Check out the interview:
1. What got you interested in helping companies in the scuba diving niche? Share your story
Scuba diving is a passion of mine. I started out scuba diving about 9 years ago in the Cayman Islands. Since that time I have been diving all over the world. Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Indonesia, Costa Rica, and the British Virigin Islands as well as at home in Canada. Diving and surfing are two things I love to do in my spare time. I had a bunch of spare time after having my third son, and was travelling to Costa Rica with my wife and three kids on parental leave from my job in Canada. I decided to do my divemaster internship while travelling with Rocket Frog Divers. They had a website that was in terrible need of repair. I had worked on lots of websites and done a lot of SEO work before so I figured why not make one for them. I did and started optimizing it for search. The results they got were amazing as far as an increase in business goes and I was off and running. It is the perfect business for it. It is mostly tourist based so people are always researching which shop to dive with online from home. If I bring more dive reservations to the dive shops they will never be shy about paying their monthly bills and that’s what I have done for the half dozen or so shops that I am working with now.
2. Have you found it easy to bring on new clients in this very specific niche of scuba diving? How do you find new ones and what’s working for you?
The funny thing with web design and marketing is that when you are doing a good job, customers will find you. They see what you are doing for their competitors or other shops and then they want you to help them as well. The main barrier I have faced is that a lot of dive shop owners think old school methods work, and are hesitant to pay very much for online marketing. The other problem I have is that I don’t work with any other dive shops within the same geographic area as any other shop I am already working with, due to competition. I can’t really tell one shop I am doing everything I can to rank them ahead of their competitors when I am also helping their competitors, so I have stayed away from that. I can’t count the number I have turned away due to this.
3. Do you think you would have had the same success if you catered general website and SEO services to anyone vs. specifically targeting scuba diving companies? What are your thoughts on this?
Yes and no. A big part of SEO is writing good content, researching, commenting on forums, etc. I don’t find this to be that taxing of a job when I am doing it about things that I like and I am interested in. I don’t mind sitting down and researching what the diving is like in a new part of the world and then writing about it. If I was writing about bathtubs or clothes then I would be bored to tears and much less productive with my time. So to put it simply, I know my skills certainly work with other niches, I do believe I have chosen an appropriate one for myself to be successful and not hate my job!
4. Have you done anything unique to help you stand out as a designer and for helping with SEO when working with clients? What can you offer a normal web design or SEO company doesn’t to these companies?
I would say the main thing I have done is get a team of dive writers together who are all actually professional divers as well. Out of the 40 or so writers I have at my disposal I am probably the least experienced diver. If I need information on a given area, there is a good chance that one of my writers can provide first hand knowledge and send me off some writing that is highly relevant and readable. People who choose designers and marketers that aren’t divers likely don’t get the same quality of articles that I am able to get. I also have the ability to get these articles in a wide range of languages as well which is a huge plus.
5. What are your future plans for 2014 and beyond?
I am hoping that 2014 is my last full year in Canada working a normal job. So far I have been doing this in conjunction with my normal job which is working in corrections. I am almost to the point where I can let go of my normal day job and head to a warm destination with my wife and 3 young boys. Right now we are leaning towards either Costa Rica or New Zealand. I want to be in a place where I can share my love for diving and surfing with my kids on a daily basis.
As far as the business goes, I think that will take care of itself. I need another 5 or 6 dive shops signed up to be able to reach my goals but I think if I just keep taking care of the dive shops I am already working with and take on new clients when the deals are profitable, then that should happen within the first half of 2015.
Check out his site at www.scubadivetourism.com