Building a Fishing & Hunting Lodge, Camp or Resort Online Sales Funnel (Hint: It’s How I Advertised to you)

Building a Fishing & Hunting Lodge, Camp or Resort Online Sales Funnel (Hint It’s How I Advertised to you)

Preamble:

Fishing Hunting lodge camp resort digital marketing plan

An online sales funnel looks like this:

  • 1,000 people see your online advertisement
  • Of those 1,000 maybe 50 click on the ad and are taken to your sales page.
  • Of those 50 that land on your sales page, maybe 5 enter their email and request more information on your vacation packages.
  • Of the 5 that receive your electronic brochure and accompanying email series, maybe 1 goes ahead and books a trip.

1,000 to 50 to 5 to 1.

The rest leak out the sides of the funnel throughout the process.

You can fix your online sales funnel and that’s what this article is about.

  • you can refine the process.
  • you can make sure you’re only entering warm leads into the top of the funnel.
  • You can align your packages to ensure the trip you’re offering aligns perfectly with their ideal vacation.

I’m going to give you a proven online sales funnel that I personally receive a 10:1 return on every marketing dollar invested using. It’s actually how I got you here reading this right now.

This article is going to teach you how to build your fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort – online sales funnel.

I’m not going to introduce anything revolutionary here, but I am going to lay out a very specific plan and tell you why each part of it is necessary. You’re creating an ecosystem where each tactic is dependent on another.

If your lodge, camp or resort’s website sees little traffic at the beginning of this process, the first year can see limited results but still requires rigorous commitment which is hard for many people to maintain. It also requires a significant amount of topic knowledge and familiarity with your guest demographics which makes this a hard process to hire out to a third party marketer – unless they specialize in your industry.

By the end of year two, you’ll be able to let off the gas and coast – you’ll have an extremely reliable online sales funnel that requires minimal maintenance and you just need to feed it coins. This is why we often recommend to clients that they really only need us for a maximum of two years and then their online sales system will be easy to maintain on their own.

In this article I list the tactics you need to employ, technology that’s utilized and the monthly routine that you’ll need to maintain.

Fishing Hunting Lodges, Camps, resorts for sale

The Difference Between Marketing & Advertising and Setting Your Budget:

Marketing and advertising have many things in common but there are some differences. Comprehension of these differences will help any fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort with their strategy for guest acquisition.

First of all, it’s important to note that advertising is a component of marketing.

Marketing refers to preparing your vacation packages for the marketplace. Advertising is making your vacation packages known to a particular audience or marketplace.

Marketing is choosing which group of outdoor tourism lodging guests you’re going to serve, how you’re going to tailor the experience you offer to them, the price of your packages and how your branding wraps it all together.

Advertising is the literal process of making your vacation packages known to an audience. It is the description used to present your vacation packages to the world. Advertising must be timely and used in a strategic way in order to make a sale – especially online.

An online sales funnel is all about advertising but it only works if your marketing is dialed in.

Setting an Advertising Budget:

First, before you decide what to do for advertising, you need to decide how much you will spend.

When you spend $1 on marketing your lodge, camp or resort, how much should you expect in return?

A good marketing ROI is 5:1. Five dollars in sales revenue for every one dollar spent on advertising.

A ratio over 5:1 is considered strong for fishing & hunting lodges, camps and resorts and a 10:1 ratio (like I’m claiming to get from this marketing strategy) is considered exceptional.

Achieving a ratio higher than 10:1 is possible, but it shouldn’t be the expectation. 

As I showed in my fishing & hunting lodge revenue & expense analysis, 90% of the lodges analyzed are spending less than than $20,000 per year on advertising, the vast majority are spending less than $10,000 and a fair amount are spending less than $5,000/year on advertising.

If a 10:1 ratio is an exceptional return, the lodges that spend only $5,000/year on advertising can at best expect to be getting $50,000 in added sales revenue.

Let’s say $1,000,000 is your business’ revenue potential at 100% occupancy for your entire operating season. BUT the lodge is performing near the average fishing & hunting lodge occupancy level of 65%. So it’s earning $650,000 of its potential $1,000,000 – a $350,000 difference.

As I mentioned, a 10:1 return on every dollar invested in advertising is a very good return – best case scenario it’s going to cost you $35,000 in advertising to fill those remaining vacancies. It also gets much harder as you become more full because the least desirable weeks are what will remain so a 5:1 return is more likely.

Have you considered what the lifetime value of a lodge camp or resort guest? Most fishing & hunting lodges, camps & resorts receive at least 80% repeat business (some guests return for decades) so how much would you spend to buy a guest that returns for decades?

