When it comes to connecting directly with customers, businesses have more tools available today than ever before. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Snapchat (not to mention an interactive website) represent a handful of the outlets available to grow your brand’s awareness and reputation. This is further bolstered by positive in-store experiences, which can then be shared with potential customers … on those same social media platforms. With so many avenues available, companies that maintain a strong multi-channel presence and stand out from the competition are more likely to find success in attracting and retaining customers.
Unless your store has an established footing in this arena, wading through these options presents a unique challenge. So, we tasked three knowledgeable SI contributors who have marketing experience to provide a practical approach to effective multi-channel marketing. Mark Kakkuri lends his expertise on the importance of a cohesive integrated campaign (thus ensuring your store’s messaging is consistent throughout your marketing channels), while Taylor Smithfield and Shari LeGate shed light on boosting social engagement through influencers and using video marketing to get “social proof,” respectively. How has your store adjusted to today’s interconnected marketplace? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. — Jade Moldae
All-Inclusive Integrated Marketing
By Mark Kakkuri
Integrated marketing centers on the idea of all your marketing efforts working together to create a consistent brand experience for your customers. In other words, whether your customers view your website, read an email from you, or enter your store, they’re basically getting a consistent look and feel. Related to this is the idea of using the variety of marketing channels available to you to communicate a steady stream of content.
This might include showing a promotional video on your website, in your social media feed, and on a large-screen monitor in your store. Same video, multiple channels.
For some, just keeping a stream of marketing communication flowing out to customers through one channel may seem like an overwhelming task, let alone orchestrating an integrated marketing effort. But it’s easier than it seems and with some hard work and discipline, will become a good habit that will reap rewards in due time.
Go Social … On LinkedIn
Social media is virtually a must-have for virtually any consumer brand, but not just Facebook or Instagram. Even LinkedIn, which is undeniably more B2B than B2C, can benefit your business. If you’re not on LinkedIn, create a free profile and start connecting with others in your area or in the firearms industry.
Create a company page and start posting brief updates about your business, asking questions of other professionals in the industry, or offering helpful content such as whitepapers or FAQs. LinkedIn is generally considered to be a social media platform for professionals and businesses and a very powerful networking tool. When you reach out to others in the gun industry, introduce yourself, ask to connect, and start following and reading. You’ll quickly get used to the kind of content appropriate for LinkedIn and how it can benefit your business.
Offer Premium Content
Your company website of course should be filled with appropriate content about your company, staff, products and services. And it’ll really sing if it has an active blog on it. Make sure the site also includes a contact page and multiple means of getting a hold of you or your staff. But also consider including “premium” content on your website such as whitepapers, case studies and other “reports” or information with a decidedly more business slant to it. Then, offer this to your website visitors in exchange for their name and email address. You’ll pick up a willing contact and they’ll walk away with some helpful content.
Later, you’ll of course reach out to them via email to follow-up on the premium content — asking if you can answer any questions or be of further assistance. The exchange of content for contact info is a standard marketing practice; you just need to follow the rules by not spamming those contacts and offering them the opportunity to unsubscribe from your email marketing at any time. But while you’ve got them, keep a steady flow of information going to them in the form of other useful content — i.e., relevant articles, interesting news stories, the occasional special offer, fun contests you’re sponsoring (see next point) and more.
Run A Photo Contest
With virtually everyone in possession of a camera-equipped smartphone, have a little fun by creating some friendly competition in the form of a photo contest. Come up with a theme for the photo contest — something as simple as a customer taking a picture with your product at a local gun range, for example — and ask for entries. Provide some basic rules or suggestions, such as having entrants hold a sign with your company name on it or posting the picture with a particular hashtag (e.g., #yourcompanyname). Announce your competition on LinkedIn or other social media outlets and provide updates on your blog.
Create An Exciting In-Store Event
The goal of all of these integrated marketing ideas is to get people in the door to your store. But you can also use your store as a marketing channel by hosting a unique, in-store event. Good ideas for in-store events include celebrity visits, free instruction on a single topic by local law enforcement, a manufacturer’s representative demonstrating a new product and answering questions, and more. Before the event, announce it on your website. While the event is occurring, take pictures and post them on your social media feeds. After the event, because you’ve collected all the attendees’ email addresses, send out a thank you note with an invitation to stop by again.
