Dear Fishing Captain,
I know you want to book more charters. You started doing this for the same reason I did – you were working for a way to go fishing more often. Your phone is your lifeline to book more charters. Customers want to talk to Captains. Your website is the sales tool that drive those phone calls and emails. They’re searching for a fun, relaxing experience with someone with knowledge and expertise.
A good website should answer all the important questions your customers have, and save you from answering dumb questions (like how much is the charter). If you don’t answer your phone when it rings, your competitor will book your trip. If your website doesn’t answer these questions, or doesn’t look credible that website visitor may never call in the first place.
The site you built in 1999 on Godaddy doesn’t cut it anymore.
I looked at LOTS of sites while I was building FishingCharters.com. Let’s face it – you’d like your website to be a lot better. Hiring a web guy can be expensive, so you need to be able to tell them what you want.
With this in mind, I want to offer some ideas on HOW to improve your marketing efforts online.
There are LOTS of options since the last time you touched your website five years ago, and I know you can do better. Let’s start with the site itself. As a customer/ website visitor, I want to see a few different things quickly – If I don’t see what I’m looking for, I’m going back to Google to call the next guy.
If you want something easy to manage – ask your web guy to switch you to wordpress.
As a fishing charter customer, these are my most important questions –
- What type of boat would I be fishing on?
- What fish do you catch?
- When is the best time of year to catch fish?
- Who would I be fishing with?
- How much is it going to cost me?
- What have you caught lately?
- Who can I call or email?
- Where do I leave a deposit?
- How do I get there?
With this thought process and customer funnel in mind, let’s take a look at the 9 pages EVERY captain should have, and what you will want to include for answering these important questions
We will save the most important page until last – the homepage – it should tie together your entire website, and proactively lead customers through their experience. Here’s the pages you will need content for.
1. Captain/ Crew/ About page
This page should be easy. Start with your favorite self-photos and your resume. Learn to write about yourself in the 3rd person. Don’t be humble. We want to know how many tournaments you’ve won, how long you’ve been doing it, and the biggest and best fish you’ve ever caught.
Tell people about yourself, and have some personality. No one wants to spend $500-$2000 on a trip with a salty old captain who only complains about life. Remember, the most important part of any trip for the majority of people is THE EXPERIENCE.
Tell your story, and show some photos. Convince your guest why you’re better than the other local options. Keep up to date information about your first mate and crew so people know what to expect. Here’s an example.
2. Boat and Equipment page
As a fellow boat owner, I know the difference between fishing on a busted old barnacle bucket, and a beautiful new 47’ Viking. I also understand the premium associated with this.
Tell me everything about your boat, and show me your best photos.
3. What we catch/ season
When is the best time to go fishing with you? In Miami, we are lucky to have a year round fishery, but many areas are very seasonal. The best captains focus on marketing their charter for the slow seasons, so they can continue to go fishing while most folks are sitting on the sidelines.
What fish do you catch and when? This can be accomplished with a fancy calendar setup, or something as simple as a description by monthly or quarterly seasons.
4. Pricing / Trip information
Proactively label your pricing on your website. Describe the trip experience. Tell about specialized trips, and related fees. Fishing is NOT a price sensitive service. You probably don’t want the people who are going to try to beat you up on pricing and get discounts fishing with you most the time anyhow. Do you really want to answer the phone, only to have someone ask if they can do a $100 split trip? Save yourself time and energy listing the pricing.
This is also your opportunity to set expectations for the trip. Don’t surprise your guests with gas surcharges and mate gratuities after they arrive at the boat. Tell them about the time to catch bait (or the cost associated with buying it) This page should link directly to your contact/ reservations page. Here’s an example
5. Best Catches Photo Gallery
Showcase your best catches. You need a camera. If you’ve been doing this for quite some time, you probably have some bigger, better catches than the newer captains. If you’re a new captain – you have to be more consistent with your fishing reports to prove your catching fish (see next point below)
Try to take at LEAST one photo per trip, and always document your best catches. The rule is – photos or it didn’t happen.
Grab a nice waterproof point and shoot camera (preferably with a video option) – it will return the $300-$400 several fold with your marketing initiatives. Worst case- use your phone, and figure out how to upload to a facebook page quickly and easily. Here is an example.
6. Fishing Reports Page
The reports and gallery page or similar but serve different functions. The reports page shows customers something fresh. I understand that most captains don’t really want to take on MORE responsibility, but this is the heart of your business.
As a prospective charter customer – I want to see what’s biting now, and what you caught yesterday (or the last time out). It’s great to see the biggest fish you ever caught in your gallery, but I also understand that fishing was much different 10 years ago, and that different times of year you will catch different fish.
The best and easiest way to manage this page is posting to facebook or a wordpress blog. You don’t have to do this every day, but at least a few times per month would be a good idea. Fresh content gives you a very distinct advantage over your competitors – but you certainly better be demonstrating that you are catching fish too!
For captains who are exceptional marketers and content creators – this is also the area where they can offer recipes, tips, tricks, and general information about fishing. Here’s an example.
7. Contact/ Reservations
Your contact information should be available on EVERY page. As a local business, you should have your business name, address, and phone number on every page of your website. You should also have a dedicated contact form for people to email you directly.
As a side note, I strongly suggest an answering service of some type for your business. This can cost between $10 – $40 / month, but is very worth it to make sure you’re not missing calls. I suggest and use Grasshopper. You can create a customized message with multiple mailboxes and options for driving directions, charter information, etc.
Most customers will NOT leave messages – they will call your competitors. You need to call them back as soon as possible, and answer all their questions. Let them know you are responsive, and there to help make their experience a great one.
If someone books with you online, make sure to followup with them as soon as possible to confirm, and give them the details of the trip. Here’s an example.
Where are you located, and how do I get there. If you leave from multiple locations, make sure to explain this thoroughly to your customer. Use a google map, and explain how to find you from multiple areas. This is a great place to also include information about local accommodations and restaurants, and any other useful and relevant information about meeting you and the destination as a whole. You should also have this information available in your voicemail. Here’s an example.
The homepage is the heart of your website. Your content is the lifeblood. It is the first impression most people will have of your business – make it a good one. LEAD them through the experience of your website, and teach them about the experience of a fishing charter.
Your homepage will be the entry point for most people entering your website – you have the unique opportunity to lead them through your website. Now that we know what questions people are asking, we can walk them through all the answers one by one.
Your homepage should include elements from each of the other 8 areas.
This should include your VERY best photos – linked with a call to action to these 5 important areas.
- 1. Captain/ crew
- 2. Boat
- 3. What we catch/ Best Catch Gallery
- 4. Pricing/ Reservations
- 5. Recent Reports
In this single page, you should be able to answer the majority of a customer’s questions in under a minute with the consolidated information from your other pages. Describe the experience! Most people get to take an expensive charter only a few times in their lives, and they want it to be a great memorable experience!
Most importantly, the page should have a “BOOK NOW” Call to Action. Make it easy to find how to book or contact you.
You may also want to links to reviews on trip advisor, yelp, google+, fishingcharters.com ;), or other review websites. These reviews help describe the experience to other potential guests.
With this critical foundation, you have answered your important customer questions, and provided a customer funnel to call or email you and book a charter. Don’t’ skimp on your website. It’s the driving force for your new business. You have the blueprint for what you need. Make it happen captain!
If you’re serious about a new website, and want some references – feel free to drop me a line.