Use the above statistics to determine how much you need in your advertising budget and then spend that amount!

It’s better to have your phone ringing and be turning away business every year or have to expand your operation than it is figure out how little you can spend on marketing just get those last couple weekends booked up.

You’re not just competing with other lodges, camps and resorts for those guest’s hard earned money – the world is a loud place, you’re going to need to spend to get some attention but you’re going to have to provide value in order to keep it.

Fishing Hunting lodge camp resort marketing plan

Why Should You Advertise in the Manner I'm About to Recommend?

One last thing to address before I give you the whole plan.

It’s important that you know why you should consider advertising your fishing & hunting lodge camp or resort in the manner I’m about to recommend.

In short, it’s because – relationships are hard to sell, systems are not.

When it comes time to sell a lodge, camp or resort – a lot of the owners realize they have a problem. 

Owners develop long term friendships with their repeat guests. The owner is the face of the business and the reason many of the guests return every year is because of them. What made their business so strong may not serve them well when they try to sell.

A lot of these owners successfully built up reliable repeat guest lists and as a result they stopped marketing because they didn’t really need to anymore. If your phone isn’t ringing and your reliable repeat guest list that is very loyal to YOU is aging – This is a problem for a potential buyer. 

Secondly, your off season is an important “recovery period”. Having an online sales funnel that is generating bookings for you is very important if you don’t want to spend your off season driving across the countryside having to attend all of the various trade shows. You want a passive machine making your phone ring.

You really need to have two separate marketing plans:

  • An online (digital) marketing plan
  • An in-person (trade-show) marketing plan

Many owners have reported to me that the return on investment isn’t there anymore for the cost of the trade shows.

While you might think an online marketer like myself would relish in the demise of where most lodge, camp and resort’s marketing budget goes….I’m actually going to suggest that a portion of your advertising budget still goes to attending shows like the All Canada Trade Shows but be more strategic about it.

What if instead of attending and having everyone at the show collect your expensive printed brochures like they’re hockey trading cards – you instead put two laptops on the table with a landing page like this up on each screen.

What’s a landing page you ask? Here’s an overview.

I can’t think of a better way of generating warm leads & filtering out time wasters than if you can during your conversation with a potential guest at the trade show – get them to complete the online form on the landing page.

Based on what they input as far as dates they’re interested in and type of fishing – an electronic brochure tailored to these specifics will be automatically sent – and then a week later a follow up email is automatically sent to ensure they received the brochure….and then they begin receiving your monthly newsletter…..and then they start seeing ads for your lodge on their social media because now you have their email and can upload it into Facebook to run targeted ads at the owner of that email……

If they won’t take 2 minutes to complete an online form requesting a tailored brochure….then I’m sorry but they were never going to be a guest of yours anyway.

This strategy is more effective AND cheaper than if you just show up with paper brochures to a Trade Show and hand them out. If you show up with paper brochures to hand out then when you leave, that’s it, you’ll either hear from them to book or never again.

I’d rather continue “working” those warms leads who met you in person at a trade show but maybe the timing just wasn’t quite right and if you send regular reminders online they’re very likely to convert to guests at some point.

fishing hunting lodge camp resort marketing plan

This Online Sales Funnel Consists of 4 Phases Supported by 5 Pillars:

Here is a quick overview of how the online sales funnel works and then I will describe the pillars that support the process in detail:

Your website and social media attract the “warm leads”.

Social Media re-targeting ads are used to turn the “warm leads” into prospects.

The re-targeting ads drive the “prospects” to a landing page seeking to capture their email. 

The automated email sequence turns prospects into inquiries/guests.

The Foundation of the process is fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort’s website. This is key to moving people along your online sales funnel.

The Fuel for the marketing system is:

A) website traffic – creating quality content that provides value to potential guests.

B) people who interact with your social media pages.

C) Your email/phone number list.

These 3 groups could all be considered “warm leads”. As they’re all already aware and have some interest in your business.

Follow-up is done by utilizing social media retargeting advertisements directed at the above 3 groups that attempt to capture their email in the form of a brochure request which triggers a series of automated emails.

As you add more Fuel the Follow-up system scales and you see more conversions (people requesting electronic brochures).

You want to pour as much Fuel (website-traffic, emails, social media page interactions) into the sales funnel as possible. Since it’s a system, as long as the quality of the Fuel is maintained, your ability to grow sales and profits is directly related to your ability to add more people into the funnel.

You maintain the quality of the fuel by creating online content (writing articles, posting videos, social media posts) that attracts the type of guests you want.

