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Fall Means Excitement for Outdoor Professionals

By September 7, 2016 No Comments

When you are a marketer, you must deal with perceptions, realities and alternatives head on. If you are a professional marketer in the outdoor industry, I would be willing to bet that you instantly thought my headline meant that the fall means exciting fall camping, hunting or trade shows. The truth is that in the fall, a marketer’s hard work is just beginning.

Even though there are many seasons in the outdoor industry, fall is where it is most hectic for annual planning. If you are in the fishing or camping segment you just completed ICAST and the execution of your plans must begin. For the hunting and shooting sports, the fall is the time where plans for the NASGW and SHOT show take shape. Outdoor marketers are coming off the spring and summer months working with management and product specialists on exciting new products and services. Whether it be verification, testing or packaging, the new products are most likely complete and ready for launching.  This is where marketing communications and merchandising must accelerate.

Outdoors in the Fall

This time of year two things are always being tossed around like a worn out decoy. The Silver Bullet and the Marketing Mix. Let’s begin with The Silver Bullet.

The Silver Bullet

There are some very savvy people in our industry. That is why I am always amazed when I talk to senior management and high level marketing people and they say this one product or this one strategy is going to change the market. Rarely does that ever happen. I can only think of one. Master Lock. In the 1970s, the Milwaukee-based company hadn’t yet cornered its market. Its ad agency developed a television campaign that helped put Master Lock over the top. The premise was simple: A sharpshooter’s bullet strikes a Master padlock, but the lock doesn’t open. The company used its entire television budget to run the :30 spot in 1974 during the Superbowl. The rest is history. The spot became a tradition and the company went from $35 Million in 1973 to over $200 Million in 1994. That was truly the magic “Silver Bullet.” The truth is, almost without exception, there isn’t one simple and definitive solution for success.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is aptly named. It means the combination of many coordinated strategies to create a success that is enduring and builds a strong brand. We’ve all heard of the 4 Ps; price, product, promotion, and place. While those are the pillars, there is much more for the Marketing Director who may or may not have product responsibilities. What is certain is that a Marketing Director has the responsibility of making a product successful and getting traction in the market.

Think of the marketing mix as a prism. A prism takes multiple strands and shades of light to focus them into what we know as white light. That is what a marketer of any brand or product must do. Marketers take dozens of factors and avenues and direct them into a single focused goal. For many companies in the outdoor business, budgets are not large enough to blanket the entire market. Only brands such as Coke, Nike and Chevrolet have this luxury. Identifying the key elements of your brand’s marketing mix and then delivering a consistent message is the only way for outdoor brands to gain marketshare and make a good profit.

Here are some fall tips to help focus your planning:

Develop the Plan. This sounds simple and basic, but some companies simply wing it and don’t have a strategic plan in place. A good plan is in writing and flexible enough to be able to make corrections as the market and competitors react to your initiatives. Start by going back to the previous year’s plan and carefully evaluate what worked and face what didn’t. Brands must know where they are starting from to know where they are going.  Develop a baseline for measuring success and set measurable goals for your plan. Build a plan that can be used as a road map throughout the year, including responsibilities and due dates. If the road gets bumpy or runs into slow traffic, don’t change directions, instead explore new roads.

Know Your Weapons. A critical part of the plan is knowing what tool is best at doing what. If you have been to over 25 or so SHOT shows in a marketing role, you know the tools of the past were anchored by an annual catalog of products that are then promoted by print, television and radio advertising and supported by direct mail and point-of-purchase. Today, the landscape and labels have changed but the responsibilities of the tools are the same. In many cases, the catalog is now a website. Direct mail is now email marketing. And social or digital media is a primary advertising channel for a lot of companies. Just like in hunting or fishing, knowing what to use in what conditions will give you the best chance at success and impact.

Social Media Is Mainstream. Marketers now have more tools than ever to provide real-time measurements of success. In the past, direct mail marketers had to do A/B testing and wait for a season to end to evaluate results. Social media can give immediate feedback to head off problems and negative perceptions. You can use algorithms to show the best online creative based on what had been working the previous day. Think of each different social medium as an exact tool. Twitter directs customers to your website or Facebook page to engage prospects. Facebook is for customer engagement, education and interaction and remains the most powerful business social platform. Your website is where you educate customers and provide solutions that solve their problems. YouTube is not only the second largest search engine, but video is impactful and shortens the sales process with emotion, passion and education. The list goes on but it is easy to see that each platform has a different focus and strength.

Content Is Your Friend. Content is one of the most powerful tools a marketer has. Content is really where good public relations initiatives can make a difference. For the most part, customers get excited about the passion and prospect of success – not the equipment it takes to get there. It is easier for customers to pull out their wallets when you help them instead of sell to them. This has been the basis of public relations since the 1950s, using subject matter content to get attention and then directing prospective buyers to a retail location (or website today) to make a purchase.

If that sounds like a lot, guess what? It is. It can be a challenge to be an expert in all of these areas.  Senior marketing directors must assemble the team they need to be a leader in the market. The best and most successful brands have a mix of internal professionals and outside experts to address all of these areas.

So if you were attracted by the headline thinking this article was going to be the best tactics to bag your favorite game – don’t be disappointed.  Like preparing for the water, field or campsite, knowing what tools you need and how to be successful begins with formulating a game plan and mastering the elements to make it happen.  Simply said – Doing the right things instead of just doing things right separates the winners from those who are simply playing the game.

Callis can help your brand play the game at an All-Star level and win business in the market. Contact Cliff Callis today at ccallis@ecallis.com or 660-826-2822 and get started on a winning game plan and road map for 2017.