When encouraging hunters to renew their hunting licenses via direct mail, no-frills black-and-white postcards hit the bull’s-eye, according to a new study sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry.
Based on the study’s findings, NSSF encourages state wildlife management agencies to consider using such inexpensive, back-to-basics marketing if they don’t already. The finding is good news for state agencies since hunting license renewals remain a key source of funding for them and generating renewals a source of frustration.
The success of the no-frills direct-mail campaign was one of the primary findings by Southwick Associates, which examined the success of a reminder mailing to 50,000 expiring license holders in the state of New York. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) carried out the direct mail campaign as part of the NSSF-funded grant program “Models of Success.”
As part of NYDEC’s effort, the agency randomly targeted state license holders whose licenses were about to expire. The number of licenses purchased by hunters who received the mailer, as well as those in the control group of 331,854 remaining license holders in the state, was measured. The mailer was a simple black-and-white postcard displaying the NYDEC agency logo and notifying hunters of their license expiration, the need to renew to hunt in the 2011-12 season, and how to renew it. The treatment group responded at a statistically significant 2.3 percent rate, providing a net gain of 777 more hunters because of the mailing.
Considering the average New York hunter spent $61.50 for licenses in 2011, the 777 additional hunters generated estimated total additional revenues of $47,786. The cost of printing and mailing the reminders was $15,658 resulting in a net gain of $32,128.
“These results show that, with the right mailer and approach, hunters will respond to direct mail reminders in sufficient numbers to pay for the mailings and generate income for agencies,” says Melissa Schilling, NSSF’s director of recruitment and retention. “If you were to multiply the estimated increase in revenues of the study group to the entire population of New York hunters, a mailing to all expiring license holders could result in generating a net gain of nearly $200,000.”
Previous direct mailings to hunters utilizing four-color designs have shown poor returns. “Past research has shown state agencies have a high level of brand recognition and trust among most hunters. By using a straight-to-the-point postcard, with their agency logo prominently displayed, state agencies can take advantage of how their brand is viewed by hunters as the authority and manager of hunting,” reports Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates who coordinated and evaluated the effort. “Marketing hunting licenses is still in its infancy, and much more remains to be explored to identify the most effective direct and electronic marketing methods available.”
Gordon Batcheller, chief wildlife biologist with NYDEC said, “The NYDEC is very pleased with the program’s success. This effort shows how a simple reminder card in the mail can get more hunters afield and generate positive net income. It’s a clear-cut strategy we can return to again in the coming years. We encourage other states to try the same if they don’t already have some form of renewal reminder.”