Sales and Marketing Report from Phil Frebault

Sales

Despite the most challenging year we’ve seen in a long time there were many successes by the ad team in 2020.  

  • Don Kirby led the team this year with 3% growth over prior year fueled by strong revenue growth from Whitetail Properties (+$16k), and landing new business from Polar Kraft ($15K), Millennium Outdoors ($15k), and Lakewood Products ($12k).
  • Chris Jennings sold our biggest one-client email sale ever with a $8,400+ sale to USCCA.  He also worked hard to keep Fleet Farm at the top spot in spending for the year.
  • Aaron Wolf successfully reactivated former advertisers like Shank’s Argo (+$4,700) and, took advantage of the political season landing a $16,000+ sale to a group supporting the reelection of President Trump.
  • Dan Durbin also took advantage of the political season bringing in almost $25k from various candidates and PACs.  He also drove very strong growth from Vortex Optics (+$10k) and Excalibur Crossbows (+$9k).
  • Case Allen made up for the loss of a handful of agency accounts and show related revenue by selling 23 new local accounts over the course of the year.
  • Craig Turner landed one of our largest new accounts with Rugged RV who spent almost $28k in 2020.
  • Eric Meyer survived the “COVID Cancellations & Cut Backs” by a couple of our larger accounts (Rapala, Northland Tackle, and Lund Boats) and successfully renewed the Chevrolet account and saw strong growth from accounts like Clam, Marine General, and Up North Sports.
  • Glen Schmitt also dealt with larger dollar cut backs due to the supply chain issues associated with the COVID shutdowns.  He was able to chip away, however, by landing two large buys from the Dakotas (Aberdeen Hotel Alliance $10k, and North Dakota Game & Fish Dept. $9,700).

Marketing

As the year unfolded, we quickly faced a large challenge with the cancellation of 24 of 57 shows where we normally exhibit and sell subscriptions.  In 2019 we had sold 9,800 subscriptions throughout the entire show season and we had to make up for nearly half of that.

We implemented a plan where we supported the smaller shows with an email and social media campaign targeting the missed show’s region with a $5 Off subscription offer.  For some of the larger shows like the NY State Fair, MN State Fair and Game Fair we did a bonus mailing of the paper to 5,000 – 15,000 potential subscribers.

We face a similar challenge in Q1 of 2021 as we expect the majority of the 27 shows we normally attend to be cancelled.  These shows represent approximately 5,000 subscriptions and a good amount of ad revenue contained in the show editions that are handed out at our booth.

To help make up for the lost opportunity we will be doing three bonus editions per state in Q1 (one per month) totaling over 75,000 copies going out to potential subscribers.  

We will also be appealing to our current subscribers with a “Pass Along the Outdoor News Tradition” campaign where we will encourage our readers to purchase subscriptions for their friends and family with an opportunity to win up to $1,000 in gift cards from our advertising partners.

You can view the media kit here.

We are also working with the team at Bast Durbin to help with our creative and strategic planning with our house campaigns and circulation promotions.  They have developed an updated look and feel for our own promotions that we will carry on moving ahead.  They have also helped develop an updated media kit for our advertisers and will be helping with other projects as we move forward.

Circulation/Audience 

We have met 2021 with the challenge of the backlogs at the USPS.  Papers are arriving late to many of our subscribers and, according to our contacts with the post office, it may last for another 3-4 months as they catch up from low staffing due to COVID and higher than normal volumes during the holiday season.

We are in the process of implementing several projects that will help with this situation as well as make up for some of the other losses we have seen over the past several years.  Two examples are:

  • In Michigan we are working on a pilot program to put our papers in 20-40 locations throughout the state.  With fewer convenience stores selling periodicals we will be looking to partner with some of our higher traffic advertising clients to sell our papers in their business locations.  We’re in the process of securing the racks and setting up the specific locations.  Once this program is in place and we work out any kinks we will look to expand in other states.
  • We are also looking to expand our eEdition offerings into all Outdoor News states.  We are in the early planning stages but hope to roll this out very soon to combat the USPS challenges and take advantage of the growth in interest from a whole new group of hunters and anglers over the past year.

Where we have seen some challenges with traditional print subscriber numbers, we have experienced strong audience growth on the digital side.  Some examples include:

  • Our opt-in email list that we use for our weekly eNewsletter and as a sales vehicle for our advertisers via solo targeted emails, themed group emails, and our eContest platform has grown by over 22,000 subscribers to a grand total of almost 255,000.
  • Our new Fishing Reports website (FishingReports.OutdoorNews.com) which is a paid site has seen very good success in the first 8 months since roll out.  We have about 2,400 subscribers to the site paying either $5 per month or $24 for a year’s access.  We expect this to continue to grow and are in the process of revamping the site for the start of Open Water season with a fresh new look, more content and several user-friendly additions to the site.
  • Our number of followers/friends on social media platforms also continues to grow going from 108,000 to over 127,000 at the end of 2020.
  • OutdoorNews.com continues to garner good traffic with 400,000+ pageviews per month and about 154,000 unique users per month.

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