An Open Apology Letter To Salt Strong Fans… (Pics)
Here at the Simonds’ household, Christmas is a pretty big deal.
If you are anything like us, it’s not just a “holiday” for our family…
We celebrate the birth of Jesus today.
Call the news!
AN AMERICAN BUSINESS OWNER SAID “JESUS” AND “CHRISTMAS” IN AN EMAIL TO HIS CUSTOMERS AND SUBSCRIBERS!
GET YOUR TORCHES!
But oh, it gets worse…
Our family also stands for the national anthem, we pray at night, we still say “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am,” we sincerely thank veterans for their service, and we support fishing.
Before I go any further, I owe you an apology.
In fact, I owe you three apologies…
But first, can I ask you an honest question?
Do you ever wish you could turn back (or at least pause) the hands of time?
Also, do you wish that you had written down more of the good things that happened in your life so you could reflect back on them?
I sure do.
I feel like SO much happened since Luke and I started Salt Strong 7 years ago – yet I can hardly recall most of it.
So over the last few days, I’ve been trying to reflect on all of the amazing things that have happened since the birth of Salt Strong in 2015…
(like the birth of my first son for instance) – “Action” Jackson Simonds
And the birth of our Salt Strong mascot (Otis the dog)
And the birth of the FG Knot video that we filmed on my poker table.
We never thought millions of people would see that video!
Do you remember seeing Luke tie the FG knot over the red poker table for the first time?
You can see that full post here.
It wasn’t long after the FG knot video that we produced and launched our first-ever fishing music video, “Fishing In Our Soul.”
I still get goosebumps hearing this song!
You can see the full music video here.
There was also the time that Luke caught a snook from the 3rd-floor balcony in downtown Tampa.
Definitely one of the craziest fishing catches I’ve personally witnessed.
You can see the original video here.
We’ve also seen some amazing growth at Salt Strong since the early years.
But it sure wasn’t an easy (or straight) path…
I can vividly recall how tough our first two years were.
It was filled with countless pivots to our business, long hours, and periodic waves of anxiety wondering if this whole idea to “teach fishing online” would actually work…
Luke and I made WAY LESS than minimum wage while working 80+ hours in any given week (many months making no money at all).
The only good news is that it usually didn’t feel like work… we were having more fun than we ever imagined possible by creating helpful how-to content, sharing tips, and getting to fish for a living!
Plus, we knew we were on to something as our amazing audience of anglers (YOU) continued to grow and grow.
I vividly recall the period of time when we’d be out of money if we didn’t offer our amazing audience something – and apparel seemed like a good choice at the time… DOH!!!!
It didn’t take long for us to realize that becoming an apparel company was NOT who we were.
Not only did apparel get in the way of fishing, it just didn’t match up with our mission and vision (plus, no one ever told us that women return 40% of what they buy online!!!)
In all seriousness, the one thing we knew is that we wanted to be educators and we wanted to build a community – we just didn’t know how to turn that into a business…
So we kept grinding.
As we gained more traction with our content, it didn’t take long to realize we were the underdogs (which may be the reason you were originally attracted to us).
We were different.
We pushed the boundaries of what had been done before (we still do).
Although we grew up fishing our entire lives, we didn’t grow up in the fishing industry where everyone knows each other (it’s a tough industry to break into as it’s very tight-knit).
Many of the people in the fishing industry didn’t want us to succeed at first.
In fact, we couldn’t even get calls back from most people in the industry.
The first year at ICAST (the big fishing industry event) was BRUTAL!!!
We couldn’t get a meeting with a single fishing manufacturer or big company.
Hardly anyone paid us any attention at ICAST that first year (except for a handful of people who we won’t ever forget – like this guy – Capt. Jeff Maggio aka Lunkerdog)
Let’s face it, we were the new guys on the block trying to disrupt an industry that has been doing things the same way for a LONG time…
We were teaching fishing online and many thought we were crazy.
