The hobby of metal detecting, or should we say the culture of metal detecting, is definitely different from other niche markets. I can contest to this, working for years in marketing and seeing how various niche markets behave.
Metal detecting organizations such as equipment manufacturers, event planners, and influencers had it pretty easy for years, up until the last 12 months. They could put together something that they felt was decent, and the market would eat it up by buying it, attending it, listening to it, and watching it.
However, in the past year, my detecting friends and I have watched a strong revolt. It is clear metal detectorists are loudly and madly saying mediocre and unprofessional isn’t cutting it anymore. Detectorists are speaking up, saying if we are going to spend our hard-working dollars and personal time, we need to see the quality and be treated right. They are also making a stance and saying they are tired of misinformation and disinformation.
In most cases, the metal detecting focused organization, whether it is a manufacturer, event planner, influencer, or something else, is not understanding its target market, forgoing informative marketing studies from competitor analysis to usability studies.
We are seeing this in the hobby, with detectors that are getting announced, preorders being done, and how the detectors are getting distributed to small dealers and big box retailers. We are also seeing this with big-ticket events being mismarketed and attendees getting disappointed. Another example is influencers who were once the “it” person and now their channel subscribers are declining.
Better Business Practices with Better Market Research
The days of slapping something together that your buddies in the hobby think is needed are gone. What is needed in the hobby is better business practices, specifically when it comes to understanding the end user, which in this case is the detectorists. Doing the proper studies to understand what will keep a detectorist loyal to a brand, as well as the studies to understand what will turn detectorists off of a brand.
It is always important to do what your customer wants versus what you, as the business owner, or management, like and think is cool.
I understand and know the manufacturers test their products and get a gamut of detectorists, who are experts, to give feedback as the product gets designed. I get that, but it seems they lack testing, market research, and analysis of their product launch processes as well as how to communicate with end users effectively to keep brand loyalty. Doing the market research, professional focus groups, useability studies, and competitors analysis is an important part of the processes that I feel is lacking and needs to be done more in hobby metal detecting.
Even for my website FocusSpeed.com, I spend a fair amount of time researching, doing useability studies, competitor analysis, and market research. Anyone I meet who is a detectorist I ask, “how can I improve the site” and “what do you want to learn when it comes to metal detecting”. I am always working on improving the site. It is “never good enough” and there is always room for improvement. Even though we are a small operation, it is about giving a quality product to the end user and, in our case, quality content for metal detectorists.
Can the Small Guy Afford Market Research
Some might say, “no way my one-man company can afford quality market research”. You definitely can. It is all about questioning “why?” and keeping an open mind to compare and learn. For example:
- For event coordinators of hunts, survey past attendees about their likes, dislikes, and wants. Start with looking around the world at other metal detecting events and learn from their successes and failures and how to improve. Look at various events’ websites, the ticket-buying process, and how the event was marketed. Look at successful events and research how many months in advance they marketed the event. How often did they post about the event on social media, and what colors did they use on their marketing material and event websites? How professional was their website?
- For influencers, the first thing is to look at your competitor’s influencers and ask yourself why are they getting more views and shares. Are the videos, photos, clarity of voice, descriptions, thumbnails, intros, and keywords better than mine? How often are they posting? How much are they engaging in the comment section?
Basically, question, question, question, and get feedback from multiple sources.
Being Deceitful To Make Money and or Keep Shareholders Happy
This revolt from metal detectorists goes even further. Let’s talk about the misinformation and disinformation, and outright fraud. The manufacturers who promise, but know what they’re saying isn’t true. Or the manufacturers who are bashing other brands or getting their influencers to bash the other brands. The event planners that market their natural hunts as virgin ground when clearly it isn’t. As well as the event planners who quietly plant finds so their hunt looks better than it is so others keep buying tickets. The influencer who fakes finds to get clicks and sponsorships, and the ring finders who are stealing other ring finders’ Yelp pages by quietly changing the contact information to their own.
Deceitfulness will come out. A business can’t play that game too long or its reputation will be tarnished. With the internet, it’s easy to uncover fraud. There are countless threads where manufacturers are getting called out. As well many other threads, especially lately, where event planners of natural hunts argued it was virgin land when any seasoned detectorists knew it was not. There are entertaining threads of people outing influencers of coins or jewelry they purchased and acted like they found it detecting.
What I am saying and getting at is that all the deceitfulness needs to stop. It is time to get back to better ways. What happened to looking out for each other and caring for the industry and the people who support it? It is time to get the hobby back to the good-hearted, kind, warm happiness we have had and stop with greed.
Now is the time to do quality over deceitfulness. Detectorists are loyal but are loyal to businesses that give them respect for being reliable and trustworthy. If you, as a business in the metal detecting space, whether it is a small one-man operation or a large conglomerate, don’t ignore the very clear revolt, the feedback, even if it is negative, and use it to change for the better. For those operations who feel deleting negative reviews or ignoring the hurt detectorists who spent money on the product who are calling, emailing, or posting their frustrations and don’t feel heard, please consider the criticism as a wake-up call and improve your brand and how marketing and customer relations better marketing research.
Joanna Jana Laznicka, a Czech-Canadian residing in Southern California, is passionate about all things associated with metal detecting. She mainly detects on the West Coast, from Southern California to Northern British Columbia. As the founder of Focus Speed, her goal is to bring quality content to metal detectorists.