Trouts – A Case Study on Marketing

I’ve been consulting small business owners about digital marketing for seven years now at RevLocal. Some days it feels like nobody will listen to our well intentioned advice or they still do the same things that keep them small. But every now and then, there’s a local business that does every little thing right with marketing. And it’s beautiful. This is a nod to Trouts Fly Fishing Shop. They’re light years ahead of their competition and a great example to mom n pop shops everywhere.

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Last summer I started to really get back into fly fishing. As I geared up and geeked out, Trouts dominated every purchase path. Here’s what they do so well and other local businesses can emulate.

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  1. Give away HUGE value first

Today’s education economy flips the sales funnel. 30 years ago – get paid, then give info. Now – give the best free content, then get paid. Trouts has THE go to fishing report for the whole state. Most other shops update every two months, at best. These guys give detailed weekly reports on which rivers are fishing well, what to use, where to park, and insider tips. From March to November I’m visiting their site twice a week. My uncle visited from Boise this summer and before we hit the river he was blown away by their blog. Who do you think has his business? Not to mention they do free seminars and classes in their shop throughout the year.

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  1. Cater the message to personas

Marketing dorks will do in depth research on various customer types brands have. They’ll name them, describe them in detail, paint visuals for corporate synergy. Trouts nails this. If you’re “Guided Gary” – the client with money to burn who wants the best gear, on the best water, with the best guide, and a three course lunch – their marketing will speak to you. If you’re “Gearhead Glenn” – the experienced dude who spends just as much time reading about technique and rods as he does on the water – their website will keep you up at night. If you’re “Newbie Ned” – the client who’s new to the sport but doesn’t want to look like a fish out of water – Trouts will be your safe space. In turn, the marketing machine hooks clients from entry level to big spender.

Kokanee salmon run in Gunnison

Kokanee salmon run in Gunnison

  1. Show up in search results

On average there’s 72,000 searches per month on Google in greater Denver related to fly fishing purchases. ‘Fly fishing shop Denver.’ ‘Fly shops Denver.’ ‘Best fly shops Denver.’ ‘Guided fly fishing, etc.’ They own the Google machine. Plus long tails aint just for trout – they also show up for long tail keywords that may be more likely to convert new clients such as ‘dream stream fishing access’ or ‘colorado steamer fishing.’ Trouts is elevated in the local and organic search results. AND, they stand out with the most Google reviews – 77 at a 4.8 star average. On Yelp they have 37 reviews with a 4.5 star average. Local search is the best online real estate to gain new clients, and it’s an area where you can outrank big corporate stores if done properly.

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  1. Encourage employee ambassadors

Dear owners: quit trying to control the message…you’re smothering it. Owners ought to see their employees as extensions of their brand and encourage creative freedom. Traditional marketing and new algorithms from social media like Facebook make it too hard to reach enough people. Gyms are the best example at leaning into this; instructors promote their brand within a business on their own social media then fill up classes with loyal customers. Yet other industries still seem too scared to give up a little control and get big return from employees promoting in their own voice. At Trouts, each of the dudes does their own promotions – like Tanner who has 27,000 Instagram followers.

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  1. Pull off ‘Purple Cow’ events

Seth Godin is the guru of modern marketing. His book Purple Cow illustrates how today’s consumer easily tunes out traditional advertising unless it’s something unforgettable – like seeing a purple cow. Trouts events are totally unique and unforgettable. From guided fishing trips with the Rockies baseball players to film fundraisers to having a Christmas happy hour sale with Santa Claus to avoid the mall. One event I participated in was the ‘Deckers River Clean up.’ The store was closed black Friday and customers volunteered that morning cleaning up the most popular front range fishing area, Deckers along the south Platte River. While all other shops did Black Friday discounting, Trouts closed to do some good and elevate their brand.

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  1. Don’t Overlook Email

Let the kids have their SnapChat. Dollar for dollar, email remains the most cost effective marketing medium. Their website does a great job getting new subscribers, and their email content has a ton of value beyond what’s found on the homepage or social media.

11 Mile Canyon in December

11 Mile Canyon in December

In the end, the Big Boys at Cabella’s or Bass Pro Shop can afford huge TV and media buys. Meanwhile Trouts is running a multi-million dollar business out of a tiny house on 6th Avenue in Denver because their small business marketing is totally dialed in. Small businesses everywhere can work smarter to be the one shop that stands way above their peers – whether it’s a dentist in Chicago, a bike shop in Tahoe, or a construction firm in Columbus, for example. Cheers to spring fishing coming soon, and cheers to Trouts.

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