It had never really been done before…
Teaching fishing online was completely foreign to most of the old salty fishermen who had been in the industry for ages.
Keep in mind, this was well before Facebook groups and even the term “fishing YouTubers” was a thing.
Many made bets that we wouldn’t be around after a year…
Many said that Salt Strong was just a fad and wouldn’t amount to anything… (I still remember the hateful messages and emails we received the first couple of years – it’s one of the things that keep me going – to prove them all wrong).
But we kept on persisting and prevailing…
We were determined to turn Salt Strong into a real community and a real movement...
So we put our heads down…
We ignored the naysayers…
We kept creating solid content…
We outworked everyone around us…
We focused on growing the best online fishing community of amazing anglers in the country (YOU)…
We did our best to listen to our ever-growing audience (which is why I’m apologizing today)…
And we created our very own niche in the fishing industry…
Salt Strong – The Most Trusted Saltwater Fishing Community In America
And I believe today we have the best, largest, most trusted, and fastest-growing online fishing club in the country (the Salt Strong Insider Fishing Club).
35,000 active members as I write this!
Pretty awesome, right?
And with that growth, our Salt Strong team grew…
We’ve been so blessed to have a team that truly lives and breathes our mission, vision, and core beliefs.
Here is our amazing Salt Strong team this Christmas!
The Ugly Christmas Party was a huge success as always.
We even had a new employee bring a live fish as the White Elephant Gift.
Hilarious (minus the fact I got stuck with it and these fish last 5-6 years…)
And here’s the pic with spouses and dates.
What a fun crew!
Looking back, one of the most important things we did over the past couple of years is solidifying our MISSION (the reason we exist) and we put it in stone for the entire world to see.
We took this live on our About Page back in early 2019 (so this is not something new).
Here’s the Salt Strong Mission:
Why Salt Strong Exists…
- To unite friends and families through fishing
- To serve fishermen
- To honor God and Jesus Christ in all that we do
This written-down mission statement has been our north star to make it easy to know what we say yes to (and just as important, what to say no to).
But as you can tell, it hasn’t been an easy ride to get here by any means.
And after quite a bit of reflection over the last week on both the good and the bad, I feel like I owe you a few apologies.
Here’s the first one where we messed up…
Apology #1 – We Send WAYYYYYYYY Too Many Emails
The first apology is that Salt Strong needs to communicate a whole lot better with you…
Plain and simple, we sent out too many emails this year.
As an Internet-based company, our #1 means of communicating with you is via email.
And it just so happens that we have a lot of cool things to email you about…
But over the last six months, we’ve been toeing the line on this never-ending balancing act of trying to find the optimal amount of emails to send out (especially knowing that a big chunk of the emails are never seen due to spam blockers, blending in with all of the other emails in your inbox, etc).
We’ve heard from numerous Salt Strong fans over the past couple of months saying that the emails have gotten out of hand.
We heard that our emails were overbearing, that our emails were blending in with the rest of the junk in their inbox, and that it was too much to read.
Here’s How We Got Here…
Reason #1 is that over the years, email open rates have continued to decrease nationwide.
Many companies are lucky to have 10% open rates (that means 90% of their list never sees their email).
We’re actually very fortunate to have 40% open rates on many of our emails with our 35,000 Insider members.
Industry-wide, that is an amazing stat.
However, it still means that for every important message we send that 60% of our top customers (our Insider members) don’t see it.
With 35,000 members, that means 21,000 completely miss the exciting news!
And when we send a follow-up email to the 21,000 who didn’t click the first email, we still get the same 40% open rates.
Quick math reveals that we still have 12,600 (60% of 21,000) who don’t know about the important message or update after two emails.
Which led to us receiving frustrated calls and messages from our members saying we never told them about _______ (even after we had emailed twice about it).
So we started the slippery slide of emailing a bit more to make sure the majority of our customers were getting our messages…
We made a huge announcement in the beginning of 2022 about the Smart Fishing Spots platform.
