By Mark Kakkuri
You’ve heard the fable and maybe even seen the YouTube video: The steady but slow pace of the tortoise turns out to be the winning asset in a race against the faster, energetic, yet haphazard, distracted hare. This applies to marketing within the firearms/shooting industry as well. Carefully timed, thoughtful content published over time is better in the long run than more seemingly energetic (but haphazard, or even careless) bounds of marketing communications. As with the tortoise and the hare, a steady pace wins the race.
When I refer to “steady pace” marketing communications, I’m not saying energetic bounds don’t have their place. They do — if they’re executed in the context of a thoughtful, long-term campaign. And there are pros and cons to each. Marketing in energetic bounds obviously can be very noticeable and effective, albeit in the short term. But just like tossing a huge rock in a lake, sometimes the only things remaining after the big splash are quickly diminishing quiet ripples. And the “big splash” can eat up a lot of resources, too.
Focus On Excellence
Steady pace marketing, of course, doesn’t rely on a big, bold effect so much. Rather it relies on keeping the message out there — consistently, faithfully. What it lacks in boldness it makes up for in managed use of resources and careful, targeted messaging.
With the bazillions of messages customers have to wade and sort through (both online and in print) the best steady pace marketing efforts are marked by one very important component: excellent content. In fact, this is what marks energetic bounds of marketing, too. Not surprisingly, it’s true for all kinds of communications. The best communication and the best marketing have the same thing: the best content. This means the words and images are excellent; not only error-free but also clear and memorable.
You know your customers in the firearms industry. They’re sharp, passionate and committed to the shooting sports. They’re also loyal and yet they can spot a faker or a poser a mile away. And they don’t care for, nor have time for, uninspiring content. So give them what they want. Give them marketing content that shows intelligence, passion and loyalty. Do this with any energetic bounds of marketing, yes, but for sure do this with your steady stream campaigns.
So, a few considerations about steady pace marketing and excellent content:
1. Even if you’re used to marketing via energetic bounds, take the time to create a marketing calendar that plans judicious use of your marketing campaign … over time. If there’s an energetic bound planned for late fall, make sure you’re pushing related communications out through the winter. This is really taking an energetic bound and creating a steady pace to follow it up. You know the resources you have; the point is to not use them all up in the short term and have nothing left in the long term.
2. Talk to current customers and ask them what drew them to your product or service. These days, customers are usually won over by a few points of contact, not just one. They may first notice one of your marketing communications and then take some time to research your company or read reviews about your product or service. Regardless, listen to your customers and watch or listen for key words such as “first heard,” “intrigued,” “noticed,” “took interest,” “researched,” “looked up,” “saw your ad,” “read a review,” “wanted to try it,” “read more reviews,” “saw another ad,” “heard from a trusted friend” and so on.
When you hear those words or related words, tune in. Kindly and politely dig for more insight and information. More often than not, you’ll notice several touch points leading to your customer’s decision to buy. Steady pace!
3. Invite every customer to give feedback on your product or service. Perhaps this takes the form of an online survey (there are very good free online survey tools out there). Whatever the mechanism, while you’re inquiring about the product and/or service, ask the customer about all the channels by which they heard about your company. Include a question or two about the brand, i.e., what comes to mind when they think of your company? These insights are pure gold for knowing how actual customers are thinking, how to keep them as customers and what it will take to find more customers. Do your research, and see whether the steady pace or energetic bounds are most important in keeping customers.
4. Don’t just talk to your customers; talk to your employees about how you market your company, product or service. If possible, get them out of the office or factory, take them to coffee or lunch, ask a few questions and listen. Some of the best insights about how the company communicates, sells and markets may come from people on the payroll.
“They’re not marketers!” you point out. Maybe not, but if you don’t ask them, you’ll never know. If you do ask them and gain zero ideas, you’ll at least have asked and demonstrated you value their time and input. Keep this line of communication open — another steady pace.
It’s Not Where You Start …
Think of the best brands in the industry and recall their marketing communications. These brands, in terms of print advertising, are found on the inside cover or back cover or near-the-front full-page types. Sure they may use energetic bounds of marketing — a new product release, a new service announced, etc. For the most part, however, their marketing is steadily paced. “But these companies have massive marketing budgets,” you object. They may now, yes, but at one time they started out much smaller and had to build over time.
Now think of an ad you see toward the back of a gun magazine. It’s a smaller ad, but it’s always there. And it seems to have been there for years. This is a steady pace approach. Does it get as much attention as the larger ads? It’s hard to say, but I don’t think the company would continue the ad campaign if it didn’t enhance their business.
Sometimes firearms companies run major marketing campaigns starting with an energetic bound before settling into a steady pace. In any case, the most successful ones see the value of maintaining a consistent brand or message over time, over the right channels and always seeking to find additional insights to make key connections with potential customers. So don’t be dismayed if you’re a smaller company with limited resources. Make the most of your marketing communications by planning them out over time, listening to and surveying your customers and dialoguing with employees.
With these simple but important pieces of information you’ll have more than enough to keep a steady pace … and win the race!
Mark Kakkuri is a regular contributor to Shooting Industry and, in his words, “sort of a firearms marketing nerd.” You should connect with him on LinkedIn (@markkakkuri).