Your sales and in-shop traffic have been great all "on-season," but they seem to drop in time with the temperature outside.
Here's how to run a successful fly tying event (or a series of events) to keep your customer engagement going in the off-season.
1. Figure out your goals for the event.
Fly tying nights are a whole lot of fun, but if you don't align them with your business goals your end result may be not much more than a few tables covered in feathers and bucktail fibers after everyone leaves.
The following are a few areas where you may want to set goals:
Sell fly tying materials.
If your shop stocks a good fly tying selection, fly tying nights are a great way to showcase the materials and tools you carry. This is especially true if you host a series of fly tying nights over which you can cover the full spectrum of materials.
If your approach is to tie specific patterns each time, you can sell ready-to-tie kits.
If your approach is more of a freestyle tie-what-you-want throwdown, you can hold the event right near your fly tying section where people can easily purchase the materials they need as they tie.
Book guided trips.
Most likely you'll have at least one of your guides helping staff the event, which provides prospective and repeat clients with valuable face time with the person who would be taking them out for a day of fishing.
A guide teaching someone an interesting tying technique or showing a beginning tyer how to whip up a Clouser Minnow are simple ways to strengthen the foundation of a long-term customer relationship.
Make an announcement during the event letting people know they can book guided trips and have an signup area clearly set up.
This isn't only for fly shops! If you're an independent guide, inviting your local client base out for a fun night of fly tying is a great way to get a head start on booking your schedule for the following season. Many local breweries would welcome you hosting your event at their venue (more on that later).
Drive traffic to your shop.
If you host your fly tying night at your shop, anyone who comes in is going to have your inventory at their fingertips.
And what fly angler doesn't get drawn in by the newest pair of waders or a cool hat?
Build your mailing list.
This is the easiest piece to implement and highly effective.
All you have to do is pass around a signup sheet and ask participants to write their email address in order to be notified of future events, as well as deals at the shop and details for guided trips.
They may not buy anything or book a trip that night, but keep in contact with them by email and it's likely they will in a month, or two, or six.
Grow your social media following.
This will help with all of the previously mentioned goals.
Tell everyone to feel free to take photos and post about the event on social media, and in doing so ask them to follow your shop social media and tag it in their posts (don't forget to post about the event yourself).
Not only will you gain followers from the people at your event, but their followers will see what they're posting, follow you, and may even show up at your next event because they learned about it on Instagram or Facebook!
2. Organize the event.
Now that you've set your goals, it's time to organize your event in a way that'll help you achieve them.
This is an easy choice for shops located in highly populated areas – do it in your shop! Everyone likes an excuse to drop by the fly shop.
If your shop is out of the way and most of your customers live in a neighboring city or town, it may make more sense to host the event where your customers are.
Breweries usually jump at the opportunity to co-host a fly tying night. Most fly tyers love beer, and you're providing the brewery with willing customers.
If you're a professional fly tyer or independent guide rather than a shop owner, it likely makes sense to host your event at such a venue.
At Flymen, we've been pleased to see many shops, guides, fly tyers, and other organizations running these type of fly tying events with great success, and we've had the pleasure of helping support several of the events with materials.
One of the great things about the fly fishing industry is how supportive many of the companies can be. Reach out to some of your favorite brands and see if they'll get involved with your event!
If you're using a venue other than a fly shop, see if the owners of the venue will support the event (even something simple like drink specials for participants can draw in a larger crowd).
3. Get people there.
Get the word out to your already existing customer/fan base on your mailing list!
You're already "their fly shop," they're the ones who will show up to support your first event.
Throw a post up on your social media channels before the event and ask your followers to share and tag friends they want to bring.
At the event, post about it and ask participants to post as well to spread the word and promote future attendance (see previous "goals" section on social media).
Throw 'em up around your shop, leave some on the counter for people to take, and post them around town!
Incentives for bringing new participants.
For events that are a series, even a simple "bring a new friend, get a free beer" can drive great results in attendance (and potentially new lifelong customers).
This may be a bit old school, but most likely so are some of your customers! Local news sources are a great way to get the word out to people who don't use email or social media regularly or at all.
Once your series of fly tying events is regularly drawing in a good crowd, invite local reporters to come take part. Reporters are always looking for something interesting to write about, especially in smaller communities.
If it's in a newspaper, hanging up the article in your shop can attract even more attention.
4. Run the event.
To make sure the participants at your event have the best possible experience as well as ensuring you're able to meet the goals you set for your event, you'll want at least two people staffing the event, more if you're expecting a large turnout.
You'll want at least one person fully focused on the tying program and engaged with assisting participants, and another person focused on making sure everything else is running smoothly – booking trips, mailing list signups, sales, social media announcements, taking photos, as well as helping participants as needed.
5. Follow up with attendees.
Thank them for coming!
Email them, comment on their social media posts, and keep them in the loop for everything going on at the shop.
The guy your guide taught to tie a Clouser may come in and buy a full fly rod setup.
Which leads us to...
6. Do it all over again.
If you set your goals, organize your event around your goals, and follow up with participants, fly tying events can be an effective and fun way to grow your business!
What have you found to be good tips for organizing a fly tying event? Comment below!
About Caleb Welborn:
Caleb mostly points a camera at anything fishy and drinks coffee. When not fly fishing, he enjoys mountain biking and writing silly songs.