November 6, 2018
Investing in What Makes You Successful
There are certain businesses one would think would be immune to the internet. A bait shop is one of them.
But don’t tell that to Mark McMurray, owner of Bluff City Outdoors, a bait and tackle and trapping supply store in Alton, Illinois. Sure, maybe when you are heading out on the water you need to pick up the bait local, but everything else, well Amazon will deliver right to your door.
Bluff City Outdoors has been a staple in Alton for several years. It is stock full of the spinners and sinkers, hooks and leaders any angler needs. They also have bait for every occasion, but they specialize in helping locals and visitors catch trophy catfish.
Located on the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers, Alton is prime real estate for the big catch – catfish that can weigh upwards of 60 to 80 pounds. With dozens of lakes and tributaries in the area, this has long been a fishing haven for many in the region.
But like any other business, Mark wasn’t immune to the big box stores and the internet stealing his business. He tried to keep up, creating a retail presence online, but he watched his business dwindle over the years. With his wife helping, he was keeping the place afloat, but his dream of passing the business onto Whitney, his step-daughter who manages the business full-time, was beginning to sink.
What makes Bluff City Outdoors special is the personalized customer service. Whitney knows everything there is to know about the local waters, bait and the right kind of tackle. So do Mark and their other employees. If Mark doesn’t have it, he will tell you where to find it. He is close with guides, helping customers book fishing trips on the local rivers and lakes. But it is hard to put a dollar amount on that type of service.
As one of the six businesses chosen for the third season of Small Business Revolution – Main Street, Bluff City Outdoors needed an outdoor makeover and a marketing boost. Its website didn’t tell a story any longer and if you were driving by, you couldn’t tell if the place was open. The windows had been boarded up, the roof was crumbling, and two different Bluff City signs stood in the parking lot.
When business starts to falter, owners often don’t put any money into the things that can help get it back, like marketing. We see it all the time. With a new logo and a single sign out front, a new paint job, roof and cleaned up parking lot, Bluff City Outdoors has a new lease on life.
Most importantly, Deluxe helped Mark and Whitney understand that she can be the face of the business. Not on billboards or advertising, but since she is managing day-to-day and customers trust her, hers is the face that needs to be on the website to build a consistent message that Bluff City knows fishing in the area.
This has been a common theme after three years of the Small Business Revolution – Main Street. Small business owners can get mired in just running the business and forget to invest in what can make them more successful. It is natural. Mark was losing money, so trying to invest was more difficult. But not investing meant even more years of profit loss.
Their customers will still come in to buy bait, because they know no one else has what they need. And now, with an updated website and a renewed focus on the future, Bluff City Outdoors is better able to compete against online retailers and drive business into their little corner of Alton.