This section offers systematic and communication best practices for selling hunting, fishing, target shooting, and other recreational licenses/permits/registrations. Each section presents a topic of consideration and then some “Next Steps” to address this area for your organization.
With upwards of 70% of traffic on websites now happening on a phone, it is of the utmost importance that everything an agency or organization designs be done with a mobile friendly first layout.
- Self Assessment: Conduct a Self Assessment or Mystery shop your site on mobile devices.
- Focus Group: Get a group of hunters/anglers to purchase their license online on their phone in front of you so you can see if/when they hit roadblocks.
- Analytics: Review analytics of your website/sales site to see where people are leaving your site. Respond to bounce rates on pages where people should not be bouncing.
Marketing Access & Data Dashboards
Marketing/Communications staff need direct, real-time access to license system data. Ideally, this is accessible through an online user interface providing data dashboards to analyze trends and exportable reports to pull customer data for marketing tactics such as email, text, and direct mail campaigns. Without direct access, there are unnecessary steps in creating communications around retention and reactivation.
- Ask your licensing team for system login. They may be able to create a role for you with limited read-only access for you to accomplish your goals without exposing system change risks.
- If login is not possible, find an internal database expert that can assist you in running data queries to create reports and dashboard views.
License Agent Training
Your license agents may be the only touchpoint your customers have with the agency. Make sure they are provided proper training and materials in order to provide customer service.
- Self-Assessment: Go to a license agent and buy a license to see how it goes.
- Review license agent training classes/videos. Make sure they are always available for agents to easily find to continually brush up on skills.
- Review license agent documentation to make sure it is simple and quick to reference, with details if needed. Create a cheat sheet for agents if none is available.
Call Center Support
Public customers who try to purchase online and need support, or dial a 1-800 number to speak with a live representative most likely do not realize the person they are talking to may not be state agency staff. Make sure that the people responding to support/sales calls and chats properly represent your agency.
- Self-Assessment: Ghost call your call center to see how it goes.
- Review call center training protocol and call escalation procedures.
- Require your license system vendor to provide regular call center satisfaction survey results.
Can’t Haves & Must Have’s
Your licensing system should include pre-requisite product configurations. Instead of hiding items from the catalog that cannot be purchased until something else happens, have them greyed out and offer an explanation as to why. Maybe a customer didn’t realize their Hunter Ed number wasn’t on file, or they didn’t know they needed a base hunting license to purchase a deer permit – this method of communication helps convey this information more clearly.
- Find out what your licensing system allows for can’t have and must have logic.
- Suggest simple, plain English explanations to be included with the pre-requisite configurations so customers can understand what they need to do.
Some licensing systems include quick purchase options for customers to select an activity package, or answer a survey to determine what items they need to buy.
Activity Packages let the customer click one button to add all licenses they need to the cart at once to participate in a specific activity such as “Trout Fishing Package” or “Public Land Deer Hunting Package.”
A Decision Matrix asks the customer a series of questions and based on their answers, adds all licenses to the cart that they need.
- Find out what your licensing system allows for activity packages.
- Create an annual calendar for which activity packages to promote throughout the year so seasonally relevant packages are at the top.
- Include “Buy the Trout Fishing Package” messaging as part of your communications to simplify the process for what a customer needs to do to purchase.
Some licensing systems include the ability to configure product upsells. Product upsells display a pop-up message when a customer adds an item to the cart, asking if they would also like to add the related items. This can be another privilege, merchandise, durable hard card, or other add-ons.
- Find out what your licensing system allows for upsells.
- Create a matrix of popular items and what you would like to cross-promote, limiting 1-2 additional products per license type.
Donations are a great opportunity to grow system revenue from those who already have the license(s) they need, and also from those who may not want to purchase a license. Have donation products in your catalog for customers to optionally purchase. Also, ask customers during the checkout process if they would like to round up to the nearest dollar amount. It is more profitable to round up to the nearest $5, not $1. There will be fewer users who round up, but the gained revenue is larger when you offer “Round up to the nearest $5.”
- Ask your licensing team to add a donation product type to the catalog. Funding could go to a fund such as Hunters for the Hungry, Stars and Stripes Program, or Endangered Species Fund.
- Promote donation opportunities as a way for non-consumptive users to contribute to wildlife conservation. Every dollar makes a difference.
Refer a Friend
Incentivize customers to be your brand advocates by providing a reward when they refer a friend who makes a purchase. The reward could be a physical gift in the mail or a coupon code from a brand sponsor.
- Find out if your system can do a Refer a Friend program.
- Promote program to current license holders.
- Create unique referral codes for in-person events to track revenue generated from attendees.
Social Media Integration
Encourage customers to share their activity on Facebook. Either on purchase confirmation or harvest report submission, include on-screen social media share buttons.
- Find out if/how your system can include social media share buttons.
- Write the canned message text that displays when a user shares on Twitter.
Stored Payment & Auto Renew
There is no point in finding new customers if you cannot retain those you already have. Have tools in place to make it easy for current customers to keep coming back and buy more. A lot of vendors now offer auto-renew, allowing a customer to elect to keep their payment information on file and automatically renew their license when it will expire – no extra effort needed.
Some systems also allow the customer to use their stored payment method at checkout when buying other items, too. People are more likely to purchase when they don’t have to go find their credit cards. Let’s make it that simple.
- Find out if your system includes auto-renew and stored payment. If not, make requests to have these features included in the next update.
- Find ways to promote auto-renew: transaction confirmation page, “Sign Up Now and Win” giveaways, advertising on license documents, etc.
Emails, texts, and push notifications can be scheduled to send to customers whose licenses are about to and have expired. The ideal timing for these communications is 30 days out, 7 days out, 1 day out, then follow up after lapse 30 days after, and 1 year after.
