|Written By: Bill Amason
Obabikon Bay Camp
|Originally Published in the June 1991
issue of The Outfitter Magazine.
After working productive sport shows for 20 years, it has occurred to me that the pendulum has swung into the non-productive area. Ever so gradually sport shows have changed from a place where fishing information is exchanged to a carnival atmosphere of hawkers and price gougers selling almost anything.
Sport shows are no longer a place to invite old guests to visit…not unless you want to expose them to the exaggerated claims of the competition. Human nature tempts everyone to think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. There are always new resort operators willing to give away product and services in order to build a business. Years ago some of us established our businesses in that very way. Now that we are established it could be a big mistake to invite happy customers to the sport show. All will be tempted. Some will be bitten. Sport shows today can result in a greater loss than gain.
Why are sport shows not what they used to be? Very simply there are too many shows and too few customers. Even as sport show attendance has increased in recent years, the NEW customer pool has been shrinking. Sport shows have increased attendance by expanding the number of booths and by offering a variety of goods and services from beef jerky to septic tank cleaners. At the same time the new fisherman pool is shrinking.
There has to be a better way. Today’s fishing resort operator must be alert for new customers. Here are some suggestions.
The best method of advertising is still “word of mouth”. Why not use it? Reward customers that refer friends and relatives to your resort. Encourage other customers to do the same. Incentive discounts to helpful customers will create new bookings. Outline your incentive plan to customers with a guest mailing just after Christmas. Do not mention sport shows.
The best market for new business is the over 60 crowd. Seniors control 90% of the wealth. Seniors have the time, money and the inclination to travel. The “baby boomers” are getting older and they represent a big, new growth potential to the Canadian fishing business as well.
What is the best way to attract seniors to your resort? Give them what they want. Seniors want the security of a hosted trip, organized group activities and a package deal. Seniors like motor coach tours, in part for the reasons given, but primarily because transportation is included. Transportation is the key. Without it you cannot tap this new market source. At this writers resort, bus tours have accounted for the only real growth in business for the past five years. Bus business has grown from 80 people in 1986 to 240 in 1991.
The best method of brochure distribution is the one that costs the least. I used to feel that the high cost of brochure distribution at sport shows could be justified by the quality of the distribution. That is no longer true. The quality is gone.
You have heard it said before that distribution is strictly a numbers game. It is true. The more brochures you distribute, the more leads you get. Even random street corner distribution will produce some sort of return. Three things to consider in brochure distribution are: cost of distribution, quality of market and cost of the brochure. All of these will affect the most important thing of all…rate of return.
What is the best way to distribute your brochures? If you do not already know the answer to this question, then you should choose a method that costs the least. For example, I have calculated that it costs me $1.00 to hand out a brochure at a sport show. That includes meals, lodging and transportation expenses only. A professional distribution company will do the same job at the same show for only 20 cents. That means while at the show I must produce at fives times the rate of return of the brochure distribution company to be cost effective. Twenty years of behind the booth selling have produced results that probably exceed that rate.
The least expensive way to distribute your brochures at a sport show is to let someone else do it. A professional brochure distribution company will hand out brochures at a wide range of travel shows for as little as $7.00 per day. You can buy 100 show days for $700.00, or about what it would cost you to do one four day show. Some brochure companies have big wide open booths that allow the customer to come in and shop for brochures in the area of their interest.
Other brochure distributors cover employee cafeterias, hotel lobbies, sporting goods stores, barber shops and travel agencies. Distribution cost run about 20 cents per brochure distributed. Travel agency distributions require 10% commission on all bookings. Local resort associations handle brochure distribution for members only in a cost effective manner. If you are a member of one, check out the distribution service they offer.
The best way to reach new customers in a new market area is through television. There are almost as many new fishing shows today as there are new sport shows.
What is the best way to advertise on television? As cheaply as possible…by trading your services for air time. All fishing shows are looking for material. You can offer a place to stay, boats to use and fish to catch. When you arrange a show at your resort be sure to ask the television host to include footage of your cabins and lodge and insist that your phone number be shown.
There are other very good yet inexpensive ways to advertise. First you must decide what market you are interested in. Next determine how much you have to spend.
If you want to advertise in a fishing magazine, you can stretch your dollars considerably by requesting an article that would serve as a lead-in to your advertising. For example, if you are on a trout lake and have a secret relating to catching deep water trout in August, convince the magazine to write about it. Your advertising will follow the free editorial.
If you want to start a bus trip, ask a local sports writer to do an article about it in the local paper. Offer him a free trip as the celebrity host and coordinator. Use the bus trip editorial as a lead-in to your advertising. Always make a plan to stretch your advertising dollars.
Remember this…good advertising is simply repeating the things that work and not repeating the things that do not, even if they used to. Do not be afraid to try new things. Do not get too secure with old things.