Attention Guide and Outfitters – 4 Tips to Getting Bigger Tips This Year
In the outdoor business (whether you have hunting, fishing, biking, whitewater rafting or mountain climbing clients), getting a good tip at the end of a hunt, a fishing trip, a raft ride or climb is the goal of every outdoor guide and professional. While the basics of tipping are known to everyone, here are four tips you can use to garner bigger tips from your customers this year.
TIP #1: Let them Know Tips are Encouraged but not Mandatory
I know this sounds obvious, but believe it or not, many first-time guided hunters or fisherman don’t understand that tipping is customary. Sure, they are used to it when they go out to eat with the wife and kids, but when it comes to their guided excursion, many don’t tip because they don’t know. So, yes… state the obvious. If you put notes on your website and in your printed materials, you are setting expectations in their minds that a tip is customary.
One of the best examples of this came from a hunting website I came across a year ago: “”Like most elk hunting guides, the majority of my annual earnings come from tips from customers like you. I pride myself on giving my customers a hunting experience they’ll remember forever, not only because my livelihood is at stake, but because I realize that if I work to give you the elk hunt of a lifetime, your tips will help me keep doing what I love doing most. And I want to do this for as long as God lets me.””
TIP #2: Know Your Customer… Serve Your Customer… and Watch the Tips Soar
Everyone you serve is different. Different personalities, different levels of expertise, different geographical and different financial backgrounds. Some are out with the boys, others out with their families, others still are on business trips. One of the keys to getting better tips is knowing and learning everything you can about your customer in advance and then using that knowledge to make their experience one-of-a-kind. You can get a cup of coffee at 7-11 for less than a dollar, but people regularly stand in line at Starbucks and pay $4.50 for a cup for one reason – the experience.
Same thing with the outdoor industry. If you want to double your tips, then your job should be to work twice as hard at creating that one-of-a-kind experience for your customer. Don’t get me wrong… this isn’t about being an ass-kisser. It’s about genuinely creating a great experience for your customer.
For example, if you know that the quail hunters coming in this weekend are on a business trip (i.e. instead of closing the deal on a golf course, they came to hunt), what could you do differently? What if you call the secretary of the president and asked what kinds of person he/she is and how they conduct business? Are they here to unwind or to close a deal and then unwind? You might find that converting part of your lodge into a mini-conference room with a whiteboard (you can buy them at Wal-Mart of under $25), some pens and pads on the table and a catered lunch to help close the deal, could be the “”wow”” factor that makes an incredible impression and leaves you with a 15% tip instead an 8-10% tip.
So ask yourself with your next set of customers… What could you do differently than any other guide in your area? How could you make their experience one of a kind? Is this a first-timer? How about some How-To Guides or Watch-and-Learn DVDs left in the room the night before the big adventure? How could you treat your experienced customers differently that would leave that WOW impression?
The point is this: When you take the time to learn more about your customers and then tailor what you do around that knowledge… THAT is where the tip money is.
Tip #3: Know Your Business… People are Paying you for Your Expertise
You can encourage people to tip, do all the customer research to provide a world class experience before, during and after your climb or hunt, etc., but what people are paying you for on the day their adventure is your expertise. And while an experienced outdoorsman can smell bullshit a lot quicker than a first-timer… you can’t fake what you don’t know. As soon as people sense they’re being deceived or if you’ve overstepped your expertise and it shows… kiss the tips good-bye.
People pay money to learn from experts. They buy books, they buy DVDs, they invest in courses. When your customers come and visit, you should look at this as an opportunity to educate them. Yes, people want to harvest the huge buck, or tear down whitewater at break-neck speeds, but they also want to come away with knowledge from their trip that they didn’t have before. Do whatever you can to become masters in a few areas of your businesses — and share that knowledge with your guests. And don’t worry, you’re not giving away your trade secrets here… you’re building a relationship of trust and mutual respect that will pay off now and in the future.
Having said that, you can’t know everything about everything… my expertise is online and offline marketing. When I go hunting or fishing, I surround myself with people I can learn from. Every time I do, I come home armed with information for my next adventure. Do the same in your business. If you’re an expert in freshwater fish, impart that knowledge to your customers. Explain what you’re doing, why you’re fishing a certain bend in the lake, teach them how to find fish at the right depth, how to figure out what colors to use in which weather conditions, etc. Give them knowledge and information they can use for a lifetime. If you’re not an expert, partner with someone who is. Invite them along as a special guest.
The point here is simple: The more expertise you have and the more you can help them be a better climber, hunter or rafter, the more your customers will feel like they got their moneys worth and great deal more. And when THAT happens… your tips will reflect it.
Tip #4: Upsell, Upsell, Upsell
Upselling is a fancy way of saying: Sell more good or services to customers who have already purchased. Upselling is used all the time online: You’re about to checkout of an online store and they present you with a few discounted offers right before hand hoping you’ll add it to your cart. You’ll also see it in retail stores — in fact our HEB grocery store does it — where they ask you if you want candy bars or some other item (at a discount) added as well. Trust me, they sell more of those items than if they left them on the shelves to sell by themselves.
While I’m a marketing guy and enjoy helping people find new ways to breathe new life into their business, I’m also fairly practical. My final tip is a a very simple one. If you want bigger tips this year, sell more to your customers. If your customer is going to pay you 8% on a $6,000 trip, that’s $480.00. But if he’s going to pay you that same 8% on $8,000 — then that’s $640.00 — a 33% increase. It’s simple math really, but if you can find ways to sell more services to your customers, then you’ll get a bigger tip.
How do you sell more services to your clients? Find out what they are doing themselves and offer to do it for them. I know an outfitter in South Texas that offers limo service to and from the San Antonio airport for $150 a head with a group discount. For a group of 10 people he charges $1000 and his exclusive clientele upgrade on a regular basis. What services could you offer that would increase your overall sales price to your customers? When you sell more to your existing customers, your tips can grow easily.
When you let your customers know that tips are encouraged, go the extra mile to create a world-class experience, teach them something about your passion they didn’t know before and figure out new and creative ways to upsell them, your tips this year and every year after will be best you’ve ever had.