By Ashley McGee
Women buy on behalf of husbands, partners, kids, colleagues, adult children, friends, relatives, elderly parents, in-laws, their businesses and even their kids’ friends — to name just a few. Their buying power is exponential, so attracting female customers can drastically impact your bottom line.
When it comes to strategies for growing your women’s segment, who better to ask than women who own gun stores themselves! Here are some initiatives that have worked well for others and can easily be applied in your market.
EVALUATE YOUR PERSONNEL
For women, walking into a traditionally male-dominated environment can be intimating and off-putting. One way to help make women feel welcome in your store and on your range is to have female representation.
“We added a few female instructors to our previously all-male group to teach private lessons,” said Hillary Dube, owner of HNR Gunworks in Iverness, Fla. “As a result, after two years in business, we now have a 50/50 mix of men and women in our classes.”
As female attendance in classes has increased, Dube noted they’ve also seen an increase in female clientele on the retail side.
“To grow your women’s segment, positioning
yourself as an authority in the field is essential.
It involves continued education and training
for both you and employees“
In Iowa, at Davenport Guns & Shooting Club, Owner Jeanelle Westrom said they employ three women who work on the sales floor — all of which are certified instructors.
“One is actually a great-grandma,” she added. “Everyone who walks in feels comfortable with her.”
Building a knowledgeable, diverse staff is important as women are more likely than men to be loyal customers to a specific individual rather than a company or store. For example, women are often loyal to a hairstylist versus a salon or a particular doctor as opposed to a clinic or group practice. The same holds true for firearms instructors and gun counter sales personnel.
INVEST IN TRAINING
Women are also more likely than men to conduct extensive research and ask questions before making a purchase. According to Marti Barletta, president of The TrendSight Group and co-author of Just Ask A Woman: Cracking The Code Of What Women Want And How They Buy, men would rather buy a workable product than continue to shop, while women would rather continue to shop for the possibility of finding not just any solution, but the right solution. In short, women are more selective and more likely to buy a product that fits all of their requirements.
To grow your women’s segment, positioning yourself as an authority in the field is essential. It involves continued education and training for both you and employees.
“I think me being in the store and able to offer a female perspective is an invaluable asset for our company,” said Melissa Torres, owner of Scoot’s Place in Albemarle, N.C. “Because of that, I continue to train and educate myself so I can assist others.”
Invest in training for both you and your employees beyond the minimum to maintain instructor certifications. Consider bringing in an outside sales trainer, attend a conference with educational seminars and stay on top of current events, industry trends and best practices.
CREATIVE CLASS OFFERINGS
Consider adding women-only shooting courses and classes to help shooters be more comfortable in realistic self-defense situations versus a controlled environment like a range.
“We have a combat mindset class the ladies love, and our women’s self-defense class is also popular,” Westrom shared. “It’s geared more toward attitude and escape than attack.”
Davenport Guns also offers both one-on-one and two-on-one training.
“Even customers who we consider decent shooters will take personalized classes to get better,” Westrom added.
At HNR Gunworks, the most popular class is the advanced carry class, which covers shooting from holsters, like Flashbangs and purses, while expanding on shooting under stress and no shoots. Dube revealed the classes have grown so popular they recently started an all-women shooting club.
Top: Davenport Guns advertises its concealed-carry courses on its Facebook Page.
The store frequently depicts women in its marketing — a tactic that has been effective
in increasing participation from women, according to Jeanelle Westrom.
Bottom: Since adding female instructors, HNR’s Hillary Dube shared her previously
all-male classes are now an even 50-50 split.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF PARTNERSHIPS
Regardless of the industry, one thing all small-business owners can agree on is there are only so many hours in the day — it’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to partner with other businesses and organizations when it makes sense.
“We started A Girl & A Gun chapter after our ladies’ night was a dismal failure,” Westrom recalled. “We currently have around 250 ladies who are members and meet three times a month — with more women who contact us weekly about joining.”
Partnering with a national women’s shooting league allows you to leverage their brand recognition and utilize existing resources without spreading yourself too thin by reinventing the wheel.
FEMALE REPRESENTATION IN MARKETING MATERIALS
In a research study called “Unpacking Gender Bias In Advertising,” The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University and J. Walter Thompson New York reported 25% of ads feature only men, while 5% of ads feature only women. (Perhaps more concerning is the trends of female presence and portrayal in ads have not changed much in the last decade.)
To stand out, show women in your television commercials, share pictures of women on the range on your social media channels and tell your manufacturer representatives there is demand for more in-store display and co-op marketing campaigns that represent female consumers.
“Building a knowledgeable, diverse staff is
important as women are more likely than men
to be loyal customers to a specific individual
rather than a company or store”
“I can’t tell you the number of times I get stopped when I’m out and about and told a story about a lady coming to the shop to learn how to shoot because she saw a commercial and decided if I could shoot, she knew she could too,” Westrom shared.
She also participates in media interviews as much as possible.
“There’s a negative bias about firearms right now, so breaking through is somewhat difficult,” Westrom noted. “By being friendly and making myself available, folks are more willing to come into the shop, especially since I don’t come across as militant or tactical.”
It’s not enough to simply include women in marketing materials, but to make sure they’re being portrayed accurately and tastefully. The same study revealed women in ads are mostly in their 20s, while men are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. This means male characters are far more diverse than female when it comes to age.
The way you portray women in your marketing and advertising matters.
INVEST IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Lastly, community relations should be part of every retailer’s core business strategy. Not only does demonstrating a commitment to the community help attract and retain employees, consumers also recognize and appreciate when organizations give back. This is true of women as they’re more likely to make purchasing decisions based on emotion.
Women want to feel confident and good about their purchase. When you’re invested in the community, it’s easy to help consumers feel positive about spending their money at your business.
“We do our best to be good corporate neighbors,” Westrom stated. “We donate range memberships upon request for various causes, host blood drives and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and other worthwhile charities throughout the year.”
A community relations strategy can help grow not only your women’s segment, but also attract more millennial consumers. Millennials are receptive to cause marketing and are more likely than non-millennials to purchase items related to a particular cause. Additionally, a 2017 survey conducted by AT&T showed half of millennials (ages 16 to 34) are willing to pay more to support a small business versus 38% of Gen X respondents (ages 35 to 49) and 42% of baby boomer respondents (ages 50 to 75).
While growing your women’s segment won’t be an easy feat, it certainly isn’t impossible with proper planning and the right resources. At the end of the day, it’s important to understand female purchasing decisions often carry more emotional weight.
Focus on creating an emotional connection with female consumers by diversifying and educating staff, evaluating training course offerings, making sure women are accurately represented in marketing initiatives and investing in your community.