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Old 11-12-2011, 13:24   #1
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Where Do You Get Your Charter Customers from ?

More specifically what percentage of your charters are booked from people who found your website through a search?

VS.

Word of mouth?
Referrals?
Real life sales?
Others selling it for you?
(whether for a commission or not) hotels, tour ops, cruise ships, etc.

Just wondering, since it seems EVERYONE is so obsessed with SEO these days. Even though many so called marketing experts still say that real life sales and networking is where it's at. I was even at a conference, where one of the presenters said that social media and web presence aren't even necessary.

Also, I'm really ONLY interested in hearing from people who are chartering or have chartered their boat successfully.

We don't need another lecture on what all the requirements are, and why charting is such a waste of time, and how anyone who tries it, is going to fail miserably. That's been beaten to death on here WAY too many times already. So, PLEASE stick to the question I'm asking. Thanks!
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Old 11-12-2011, 13:35   #2
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

I work for two guys who both charter their boats. One is an inspected sport fisher with a 20 passenger limit, the other an uninspected more classic "six-pack". I also work for a sailing charter company although I don't know the details on their operation as much.

One of the fishing boats sits at it slip nearly all month, maybe going out once or twice a month and that's in the busy times. The other one goes out 8-10 times a week and has three captains to balance the load and schedule. In general, this is what I've seen:

- relying on the landing (operation that provides wharfage, rental gear, walk up desk, etc) which is pretty bad except for the open boats.

- groupon and everything like it. seems to actually work okay. the ones with limits are nice because you can say "unless we sell six tickets, the deal isn't valid". no one really knows how much anything costs so "discounting" your $200 spot to $100 (which normally costs $100 anyway) is standard practice. sort of sucks for the crew because it's generally a bunch of non-mariners who have no idea what they're doing, and as such don't tip and just don't know what's going on.

- roping it in with classes / some other arrangement. one of the sailing charters i work for does a deal where we do an intro sailing course (non asa) over a few weeks (again, with a minimum amount of clients to start the class), the cost of which basically takes care of the charter costs and pays the captain (me).

It's pretty interesting to see the boats can't seem to run fast enough versus the ones that sit there collecting bird ****.
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Old 11-12-2011, 14:30   #3
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

So...which one doesn't move, the 6 pack or the cattle boat?

I was just talking to someone the other day about groupon...and specifically about that fake pricing you mention. I'm in a few groups around here where people are constantly re-posting local groupon deals, so I think I would have luck with that.

Also, the marina I'm probably going to be in, is attached to one of the hotels, and I think they have a ton of charters running out of there, so that could really help too. Location + not a lot of competition + having a niche = WIN!
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Old 11-12-2011, 16:48   #4
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

Quote:
Originally Posted by grunzster View Post
So...which one doesn't move, the 6 pack or the cattle boat?

I was just talking to someone the other day about groupon...and specifically about that fake pricing you mention. I'm in a few groups around here where people are constantly re-posting local groupon deals, so I think I would have luck with that.

Also, the marina I'm probably going to be in, is attached to one of the hotels, and I think they have a ton of charters running out of there, so that could really help too. Location + not a lot of competition + having a niche = WIN!
The 6pack is the one that moves the most, and he's in a regular marina (so no walk up clients of any type). What I've seen is a lot of marketing on his end, basically staying on top of trends and styles for how people come up with **** to do. How much he's actually making I really don't know (net wise). In fishing I see a lot of people doing it because they love it much more so than the money (which I guess is like sailing). There are guys willing to clean the boat seven days a week if they can go out and fish once or twice a week, stuff like that.

The real drawback I see with groupon stuff is that it's not going to create a lot of repeat customers, and the people aren't really "into it", if that makes any sense. Sure money is money, but taking a bunch of people out that would be having just as much fun wine tasting or riding jetskis isn't as much fun in the long run as people who really like your business and what you offer.

The walkup thing at least here is totally seasonal. They chop the fish on the sidewalk right infront of where they sell tickets and have the calendars up in some of the nearby restaurants and bars.