Share The Before, During And After
Just like how you shared the in-store event through invitations prior to, picture-taking during and email follow-ups thereafter, consider the myriad of other ways to share your company’s news and product info before, during and after. Rolling out a new line of products or services? Let your customers know in advance with a teaser notice on your website or via email. The week the new products or services are available, run a live Facebook feed of a staff member doing an in-store announcement. A few weeks after, send a public thank you to all your customers who bought something from you, reminding all of them about your hours of operation and commitment to customer service. Maybe throw in a short customer success story (names excluded, unless you have permission) to demonstrate how your company cares.
Influencing The Next Generation Of Shooters
By Taylor Smithfield
A decade ago, your customers would have turned to their buddies or a retail employee for advice on a new firearm investment. Today, customers are largely turning to the internet for guidance on how to spend their money. The internet is, of course, an endless source of free information and product reviews. In fact, you’ve probably spotted customers in your store eyeing a firearm while simultaneously running price comparisons on their phone. Many even do their research before ever setting foot in your store.
Not only are customers seeking out shopping advice online, but a recent trend has also emerged — with younger consumers making purchase decisions based on the suggestions of total strangers online. (Though stranger isn’t the word they’d use.) While celebrities have long been powerful influencers of public perception, we’re seeing that sway diminish thanks to the rise of the social media influencer.
Who are social media influencers, you ask? They’re internet famous people who use their massive followings and established trust to subtly advertise a variety of products and services. Essentially, companies benefit from the on-going relationships influencers have with their audience.
Influencers come in all shapes and sizes. Some film themselves playing video games, others offer daily updates on their home renovation, or perhaps reveal new makeup techniques, perform magic tricks or hit up their local gun range on camera. Regardless, these individuals have the ability to reach thousands — even millions — of consumers, making them very valuable to brands.
Unlike movie stars, influencers are perceived to be more relatable and authentic. They post videos and photos weekly or even multiple times a day. They often share personal anecdotes or directly interact with their audience. They’re just more interesting and engaging than celebrities, especially to millennials and Gen Z’ers. Case in point: Variety magazine asked readers back in 2015 to rank their most influential celebrities and eight of the top 10 slots were filled by YouTube personalities, not movie stars.
Young Consumers Want Relationships
If you’re looking to attract younger and more diverse customers, then it’s important to understand the kinds of marketing they’re drawn to. Younger generations want relatable, authentic, steady, engaging, interesting content. They’re eager to “like” your photos as they pop up on their feeds. They’ll spend 15 minutes watching your YouTube video or 15 seconds perusing your latest Instagram Story. They want to learn, laugh, be amazed, be inspired, imagine themselves buying, using and enjoying your products. They’re endlessly interested in what will improve, simplify or enhance their lives.
In short, younger consumers want relationships with you. You’re not the man or woman behind the counter. You’re their partner, their friend. Think of them as long-term investments more than customers conversions. Millennials may require more convincing and wooing, but if you treat them right, they’ll be extremely loyal — to your gain.
Boosting Your Own Social Engagement
So, how can you take advantage of influencer marketing to draw customers to your store? There’s a couple ways to tackle this. First, you can partner with your own social media influencer, perhaps a local gun enthusiast with a substantial social following. Or you can take advantage of the concepts behind influencer marketing and boost your own social engagement in-house.
Start by utilizing Instagram and YouTube more. Instagram Stories is a more recent app feature allowing users to film 15-second videos (in succession, if they choose) that expire in 24 hours. You can add text, emojis or drawings to these clips. Stories is a fun, quick and incredibly easy way to engage with your audience. Of course, there’s always regular photo and video posts that remain permanently in your feed. The beauty of the modern smartphone is you can film and edit quality videos with ease, so starting a YouTube channel is significantly easier than it used to be. The most important thing is to feature people who are relatable and engaging sources of information.
It may be helpful to do a little research to see how the most popular influencers captivate their audiences. Check out the following YouTube channels for firearms enthusiasts (whose combined subscribers total 4.5 million): hickok45, Iraqveteran8888, AtlanticFirearms, sootch00 and FourGuysGuns.
