When it comes to the future of boating and fishing, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation president Frank Peterson was on point when he said “The boating and fishing industries must focus on the three Rs: recruitment, retention and reactivation.”
According to data provided to the RBFF by the states, last year 6.5 million people dropped out of the sport. Speaking at ICAST in Orlando last summer, Peterson pulled no punches when he posed a challenge. “I ask everyone in this room: What did we do to try to keep those people — as state agencies, as retailers, as an industry?”
There’s no question cooperation between the fishing and boating industries at all levels — manufacturers and retailers — has grown in recent years. That good news clearly strengthens any overall movement to get more people into boating and fishing. But to be successful, the third partner — the states — must also be aggressively engaged.
To that end, the RBFF teamed up with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife resources division to pioneer a new Angler Retention Pilot Program. Through the year-long effort, these organizations were able to measure the impact of email communications on the retention of a new angler when it came to the purchase of a license the following year.
Now, we’re not about to reveal some rocket science here. You’ll see much of what the program executed are basic good marketing practices that build a relationship with the customer. But most states simply don’t have such a program in place. Hopefully, that will be changing now.
Briefly, during the pilot, five groups including a control group received various combinations of email messages. All five groups received a thank-you message following the purchase of their license and each treatment group received a series of license renewal reminders at the end of the license term. Treatment groups received combinations of newsletters and a follow-up survey and/or a discounted license renewal price promotion to continue a dialogue and encourage anglers to renew their license the following year. So what happened?
The email communications program to the four treatment groups generated a 4.7 percent increase in the license renewal rate compared to the control group for an additional 1,448 licenses sold. That meant more than $18,000 in added revenue and the anglers in the treatment groups renewed their licenses more quickly than the control group. The average time to renew for the treatment groups was 18.8 days, while the fewer renewals from the control group took 30.5 days.
Overall, the treatment groups generated more than $92,000 in revenue for the agency. Moreover, there was virtually no cost to implement the program, only the investment of staff time to distribute the emails. And if one considers the multiyear value of every renewed fishing license, along with the economic impact that angler will have making fishing related purchases, the contribution is even greater to the agency, state and industry.
“Communications and marketing are an integral piece of the efforts to grow this sport,” Georgia wildlife resources division director Rusty Garrison said. “The results of this study show how putting the right communications strategies into effect can keep people fishing and affect their license-buying behavior in a positive way.”
Finding better ways to retain anglers to offset the sport’s decreasing number of participants must be a partnership of the industry and the states. Based on the Georgia pilot success, the RBFF has packaged the email templates and results into a retention tool kit available to all state agencies. The RBFF’s mission is to increase participation in recreational boating and fishing and to further conservation of aquatic resources. It receives all its funds from the Sport Fish Restoration & Boating Trust Fund.