, Florida
Captain Payton Anderson, owner and operator of Southern Country Charters

Captain Payton listed his first boat with us in September 2020. He hadn’t gotten any trips until February 2021. That’s when he activated Instant Book and things took a turn for the better, well, instantly. Not only did he process over 250 Instant Book trips since then, but he also published his second boat and bought two more!

To claim that Payton mastered the art of Instant Book would be an understatement. Sure enough, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Some epiphanies, as he pointed out, came later and through trial and error. So, who better than Payton to share the secret of his Instant Book success with you? Here’s what he had to say about it…

From working on other boats to owning four of your own! How does Instant Book fit into that journey?

A side view of Captain Payton and his boat Southern Country Charters on the water

I started my listing in September 2020. That was kind of the end of the season. But it was also when I was getting my business started. I was working as a charter captain on another boat when I purchased a boat of my own, decided on my charter name, and started a business plan. A part of that business plan was the Instant Book feature with FishingBooker.

I had done the research to see how everything was gonna go. I planned and prepared heavily. Once February came around, I felt like I had everything ready to go. And that’s when I turned the Instant Book feature on and immediately started getting trips!

Would you say that Instant Book helped you grow your business?

If you’re just starting your business, Instant Book is the best thing you can do for it because you’re gonna get bookings – which is obviously making money, but it’s also gonna put people in the review process so that you can start growing your reputation on FishingBooker. Plus, you want to have the Instant Book option so that people can book any open date immediately. If you don’t let them book you like that, people are gonna start shopping elsewhere. And you don’t want that.

An infographic showing Instant Book as a useful feature for increasing charter business on FishingBooker by getting up to three times more bookings thanks to 70% of FishingBooker customers who prefer this option

You’re onto something there. According to our data, more than 70% of all trips that go through FishingBooker are Instantly Booked. Obviously, customers love this option. Why do you think that’s the case?

People like Instant Book because it makes the process, well, instant. It’s easy. They know they’re booked up and ready to go. It also takes a lot of the question asking out of the process.

Captains are always busy and we have to get back to people when we can. This makes it more difficult for us to sell a trip. Instant Book, however, takes that out of the equation. So, you can just get in touch with the customers afterward since they already had booked and confirmed the trip with you.

A family photo taken on Southern Country Charters boat while deep sea fishing in Destin, Florida

Do you get in touch with your clients immediately after the confirmation?

You should reach out as soon as possible to answer any questions they may have. But a lot of times too, we get messages from people that are like “Hey, we’re looking to have fun. See you.” So, they don’t want to talk to you, they just want to say hi.

But I try not to let too much time pass. Sometimes, I’m on the water and I don’t get to see the message until later, but I would say that I always answer within 24 hours. Be it the Q&A session or a friendly chat, customers appreciate your feedback.

An infographic with the title "What customers appreciate" showing the review a client left for Captain Payton Anderson of Southern Country Charters on FishingBooker after completing a trip with him booked through Instant Book

Sounds like you have it figured out. Was it always easy to handle Instant Book communication?

Initially, it was difficult for me to handle requests like catching Blue Marlin on a 4-hour charter. I struggled with managing the expectations and understanding that I didn’t talk with them before they had booked me. So, I had to learn how to speak with them after the fact they’d already confirmed the trip with me.

Interestingly, many captains dread the same in the beginning. While clients can message you before booking, many choose to text after the confirmation. How do you go about setting the post-Instant Book expectations?

I just talk with them to set realistic expectations and explain how the trip’s gonna go and what we can really catch. And they don’t want to cancel a trip. I don’t think I’ve had any cancellations even when people were expecting to catch Bluefin Tuna and Blue Marlin on a 4-hour trip.

I think that was probably the hardest part in the beginning. If you don’t get the chance to talk to the clients beforehand, the expectation management has to be well-handled after the confirmation. You have to be very precise and open so that you don’t lose them.

A photo of a happy angler holding Red Snapper on Captain Payton Anderson’s boat

Wow. You haven’t had any cancelations due to unrealistic expectations? 

When you’re talking to the clients beforehand, you’re doing a lot of selling. You’re feeling them out. They’re feeling you out. There are a lot of unknowns. But when they have already booked you, that’s it for them. Instant Book takes a lot of anxiety out of the picture for your customers because they know they’ve booked their trip. They’re ready.

So, talk to them after the confirmation as honestly as possible. They’re excited. They’re ready to go. They want to jump on your boat at that very moment (even if there are two months before the actual trip). When you reach out and explain how it goes, they’re totally understanding. 

A photo of two kids on the boat with Captain Payton Anderson holding Snapper
Captain Payton helping the little ones show off their catch

Well, you have an impressive number of successfully completed trips to confirm that. But tell us, do you find Instant Book overwhelming sometimes?