You need all components in the sales funnel to work together to drive sales.

The Rule of 7 is a marketing principle that states that your potential guests need to come across your offer at least seven times before they really notice it and start to take action – this online sales funnel will help you efficiently achieve this.

The 4 phase sales funnel is supported by the 5 following pillars.

Pillar 1 - Be a Meaningful Specific Not a Wandering Generality:

It is no longer good enough to say, “you’re looking for fishing lodge? Well we’re a fishing lodge.”

You have to figure out what guests your business can be the best in the world at serving.

Now that every fishing & hunting lodge, camp and resort operation is claiming unparalleled fishing/hunting, gorgeous scenery, quality accommodations and total travel arrangements – you have to differentiate your operation somehow.

Let me ask you a silly question, two groups go out fishing:

  • One group doesn’t have any specific target in mind – they’re just looking for “fish”. They don’t really know what they’re after so they just kind of toss some generalized bait out there, where any kind of fish might hangout and hope maybe it catches something.
  • Another group decides on a specific target – say Musky. They give it some thought as to the type of bait this specific target would like, they study Musky patterns and ideal locations. In short, they tailor everything to be as appealing as possible to this one specific species.

All else being equal, who is likely to have more success?

It’s a dumb question but lodge, camp & resort owners overlook the importance of having a niche all the time. Niches give you direction.

Choosing a niche can be scary because now you’re only speaking to one very specific group. That group could be multi-species fisherman, but that still means that in everything you do, you must emphasize that your location offers everything. Combining this message with a lodge property that presents a rare type of accommodation that puts you in a niche category is a way of differentiating your business as well.

The market position of “excellent multi-species fishing and average accommodations” is probably the toughest spot to be because of the sheer volume of alternatives.

I highly recommend you read these 3 things:

This whole online sales funnel starts with the concepts in the above article/books.

These concepts are how Frontier Hospitality Advisors came to be. Many people offer similar services, but they try to make it appear that they can serve “everyone and anyone”.

We all inherently understand that anyone that is a generalist (doesn’t specialize in anything) likely offers a very average, if not mediocre product or service. You have to specialize to be able to offer something great.

The funny thing is, that by trying to offer “general appeal” you won’t be really appealing to anyone and are stuck in a constant state of competition because you are easily replaceable by the next generalist. You have to be the perfect solution for someone and then there’s no reason to ever replace you. 

Everything you do as far as “Advertising” emanates and is effective because of this concept.

Comparison is way too easy these days. A couple clicks and potential guests can look at what you offer compared to all of the competition.

There has to be some cross section of specialties your business could offer that would make it the perfect vacation for a target market of a few thousand people.

This could be fine dining and fantastic moose hunting. Ecotourism and local food. World Class Musky fishing and pub food. Giant lake trout fishing and a spa like experience. Large chalet style cabins perfect for corporate getaways and excellent quality equipment.

Think of this as the top of the funnel, it’s the large filter eliminating everyone that isn’t your ideal guest. Unqualified leads are much less likely to make it to the next step in your funnel (let alone to the bottom of your funnel), so targeting your top-of-funnel strategies to the right audience is a much better use of your time and budget.

Pillar 2 - Create Content that Will Attract Your Ideal Guest:

To have a conversion funnel you have to pull prospects into your funnel with entertaining and/or informative content. 

There are many ways to reach users in this stage, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to attract qualified traffic that align with your ideal guest. Keep the focus on quality over quantity.

After you pull prospects into your funnel using specific online content, you can then build their interest in your vacation packages. Your website is the best tool for doing this.

Figure out what users need to know about your industry, area and specifically your lodge, camp or resort. Determine what questions and needs they have.

Then, craft content that addresses those needs and positions your business as an authority on the subject.

Write blog posts, offer helpful resources, and publish in-depth, informative guides that help your audience get a better understanding of what, exactly, your specialty is.

Example content to create:

  • 50 top tips for monster pike in Sunset Country, Ontario.
  • Planning a Saskatchewan fly-in in Fishing Trip: Everything you need to know.
  • Ontario Resorts with the Finest Dining.

Once you’ve chosen who you’re going to serve it becomes easy to think of what you could write about that they might be searching for on the internet.

You’re definitely going to want a WordPress site. You need to be able to easily post new content to your site.

It’s very important to Google rankings that your site is steadily growing. 48 well written articles or videos (which you would have in two years posting twice a month) is a good amount of content to attract enough website visitors to fuel your funnel. More is always better when it comes to online content but based on what I’ve observed on many lodge, camp and resort sites, 48 lengthy pieces of content would generate more than enough traffic to Fuel your funnel.

