How a Tiny Montana Retailer, in a Town of 400, Attracts a National Audience


Montana’s outdoor scene was memorably captured in the 1991 film, “A River Runs Through It,” starring Brad Pitt and Craig Sheffer. The quintessential coming of age story follows two brothers as they fight the demons of their past, the uncertainty of their future, and spend their time fly fishing their troubles away. These iconic films and novels continue to dazzle audiences and bring tourists to revel in all that Montana offers: hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, and embracing the wild elements. 

In 2017, Governor Steve Bullock announced a new office of Outdoor Recreation to support the growing industry in Montana that stem from the outdoors. According to the Outdoor Industry Alliance, Montana’s outdoor recreation economy has generated an impressive $7.1 billion in consumer spending, a huge factor for small businesses looking to set up shop in Big Sky Country. One outdoor business in particular has attracted a national audience by using an inbound marketing methodology to draw tourists to a rural community north of the state’s capital, Helena.

Wolf Creek, Montana, population 477, draws thousands of tourists to their small community year after year for one reason -- fly fishing. The small-town borders the Missouri River and is home to Wolf Creek Angler: a fly fishing shop, lodge, and fishing guide service. This shop understands how to attract their target market of avid fly fisherman through online marketing and search engine optimization.

Here are four examples on how they’re ‘reeling’ in visitors with an inbound strategy:

  1. They know their audience, very well. Wolf Creek Anglers figured out the most important step to marketing is to understand who their audience is, and then speak to that persona. They understand their target market as individuals, including their goals, concerns, objections, and what gets them excited. They cultivated a strong following based on their consistent voice and familiarity, an invaluable asset.
  1. Their blog gives advice to both the novice fisherman and the advanced. Wolf Creek Angler are experts in their field, and they showcase their passion through shared personal experiences, data, and are able to use their content to relate to an angler at any level. This is important because it builds trust from a consumer who could likely be traveling hundreds of miles to visit the shop. Consumers want to feel confident in their purchase decision and assured by their guide’s skill. Wolf Creek Angler relieves all doubt by sharing their proficiency via digital content.
  1. They incorporate their industry (fishing) as well as the local scene into their blog. The Local Buzz is just one of the topics they cover on their blog, Running Line. Follow their lead and drive your SEO way up by integrating relevant, semi -relevant, and non-relevant content into your blog. In other words, share content directly related to your business, content that shares some factor of the business, such as, the community, or content that doesn’t relate in any way. By doing this, Wolf Creek Angler has made themselves into the unofficial visitor’s guide to Wolf Creek. All of their information is linking back to their website, strengthening their SEO, and ultimately helping them catch the sale.
  1. They have an excellent social media presence. Wolf Creek is a small town, yet the impact Wolf Creek Angler has had on a global platform is unprecedented. Their use of weather reports to engage a local demographic and epic hero shots are easily any fisherman’s calling. For a company like Wolf Creek Angler, out-of-state visitors are vital to their success. How else do they reach these customers without having millions of dollars invested in out-of-state billboards? Instead, they invest in inbound marketing techniques to increase their online discoverability, harness an engaged global audience on social channels, and use keywords to draw in new leads from search engines.

There’s a reason tourists come from all over the world to experience Montana, and the competition is fierce to attract these travelers to your business’ neck of the woods. Wolf Creek Angler’s content strategy is a great example of how you can guide your consumer to your retail store before they even start planning their trip. Use these key takeaways from Wolf Creek Angler’s successful marketing: consistency, targeting your personas, and showcasing your expertise. Your campaign will be more lucrative if you promote material that resonates with your consumers’ passions. Follow in Wolf Creek Angler’s footsteps and share personal experiences to make everyone (even some of us non-fishing folks) eager to grab some Simms waders and hit the Missouri.

Happy casting!

The Retailer's Guide to Inbound Marketing


Julia Bryant

Julia Bryant

As the Director of Business Development for Can-Do Ideas, Julia is highly engaged in the Montana economic development sector and can often be found at local events that build community relations. She is an expert in digital marketing strategy and revels in ideation.

TOPICS: Inbound Marketing, Montana, Retail, Tourism, Small Business

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