It can be hard sometimes to handle it as it takes a lot of paying attention to details and keeping calendars straight. This can be especially tricky if you have different booking platforms. But if you do pay attention to your calendars, Instant Book is undefeated. It’s really good as it helps you increase your business over time.

The calendar goes hand in hand with Instant Book. True or false? 

The calendar is such a key element of this. If you start double booking people and you don’t have your calendars aligned, it can be detrimental to your business. So, before you activate your Instant Book, figure out how to square up your calendars to know exactly what’s going on every single day, without question.

A photo of satisfied angler holding Red Snapper he caught while fishing with Captain Payton on Souther Country Charters boat

How do you stay on top of your availability?

Well, I’ve been pretty lucky to hire a few really good guys who are working for me now. So, that has taken a little bit off my plate and has given me more time to make sure that my calendars are good and that I can talk to my clients successfully.

A photo of Captain Herbert who is working for Southern Country Charters and handling Instant Book trips
Captain Herbie Harrell working for Southern Country Charters

Are Instant Book and calendar maintenance then a team work or one-man band can master it, too?

To be honest with you, I’m kind of old school with the calendar. I found out that manual updating is the best way of doing it. So, I take a calendar for each boat by hand and write down the dates on my own. I reconcile calendars every single week to make sure everything’s blocked off properly.

Any tips or tricks that can make calendar updating easier?

What I find helpful is using the app. I think the app is the best way of going about it. It’s hard to get in front of a computer sometimes. So, having the MyTrips app has been bliss. It’s just so instant. It’s right there at your fingertips. You can get on there and change things as you need to and whenever you need to. The app makes things a lot easier for us since we’re always running around on the boat or water. 

A photo of Captain Payton being out on the water on his Southern Country Charters boat

Now, there’s one question we’ve been wanting to ask. You sometimes change the advance notice. Based on our findings, Instant Book paired up with a notice period under 48 hours brings more traffic. Is that why you switch between 0 and 72 hours?

Actually, that was a little bit of trial and error. I had it at zero hours first. And gosh, I can’t remember when it was, probably February, or maybe March, but I got a booking at 11:30 pm for 7:00 am the following morning. Thankfully, I was awake and saw that I got the booking! But if I had been asleep, nobody would have shown up for those customers.

That made me nervous. So, I went back and set advance notice at 72 hours but I didn’t see as much success as I wanted to. Then I decided to try with 12 hours. If I see a booking at 7:00 PM I’ll be ready for 7:00 am. I knew I could handle that.

So, 12 hours has been that sweet spot for me. I can see it in time and get my captains notified. It gives me a little bit of wiggle room to organize everything. Anything less than 12 hours is kind of tight for me, but might work for someone else.

A photo of satisfied angler holding the fish he caught while fishing with Captain Payton on Souther Country Charters boat

Advance notice at 12 hours is truly a sweet spot. But as you said, it also comes down to what works for you and your business.

Absolutely. If you’re happy with having it at 12 hours, go ahead and select it. Or, if you’re more comfortable with having it 72 hours, don’t be afraid to set it up like that. This is my main business. This is how I make my living. I’m all in on this. So, 12 hours works perfectly for me. But some people do it on the side or on the weekends. So, apart from what numbers suggest, you have to find the right comfort level for you.

OK, final words of wisdom for fellow captains who are all in on this, too – how do you make Instant Book work for you?

Instant Book is a vital part of my business. It’s extremely important to how I handle my customers and how much business I get every single day through it.  I think you need to do your research on it first. Then think about it to figure out what works for you. And always be in touch with your clients as they rely on you. But Instant Book is the process that you need to go with when you use FishingBooker as one of your main booking platforms. I think it’s incredibly important.

An infographic showing four steps how to make Instant Book work for you along with the recording of Captain Payton Anderson talking about it

Instant Book: Powerful Booking Tool

It wasn’t without ups and downs that Payton found his sweet spot. And that’s ok, because how else could you figure out what works for you? However, one thing is certain – Instant Book is designed to fit the needs of the fast-paced world we’re living in. 

Be it charter operators, booking platforms, or customers, everyone wants that immediate confirmation and reassurance that they’ve got exactly what they’ve wanted. And Instant Book can make this happen. Sure, it requires some work on the calendar side, but what’s that compared to 200+ bookings a year and a huge base of satisfied clients?

A photo of Captain Payton leaving marina on his Southern Country Charters boat

All in all, you can always give it a try. It may happen that Instant Book isn’t for you, but it usually turns out that it’s been a feature you’ve been waiting for. You won’t know what you’re missing out on until you’ve activated it. So, give Instant Book a try, and who knows, maybe you’ll master it, just like Captain Payton did.

We hope you found Payton’s journey with us inspiring. Do you have any thoughts on Instant Book? Or similar success stories to share with us? Let’s talk in the comments below.

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