You can also apply the same influencer concept in-store. What’s the age of your youngest employee? How diverse is your payroll? Critics have long since complained gun stores are far too pale, male and stale. Luckily, many gun stores are challenging this stereotype, but what advancements have you made to this landscape?
The idea that regular people can work their way to the forefront of online fame is fantastic news for you. If you’re willing to put in the effort and time, you can create rich channels of engagement with younger generations, many of whom will eventually make or break the success of your gun store and the firearms industry as a whole.
Video Marketing: Get Social Proof
By Shari LeGate
Ever hear the term “social proof?” It’s a relatively new term, coming into it’s own over the last several years with the rise of social media. Social proof is essentially the concept individuals are influenced by the actions of the people they associate with. For example, a friend or associate shops at a particular store, wears certain types of clothes, eats at specific restaurants or does business with certain organizations, you’re more willing to shop at that store, eat at that restaurant or try that product.
It used to be called a “recommendation from a friend,” but with the eruption of digital engagement and social media, there’s a whole new meaning to the idea and a new way to market for it. Through video.
There can be a disconnect when it comes to social media. It’s not just about reaching potential new customers or staying connected with current ones. It’s taking control of the conversation surrounding your brand and directing that conversation. When you create a space on any social media platform (such as your website or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/YouTube accounts), a place has been created for your customer to share their experience. When they do, social proof of the brand begins to develop and you can use what those people are saying to promote the brand, the product and the value of your business, all through video marketing.
With the advent of social media, building trust with consumers is increasingly difficult — so let your customer do it for you. To a certain extent, we’re all influenced by the opinions of others. Look at the success of talk radio and talk/opinion television shows. We want to hear what others are saying so we can shape our own opinion and social proof speaks directly to this concept.
Customer testimonials speak to this as well, as they have become a major consideration affecting the buying decision process. The advantage of the testimonial is it’s an opportunity for current customers to help sell to new customers. Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for all types of video content marketing, with a rating of 89 percent. A whopping 90 percent of consumers admit their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. If you’re already using text testimonials on your social media sites, that’s a start. Amazon and eBay are filled with text reviews and they depend on those reviews to help sell the product.
But if that’s all you’re using, you’re missing one of the strongest marketing tools available. Using the satisfied customer to talk directly to the future customer. There is nothing more convincing and engaging than seeing a real individual tout the benefits of your brand and product and you can do that through video marketing. Customer testimonials build trust. The future customer has an opportunity to hear from someone who could easily be a friend or colleague who’s recommending a product they’ve used and liked. It’s believable and honest.
So, how do you get customer testimonial video? Simple, ask for them. In the next e-blast or customer newsletter, ask customers to shoot a video about why they like the product or the brand and send the video in. Mobile devices record quality video these days and can be sent directly from the device, quickly and easily. Run a monthly contest for the most interesting comments or the most creative video.
If you have a storefront, set up a camera in the corner where customers can record a video about their experience in the store of what they just bought and why. Or at the next trade show, if there’s a booth set up, create an area for your customer to express their opinions on camera.
A few tips in getting good customer testimonial videos. First, keep them short (45–60 seconds). Depending on the focus the testimonial is taking, remember the 10-15-20 rule. If it’s an issue that was resolved, take the first 10 seconds to introduce the customer, the next 15 to talk about the problem and the final 20 seconds (or longer) on how it was resolved. If it’s a straightforward testimonial on a product or brand, again use the first 10 seconds to introduce the customer, 15 to explain why they had decided to buy this particular product and 20 on how well it performed.
Don’t use a script. This is a conversation and you want it to sound sincere and genuine. Memorized lines sound exactly like memorized lines. Let customers use their own words. No one can explain better how they feel than they can and that authenticity will be felt.
Finally, keep it simple. Everything doesn’t need to be said. A couple of benefits is all that needs to be talked about. Asking the customer to list all the benefits will just bore the viewer. The more fun the customer has doing this, the more attractive everything will be to the future customer.
Once you have a testimonial, get it posted to your website or Facebook page. Run it as loop in your store on a tablet or a monitor. You’ll be amazed at how many people will stand and watch it.
The key to all this is letting your customer speak for you — because there’s no better social proof than a satisfied customer.