The easiest way to develop content is to think of yourself as a teacher and develop a curriculum. It’s actually easier to develop a large amount of content topics at once rather than one at a time.

Perhaps there is a process or topic related to the fishing & hunting lodge, camp or resort industry that you can break into many different pieces and write a piece of content for each. It’s easier to design the flow of the articles and what’s going to come next by seeing them all side by side.

Once you’ve developed the content ideas it’s also easier to stay disciplined and work your way through the list.

A big excuse for not creating content is not having an idea about what to write about or make a video about. Task number one is to develop a list of content ideas that flow together.

Some of your articles can be written for “Google”, meaning they’re seeking to target a specific search term. But any articles that will be included in your monthly email newsletter (Pillar 5) need to provide real value and/or entertainment or else potential guests will unsubscribe.

Focusing on a niche also helps your website rank well because google rewards being the authority on a specific subject.

Be aware, that there are also many “on-page” search engine optimization tactics that you may not be implementing if you write/post your own articles and these should be implemented into every piece of content posted. If you look at this article – I’ve implemented many of these tactics.

After accumulating about 48 solid pieces of content on your website you can go into coast mode and reduce it to one high quality piece of content every month that will be used in your monthly newsletter.

Pro tips:

  • You’re going to want to have google analytics on your website in order to help you track your progress.
  • Having useful articles & videos also helps you gain links and shares which grows site traffic as well. (Our business growth solution also links to your business in 30 articles to help with SEO/traffic).

Your website will become a magnet that is going to pull a hyper specific target market into your funnel, pixel them for re-targeting social media ads (Pillar 4), thus ensuring every social media ad dollar is now well spent because these ads are only targeting what is referred to as “warm leads”. Meaning, the people seeing your ads on their social media are already aware of your business and have an interest in what you offer.

In summary – this component of your online sales funnel serves 4 purposes:

  • To Educate and Entertain Potential Guests building an audience.
  • To improve website rankings.
  • To give you a piece of content to include in your monthly newsletter.
  • To attract website visitors (Warm Leads) to pixel and run re-targeting ads at.

Pillar 3 - Social Media Posting

I don’t have a large following on social media. BUT, if you look at my followers they are nearly completely made up of my target audience (lodges, camps & resorts).

This harkens back to the point that it is not about sheer volume, it’s about getting the right offer infront of the right eyeballs.

One reason for frequent social media posting is to remind former guests of their experience.

If you post too infrequently, your followers (who are likely made up of your former guests) will forget that you exist and you will quickly fade into the deep dark recesses of their minds. However, if you are posting too often, you will become a complete nuisance and they will dread seeing your posts overcrowding their feed.

So how often should you post to your social media? This article may help you decide.

I personally find that the return on investment for obtaining new guests from social media posting alone is an extremely long sales cycle and is likely the lowest “bang for buck” if you were only going to use one marketing method.

This is especially true as Facebook and Instagram reduce the organic reach of your posts.

Make sure to regularly post your website articles on your social because that will trigger shares and more website visitors. Sharing your articles to social also provides social signalling to google which helps site rankings.

Alot of people don’t realize but frequent social media posting lowers the cost of your social media ads. This makes sense because the owners of Facebook and Instagram want to reward you for being an active user of their platform. It also helps to have an active page if a person who sees your ad clicks to view your page.

Your social media pages also serve as a “Fuel” generator similar to how your website does. You can re-target with a social media ad anyone who has interacted with your social media pages in a certain period of time (I recommend the past 365 days).

Regular posting generates more interactions (post likes, shares, clicks/views) thereby increasing your retargeting audience. Again these are warm leads your ad will be targeting because they’ve already expressed some interest in what you’re posting about.

I believe posting 3 times a week at minimum is necessary to accomplish the goal of social media:

  • staying top of mind with former guests
  • lowering the cost of social media ads
  • maintaining an active page as a showcase for prospective new guests
  • Generating interactions to re-target

I utilize Hootsuite to schedule all social media posts. Its hard sometimes to find 15 minutes to come up with an idea for a post and get it online. I find sitting down and planning/scheduling them for the month much more effective.

Pillar 4 - Social Media Advertising:

Social media ads (Facebook & Instagram Ads) are the glue that hold the entire system together. They are in my opinion the most effective form of advertising available today.

You are able to be a sniper with social media ads especially if you’re using the system I’m proposing here. No longer do you have to utilize the “spray and pray” advertising of putting up billboards on the highway.

Because of everything you’ve been doing with Pillars 1, 2 & 3 you now have a highly targeted audience you can easily re-target with the perfect social media advertisement.

