Summer Fun

Host A Community Event
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Full disclosure: This article was written in late March, just one week after the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic. If we all did our part and practiced social distancing to flatten the curve, then (hopefully) by now this means your small business is starting to rebound, and it’s once again safe to be in a public area with more than 10 people. Maybe you benefitted from an uptick in gun and ammunition sales due to the panic and uncertainty, and want to keep the momentum going.

Americans throughout the country are likely still reeling from the weeks — or months — of cabin fever. They’re looking for any opportunity to reclaim a sense of what “normal life” was like before. You’re in a unique position to fulfill their need by hosting an event at your store or range this summer. These tips should give you some ideas to help make planning one easier and successful.

Bass And Bucks has a history of hosting large-scale archery events
for all ages and skill levels, even sponsoring its own team. Pictured
above, the Bass And Bucks S3DA Archery Team participates in S3DA’s
2019 Indiana State Championships, held at the Danville-based Pine Hill
Archery Club. PSE Pro Staff Member Scott Starnes was on hand to
congratulate those who placed in the top three of their respective
events, earning Union College (Ky.) archery scholarships.

Think Outside The Box

Let’s be real: You’re probably not the only gun store or range in town. The competition likely markets themselves the same way you do — as being the most affordable, having a wide selection or the best customer service. These attributes often fall on deaf ears when it comes to potential customers because they’re the same phrases heard day in and day out from pretty much every other business they follow.

What can set your store or range apart is creating unique experiences that will leave lasting impressions. Take Wilshire Gun in Oklahoma City for example. They partnered with a local hairstylist to host an event dubbed “Bullets & Braids.”

Tyler Miller, the store’s general manager, knew firsthand how challenging it can be as a dad to fix your daughter’s hair. Realizing he likely wasn’t alone, he thought why not host an event to help?

Twenty father-daughter pairs attended the inaugural event. Together, dads learned to style their daughter’s hair and daughters learned to shoot firearms.

While the event was free and there was no immediate return on investment, Miller shared Wilshire Gun is “fighting the long-term battle for hearts and minds, not for short-term profits.” Hosting events catered to youth and families is part of a continuing strategy to build relationships with the next generation.

In addition to its range, Wilshire Gun has ample classroom space, a large parking lot and an in-house cafe that serves food, beer and wine. This versatility allows them to really get creative with the activities they host.

Other events have included hosting UFC Fight Nights, exclusive product-release parties and summer youth camps.
All of these events are planned in-house by a task force of team members from different departments led by business director Jake Gaden, who is also responsible for overall marketing.

To promote them, Gaden utilizes a multi-pronged approach to tap into different audiences through channels including social media, text-message marketing, in-store flyers, email newsletters and radio advertisements on streaming platforms.

“In our experience, text-message marketing is one of the best unfiltered mediums to communicate directly to a consumer,” said Gaden.

Tap Into Your Network

Similarly, Wyoming Gun Company in Casper, Wyo., sees the value in hosting family-friendly events. This September, they’ll host their third annual Family Day at the Range, which began as a way to support their local sheriff’s department cadet program.

The store’s events, including Family Day, are also planned entirely in-house, and they rely heavily on partnerships and sponsors from their local community as well as industry manufacturers.

“We like to start planning for an event as early as we can in order to give various sales reps and other vendors enough time to get us on their schedules,” said Owner Kelsey Scribner.

“Most people get booked well ahead of time, so we try to secure them 9–12 months in advance,” she added. “We’ve found if you give people enough notice, they’re usually able to attend.”

So far for this year’s event they have secured representatives from six national and local companies who will bring firearms for attendees to test or use for various planned activities like competitions.

“We like to help promote local Wyoming businesses as much as possible,” said Scribner. “We often work with local food vendors who will either donate food or a portion of their proceeds to whichever group we are raising money for.”

By tapping into your network, both locally and within the industry, it automatically expands the potential reach of promoting your event. In addition to your marketing efforts, each vendor will undoubtedly promote the event to their audiences as well.

Tapping into creativity, Wilshire Gun hosted a “Bullets & Braids” event for
fathers and daughters. While the event was free to the 20 pairs in attendance,
General Manager Tyler Miller shared his store is “fighting the long-term battle
for hearts and minds, not for short-term profits.”

Host A Non-Firearm Event

Another tip when planning your next event is to evaluate what may deter someone from attending, and how you can eliminate that barrier. For some dealers, maybe it’s the cost to attend or the lack of parking.

Certainly, one of the greatest universal barriers to entry all dealers encounter is firearms can be intimidating, especially for those who have had little to no prior exposure to them. An easy way to overcome this challenge is to host an event where guns are not included.

For Bass And Bucks in Wabash, Ind., it means hosting a family-friendly archery tournament at their outdoor 3D archery range. The Rinehart R100 multi-day archery shoot is part of a larger tournament series presented by Wisconsin-based Rinehart Targets. It includes 18 tournaments across 18 different states hosted by various archery clubs and ranges, and attracts more than 8,000 attendees a year. Bass And Bucks has been a host location since 2004.

This year, Bass And Bucks will host the Rinehart R100 from July 17–19 (still scheduled as of May). The event caters to participants of all ages and skill levels, making it something the whole family can enjoy. There are divisions for adults, youth (11–17) and cubs (10 and under).

The main events are the African and North American ranges, each with 50 targets. Archers can also compete in other challenges including Small Game Sniper, Super Ten Team Shoot, Steel Forest Challenge and Iron Buck Shoot.
For an event of this scale, it’s important to start planning well in advance.

“As soon as the dates are set we start planning,” said Josh Butcher, archery manager and tournament director at Bass And Bucks. “It’s typically about six to nine months in advance.”

You may find it helpful to work in the opposite direction. Starting with your event date, work backward and set milestones or deadlines along the way for what is necessary to accomplish in order to get there. Doing so can make event planning more manageable.

If you don’t have an outdoor archery range (or even an indoor archery range), it may be feasible to create a small temporary range in the parking lot where food trucks, entertainment or other local vendors can also set up.

Other event ideas include a fishing rodeo, a non-firearm self-defense course in partnership with a local martial arts instructor or a touch-a-truck event featuring emergency vehicles, construction vehicles and other activities for kids.

Key Takeaways

While it’s often assumed hosting an event isn’t worth the time or effort that goes into planning one, it certainly doesn’t have to be the case. With a little forethought, preparation and leveraging your existing network and resources, hosting an event is one of the simplest ways to build genuine connections with those in your community — especially in these times.

If the effects of the pandemic have stretched into the late spring or early summer, the good news is these tips can be used no matter the time of year. You may even consider hosting a “welcome back” event to help draw both loyal and new customers back into the store or on the range.

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