10 tips for branding your hunting or fishing business

Fishing and hunting guides need to build their brand to build their customer base.

Everyone agrees that a brand is important. But can you answer “what is a brand is and why is it important?” It isn’t just large companies that have brands, every single business has a brand and if you aren’t creating it on purpose you are creating your brand on accident! Even the smallest businesses need to think about their brand, but the good news is that it is not difficult and can in fact be fun to build your brand. What can you do to manage and guide your brand to where you want it to be? Check out these tips for branding your business.

What is a brand?

The word brand can have a few definitions. The most sterile is from Merriam-Webster… a category of products that are all made by a particular company and all have a particular name. That is also why we call the marks that ranchers burn into cows a brand. This is essentially the same as your business name and logo. However, this simple and traditional definition falls short of what a brand means in the digital age.

Your brand, at it’s most basic, is the way the public views your business. It shapes the expectations they have when going hunting or fishing with you, and more importantly it determines IF they will hire you in the first place. Your brand identity could include the style of fishing you do, or the conservation policies you stand for. It could include they way you communicate or the way you give back to the community. It will include the relationship between the price of your trips and their perceived value. Your skills as a guide as well as your ability to teach those skills to your clients will be part of your brand promise. There are endless styles of hinting and fishing trips that guides can offer and their are also endless criteria for your brand to be associated with.


Take Stock of your Brand

Branding is the art of shaping the way people think about your business. It is an exercise in changing peoples perception from point a to point b. To make progress in branding your business you need to know where you are starting, what is your current brand. You may have a little, or a lot of work in front of you.

There are three steps that will help you take stock of your brand.

  1. Think critically about the trips you advertise. Are your prices geared towards being economical, high value, or expensive. Is your trip unique, or do you need to stand out in other ways?
  2. Read and re-read all the private feedback and public reviews from past customers. What your customers are saying is the most direct way to discover how they perceive your brand.
  3. Finally, you can ask your customers directly what they think about you. After a trip, follow up with your customers and ask what they liked and didn’t like. A survey is a good tool to solicit feedback. Soliciting feedback can be scary but it is very important to know how you are perceived.

Outline your Desired Brand

Knowing where you are is half the battle, now that you know what people think about you it is time to move to the next phase. Figure out what you want your brand to be in a perfect world. Start by considering the market place. Figure out what your customers want, and what is being offered. If you find an unmet need you can target that segment with your brand. Profile your ideal customer base and make sure your brand is designed to connect with that persona.

Do you want to cater to families with a range of experience levels, or are you known for taking out experienced sportsmen on advanced outings. Are you going to be known for providing high touch, all-inclusive packages?  Are you a thought leader in fish behavior and even if the fish don’t bite you will teach your customer to be a better angler. Are you a champion of conservation, teaching your clients about not over-harvesting? You need to pick 3-5 traits to focus on and make sure your words and actions support those.

Develop Basic Guidelines

An important technical aspect of building your brand is your brand guidelines. These are simple rules you put in place to make sure you treat your brand visuals with care and thoughtfulness. First you need a great logo. When it comes to a logo, the best advice is to hire a pro. They will work with you to iterate on logo designs until you are happy. This logo can grace shirts, hats, stickers, photos, videos, trip reports, and any other content you produce.

Next you need to decide on colors, fonts, and styles you will use in all of your material. You want to format your trip reports consistently so people begin to know what to expect. You want to have a color pallet you adhere to so that people can easily identify materials as yours. These basic guidelines will make it easy for people to quickly link your trip reports, photos, apparel, and other marketing material to your brand.

Be Authentic

When you define your brand make sure that you focus on 3-5 traits that you already exemplify or can incorporate quickly and fully. In other-words, it wont work to try and be something you are not. That is may seem obvious but we have all dealt with brands that say one thing and do another. Focus on what you are good at and own it. Share what you are passionate about and be an expert in that field.

Lit light bulb amongs unlit incandescent bulbs

Be Unique

You need to stand out and there are two ways to do that. The first is to offer a unique experience that sportsmen can’t get anywhere else. If your trips combine one or more of the following you are in great shape.

