How To Handle Referrals

As your Charter Fishing Business begins to build momentum and your calendar fills up, you will soon have potential clients seeking to book trips on dates that are ALREADY BOOKED. What should you do? As a charter fishing captain, you want to take care of potential clients as well as existing clients. You can’t book this trip but you don’t want to miss out booking the NEXT trip from this potential client. You also don’t want to squander all of the marketing effort that you spent to get that potential client to contact you.

Referring Trips to Other Captains

If you’ve run fishing charter trips in a given area, you will inevitably develop relationships with charter captains in your area over time. We all know that every other charter captain is your COMPETITION for customers. However, this does not mean that local captains can’t look out for each other. After all, you are peers with the same passion: To help your clients catch fish.

When a potential client wants to fish with you yet your calendar is full, you can choose to either let the potential client fend for himself or you can CONTROL the situation to refer the potential client to another captain in the hopes of booking future trips. The mere act of referring the potential client to another client is good CUSTOMER SERVICE. Once you decide to make a referral, the potential client becomes YOUR CLIENT.

Referring clients to other captains carries certain risks as well as rewards.

The Risks

Be mindful of the following risks when referring clients to local charter captains:

  • The Captain can’t catch fish
  • The Captain is nasty or otherwise does not provide for a great experience
  • The Captain does not maintain his boat to the same standard as you
  • The Captain may seek to steal the client for future trips
  • The Captain “poisons the well” with the client by convincing the client that YOU are not a good captain, angler, etc.

If your client has a terrible experience during the referral trip, you will have lost all trust with the client and you will likely never hear from them again. On the other end of the spectrum is the possibility that the client has such a great experience that the client wants to continue fishing with the 0ther captain in the future. Neither of these outcomes are desirable.

The Rewards

Here are the potential benefits to referring clients to local captains:

  • Building Community – You are helping your fellow captains
  • “It All Comes Out in the Wash” – Offering referrals to local captains often results in reciprocal referrals in return
  • Client Relationship – You have provided a service to a client that builds trust and should result in future trips
  • Referral Fee – Captains may be willing to give you a referral fee from the trip proceeds

It never hurts to make friends amongst your peers by handing off trips to them. Also, you will likely reap the rewards of trips being sent your way as a gesture of good faith. After awhile, you may find that you work very well with your fellow captains. As for referral fees, I’ve always preferred to do my fellow captains a favor with a referral instead of asking for a referral fee. I have found that I make more money and build up more good faith by not asking for a referral fee. Of course, if the captain offers or insists upon a referral fee, take it.

Set Some Ground Rules

When referring clients, be selective in choosing the recipient of your referral. Make sure that the captain isn’t going to “poach” your client or otherwise “forget” the source of the referral. Remember: this referral trip is “found money” for your fellow captain. They should be grateful and show some gratitude, hopefully be sending referrals your way among other things.

When a referral goes well, everybody wins – You, your client and your fellow captains.

Tight Lines,

Captain Mike