I look at the Google products as a complete toolbox for my business.”Homer Brown
Few Idahoans know the Salmon River better than Homer Brown. A native of White Bird, Homer grew up fishing on the river before joining the Army in 1999. After Homer completed his service in 2001, he returned to White Bird to make a living doing what he loves: guiding fishing trips on the river. Homer earned his captain’s license and led tours for a local guiding business for eight years. In August 2017, he decided to use his experience to start Hammer Down River Excursions and show people how to fish the Salmon River like locals. After securing financing, Homer faced an even bigger challenge: attracting customers. In a town of just 91 residents, he knew the business needed to get online to be noticed. “It’s tough as a new business to figure out a marketing strategy,” Homer said. “There’s a lot of folks who want to go on fishing trips, but they can’t find us if they don’t know about us.”
Homer wasn’t sure where to start. After attempting to build the site himself, one of Homer’s customers recommended a small business support organization in Boise to help Homer launch a website where customers could easily book excursions. The company also helped him use Google Ads to drive more traffic to the site and set up a free Business Profile on Google that featured contact information, excursion photos, and customer reviews. Internally, Homer uses Gmail and Google Drive for document sharing and communications, and Google Calendar helps coordinate his guides’ schedules. Currently, 70% of the company’s advertising budget is devoted to digital. “I look at the Google products as a complete toolbox for my business.” Homer said.
Last year, Hammer Down River Excursions served nearly 1,000 customers. The business’ rapid growth has allowed Homer to start offering tours of Hell’s Canyon, a popular region that he expects to double or triple his bookings. “Hell’s Canyon is more well-known than Salmon River, so advertising in that market and getting to the top of those search results is going to really boost our business.” Supporting his hometown of White Bird is both a personal and professional endeavor for Homer. “We’re nestled down in a canyon with a big bridge that goes over town,” he said. “Watching the cars go by, I think if we can attract just 1% of those people, it would really change the town and transform the economy.” To that end, Homer’s five-year plan for the business includes building lodging on site, adding another boat to his fleet, and offering a wider variety of activities. “As we offer more, I know Google’s going to be integral to our success.”