Monday, February 15, 2016

Fly Fish Montana's Legendary Blue Ribbon Streams

A couple years ago I decided to get my outfitter's license. I knew the game would change quite a bit because now, instead of relying on other outfitters for days, I was going to have to go out and get clients myself. That's not entirely true since many of the outfitters I have a good relationship with, still do hire me but if I ever want to be more self-sufficient and be taken seriously in the guiding/outfitting industry, I would have to do some of the grunt-work of bringing in clients myself. I've seen a lot of approaches over the years; some of them ethical and some not-so-much but for myself, I definitely want to do it the right way.

I spent eight seasons working for a lot of different outfitters as a guide. One would think that in doing so, I would have met a lot of folks that would come to me directly once I got my outfitter's license but here's the deal, I don't want to be that guy. I know how hard it is to create a brand and how much goes into marketing and I'm learning more and more about that every day. I respect those guys that have done it the right way and I personally don't want to take that from them by actively marketing the very same clients they originally introduced me to. I think that's kind of shady and I would have a hard time doing business with someone that lived by those standards. Having said that, that means now I start from scratch building my own client base. So how do you do that?

When you look at all the marketing tools that are out there and see all the competition vying for a piece of that fly fishing pie, it can appear to be a pretty daunting task. Not only that, but an expensive one as well. Nobody, not even Facebook, gives anything for free and when you start talking about graphics, branding, multi-media campaigns, and just disseminating all that to the folks you think will be interested in fly fishing--where do your start, right?  There are options and regardless of how some people look down at certain tools like Facebook or Instagram or any of the other social media outlets, they are effective tools but don't let the numbers fool you.

First things first though, you have to have something that people can see and can associate you with. In the last few months I've been trying to build up my video arsenal by bringing the GoPro duck hunting and fishing and even some random things like playing fetch with the dogs. It's been fun but kind of hit and miss and I've spent a lot of time in the field; some of it successfully and some not. (If you go to my YouTube page, you'll see what I mean. I've also spent a ton of time at my desk in front of my laptop...

When you're taking videos of things like hunting ducks or fishing for trout, nature doesn't always cooperate. As I get better at setting myself up for success, maybe nature will be more cooperative. However, right now it's all about spending lots of time trying to get a few cool shots. So not only do you have the gear like the GoPro itself and all the cool adapters for the camera, microphones, supplies to make creative implements to get cool shots, you also have to pay for gas to get to and from the river. And that's just a start.

If you're tallying and I'm pretty frugal, I'd say on gear alone, I've spent easily a grand in the last couple months just on the GoPro and accessories. If you add my Nikon D3200, my JVC hard drive cam-cord and all the stuff I bought for them, I'm probably at about 3 grand in video capturing gear. So that's a pretty small budget when you look at how much "real" video production companies spend on gear. You could be easily spending 10 to 30 grand on a camera, if your pocketbook aloud it.

Once you get the shots, you have to do something with them and that takes some pretty specific software that might come for free when buying the camera but you'll probably want to upgrade so you could spend somewhere around $250 a year for the Adobe package "rental" or try to find a cheaper alternative. I researched and tried out a few programs and settled on Corel's VideoStudio X8 for around $70. It does a lot more than the GoPro software but it's not so over the top you struggle learning the basics. Plus, I own it versus having to pay every year for the license. One thing that is incredibly important when looking at cheaper programs though, is you have to be able to convert HD videos into formats that compress files but keep the high-def integrity of the originals. You also want software that can handle a number of different kinds of raw video files that you can scrub quickly without freezing up or dropping out.

Remember, you do have to learn how to use it and that can take hours and hours of mishaps and failures before finally producing something you're proud of or even willing to share. (One thing I would say about that though is you got to start somewhere and I would just do it. Who gives a rip if the guys down the street ridicule you for producing something less than professional. They started somewhere too and there's only one way to learn.) Time is money right but it's also an investment. Don't ever forget that and if you're willing to invest in the education on the front-end, you just might save yourself a significant amount of cash in the end.

One thing nobody thinks about when getting into the producing of videos is audio. You can't just steal music from people and use it to promote yourself without having permission.  I actually wrote a letter to one of my favorite artist, Edwin McCain and did get a letter back from his publicist. The best thing, I think, is finding an up-and-coming artist that wants to get their stuff out there and you give them credit. I've also been recycling some recordings I did when I was an inspiring a rock-star, (wanna-be.) Some if it was decent and with some newer software, I was able to make it sound a little more professional.

Voice-overs, I've found, are a lot more difficult than what one might think and having gear to record it, (and record it well,) is not cheap. Luckily, I still have a bunch of recording gear. (In fact, my music gear trumps my video gear by about 3 times.) However, that doesn't mean I'm very good at it yet and recording voice-overs is much different than recording music and is an art in itself. Plus, you have to have the voice for it. Pretty soon here, I think I'm going to be soliciting Big Jim for his voice because well, I just don't have the rich tone that says, "That dude knows what he's talking about."

So let's re-cap. You want to get your name out there using videos and you realize it's pretty damn complex with being able to attain good shots meaning you have the cameras and know how to use them, you have the editing software to put the shots together and convert them into HD videos for uploading, you have found some music and are able to record voice-overs, and mother nature has cooperated so you actually have shots of cool eats or releases or kill shots, etc. Now, you have to get those videos onto people's computers or tablets or cell phones or on their TV. You can upload them to YouTube but they just sit there without any views.

Facebook. I know. "Facebook Ruined Trout Fishing." I'm not sure about that and I think it's ironic that the guys that are selling the clothing line that promotes this message are the very same guys that were so diligent at using social media to promote themselves when they started. Is it Facebook that's the problem or is it the message?

Here's the deal. I started looking at other folks doing a similar thing as I am and wondered, "How the hell are they at 2k+ on their Facebook likes?" It's because they paid for boosting their page so I figured I'd do the same and low and be hold, in just a couple days I increased my followers by 1,100 people. In fact, I did two boosts, one with a picture of my blog page header with the Sun River in the background and one with a 25 inch rainbow caught at The Land of the Giants and you know what? I received about 400 likes with the same audience from the scenic pic and 1,100 with the fish pic. But here's the real deal, out of all those people that liked my page, very few actually clicked on the link to go to my blog and even fewer went to my webpage so for the most part, the "followers" are really just clicking to click. (No offense to all those who have "liked" my The Montana Dream Blog Facebook page.)

So what does that mean?  Is it a race to get the most likes? Does that equal success? Probably not because in the end, if 2,000 people like my page, can I go to the grocery store and say, "Look, I have 2,000 likes that I paid $.07 per, can I trade 50 of them for a gallon of milk?" Probably not but a huge percentage of the population is on Facebook and I don't think there's anything wrong with using it for developing potential client lists as long as you're doing it the right way, which is no different than the messages that have been sent for decades on TV or the radio or mailings. It's just much more efficient and faster and everyone has a relatively similar ability to access it. Where it becomes a problem is when the method of obtaining a target list or the message itself is unethical and to that point I would have to agree that some folks, using social media, are ruining fly fishing. That's a whole 'nother topic though.

In the end, we all want to eat, which means booking clients or selling ads on our blogs. There's a ton of grey area dividing right from wrong but I feel if you're honest about what you're selling and your treating your competition the way you would want to be treated, we should all be able to have fun putting stuff out there and let the chips, or coin, fall where they may. I think part of the problem is, when you're the pioneer and you see other people use the tactics you paved the road for, it's easy to be critical and start dogging people for being bandwagon jumpers when what you really need to do is get back to being a pioneer.

Keep 'em where they live...

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