In the email, we shared a detailed video on how it works, exactly how to download it to your phone, and revealed all of the wild wizardry it contains to help our members find the fish in their area.
In total, we sent over 5 different emails about this to our members.
But you’d be shocked at how many never saw any of the emails. We were bombarded with calls (and emails) from members asking how Smart Fishing Spots works, why they can’t download it, etc (which are all of the things we covered in the original post).
In fact, we still get messages to this day (almost 10 months later) from members who are just finding out about Smart Fishing Spots for the first time!!!
Reason #2 is that we’ve been creating so much amazing new content that many times we had 3 new videos PER DAY to share!
For any of you who have filmed and edited a video, you know how long it takes to complete a single video.
Well, we thought it was an absolute shame to put so much work into a video for our members and not have it seen – so we started emailing almost everything (which is why some days you received 3 emails in a single day from us – OVERKILL)!
The good news is that we don’t enjoy sending a ton of emails and cluttering your inbox any more than you do.
In fact, we’re going to cut WAY back on the emails and start sending you MORE of what you actually want to get (all while utilizing the Insider Community dashboard for important updates).
Here’s The New Insider Email Schedule
Here’s the “one email per day” weekly calendar on what to expect as a member starting in January 2023:
Note: This is INSIDER-ONLY content – None of the following Insider content will ever be found on YouTube.
- Monday – Insider Only Video Shortcut (a new fishing hack we’ve discovered, new mini-course, etc)
- Tuesday – Tackle Tuesday! An Insider-only Tackle Review, side-by-side unfiltered comparison, or brand-new product)
- Wednesday – Spot Dissection In Your State (where we get on a satellite map and dissect an entire area on how to fish for your state)
- Thursday – On The Water “Insider Report” for your area (these will be region specific so you’ll get an on-the-water report in your area)
- Friday – Smart Fishing Gameplan (the 10-minute or less “where to fish this weekend” report from one of our coaches or guide in your area)
- Saturday – New Tackle Discount Product or New Discount Partner (where we share a new Insider-Only tackle discount)
- Sunday – The Newsletter that curates ALL of the content from the week
Keep in mind, you have the ability to change your email preferences at any time using the settings link (gear icon) in the Insider Community here.
Your Monthly Fishing Offer
Every month here at Salt Strong, we try to come up with a new course or product that will help you catch more fish.
For instance, one month it might be a new online fishing course (like our Pier Fishing Mastery Course – coming soon), and the next month it might be a new book or propriety lure (like The Mulligan that debuts in January 2023).
At any rate, usually once per month, we will have something new that will help you catch more fish.
In most cases, we will send out a total of 3-4 emails over the course of a couple of days regarding the offering, but our promise to you is that in every email you will have the ability to “opt-out” of that sequence so you don’t see any more emails about that specific offer again.
This will only opt you out of that specific offer sequence (it will not opt you out of the weekly newsletter you receive from us).
What if I’m not an Insider?
Well, this is awkward…
The bad news is that you’re missing out on all of our best stuff…
The really bad news is that you could be saving money on your tackle and saving time on every trip!
The really good news is that it’s never too late to join – so what are you waiting for? Join us here now before we taunt you a second time
If you’re still reading this and not an Insider member yet, here’s what to expect from us in regard to emails.
To begin, you will NOT receive anything that Insider members receive.
Instead, you will receive our public tips including some of the things we post on YouTube for the public to see.
If you’re a new subscriber, you’ll get a sequence of emails sharing some of our best public tips (encouraging you to join the Insider Club).
Please click here to join now so you don’t miss out on anything.
Email Communication Recap
To summarize, we’re cutting the emails down by 60% starting in January by only sending one email per day (with the exception of a huge announcement or new product).
Finally, you should start receiving state/region-specific email content (so if you’re in Florida, you’ll get Florida-specific tips, shortcuts, on-the-water reports, etc – you won’t be getting emails about TX, NC, etc).
Of course, you’ll still have unlimited access to everything, we’ll just protect your inbox better.
