Q: We have a small fishing charter business in southeastern Alaska and are looking for ways to find new clients. We've thought about trying to find an agent who would sell our charters for a commission, but we don't know where to start. We get inquiries through our Web site, but we need other ways to get our business out there. Any ideas?
A: Whether you own one of a hundred dive-and-snorkel charter businesses in Key West, Florida, or a charter fishing boat in southeastern Alaska, your principal challenge is to differentiate your business from the competition and create a unique sales and marketing proposition that makes tourists want to sail off into the sunset with you. Since your charter business is particularly remote and tourists must take two planes (Alaska Airlines from Seattle and then a smaller plane) just to reach you, your story must be extremely compelling. You must also selectively target potential visitors who are predisposed to your message using media that reach out to them when they're most receptive.
What makes choosing your fishing charter a unique, not-to-be-missed experience? And why should fishing enthusiasts book with you vs. a sea of competitors? Take a long, hard look at what you have to offer, and create a list of unique benefits that incorporate the mystique of your remote and beautiful wilderness area and the bounty of fish to be had, along with your own compelling story. Weave these unique benefits into a print advertising campaign in publications targeting visitors to your part of the state. Research outdoor- and fishing-related magazines that offer regional advertising rates using tools on the Web, including www.publist.com . Also contact major newspapers in feeder cities, such as Seattle, for advertising opportunities in related travel or sport fishing editorial sections.
Make your company's Web site more compelling by using your unique sales and marketing proposition to make a stronger case for your charter business. Put listings on all related Alaska sites that focus on fishing and outdoor vacations. And participate in discussion lists on the Web that draw fishing enthusiasts using a signature line that includes your Web address and a brief benefit statement. To locate discussion groups, visit www.egroups.com . You may also want to institute a commissionable referral program for select travel agencies in key cities.