  1. Unique species
  2. Unique location
  3. Unique technique

If your business doesn’t necessarily meet the unique criteria above, don’t worry. The second way to stand out is to offer a unique service in a saturated market. Here are a few ideas that are just scratching the surface of what you can add to your business model to stand out.

  1. Provide casting lessons or shooting lessons before or during the trip
  2. Offer special meals
  3. Include door to door transportation
  4. Include photography (brush up on your skills here and here) and maybe even prints
  5. Be equipped to challenge IGFA line class records

One final way to make your content stand out is to develop a unique voice. Write funny trip reports or pick a theme song for each post, but whatever you do this is a chance to let your personality show through.

Be Consistent

Choose your message and tone carefully and stick to it. You want your audience to become familiar over time with your brand and know what to expect, familiarity will lead to loyal followers and generate new customers as well as return business. Traction will be slow at first but it will grow and gain momentum. If you get impatient with the growth and change your tone or message frequently, you will lose the momentum you were building.

Have a Presence

Your presence is measured by the size of your reach and the quality of your audience.

Your message is consistent, your tone is authentic, you have unique services to promote, but who is listening? You must have reach, reach is simply the number of eyeballs on your content. In this case your content is trip reports, fish and game photos, articles, reviews, video interviews, how-to videos, and anything else that features you or that you create. Social media, blogs, emails, websites, and even radio and television are all good places to publish your content.

To evaluate the quality of your audience ask yourself what percent of the people who saw your content are likely to go fishing and hunting with a guide? The lower that percentage the harder you need to work. If you are consistent with your message and tone on social media you will build a high quality audience. Every single customer should be added to your email list, and through a newsletter you can stay top of mind for this hyper relevant audience. Seek out marketing opportunities based on their reach and quality and you will build an impressive presence.


Recruit Brand Ambassadors

As you are establishing your presence, recruiting brand ambassadors is going to amplify your efforts. Enlisting the help of a core group of people who are also passionate about hunting and fishing will boost your success far beyond what you can do alone. You are your number one brand ambassador but having brand champions that are external to the business is beneficial precisely because they are not financially tied to your operation. You will also leverage their sphere of influence to amplify your reach, and because they are passionate about hunting or fishing the audience will be high value.

To recruit brand ambassadors it is easiest to start with people you already know. Think about anyone who has a business that is in the outdoor space and tangent to yours and see if you can cross promote each-other to your networks. Besides fellow business owners, look for passionate fishermen or hunters that you know who have a large audience. Look at how many likes and shares their content gets to gauge their following. Asking someone to be help get your brand out there is surprisingly easy especially if you already have a relationship. Ask them to directly suggest you as a guide to their network, share any of your content that catches their eye, and invite them to come fish with you if they will write all about the trip and post photos. Lastly, put your great logo on shirts and hats. Everyone loves swag and people will see your logo being worn in person and in photos.


Nurture your Community

Nurturing your community takes two forms. You need to take care of the needs of individuals and also nurture the whole group.

At the group level, you nurture your audience by providing content for each stage of the buying process. This is also called the sales and marketing funnel. Trip reports, photos, water / land conditions, and how-to content help build awareness. Informational content about specific trips, special promotions, and contests leads people to evaluate your services. At the individual level you take care of your potential customers by answering the phone or responding to voicemail promptly, returning emails, maintaining a current website, and generally being easy to communicate with so you can generate new clients. Then your clients will continue to move through the funnel over and over as you foster repeat business and referrals.


About Fin & Field

#FinandField #FYNA #DreamBig2016

Fin & Field is all about finding your next adventure. We’re working hard to provide the most comprehensive listing of services, reviews, and far reaching community available to help you take the guesswork out of planning your next adventure.

We believe in the ethical pursuit of hunting and fishing adventures and support taking from the land only what you can use and leaving it in better shape than you found it.

Tight Lines & Happy Hunting!

Visit us at www.finandfield.com

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