Apology #2 – We Need More LOCAL LOVE (LIVE events, Regional tips, Meet-ups, Chapters…)
Local love is the term that our team came up with in regard to our new strategy for creating more regional-specific value for our Insider members in 2023.
Here’s where it came from and why we’re apologizing…
We don’t lose many Insider members, but when we do, we always try to get as much candid feedback on why they didn’t renew for another year so that we can get better.
And by far, the #1 thing we heard was something along these lines – “I really like you guys and I’ve learned a lot but there weren’t enough reports, tips, coaches, guides, or meetups IN MY AREA.”
In my area…
That makes complete sense and we’re sorry we didn’t address this better before.
Even though we all agree that a redfish is a redfish is a redfish regardless if it’s in Texas, Florida, Virginia (or any state in between), the truth is that there are different tides, different types of structure, and other variables that make our local waterways slightly different.
And honestly, if I was heading to Savannah, Georgia (like I do every year) I would want to know what types of spots and where to find fish in that area (not in Tampa Bay).
The good news is that we’re already making regional content (we’re just doing a bad job of segmenting it and emailing it to the right people).
The other good news is that we’re also doing on the water fishing tips in every state.
We’re also going area-specific spot dissections, Smart Fishing Game Plans, and regional tips.
We’ve also got fishing captains in every state reporting on what’s working in their area.
The bad news is that we’ve done a poor job of segmenting out our email list to make sure you only get the reports, tips, spot dissections, and game plans IN YOUR AREA.
But that’s all changing in January as I stated above with the region-specific emails.
Moreover, we’ve also done a poor job of getting all of our members into the online community where you can find anything you want in your area with the click of a button.
The Main Regions Of Our Insider Community
Let me ask – did you know about these different regions we have outlined for Insiders?
Did you know that once you pick your primary region, we start sending you custom content for that area?
And did you know that once you pick your primary region, you start seeing more fishing reports and tips in your area inside the community?
It’s a game-changer for you to get the content you want (in your area)!
If you haven’t done so, pick your primary region here now
Speaking of maps…
The Mega Fishing Spot Map!!
Are you familiar with our main map that shows all of the fishing reports, spot dissections, and on the water reports?
Every single pin on this map above is a detailed fishing report with intel such as where the fish was caught, what was caught, the tide, the lures/bait used, the type of structure, and lots of other priceless intel.
Not only that, there are new reports going up every 5-10 minutes in here!
If you ever want to see what’s been caught in your area, this is your map!
Meet-Ups, Live Events, & Local Chapters
One of the other top requests we hear is that we need more meet-ups and live events.
We do our big annual event for Insiders every year, but we certainly need to do more.
I know for certain that our new Salt Strong property on the water (which should be ready in April 2023) will open up a bunch of doors for more live events.
The good news is that many of our members already doing local meet-ups, we just need to do a better job of making sure our members know about them.
For instance, last week there was an Insider meet-up on the east coast of Florida but even some of our own team members didn’t know about it until the last minute (it was posted in the online community only).
We have an entire “Meet-Up and Events” section in the Community so make sure to check in there daily (so you never miss anything)!
Finally, we’re also hiring a full-time employee to focus on events, tournaments, and eventually, local Salt Strong chapters for 2023 and beyond – stay tuned for more on this!
The job offer was made last week and we’re hoping this superstar new teammate will be starting on Feb 1st.
So going forward, you’ll see the following focus in 2023 as it applies to Local Love:
- Content served up to you based on your region (make sure to pick your primary region here)
- More regional focus in the community (including more local guides sharing their weekly game plans, etc)
- More meetups – and eventually chapters
A phrase to describe this would be “Smart Content.”
Heck, we’ll even start having “smart offers” where you get to see special tackle offers that only apply to your area.
All of this talk about offers and emails brings me to apology number three…
Apology #3 – What The Heck Is Salt Strong? A Fishing Club Or Tackle Manufacturer?