I target 3 audiences and 3 audiences only with my social media ads:

  • People who have visited my website in the past 180 days.
  • People on my email list.
  • People who have interacted with my social media pages in the past 365 days.

I narrow this group down slightly more by only advertising at people located in North America.

You’re going to need the Facebook tracking pixel setup on your website.

The Facebook pixel is an analytics tool that allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by understanding the actions people take on your website.

You can use the pixel to:

  • Make sure your ads are shown to the right people. Find new customers, or people who have visited a specific page or taken a desired action on your website.
  • Drive more sales. Set up automatic bidding to reach people who are more likely to take an action you care about, like making a purchase.
  • Measure the results of your ads. Better understand the impact of your ads by measuring what happens when people see them.

Once you’ve set up the Facebook pixel, the pixel will fire when someone takes an action on your website. 

You can now see why this strategy improves so much over time, because with your increased social media activity, growing website traffic and a growing email list your target audience for your ads grows adding more Fuel into the system.

Ads Must Go to a Landing Page:

You can’t just go for the sale right away, its easier to capture an email address.

The biggest mistake I see lodge, camp and resort owners making when I click on their online ads is they just send me to a general website page. This is a mistake because there’s too many options, too many places for me to click around, learn a bit about your business and then leave and maybe you hear from me maybe you don’t.

No dollar is to be wasted in this system – I need to maximize every dollar spent and so I need to get something from this person who has clicked on my ad (costing me money) and the easiest thing to get is an email address.

Once I have an email address this person can be reached again for free with an email. The email address can also be uploaded into Facebook to run ads specifically at the owner of it.

I can’t emphasize enough, Social media ads must be sent to a landing page that attempts to get the visitor to take a specific action.

Example Landing Page:

The goal of this landing page is to have the site visitor enter their email and check off the type of fishing they’re are interested and request more information in the form of an electronic brochure.

Entering their email triggers a series of emails (Pillar 5)

Creating ads can be fun, Canva is a great website that can help you create professional quality ads for free.

Learning how to setup a social media advertising campaign and ensuring you’ve got the ad targeting correct definitely takes some dedicated time to learn. We include this in our business growth solution for this reason.

Pillar 5 - Email Marketing

Automated Email Series:

Once you’ve generated the audience for your funnel, ran the social media ads at them, brought them to your landing page – hopefully they now enter their email to request a brochure.

The brochure request triggers an automated email (electronic brochure) to be sent. 5 days after the initial brochure is sent a second follow-up email automatically goes out.

This is called an email series and can easily be setup with Mailchimp.

With Mailchimp you can see who has requested a brochure and how many times they’ve opened the email. Email is an extremely effective and measureable marketing tool.

The email sequence helps nurture the leads generated into making a purchase decision. Once you get them onto your email list, they will also begin receiving your monthly newsletter.

Monthly Email Newsletter:

A monthly newsletter is an excellent way to nurture the leads you’ve gathered as well as stay in touch with former guests.

Each newsletter should provide value and entertainment with the goal of either having the reader book a trip, or revisit your website to be pixeled again and keep them in the sales funnel.

Earlier in this article I mentioned the “Rule of 7”.

By the time someone has gone from viewing your website or interacting with your social media pages, to seeing and clicking on your retargeting ad, to requesting a brochure and being sent the automated email series – you’ve now gotten infront of that person approximately 4 times.

They’re now at the bottom of sales funnel. The monthly email newsletter will help you get the last few touch points that will ideally trigger a phone call and the sale.

Fishing Hunting lodge camp resort marketing plan

Summary

The hardest part of this whole sales funnel is the creation of enough content to attract enough warms leads to feed the “top of the funnel” and start the process rolling.

To review:

  • Your website & social media pages are used to develop a target audience. Estimated 48 pieces of quality website content & 3 social media posts per week are required to have enough “Fuel” for the funnel.
  • Social media ads are directed at the target audience and drive them to a landing page with an electronic brochure request form.
  • When a brochure is requested it triggers an automated email series. The monthly newsletter continues to nurture the leads and generate the eventual sale.

Now that you’ve read about the online sales funnel and how it works, are you ready to start creating your own?

Bryce Witherspoon, BA, AIC Candidate Member

Bryce Witherspoon, BA, AIC Candidate Member

Bryce is a Fishing & Hunting Lodge, Marina and Resort Appraisal Consultant. He serves owners, lenders, and public agencies across Canada and the United States. Bryce can be reached by email: bryce@frontierhospitality.ca or phone 1.800.592.1349

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