By Shari LeGate
Many of the issues and challenges women have faced over the years such as abuse, being targeted as easy victims, living as single mothers trying to protect their home and family has resulted in an increase of women purchasing firearms for self-defense.
The next step, naturally, after the initial purchase is learning how to use the firearm properly.
As consumers, women are not a homogenized segment of the marketing population and when reaching out to this multi-dimensional group to promote concealed carry and training classes, it’s not about marketing — it’s about connecting.
Each one has their own story, their own reason for wanting to learn to use and carry a firearm properly. Understanding what self-defense means in the context of a firearm is a journey for most women and it begins with overcoming fear.
Not fear of the gun. Fear of what a training class is and what is expected of them. For them, it’s the unknown. It’s saying or doing something wrong and being perceived as incompetent or stupid. Women want to fit in, create a synergy with the dealer/instructor. They don’t want to be marketed to; they want to be connected with.
Addressing The Fear Of The Unknown
Lisa Roux is CFO and co-owner of Shooter’s World, which operates two locations in the “Valley of the Sun” (Phoenix and Peoria, Ariz). With a strong accounting and business background, Roux understands what it takes to get women to walk through the door.
“I put out a question on my Facebook page to friends of mine who aren’t involved in shooting, and asked why it is and what the biggest obstacle is for them to come out and learn how to shoot. Hands down, the answer was ‘fear,’” she explained. “It’s fear of the unknown, fear of the environment, not knowing what the inside of the building looks like. There was a little fear of the gun, but the initial first hurdle is simply the fear of the unknown.”
Shooter’s World addressed this fear in its marketing strategy by connecting with the women in the community, not by merely trying to sell them a class.
“One of our primary objectives here is to help women feel empowered and know they can protect and take care of themselves,” Roux noted. “We help them overcome the obstacles to training by showing it’s far less intimidating than they originally came in here thinking it is.”
Roux uses social media to showcase the store’s layout — removing some of the intimidation factor for prospective visitors.
“On social media, one of the main things we like to do is show what our employees and store look like,” she continued. “Staff is so important when reaching out to women. Our staff is friendly, well groomed. We extensively train them in how to deal with women, so when a woman new to shooting walks in the door they don’t throw out all these gun vernacular terms. It’s very intimidating, very off-putting. We make sure our staff, both men and women, is approachable. We also like to show what the inside of our building looks like. It’s well lit, clean, bright … it’s not some seedy scary gun shop.”
Look For Local Opportunities
Like Shooter’s World, Bristlecone Shooting Center in Lakewood, Colo., has made it a point to present their store/range as friendly and non-tactical. Co-Owner Jacquelyn Clark reaches out in different directions to connect with women where guns aren’t the norm.
“We get involved with a lot of women’s organizations,” she said. “Not just women’s shooting organizations, but some very mainstream female-focused events. Our chamber of commerce has a monthly Women in Business luncheon. We sponsor the silent auction with an in-kind donation, so we have a presence there. In return, we receive their mailing list and are able to connect with those women through direct-mail brochures and flyers.”
Clark shared her store is also “very involved” in the local PTA.
“We donate to their annual fundraiser with a package that includes educational classes, concealed carry classes for two or progressive classes from introductory to advanced. We include range passes, eye and ear protection and a little swag. The overall value is about $300. Since women are the driving factors at these fundraisers, it makes sense for us to be involved,” she added.
Surprisingly, Bristlecone has received no pushback for donating shooting packages to school fundraisers.
“It’s because they’re educational packages,” Clark explained. “The school gets the money raised from the silent auction and we get a new customer. It’s a win-win. They come to the range through an education entryway and once they see the inside of the store and what we offer, we convert them to a regular customer.”
Making An Early Connection
Sometimes a more creative approach is needed when connecting with women. Sharon Preston, owner of Ladies of Lead Group Therapy in Bend, Ore., was inspired to support a segment of the population traditional marketing typically doesn’t reach. Preston wanted to connect with women before the brutality of violence reached their doorstep to help them understand they can protect themselves and are responsible for their own personal safety.
A highly credentialed firearms instructor, Preston saw the need for quality instruction for women. She also saw many dealers who didn’t have indoor ranges. “The mystery of the class is what scares them — the perceived notion of what the training will be like and what happens afterward.”
Using a facility with numerous pistol bays to teach, but no retail outlet, Preston reached out to dealers with no indoor shooting bays. Now, she works with their staff on how to connect with women, and has set up a network of retail outlets women can go to when they’re ready to buy.
Preston herself takes the women into one of the stores she works with. The dealer knows what to expect, and Preston is confident these women are in good hands with a dealer they can trust.
“Women are all about relationships,” she said. “They really want to know. They want to be treated intelligently. It’s up to the guy at the counter to educate them. Unfortunately, it takes time — which also takes away from the bottom line — but if they do take the time to invest, they’ll reap the rewards with more women walking into the store.”
Focus On The Family
A new outreach for connecting with women is focusing on families. One avenue is to create a curriculum in an environment where entire families come into the store.
“It’s like signing up for spring soccer,” Clark explained. “The only difference is this is a five-session shooting class. We hold an open house in the beginning, inviting the family to meet the instructors. The kids come in a couple times a month, learn the proper way to handle a gun and shoot correctly. The parents are right there with them and it culminates with a match at the end of the session.”
Shooter’s World also runs a kids camp during school breaks that have become very successful.
“It’s a way for us to tap in and expand on the relationships we’ve created with women,” Roux said. “It’s another way for us to demystify training classes. We make them feel comfortable enough to bring their kids to us, as well as learning themselves.”
Get Women Involved
“I didn’t grow up shooting,” Roux shared, “but I do know how I felt shooting the first couple of times and how overwhelming it was — how intimidated I was and then, ultimately, how empowered I felt. I want to convey this to as many women as possible.”
Women don’t carry because it’s cool. Women carry because they don’t want to be afraid — for their families or themselves. Women are all about relationships and connecting with a dealer who offers another way to learn will bridge the gap between women who are afraid of guns, but who also really want to learn about them.
Phoenix & Peoria, Ariz.
Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center
Ladies of Lead Group Therapy