7 Takeaways From
NSSF’s New Summit


Shooting Industry Editor Jade Moldae (right) moderated a panel discussion on customer retention strategies
at the NSSF Marketing & Leadership Summit, featuring the perspectives of (from left) Kristin Marlow, Staccato;
Clay Ausley, Fuquay Gun; Jacquelyn Clark, Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center.

An event three years in the making, the 2022 NSSF Marketing & Leadership Summit was held May 10–12 at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Austin, Texas. This first-ever event combined elements of the NSSF Summit and CMO Summit, giving more than 200 manufacturers, dealers, wholesalers and marketers two days filled with an array of insights, education and networking opportunities.

Speakers at the event included firearms industry CEOs, dealers, internationally acclaimed business consultants, inspirational retired Navy SEAL Jason Redman and more.

With this being NSSF’s first Summit since 2019, there was a tangible sense of enthusiasm and energy from attendees — who were able to take home dozens of takeaways to their teams. There were, however, several concurrent themes presented throughout each of the panel discussions and presentations. Here are seven that caught our attention.

1. The “Most Human” Company Wins

In the opening talk of the summit, marketing strategist Mark Schaefer observed one of the impacts of the pandemic, increased isolation/loneliness, has changed the way consumers connect with advertisements. Schaefer argued the “most human” company wins, with human-centric advertising key.

“Consumers today believe us, not our ads,” he said.

To make your brand “more human,” include real people in advertising campaigns in an authentic (maybe even vulnerable) way. Schaefer recommends companies should be “of” a community rather than just “in” a community.

Of course, this is something engaged storefront dealers are already doing and reaping the benefits.

2. Customer Service Is King

It doesn’t take much for a customer to leave a place of business — in fact, many leave as a result of one employee. During the Customer Retention panel, Clay Ausley of Fuquay Gun in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., shared the following with attendees: “I read many years ago 68% of the customers who stop doing business with a store is due to the actions of one employee.”

It may sound counterintuitive, but if a customer has an issue with the service or product they received and you’re able to solve the problem, they’re likely to become a more loyal customer than one who never had an issue at all.

As Ausley explained to the audience, “The customer now knows for a fact should they have a problem, you’re there for them. They don’t know the other stores will care as much as you do about their needs and satisfaction. They now feel they can trust you.”

Stores making connections with customers, and meeting their needs, will stand out from the rest.

“If you want your customers to be there for you, guess what — you must be there for them,” Ausley said.

3. Even Incremental Improvements Generate Returns

Customer service and experience expert Shep Hyken, whose keynote presentation was titled “I’ll Be Back,” revealed the following statistics: 52% customers are willing to pay more for better service, while 83% would be willing to switch businesses due to bad service. (Firsthand evidence of this: We’ve had dealers write in over the years who have confirmed customers value being treated well and will pay more for better service than what’s available at impersonal big-box retailers or faceless online merchants.)

To secure repeat business, Hyken shared it takes “being better than average — all the time.” Hyken also imparted the following wisdom from his shortest customer service speech ever: Be nice. This may sound cliché, but it’s increasingly hard to come by these days. (Ausley shared his team makes it a priority to say “we appreciate you” to customers in words and actions.) The stores that are welcoming really do stand out.

4. A “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach To Marketing Won’t Work

Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates shared updates on his firm’s extensive consumer segmentation research. The five largest consumer segments, or personas, include: Skills Builder, Hunter, Family Guardian (largest segment), Urban Defender (fastest growing) and Prepared For The Worst.

Each persona has a different motivation to buy and preference once they make a purchase — which is why a “one-size-fits-all” approach to marketing won’t cut it. A multi-faceted campaign is needed to connect with more potential customers.

5. Diversity Key To Future Growth

Building on the point above, one of the hallmarks of the buying surge over the past two years is more women and minorities are buying firearms for the first time than ever before. Phillip Smith of the National African American Gun Association has experienced explosive growth in his organization, boasting 45,000 members today.

For stores/brands looking to make inroads in non-traditional communities, Smith emphasized this point to attendees: “We have a lot more in common than differences. Embrace that difference.”

“If you want your customers to be there for you, guess what — you must be there for them.”

Clay Ausley, Fuquay Gun

6. A Sense Of Community Does Wonders

Similar to the first point, it’s evident consumers are looking for authentic connections and to belong. Your store or range can help set that precedent by becoming involved in charitable efforts.

During the Customer Retention panel, Jacquelyn Clark, co-owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo., shared some insights on how charitable events have impacted her facility’s relationship with customers.

“People want to do business with and be loyal to organizations that they ‘like’ and feel are good community citizens,” she said. “We’ve done a number of fundraising events for local non-profits over the past year — L.E.- and veterans-based — that involve a competition on the range where proceeds are donated.”

Bristlecone hosted a sales event to benefit victims of the Marshall Fire this past winter, providing another way to connect with the community.

“If you’re using social media and email to market these events on the front end, then communicate how successful they are and how much is raised on the back end. It can go a long way toward building brand loyalty, and in turn customer/member retention,” she advised.

7. Develop Enthusiasts Of The Brand

Kristin Marlow, CMO of Staccato, was instrumental in the rebranding effort from STI Firearms to Staccato in mid-2020. During the Customer Retention panel, Marlow explained how the rebrand unlocked an entirely new segment of customers — diverse in age, ethnicity, location and gender.

“Because we have so many different types of customers — and because there are so many new gun owners in the market — we see building a brand as incredibly important,” she said. “A strong brand rises all tides.”

Marlow noted Staccato is focused on standing for something that connects with people emotionally — which will encourage them to stay connected to the brand over time.

“We protect freedom and celebrate those who embody freedom,” she said. “That’s everyone from law enforcement officers to the mom protecting her kids to the friends who do crazy things like the Tactical Games. This comes out in our marketing in how we ‘show up’ as a brand. People first. A defined look and feel, voice, tone. Not dark and tactical. Light and approachable. Easy to use.”

It’s a formula that has worked, evidenced by the growth the brand has experienced over the past two years.

Save The Date
If you’re a forward-thinking dealer, marketer or industry executive, consider attending the 2023 Marketing & Leadership Summit. It will be held May 8–10 at the JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District in Savannah, Ga. For more info: nssf.org/summit.

Primary Weapons systems MK114

Primary Weapons Systems Launches Dealer Demo Program

Primary Weapons Systems (PWS), known for their long-stroke, piston-driven ARs, announced the release of a demo and range program for dealers in 2022. The program allows dealers to purchase one complete rifle or pistol at the lowest price possible for use as a demonstration gun or range gun. This promotion is limited to one firearm per dealer annually.

“The long-stroke, piston-driven operating system really sets PWS apart. Once a customer feels the soft recoil of our system and sees how little maintenance the system requires compared to a standard direct impingement, it’s an easy sell. We’ve had great success with our existing dealers who have indoor ranges, and hope to get PWS into more ranges,” said Ben Peters, PWS director of sales.

Dealers can contact PWS Sales to sign up for the demo/range program, and can choose between the MK1 MOD 2-M line, MK1 MOD 1-M line or MK1 PRO line for this promotion.

/ primaryweapons.com

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