2020 has been a challenging year for all sorts of reasons. I am sure everyone reading this has tales of good days and not so good days. For those of us with school-aged children, becoming a teacher was not something I’d have ever envisaged as part of my career path.

During the first and most lockdown in March, we did what many others did. Enjoyed time as a family, worked, homeschooled, baked….a lot. We became avid listeners and watchers of all news broadcasts, yet didn’t feel the need to hoard pasta and toilet rolls.

With the extra time we had, it was inevitable that we’d spend more time online. Living close to the sea and being a water-loving family we often keep a keen eye on equipment that comes up for sale. We already have a kayak and SUP so when Nic, my husband, spotted a coded RIB for sale our interest was piqued.

Bluetooth RIB

Bluetooth was already being run as a RIB charter business. Yet we had spotted some untapped potential in the way that she was being marketed. A really gorgeous looking boat and perfect for us to enjoy family trips in addition to chartering her out.

When the first lockdown was lifted we went to view Bluetooth. Nic, being a marine specialist went poking around the boat whilst I chatted to her owner about the way he was getting business. What was apparent was that a lot of bookings were coming through from friends of friends of the owner who is well known in the sailing industry locally.

We were really happy with Bluetooth, a deal was struck and Bluetooth was ours!

The website

The website for Bluetooth had been set up and managed by a third party. We took control over the site that had been set up on Squarespace. It was the first time I’d worked in Squarespace, I’m quite happy to say it was relatively intuitive and their help videos were great. There were a couple of items that I didn’t like. One was that I couldn’t add a Facebook Pixel without upgrading the account. The other was that the website appeared as one-page which isn’t particularly SEO friendly.

I spent time going through the existing site. My main focus was to add keywords and make it a cleaner and clearer experience for visitors.

Money was spent on hiring a professional photographer who took us some amazing drone footage and still images. The difference between old images and clean modern professional images on the website was a game-changer.

Social media

The previous owner has set up a Facebook page but wasn’t really using it. I added an Instagram page into the social mix and throughout the summer posted regularly to help increase social presence. I decided that during the ‘down period’ through the winter to limit the posting to once a week.

The booking process

When we bought Bluetooth there wasn’t really a formal booking process in place. For both customer experience and insurance reasons we now have a standard booking process in place. This protects both our customers and ourselves as business owners.

Trade organisations

Bluetooth joined the Professional Charter Association. For a small membership fee we have access to other business owners in the same or similar field to ourselves. We are hoping that by being a member we can help each other with knowledge and support.

The end result and what’s next for Bluetooth

We were delighted that during our first few months of trading we had made a profit. We had repeat guests visit us and enjoy time with their family and friends on Solent Water.

Obviously 2020 has been a challenging year. With more people holidaying close to home, it surely was inevitable that bookings on Bluetooth were good. So how can we try to ensure she books as well in future years?

I am currently building a new WordPress website for Bluetooth. As well as addressing the couple of issues that I have with the Squarespace website it will enable me to be able to write travel guides. These guides will be a help to our charter guests in offering them ideas of where to visit. It will also help with SEO with the ultimate gain of extra bookings.

We signed up with a booking agent that takes a small % of the value of bookings made via their site. It will be interesting to see whether we do get any bookings through them. We were also approached by one of the deal websites. We declined to be listed as we feel we are offer a fairly priced service. As anyone who has looked after or owned a boat knows, it isn’t a cheap hobby.

To see more about Bluetooth RIB Charter please click here.