Working with Current Non-Hunters
So far we’ve analyzed how we can encourage current hunters to become more active in the hunting community. In this section we’ll look at strategies to recruit current nonhunters. Non-hunters consist of two groups: People who have been hunters/shooters or might be interested but aren’t currently active for whatever reason, and folks who currently have no interest in shooting or hunting. The Think Tank came up with a basic formula for working with this crowd: Awareness, Interest, and Trial. In other words, to get current non-hunters involved we need to peak their awareness and get them sufficiently interested so they will be willing to attend a trial of hunting or shooting.
This group also includes people who used to hunt or shoot, and folks who might be interested but haven’t taken the step to actually try it. We don’t have to spend much time convincing these folks that hunting and shooting are worthy activities because they already believe this to be true. The inactive hunter/shooter isn’t opposed to the activity; they just aren’t actively pursuing it.
The first step is Awareness. It is easy to assume that the awareness step isn’t necessary for this group, but such an assumption is false. Most Americans are aware of the concept of hunting, but many are oblivious to how to go about it. They will see a piece in the paper on opening day, but aren’t aware of what other opportunities are available the rest of the year. They may also be aware that “target shooting” as a sport exists, but most gun owners have no clue about the specifics. For an interestingly frustrating experience, ask a casual gun owner to explain the difference between Trap and Skeet, or the basic rules for High Power.
Awareness is achieved through marketing. Many people think “marketing” is synonymous with “advertising.” In truth, advertising is just one of one hundred methods of marketing. Issuing press releases, holding demonstrations, and writing the editor are other types of marketing that are free and even the smallest and poorest organization is capable of. The key is regularity. Marketing experts tell us it takes seven to nine successful exposures to a message for a person to act, if they are inclined to act at all. And only one exposure in three will successfully register. That means a program or idea needs to be presented at least two dozen times to each prospect before you can expect them to act. It is generally recommended to plan to run any marketing campaign continuously for at least six months before the results can be evaluated. And if the desired results aren’t achieved the campaign will have to be restructured and started all over again…
Consider that hunting seasons happen once a year and last for just a few weeks or even a few days. Hunter’s education classes are held once or twice a year in a given locale. This totally violates the necessary principles needed to market effectively. Contrast this to how a sports organization like the National Football League conducts marketing. The season lasts for months. During the off season they stay in the news by releasing information on draft picks, training camp, public service announcements (“Stay in school” and “Don’t do drugs”) and by hosting other events, such as the “Quarterback Challenge.” In other words, the NFL keeps its name out in the public all year long. Once aware of the programs available, the next step is developing interest. This group is already aware that hunting and shooting exist but, for whatever reason, they have convinced themselves they can’t participate. Maybe lack of time or money is a factor. Again, this is why multiple programs are important. The more shooting/hunting venues made available provided they are properly promoted, the more folks we can attract. No two people will have the exact same interest, time and funding available (“You are unique – just like everyone else”) Many different offerings will let people choose what works for them. If a hunter/shooter can’t afford to travel out of state for a guided hunt, then there needs to be a readily available, inexpensive off-season alternative to develop interest.
Once awareness and interest is achieved, we need to move to Trial. For this to be successful the operative word is convenience. Once interest has peaked there needs to be an outlet immediately available. The prospect should be able to sign up or get information immediately. More importantly, they should be able to participate in an organized event within days after that and at nearly any other time thereafter. When a prospective hunter/shooter reads about opening day after it has already begun, they will have to wait for a full year to try it themselves. Their interest will die long before the season opener next year.
Another area to consider is redefining what “participation” means. When discussing participation, hunters and shooters only consider the man or woman actually in the field. In other words, the only acceptable level of participation is trying to take a trophy, animal or otherwise. Let’s look at the NFL again. They foster a sense of participation through spectating. How many times have you heard a sports fan say, “My team won the game.”? The spectator has a feeling of connection with a sport that they don’t even play! Compare the success of the NFL to the NRA and you’ll see how effective this idea is. “But hunting and shooting only appeals to people who actually do it,” you say. Decades ago, that was the consensus about golf. Then the golfing-powers-that-be made a few minor changes to the scoring system that made it possible to compare results of players that hadn’t yet played the same holes. Today, golf tournaments are covered on television in their entirety. ESPN has even covered spelling bees. (!) I’m not kidding! If a sports venue can’t create a viable spectator event that can compete with all the thrills and chills of a spelling bee, it deserves to die.
Bottom line, hunter-shooters need to create spectator events to promote shooting to the masses. This concept has been tested for centuries on nearly every sport ever invented and the most popular sports are those that can attract spectators and fans. Shooters and hunters need to learn this!