Finding New Customers is a Lot like Fishing

The average angler or hunter is a person that likely works a full time job doing something other than hunting or fishing.  They look at outdoor guides as an enviable position.  I mean, how could it get any better than to make a living working in the outdoors?  However, most outdoor fans don’t realize that running a hunting lodge or a fishing guide service takes dedicated effort and year round work. When it comes to finding new clients, there are some strong similarities to fishing.

Tried & True Methods

Most anglers, as well as fishing guides, have a handful of techniques or strategies that work well for them.  It could be something as simple as using a Texas rigged worm 90% of the time, or it could be a system of working through a handful of lures until something bites.  Anglers know that past experience says “I have used this lure/technique before to catch fish, it should work again.”   However, sometimes doing the same old thing just does not work

The same can be said for marketing.  The old fashioned method of “give customers great service and they will tell all their friends about you” is a strategy based on hope.  More often than not, outfitters and guides need to be proactive in trying out marketing methods like email, social media, and web leads to go along with their traditional forms of advertising.

Familiar Spots

Anglers are notorious for fishing a “special spot” that they think nobody else has ever found.  They caught a few fish there once, maybe twice, and now they are convinced that fish live there.  However, seasoned tournament anglers will tell you that finding a pattern in a lake, stream or river is a better strategy.  If bass are hitting a blue and black jig around a particular drop-off chances are good they will hit the same lure at a similar type of drop-off elsewhere in the body of water.

When it comes to marketing outfitters need to branch out from their familiar zone.  Video might work great for them once, and then fizzle.  In the meantime, their competition could be using a blog and social media to drive in new leads and find customers.

Stay Current with Gear and Changes in Technology

Anglers love to get new toys.  New rods, reels and lures are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are digital scales, waders, ventilated shoes, hats, gloves, hook removers etc., etc., etc.  They have no problem talking to their fishing buddies to find out if anybody has tried the latest gadget to find out if it is worth its salt.

Marketing changes as technology changes.  The techniques and strategies that were in use 10 or 15 years ago are antiquated relics now.  An outfitter that does not have a strong web presence with significant amounts of updated information will lose to the competition quickly.


Try Something Different 

Wonder if THIS will catch me some fish???

Anglers get stuck going after the same old fish.  A trout guy will spend HOURS fishing for the rainbow beauties while ignoring the crappie, bass, carp and steelhead located all around him.  Same can be said for anglers that like the other species.  Anglers need to try their hand at catching a new type of fish and even a new technique.  They could discover some fun that they were neglecting.

Outfitters also need to try some new techniques.  Whether it is a full scale social media blitz or simply getting their toes wet in one place like Facebook or Twitter, they should try out something new.  They may find some new friends and discover a new side to their business that they previously had never considered.


What type of gear checklist do you have?

When the average angler or hunter considers paying for a guided trip they usually think of a few things.  They picture a hands-off approach where the guide will effortlessly lead them to game and the customer simply has to pick out a trophy.  What customers don’t realize is that the guide has spent literally hours scouring the best places to find where the big trophies hang out and how to best approach them.  What customers also don’t realize is that they have a responsibility to be prepared when they arrive.  As the guide you can offer some assistance to make sure your customer is ready to have a good time.

Checklist for New Bookings

One of the easiest ways to help customers is to offer a simple checklist.  Everybody gets excited and can easily forget something in the rush to get out the door and headed to their destination.  Offering a checklist of everything the client will need can set the expectations for the client and make your job easier.  It will also make the trip more enjoyable for the customer.

When you are putting down the items it is a good idea to mentally walk through a typical day and see what you would use for the trip.  Think about your clothes, your bathroom items like deodorant and toothpaste, your prescription medications, and similar items.  Consider recommending that the customer bring some backup items like an extra set of sunglasses or extra pair of shoes.  Accidents happen and nobody wants a trip ruined by a simple everyday occurrence like breaking a pair of sunglasses.

It goes without saying that you should offer an extensive list of the gear that the client needs to bring.  Again, go through a typical day in your mind and consider the types of reels, rods, line, hooks and lures you use in your operation.  Any special tools that are unique and handy for your type of fishing should also be mentioned.

Inspect the Gear

When the client arrives, take 10 minutes to look over their gear.  Make sure the rods are in good shape with no broken or missing eyes.  Check the reel to see if it was recently oiled.  Inspect the line for nicks, abrasions or weak spots.  Taking these few moments to look over all the equipment could spare you and the client heartache on the water when that elusive 10 pounder breaks a line or jumps off the hook because of some issue that could have been resolved back at the lodge.

Remember this one thing.  Even if a client leaves with a wall hanging trophy, it does not mean they will come back to you for another trip.  Make the outing as enjoyable and hassle free as possible so that they tell all their friends “Man, you HAVE to go see these guys!  They really take care of the angler!”