Last week Fotaflo gathered virtually with the members of America Outdoors, who represent nearly 500 professional outfitters in America. We had a great time meeting with these outfitters and learning about challenges they are facing and successes they had this year. As a technology based company supporting the outfitter network we were excited to hear about how the outfitter community led the way in “helping people experience the magnificent wilderness” during this pandemic and their positive outlook for 2021.
Here are Fotaflo’s major takeaways from the America Outdoors virtual sessions and a summary of how Fotaflo can help address the issues outfitters and tour operators are facing.
Referrals will supercharge growth in 2021
"It's not possible to spend too much effort in driving word-of-mouth and getting 'apostles' to advocate on behalf of a brand. It is the highest priority for outfitters looking to grow." - Brian Campbell, President, America Outdoors
We couldn't agree more with Brian and believe that the #1 thing any adventure outfitter can do to gain apostles and drive referrals is to provide free photo memories to their guests. The result of providing photos and building long-lasting relationships with your guests are undeniable.
Optimizing and streamlining operations
Everyone is taking time this year to review operations. They are are reviewing staff (hiring processes, onboarding, pay scales, guide sharing and accommodations), systems, and operations looking for process improvements to take away any friction.
Hygiene protocols and safe distancing
Many outfitters this year had to adapt to the changing protocols that were put in place for COVID. These are likely to stay in place for a long time. This affected staff training and capacity limits for some operators. Operationally, tour operators and outfitters are limiting touch points by adding in reservations-only, digital check-ins, digital waivers and digital photo delivery.
How to market in 2021
There continues to be a focus on owned and paid media. Many operators have been setting up Google My Business, working on SEO, looking into OTA's, and so on. They're being told, "think about what your customers are searching for and pay Google and Facebook to advertise to them."
Many operators are finding that these complicated online marketing activities are time consuming, costly and confusing to those without specialized experience.
While these areas of focus are still important in a thorough marketing strategy, many operators are doubling down on what they know works: word-of-mouth advertising. This means improving their guest experience and relationships to drive referrals and reconnecting with past customers to drive repeat bookings.
Focus on local markets
Everyone is working to increase their local, drivable, and regional business. Local business partnerships to drive regional referrals are an important part of building the network for some outfitters. Ideas like hosting another business to at your activity or working with local restaurants were some of the ways to get more referral exposure.
It's all about passion
One of the primary themes we heard from outfitters was to "sell what you are passionate about and focus on improving the guest experience, while being aware of the trends of the industry, and listening to what your guests want."
Provide your guests with something to take home that is unique and memorable.
Capturing and providing photos to guests is better than selling a waterproof camera or case where you can't control the content that gets shared and it just ends up at the bottom of a drawer anyway.
How can Fotaflo help the outfitter community?
Using Fotaflo to capture and deliver digital photos streamlines your operations, especially using one of our integration partners for automatic delivery.
Fotaflo puts you back in control of your marketing. You can easily generate reliable, consistent, trackable, word-of-mouth marketing simply by providing guests with something meaningful to share: their photo memories.
Fotaflo helps build a local word-of-mouth marketing engine by amplifying the effect of every customer that comes through your door. Past customers are more than happy to continue to promote your business for years to come, and with Fotaflo you have an automated, personalized, and effective way to reconnect with past customers through their own photo memories.
When local customers promote your business it drives direct referrals to your business, rather than to TripAdvisor or an OTA. Fotaflo builds your own local word-of-mouth network from new and past customers who organically refer your brand to their friends and families.
These referral leads are more likely to live in the same area, have the same interests, and the same means to book an experience with your business.
Now the end
It was encouraging to hear how each business adapted to everything that was thrown at them this year. It was fitting that the closing Keynote speaker Brendan Leonard provided a presentation on “Resilience, Endurance, and Humor in Uncertain Times."
Here is my favourite slide from that presentation that many people can relate to this year: