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How to Reel in Valuable New Customers

When the “Gone Fishin’” signs go up, you want to be sure anglers are taking your gear out to the water. This will help.

You ever remember that great day when just you and your fishing buddy were sitting in the peaceful stillness with your favorite rod in hand? Or think about the big ole slimy salmon that was flopping around in your arms as Dad put his hand on your shoulder in a moment of pride after your first great catch? I bet your customers do all the time. And they could have you to thank for these memories – if they were using your gear to make them.

That’s what we’re here to talk about today: what you can do to keep your friendly neighborhood bait and tackle shop, family-run sporting goods store or custom fishing gear top of mind whenever customers decide to cast a line. 

Though the warm summer months (hot fish summer, for the Gen Z crowd) are coming to a close, we know there are folks who just can’t get enough of the great outdoors. Gone are the days when fishing was seasonal.

That means you have an opportunity to reel in new customers 24/7/365. Of course, with fair-weather anglers getting ready to hibernate for winter, some may say the window is closing to take home a big haul. We beg to differ. The off season may be just the time to build a connection with your audience and set a new personal record. (No “fish tales” necessary.)

Now the big fishy question on the fishing line is, “how can your shop become the go-to for fishing enthusiasts?” Well, if you want to know the answer, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some tips on how to be the one they think of first for their gear, even if this the first time they – or their kids – are going fishing:

1. Buy a computer.

I’m serious. You know who you are. You love the outdoors, and so do your customers. You like to keep things authentic and “simple.” Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but sticking to pen and paper is actually causing you to lose customers, even if you aren’t seeing it. If you are already online – great! Think of ways you can take your digital presence a step forward. Try social media. Find ways to connect more with anglers and make your store more accessible. If you are currently only setting up shop in person, take a wild (bass) chance and see how successful your store can be just by letting it live on a digital platform. Your shop is pretty neat, and it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible – so put some TLC into your digital operation and you’ll see a great difference. Trust me, it’s 2021… the young whippersnappers out there aren’t going to wait and watch you mess around with your calculator, and they certainly will be less likely to see through a purchase if you demand cash only.

There’s also a good chance they will zoom right past the flyers you posted at local hotspots advertising sales, tournaments or the fact your shop is *still* open for the season. (If we’re talking odds, you’re more likely to catch that record tuna these days.) And since your potential customers are out fishing, they may not be checking their mailboxes every day for the coupons or brochures you may have sent. However, they may be keeping tabs on their inboxes or – better yet – their social media feeds. (You know they’re going to show off their catch as soon as it hits the boat.)

It’s just the times, my friend. We promise you’ll love a digital upgrade if you give it a chance. It’s a win-win for all (except the fish).

2. Cast a wide net to lure in more than just fish. (Think about chumming, too.)

Yes, we’re talking about branding and marketing! We aren’t asking you to be a mega influencer doing dance trends on TikTok just to sell some quality bait and tackle (well… actually, you could). Creating an identity for your store simply allows customers to resonate with it more. And with greater resonance comes greater sales! Woohoo! Yes, we do love those.

Picture this: a person borrows a friend’s rod on a fishing excursion, and they can’t help but notice how unique and fun it looks – and how sweet it would be to own one of their own. Our advice: think about the way you design and market all your products, both online and in-store. Create cool labels to print onto your tackle boxes to give your products a recognizable, one-of-a-kind flavor. (Bobbers do sometimes look like colorful candies these days, but please don’t eat them). Work with a manufacturer to make your dream merchandise come to life. You can create any kind of vibe, tone or style you want. Tough and rugged? Go for it. Modern and chic? You’ve never personally seen it done before? That’s even more of a reason to GO FOR IT! Cute and cuddly? Why not? Hey, there’s a whole market for kid-themed fishing rods. When we tell you the sky’s the limit, we mean it.

Creating labels and logos and choosing colors for your brand is essential stuff, but it’s not the only way you can market effectively. Marketing can happen face-to-face at trade shows, expos and tournaments or even at the lake, beach or neighborhood pond. Fishing has a lot of emotional ties for a lot of different people. So, do some research and get in on the action at the nearest “Fishing Extravaganza” event. You’ll be amazed by just how much your business can grow and be identified. Get to know those who love to fish or maybe want to try it someday. Have great conversations, show off your *uniquely branded* gear and hand out some freebies – a bobber here or there. Call people by their names and write handwritten notes wishing them luck on their next fishing trips when you make a sale. It creates meaningful relationships and people will go out of their way to buy from you many times in the future. They’ll also encourage their friends and family to do the same. We don’t care if you’re sitting at a booth in a Rainbow Fish costume tossing Swedish Fish at anyone who passes by or teaching a newbie you just met on a weekend fishing excursion you sponsored how to scale and filet a Rainbow Trout. Just do something memorable, give it your all and make your customers feel truly valued. It’s work that certainly pays off.

Now, we have the snazzy credit card reader, we have your big, floppy neon fish design plastered all over the place… what is left? Oh, that’s right. The most important element of them all: true stories.

3. Let your customers’ stories be a part of your story.

This is the real meat of the filet. Unveil the soul and insight that lives within the core of fishing. You want to resonate with your target audience like no one else has ever before, and it starts with finding the truths that are hiding in plain sight. And when it comes to the sport of fishing, what’s even more substantial than the catch itself are the memories that come along with it.

We all see the framed photographs of Grandpa’s catches over the years with a date and location written on the back. Some are mounted on the wall, some in a photo album. Some feature their child, others a grandchild. Fishing is so much more than a rod and reel. You can see how fishing passes through time and life and creates such enriching stories through family lines.

The biggest catch you can make is of the hearts of families looking to get their children their very first fishing rods or tackle boxes. Or a pair of buddies who want the chance to revel in the excitement of a catch together. It’s a special moment for parents who reminisce on the days when their own folks took them to the lake or on the boat for the first time – and now the tradition is getting handed down to the next generation. Lean on these truths of your store’s history and your personal past times to get customers to visit your store and buy the products that enable them to make their own history.

Need some inspiration? Have a photo contest with your customers: they buy your gear, take a pic with it and their big catch on a fishing trip, and submit it for a chance to win a sweet discount or prize. Then, to make the fish-loving magic really come to life, you could ask participants if it’s okay to hang their photos on your (actual or virtual) wall to build a collection of everybody’s own family stories. (This is when that computer, social media account and even monthly newsletter come in exceptionally handy!) You’re creating one big loving family, and new customers will see that as the photos multiply. They will see your store is different – that what you offer is special. And not just the customers that submitted photos, but all their fishing family and friends too. (AKA, future customers.) The pattern goes on and on. It’s like a bobber that keeps going down and you just know you caught the motherload. But in this case, no one is getting jabbed by a hook – which is always good.

So, if you want to be that shop on the corner (of the street or the web) that makes people perk up when they hear about you or speak as if they are talking about a dear friend:

  • let yourself be known.
  • make shopping from you easy as pie.
  • include them in your story.

And that’s the freshest catch of the day we can offer to you.


Editor's Note:

We take full ownership of the number of puns we include, but we are only half sorry. Join us again next time for even more great tips and tricks on how to enhance your business in new, meaningful ways.