Besides going too heavy on emails, we also heard that we went a little too wild on promoting our Salt Strong lures and other tackle this past year.
And I’m sorry it came across that way.
In reality, we’re an education-first fishing club that also gives our members tackle discounts.
Regarding the tackle side of things, the truth is that when we find something that works, we get pretty dang excited about it (and our tackle flat-out catches fish).
To be clear, this is not an opinion – we’re out there showing our tackle working on the water every single week of the year in numerous states.
All that being said, I don’t ever want our team to forget WHO we are and WHY we started this club in the first place.
From day one, we’ve been about fishing education.
In particular, we’ve focused on helping saltwater anglers find fish fast (because let’s face it, if you can’t find the fish, the tackle doesn’t matter).
It actually wasn’t until year 5 of the club that we introduced tackle (like our discounts, proprietary lures, rods, etc).
Over the past couple of years, the tackle side of the club has exploded.
It also evolved our tagline from “Helping you catch more fish in less time” to…
We help anglers save TIME and MONEY
Ultimately, our goal is to be the leader in online fishing education and to make sure that SaltStrong.com is:
- The #1 place saltwater anglers come to increase their fish-catching abilities and become more consistent.
- The #1 place saltwater anglers come to get all of the tackle they need to consistently catch inshore saltwater fish (and nothing else – no useless tackle that ends up collecting dust like most tackle stores and big box stores carry).
So here is our current business model in full transparency
(and if you want to help support us while becoming a more consistent angler, then this is how to do it).
- Insider Fishing Club (learn more here)
- Online fishing courses (learn more here)
- Fishing Tackle (see our online store here – Insiders members save 20% on all orders)
Yep, our business model really is that simple.
We have 3 revenue streams. That’s it.
For marketing our club, courses, and tackle, it’s also a simple approach…
We create free fishing videos, blogs, and other fishing-related content to bring people in, build trust, introduce them to our brand, and indoctrinate them into what Salt Strong is…
Then we do everything in our ability to add so much value, shortcuts, fish-finding technology, and tackle discounts that you’d be crazy not to join us in the Insider Club.
Once you’re in the club, you catch more fish and save money on tackle (and then tell your friends).
Why don’t you seek out sponsors to help fund the company?
This is a question we hear often.
As you saw from the three revenue sources above for Salt Strong, there was no mention of Sponsors or Advertising.
That was not a mistake.
We are purposefully not seeking out money from corporate sponsors because we want to ensure that 100% of our efforts are focused on providing unbiased value to you.
Because once we accept money from sponsors, then we’ll have an obligation to pitch their products (or withhold from letting you know about products that compete with our sponsors)… both of which would put manufacturers ahead of you.
Given our current business model, our only obligation is to make sure that YOU are absolutely THRILLED with the tips we provide and the completely unbiased product reviews and recommendations that we offer.
YOU are the only customer we report to.
In a sentence, we SERVE ANGLERS, not sponsors.
Are we going to try to sell you something?
In fact, you doggone right we are!
Because our Insider Club, courses, and fishing tackle works!
We truly believe that our club will make you a more consistent fisherman.
And we’re so confident that what we sell works, that all of our products come with a “You will catch more fish or it’s free guarantee for an unheard of 365 days!
Yes, a ONE-YEAR 100% money-back guarantee!
Don’t you wish that all other companies stood behind their products like this?
Furthermore, the number of testimonials from our online courses and Insider fishing club continues to skyrocket with literally thousands of testimonials from our members.
Will everyone who takes one of our online fishing courses or joins our fishing club catch more fish than ever before?
Of course not!
Only the people who actually watch the videos, use the Smart Fishing Spots software, practice it out on the water, and become real students will become more consistent.
Just because you invest in a course or club doesn’t mean the next day you catch more fish.
That would be like assuming just because you invest in a gym membership that you are going to have rock-solid abs and be in the best shape of your life even if you never actually go to the gym.
Mastering anything takes some work!