- Review your system’s triggered messaging timing and content.
- Make sure the message included a thank you and information about agency funding.
- Find creative ways to adjust the content to improve open and clickthrough rates.
Allow online users to see as much information as possible before having to create a profile. The more they can understand, the more comfortable they will be to create an account.
- Allow guest checkout for non-licensed products such as merchandise.
- Show license pricing before logging in, such as activity packages for adult residents.
- Allow customers to view information such as remaining quota counts or harvest report data without needing to log in.
State agencies and other organizations invest a lot of time and resources into creating hands-on, engaging events for the public. But if these events cannot be tracked back to customer license system activity, how can you measure their successes? Implement an event management system that is integrated with your licensing system.
- Integrate your event management system with your licensing data.
- Encourage all event coordinators to collect attendee lists including Customer ID.
- Send post-event follow-up emails to attendees encouraging them to make a purchase.
- Analyze event attendee purchase histories.
Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service. Find ways to provide recognition and awards based on hunter or angler user activity to incentivize system interaction.
- Implement an angler/hunter recognition program that is tied to license system data and harvest reporting.
- Encourage harvest reporting with digital recognition customers may share on social media platforms.
Configurable & Adaptable Solution
Ensure your licensing system contract includes language stating that the system must be flexible and adaptable to grow with your agency over time. You need the ability to make changes quickly and often. Text and images on your site should be administratively configurable to be adjusted in real-time.
- Find out what elements of your site are administratively configurable, and review content to ensure it offers an ideal user experience with clear directions.
Public Mobile App
A mobile app integrated into your license sales system is valuable for allowing people to go paperless and carry their licenses on their phones. You should be able to report harvest, purchase licenses, and store licenses through the app at a minimum.
- Work to allow digital licenses to be a valid document form. This may take legislative approval.
- Require your licensing vendor to provide a public mobile app that includes the ability to make a purchase, report a harvest, and store licenses locally on your device.
- Leverage push notification functionality to continue to drive engagement and sales.
If you cannot track which email or social post drove the most revenue, how are you going to continue to improve upon your efforts? By using link tracking parameters called UTM tags, you can track users who click through from a link to site activity such as the revenue generated.
- Ensure Google Analytics is enabled and pulling in revenue for your licensing site.
- Create a spreadsheet for all UTM tags in order to keep track of when and where they are placed, and unique fields used.
Lapsed Email Campaigns
There is so much information on your customers in the licensing system database, including email addresses of individuals who have previously purchased a license but do not currently hold an active license. Create targeted, creative email and text campaigns to send to specific groups to drive revenue.
- Strategically segment customer lists based on purchase history and demographics to provide relevant messaging per campaign.
- Work with your vendor or internal Database Expert to pull customer lists.
- Include UTM tags in your email links to track back revenue generated from email clickthroughs
Reach a wide audience of potential license buyers by implementing display, text, and social digital advertising.
- Make sure your licensing site has pixel tracking capabilities for the digital ads to pull back revenue attribution reports.
- Filter your target audience by ad platform audience and behavior categories such as outdoor enthusiasts, located within your state, over the age that is required to purchase a license.
- Leverage your license data to make sure current license holders do not see your ads.
- A/B test various ads and adjust spend allocations based on success.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM systems allow organizations to track and organize relationships with customers across all communication or touchpoints using one system. Building such a system for your organization may take time, but ultimately allows you to become more efficient and effective in marketing to your customers.
- Connect each of your systems to one place using APIs (application programming interfaces) when possible.
- Establish a minimum viable record requirement of data fields (first/last/dob/email/ssn) and make the requirements are implemented across systems.
- Consider methods to capture nonlicensed customers who you might interact with from events/partners/campgrounds in the future.
License Catalog Complexity
License product offerings are often designed from regulations for wildlife management, and not for customer retention. Complex licensing systems make it difficult for discerning customers to quickly and efficiently purchase their licenses and at times present barriers in participation due to confusion or unintentional errors in permitting. Simplifying license options and clearly communicating license requirements can make it easier for new and returning customers to purchase their tags and get in the field.
- Offer 365 licenses – licenses that last a whole year have been proven to be perceived more positively and are better than a license year schedule.
- Offer Multiyear licenses – offering 2 or 3-year licenses has been proven a good method for helping to retain customers. If you can offer a deal on purchasing multiple years, it is even more positive for retention.
- Simplify license terminology so people understand what they can do with them.
- Use online tools to make sure you are clear in your explanation of what licenses allow people to do (e.g. Grammarly).
- Test your system by conducting informal focus groups and ask some people to figure out what licenses they need on your website and see if they are right for different scenarios.
- Reduce the number of licenses and license categories to a minimum. The fewer choices someone has to make, the better. Arizona went from over 50 licenses to 6 and has had great success through their simplification. (see supporting documents for details)
- Consider offering Family licenses or a package license, which has been demonstrated as a preferred option among new audiences such as Hispanics and millennials.
- Accept other documentation to purchase licenses beyond drivers’ licenses such as work visas.
Resource Appendix – Supporting Content
- Recommendations and Strategic Tools for Effective Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) Efforts
- Highlights of Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) Literature
- Direct Mail & Email Marketing Toolkit to Reactivate Lapsed Anglers
- First-Time Buyers Retention Email Campaign Toolkit
- RBFF 60 in 60 Digital Toolkit – Includes state 60 in 60 license sales goals
- Best Practices Workbook for Boating, Fishing and Aquatic Resources Stewardship Education
- Family licenses example: https://www.outdooralabama.com/sites/default/files/Licenses/LY20%20Packets/Family_Fish_3-Day_NR.pdf
- RBFF Research