The Fear Of Legislation Limiting Handgun Ownership (Or Use) Has,
For The Most Part, Left The Firearms Market — Despite The Current
Threats Facing Bump Stocks And MSR-style Rifles
By Mark Kakkuri
While handguns are still selling well, the discounting responsible for a lot of it isn’t sustainable in the long haul. As such, there’s a fantastic opportunity for gun store owners and managers to get back to marketing basics and exercise some good ’ole creativity in reaching customers — demonstrating not only the benefits of handgun ownership but also outstanding customer service. To this end, here are five tips for greater handgun sales gathered from experienced industry professionals around the country.
1. Find creative ways to increase communication with customers.
Today’s technology offers multiple media outlets to push your message to both current and potential customers. Make no mistake, they must hear from you — in all areas of shooting. Will Ceron, co-owner of Denver, Colo.-based Check 6 Arms, says to boost sales in today’s market, his team is expanding their presence on social media and encouraging customers to sign up for their monthly email sales newsletter — tried-and-true means of marketing.
“We will still focus on the self-defense aspect of firearms, but will push some more of the sporting and fun-time aspects of it as well to reach a different type of gun owner,” Ceron lends.
But increasing communication means listening to customers just as much as it means pushing communication out to them. If the fear of anti-gun legislation played a part in driving innovation and sales for the past several years, the inverse of a mostly pro-gun climate will demand retailers take greater care to listen to customer needs. If you don’t listen to them, they’ll find someone else who will.
2. Keep the “fun factor” in the forefront.
Ceron’s comment about the “fun-time aspect” of shooting bears keeping in mind in the current market climate. As worthwhile and important as self-defense and hunting remain, many people will be introduced to guns and gun ownership because someone takes them shooting — just for fun. Columbus, Ohio-based Vance Outdoors has taken this approach with customers as well, increasing the amount of advertising for .22 rimfire firearms as .22 ammo is readily available again.
According to Ceron, his store is also starting to post more range pictures and videos on social media, and talking about the simple enjoyment of shooting. “It doesn’t always have to be so serious, with the exception of safety,” he shared. “Shooting can be very cathartic and enjoyable. We want to be able to convey this to potential customers.”
NAA RANGER II
3. Know what products are doing well in the market.
Todd Vance of Vance Outdoors reports sales of handguns for self-defense are still strong, “but we’ve seen an uptick of recreational rimfire, too.”
Similarly, Ceron says concealed carry handguns make up the primary source of their sales. “People want small, concealable firearms here in Colorado,” he informed. “We sell a lot of S&W M&P Shields and GLOCK 43s. Smaller SIG SAUERS do pretty well, also.”
Other popular brands for Check 6 Arms include Ruger, Beretta, Browning, Canik, CZ, FN, HK,
Springfield Armory and Walther. According to Vance, besides the mainstays of S&W, GLOCK, SIG SAUER and Ruger, Taurus, Kimber, Walther, Beretta, HK, Hi-Point, Century and SCCY do well in the concealed-carry category.
While each customer should be counseled to purchase the right gun for him or her, there’s a legitimate need to know what guns sell best and why. Competent dealers will be able to apply this to a customer.
4. Formulate a marketing strategy and put it to work — especially for new products.
Digital marketing is simply whatever marketing takes place online. And while you may be running a brick-and-mortar store, you still need a digital marketing strategy to complement your print or radio plans. This will allow you to reach those potential customers who won’t even show up at your store until they’ve browsed your website or checked you out on social media. Personal marketing is simply you reporting your own experience with a product. The combination of the two can be very compelling for customers, especially when introducing new products.
Consider this: In the first couple months of the year, the industry saw the introduction of the SIG SAUER 365, GLOCK crossover G19X, a .380 Springfield 911, Ruger Security-9 and several revolvers, Colt Night Cobra and S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ. Those guns represent a variety of styles, features and approaches to self-defense.
To educate customers, Ceron and his team use product reviews and first-hand experience shooting the firearms. This also helps them determine what guns to carry in store.
“We listen to our customers and if there is a demand for a particular item, we make sure it’s available to them,” he said. “But just because there’s a new product, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have people clamoring to get it. A lot of this is based on marketing and hype that gets people excited about a new handgun.”
All the more reason to make sure you try it yourself and then let people know what to expect.
(Editor’s Note: Shooting Industry has shared a number of tips over the last few years on the importance of integrated marketing campaigns. See Mark Kakkuri’s article [“Integrated Marketing On A Budget”] that appeared in the Aug. 2017 issue.)
S&W M&P 380 Shield EZ
5. Listen to your sales reps, distributors and customers for additional marketing ideas.
While sales reps are, of course, interested in pushing the products they represent, they do have very good ideas and insights on how to reach customers. Moreover, according to Ceron, sales reps and distributors are having more sales and including free items with certain handguns to help increase purchases that can be used to woo customers into buying more. “Customers like a good deal,” he relayed, “and if they can get more value for a handgun purchase, they’re more likely to buy from you.”
Sometimes a free box of ammo with a handgun purchase is enough to get a customer to buy, says Ceron. Sometimes it might take more, but try to offer more value for their purchase when they buy from you, be it freebies or just great customer service.
And when all else fails, you can always just ask your customers what it will take for them to buy from you.