We provide you the shortcuts but you’ve got to use them.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a special fishing pill you can take and turn pro the next day.
Sadly, some of the people who invest in our Insider Club only watch the first couple of videos (or sometimes never even log in at all – we can see who logs in and how often, etc), and then blame us for their lack of fish catching…
But we don’t hold grudges…
We just give any paying member their money back if they somehow aren’t absolutely thrilled with your purchase (even if it’s their own fault).
And it’s one of the many reasons why we have a 100% money-back guarantee in place.
Finally, our promise regarding our online fishing courses and Insider club is three-fold:
- We will always listen to YOU to make sure we only create things of value to you
- All of our offers will have a 100% THRILLED money-back guarantee
- We will only produce the best quality fishing tutorials and best quality tackle we can (and when we miss things or make mistakes, we always quickly fix them).
One final thing…
The Future Of Salt Strong
Want to know what’s cooking here next at Salt Strong?
I can’t let you in on every secret, but here are three things we are really excited about sharing with you soon.
New Fishing Coaches
In the last 30 days, we’ve brought on two full-time fishing coaches and over 60 different fishing guides/captains.
Regarding the two coaches, we brought on Evan who lives in North Carolina (he fishes both NC and SC), plus Rich who fishes all over the Northeast (from MD to NY).
We’ve also added over 60 fishing guides to share what’s working in their area every single week. The goal is to have a full-time coach or fishing captain/guide in every single area to share a Smart Fishing Gameplan every week.
Let me know in the comments any specific fishing experts you want us to bring on board.
Brick & Mortar Tackle Store
As many of you know, we purchased a property on a lake in Winter Haven that will be our future headquarters.
It’s almost 2 acres and we’ll have a brick & mortar tackle store, a big warehouse for shipping and fulfillment of our online orders, offices, a private boat ramp, and lots of room for events.
Plus, you can demo out rods, reels, and lures right there in the backyard!
Heck, you might even catch a fish.
Looking forward to seeing many of you there in 2023.
Local Salt Strong Chapters
As I teased above, we’re making strides to create local Salt Strong Chapters.
Similar to a church small group, there will be a leader of each chapter along with help from headquarters to ensure successful meet-ups, events, tournaments, and more.
We just gave an offer to someone who has experience with this and they should be starting on Feb 1st.
If you have an interest in leading a chapter in your area, please let us know by emailing us here – email@example.com
The Fishing Theme Park…
If you’ve listened to our podcast for a while, you’ve probably heard us talk about the fishing theme park idea.
Imagine a 1,000-acre park with endless opportunities to fish for any skill level to catch fish and to learn from the best.
It will also have an RV area, a hotel, restaurants, and endless activities for the entire family to enjoy.
Every weekend will cap off with an exciting fishing tournament like nothing you’ve ever seen!
Stay tuned for more…
By and large, this Salt Strong movement is not possible without YOU.
In fact, YOU are the movement.
Luke and I simply started it…
But YOU are what really makes this Salt Strong community special.
I wrote this apology letter to let you know that we are human…
We make mistakes.
But we also own up to them, address them head-on, fix them, and do everything in our power to make it right.
You also have a commitment from us to always listen to you.
Thank you again for all of your feedback, for your support, and for making the Salt Strong Insider Club what it is today.
Don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me personally with ideas on ways we can improve and ways we can add more value to you.
Finally, please leave a comment below.
I’d love to hear from you.
Much love and a Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Co-founder of Salt Strong
P.S. – If you think any of your angler friends or fellow Salt Strong tribe members would like to read this and/or join the Insider Club, please Share this with them. You Rock. Pa-POW!
P.P.S. – This blog post is an update from an apology we made quite a few years ago. Ironically, the apology four years ago had to do with sending too many emails also… We’ve left the original comments so you can see them.
STOP WASTING TIME ON THE WATER!
Do what the “SMART ANGLERS” are doing and join the Insider Club.
Here’s what you’ll receive today when you join: