What Our Trip To The States Taught Us About Making Better Business Relationships From Afar

As the world’s largest platform for booking fishing trips, you’d think FishingBooker has its fair share of regional knowledge.

Well, you could say we do. But how on the mark are we? Is it really possible to develop an in-depth understanding of the people and destinations you work with if you don’t actually go and meet them on a regular basis?

Our Business Developers went to some of our most important markets to find out.

Why Make The Trip?

We work with thousands of captains along the US Gulf Coast, which is where Jelena, Vasilije, Djoko, and Igor headed out in July. This area is famous for its fishing: A large portion of the world’s recreational charter boats head out of Florida, Alabama, and Texas alone.

Makes sense, then, that these three states are strategically important for us. They also come with a unique challenge – they’re almost 9,000 km away from our office in Belgrade, Serbia.

So, our team had to make this trip count. They set off with three main aims:

  • To gather fresh, first-hand information about our main markets;
  • To learn more about how our partners use our product;
  • To show FishingBooker’s “human face.”

The four of them started in Destin: “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” This Floridian town is one of the major fishing charter ports in the world. Lucky for anglers, maybe not so much for the fish.

Hoping the luck would see them through the rest of the journey, they then split into two groups. Djoko and Igor went west to Texas where they were joined by our COO, Dino. Vasilije and Jelena headed off to the Florida Keys before dropping in on the state’s west coast. Everyone reconvened in Orlando at the end of the trip to attend the iCast trade show.

What they found gave them some key insights about our top markets. But more than that, they picked up valuable ideas for keeping in touch with the 5,000+ captains we work with worldwide.

Here are the main things that struck them as they spread out across the Gulf of Mexico.

Getting the Lay of the Land: Feet on the Ground VS Data and Analytics

At FishingBooker, we’re proud of our data-driven environment. All our major decisions are backed up by research and numbers. We’re confident that this is the number one reason why we’ve grown to become the dominant player in our field.

But, as anyone who’s ever stepped outside of an office knows, numbers don’t tell you absolutely everything. 

Igor and Djoko’s visit to the Corpus Christi Bay in Texas illustrated that. One of their stopping points was Aransas Pass, a small city looking out onto the bay. Home to a fair number of fishing guides, this town has really slow internet! So, no wonder we had some specific problems building a good relationship with our partners here.

Learning #1: However good our product, we can’t expect everything we make to work as well in real life as it does in the office. Simplicity is key!

On the other hand, something that struck everyone on the trip was the sheer amount of offline advertising – everywhere! Airplanes with banners fluttering overhead, billboards wherever you look, and stickers, stickers, stickers. Lots of guides have their own promotional stickers, leaflets, and fliers, which they disperse everywhere they can.

This is something a large number of captains mentioned: We’re noticeable in our absence of offline advertising, even though we invest heavily in advertising online. Nothing brings you down to earth quite like realizing that, however much you dominate online, something as simple as a sticker can still make a difference in the modern world.

Learning #2: Even if we’re not there in person, we can still do a lot to have more “presence” in our main markets.

Djoko and Igor bond with Captain Mike over mackerel

Talking Captain: Where Face-to-face Time Beats a Phone Call

If being data-driven is one of our mantras, customer-centricity is another. We apply this to everyone we work with, from captains to the customers who book trips with us. We reach out to every single captain when they sign up, walking them through how we work and how they can get the most out of our service. Then, we’re there to help. With anything… and everything.

All this happens over the phone and email. And that works well, to some extent. But our Biz-dev team found that sitting down with someone over a cold drink – or even catching a fish with them – gives an entirely different perspective.

Usually, it’s the extreme opinions that you hear the loudest, especially when you’re working from a distance. When you talk to someone face to face, things get more balanced. And, as Jelena pointed out, one of the biggest surprises of the trip was how positive people are about the work we do. 

Most people aren’t the extreme promoters or extreme detractors you come across in online communication. They’re happy with what we’re doing, even if there are some things they’d like to see us doing differently. 

And one of the most important things we learned from them was one of the most simple. They’re looking for us to have a more active presence in their community. To give back to the local anglers by investing in fishing tournaments and promoting the sport on the ground. That would be good for locals, and good for us. 

Learning #3: It’s good to hear and respond to extreme opinions. But we shouldn’t neglect the people who aren’t so forthcoming. Talking to them on their own terms brought up topics we hadn’t seriously considered before. Just like sponsoring a fishing tournament!

The team with Captain Justin in Destin

More Than a Bug Report: Learning What’s Working – And What Isn’t

As well as giving us an insight into what captains really think about what we do, sitting down with them taught us how they use our product on a daily basis. And, it turns out, this is an area that we could focus on more, even when we’re back home in Serbia.

Speaking to the captains in person, the team was able to walk them through our product features step by step, with a phone in their hand. It was enlightening to see how many of the captains who’ve used our product for years still have some basic misunderstandings about how our features work.

This sparked ideas about how we can improve our product and make it easier to use in real life. Actually, it was interesting to see how captains’ most common problems aligned with our current product roadmap.

Clearly, our users are giving us similar feedback in person to what we’re hearing over the phone. But what isn’t going so well is explaining to our captains how to use the features once we launch them, in a way they can easily digest and use.

Learning #4: We can’t expect everyone to instantly understand our product as well as we do! We should invest time into walking people through it – online and in person. 

Vas looks at our product from a whole new perspective

What’s Next?

So, how much did we get right about our top markets? Is it possible to build an in-depth knowledge of the people and destinations you work with before you go there?

Well, we weren’t far off. Our Customer Happiness, Business Development, and Captain Relation Specialists have an effective system for finding out our captains’ pain-points and pitching ideas for fixes. A lot of what we found on the ground correlated with what they’d told us before. 

But even though there were no big surprises, the trip taught us a lot about the actual “feel” of the places we work with. The abundance of offline advertising comes into this, as does the ever-changing dynamic of how captains manage their bookings outside of FishingBooker. 

For us, running trips like this more often is a no-brainer. It gives our teams context about the places they’re working with, while letting our most influential captains get to know us better and put some faces to names. 

Now the team has been back in the office for a month, we’ve had time to digest everything they told us. And we’re ready to make our connection with our captains even stronger. 

Here’s how:

  • By increasing our offline advertising in strategically important locations. We’ll make sure this is ultra-relevant by helping out with big industry events such as fishing tournaments. 
  • By constantly working on making our Captain App more functional and easier to use. We’re more focused than ever on busy people with patchy internet!
  • By investing more in product marketing. We’ll be introducing new features more consistently and providing captains with resources to learn to use them properly. 
  • By introducing more teams to our top markets on a consistent basis, to meet more captains face to face and keep learning new things.

If helping develop our directions and reach even more corners of the world sounds inspiring to you, check out our open positions. You never know where it might take you!

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