But for sure it's about the business savvy of the guy running the operation. Most sailors and fishermen are honestly terrible business people; running a business is a distinctive set of skills that you either have or learn or both, and I see owners all over the place that don't know beans about properly marketing their enterprise or being creative with offerings (doing lobster pot trips in the winter when the fishing is dead, catering to "boatelers", teaching heavy weather sailing specifically in inclement weather, etc).

The folks with a boat and a sign on it usually don't get much going, but the guys who are hustling and running their operation like a business tend to be doing alright.
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Old 11-12-2011, 17:42   #5
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

Most of my friends get clients from either their own marketing / sales / websites, or else from networks that deals with a particular area or client niche.

Doing it externally saves a lot of hassle but lowers your profits per head. There is no issue to use both channels.

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Old 11-12-2011, 18:58   #6
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

Are you asking about daysails, or "term charters", which might be for a week? and where are you?
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Old 11-12-2011, 19:09   #7
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

I for one use ,meetup.com In a few groups I know and I post weekend sailing charters, most times the people do not even know each other when they show up, I sell them as one spot at a time, had a little fear in the start thinking I would be stuck only taking out one or two but when the whole summer and never had less then the full six. Just my exp.
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Old 12-12-2011, 07:48   #8
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

Quote:
Originally Posted by grunzster View Post
... Also, the marina I'm probably going to be in, is attached to one of the hotels, and I think they have a ton of charters running out of there, so that could really help too. Location + not a lot of competition + having a niche = WIN!
Don't forget to "spiff" the hotel concierge & desk clerks, for every customer they send you.
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Old 12-12-2011, 21:32   #9
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Re: Where do you get your charter customers from?

You have some very good points rebel heart. The problem is I'm in a BIG tourist town, so odds are a lot of these people won't be repeat customers. It's also a big party town, so odds are any of them would be just as happy to be out at a club.

But it is what it is, so I just need to find the right angle to take advantage of it. A friend just sent me a groupon from a another 6 pack about about the same size as me, doing a similar thing, and he sold a TON of them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Schaaf View Post
Are you asking about daysails, or "term charters", which might be for a week? and where are you?
I may do some overnighters, but not term charters. Snorkeling, sight seeing, daysails. Sandbar parties...minus the alcohol. I'm in Miami.

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Don't forget to "spiff" the hotel concierge & desk clerks, for every customer they send you.
Yeah, them and all the cute little hostesses I know on the beach. Hell I may even give them a cut, and let them come out for free, whenever they show up with at least 4.
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Old 12-12-2011, 22:03   #10
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Re: Where Do You Get Your Charter Customers from ?

grunzter-

I'm not commenting so much on my particular slice of the world applying all over the place, but more so that it's the people who look at it like a business who seem to be doing the best. There's a parade of lights festival going on yesterday and next Sunday, and last night I saw one of the fishing boats decked out with Christmas lights heading out with a full load of passengers with red party cups.

It's ingenuity like that that works: the boat I work on is sitting in its slip while the guy going out managed to make a few grand loading up the boat with people who just want a nice night on the harbor looking at pretty boats having a drink.

If you're approaching it like any other business (and it sounds like you are) I think you'll be a-okay. Call me up if you need a captain :-)
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Old 13-12-2011, 09:09   #11
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Re: Where Do You Get Your Charter Customers from ?

I've done a day sail and picked the boat based on the recommendation by the hotel concierge. Also done one since it was the option right at the resort we were at.

And when we first chartered with the moorings it was in part due to seeing all the moorings boats when we were in the BVI our first time and then doing research online.

So I don't think you can forgo an online presence.
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Old 13-12-2011, 15:06   #12
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Re: Where Do You Get Your Charter Customers from ?

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If you're approaching it like any other business (and it sounds like you are) I think you'll be a-okay. Call me up if you need a captain :-)
Yeah, otherwise I'd be somewhere in the Caribbean trying to do dive charters and failing miserably.

Even if you're not doing what you truly love, a day on the water is still way better than a day in a...err most anywhere else.
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Old 14-12-2011, 03:35   #13
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Re: Where Do You Get Your Charter Customers from ?

the first 3 years of chartering I got 100% from my website now after just finishing my 6 year Iím getting 50% from my website and rest is referrals--
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