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Joshua Claflin

outdoor hunting firearms content marketing

Stop What You’re Doing And Blog Like This…

By Firearms Marketing

It’s 2022 and you most likely know about blogging for your hunting, outdoor or firearms company, but I see so many companies still getting it wrong. 

For those who take the time and energy to blog—there exists many benefits and clearly defined advantages for your business. The most important being SEO. 

Call it content creation or blogging—blogs have been shown to increase website traffic by 55% (Source: Hubspot). Done consistently, blogging will compound over time into more traffic, more leads and more sales through your website. Blogging is one of the key components in an internet or content marketing strategy. Blogs power your search engine optimization and social media efforts to greater heights. In a time of digital transformation, embracing content and inbound marketing is an incredibly smart move.

If you’re the type of business owner or marketer who sees the advantages of blogging and are committed to thought leadership, driving website traffic and to building your brand, this post will help you become a more effective blog writer in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry.

1. Start with your audience

A lot of times, you may be blogging just for the sake of blogging. But this is where a lot of people go wrong. There is a methodology to blogging. For starters, you must understand your audience at the granular level to make your writing efforts pay off. A great way to get inside the heads of your prospects is to interview your current customers. Ask them why they value your brand, what keeps them up at night and what their biggest challenges are. For example:

  • How to call in a hung up turkey.
  • What is the best AR15 for home defense?
  • How to become a better sports clay shooter.
  • How to field dress your game quicker.
  • What are cheaper thermal vision alternatives?
  • Best places in Montana to look for sheds.
  • What level of fitness do I need to hunt bighorn sheep?

By asking the right questions, you will be able to write the right blogs that capture your audience’s attention.

For maximum benefit, consider turning your blog into a podcast or video. 

2. Teach them something

Just like this blog is attempting to teach you something—your blog should attempt the same. Like the examples shown above, the first and best way to approach a blog is to answer the questions you hear most from your customers. Compose a list, perhaps starting with your FAQS and turn them into 700-1000-word blog posts.

TIP: Posts with 1000-2000 words or more are shared almost twice as much.

3. Pick topics based on your keywords

If you’re blogging on topics that don’t include your keywords you’re camouflaging your blogs. Keywords drive traffic to your website and show up in search engines where your prospective customers are. Pick topics that your customers are searching for. To find out what keywords you should be blogging on, you’ll need to take a closer look at your analytics. You may even consider using a paid keyword tool service like Moz, Wordstream or utilize your Google Adwords tool. 

TIP: Write for humans, not search engines. Don’t stuff keywords into your copy.

4. Formatting

Formatting is another factor you must consider. Your readers will typically scan topics and headlines before committing to reading your post. It’s kind of like channel surfing. To make the most of the one shot you have to grab your reader’s attention, your blog posts should take on a format like this to allow for easy scanning:

  1. Ahunting-firearm-blog-post-formatttention-grabbing headline 
  2. Engaging image
  3. Share buttons
  4. Introduction and hook
  5. Introduce the problem you are solving and who the post is for
  6. Tell the reader what to expect
  7. Cite your sources for credibility
  8. Number your sub-heads
  9. End with a recap and conclusion
  10. Use a call to action to generate a lead or sale

By formatting your blog properly, you’ll increase the likelihood of getting it read. 

5. Ignition

Sharing is considered the “holy grail” in social media. It’s one thing to “like” or “favorite” a post, but a share has the potential to drive traffic and build brand awareness exponentially. When a person shares your content, it says something about them to their friends and followers. According to Mark Schaefer’s new book, the Content Code, people share content on the basis of making themselves look smarter or to communicate something about their interests and personalities. Sharing “ignites” your content that allows your brand to penetrate into new audience groups.

Make sure to add share buttons at the top of your posts and make sure the blog data automatically populates is the first step in getting your post shared.

6. Consistency

If you start a blog, you must commit to blogging on a regular and consistent basis. By starting out strong and then getting sidetracked in 3-4 months, will hinder your efforts and leave your followers hanging. They’ll forget about you and eventually unsubscribe or tune out. If you’re going to commit to blogging, commit to it and stick with it. You can start out by committing to once a month and build up from there. The more you blog—statistics show—the more traffic you get.

hunting-firearms-blog-stats

7. End with a call to action

At the end of every blog post, you should end with a call to action. Whether it’s a downloadable offer, a video or even a call to purchase one of your products—make sure to capitalize on the momentum and interest you just created with your reader once they get to the bottom of your post.

In ending, when writing a blog post, start by knowing your audience, teach them something, write articles based on your keywords, format, make it easy to share, be consistent and end with a call to action.

By including these points in your next hunting, outdoor or firearms blog post, you’ll start seeing lower bounce rates, increased traffic, and more subscribers, shares, likes and favorites. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT CONTENT MARKETING

 

firearm-brand-product-development-strategy

Daniel Defense: The 3-Legged Stool of an Effective Firearm Brand Journey

By Brand Development, Branding, Firearms Marketing

Your firearm brand is built by multiple touch points (advertising, customer service, product experience, etc.) repeated day after day, month after month, year after year to establish a collective understanding of what your brand stands for in the mind of your customers and the broader firearm industry.

According to an NSSF survey: Accuracy, Reliability, and Manufacturer Reputation are the most sought after qualities in a firearm—especially an MSR. How do you build a brand that conjures up these same feelings and opinions?

In this post, I’ll outline the journey your brand must take when looking at building an effective long-term brand strategy by using a three-legged stool analogy and the legendary story of Daniel Defense to help you think clearer about how to move your business forward and how to create a stronger brand reputation that increases your brand’s equity and ultimately your success. 

Where to start?
Brand strategy is the business case for change at a brand level. It envisages the future position of a brand in the marketplace, based on the company’s wider business aspirations and its ability to deliver and market brands that align with that desired position. (Source: BSI)

When asking what your desired position is—where do you see your company in 5, 10 or 15 years? Do you want to be known as the brand with the most aesthetically pleasing platform? Or perhaps to be referred to as the lightest firearm? These aspirations must be guided by a strategy to get you to a place in the market that belongs only to you in the mind of your customers. Getting to your desired perception may involve taking several paths. It may be first to target and invest in the government sector to establish a reputation before entering the ups and downs of the consumer market. It may be to build your reputation as an OEM first before creating your consumer branded line of products. Whatever your goal is—it must be linked directly to the problem you’re out to solve coupled with a scalable business model that gives you sustainable growth.

Stool Leg 1: Solve the problem

big-hole-upper

Photo credit: Daniel Defense

Marty Daniel started in 2001 by creating the Big Hole Upper Receiver—which forever improved the way we mount sighting systems to ARs. This led to several other products like the M4 12.0 hand guard that was a direct replacement for the Army Marksmanship Unit. Marty’s product solved a problem in the industry that gave him the starting point of building the reputable brand Daniel Defense is today. His starting point was recognizing a problem and solving it. (Source: Guns & Ammo)

How to get there.
The purpose of brand strategy, is to identify how far the brand must “travel” perceptually in order to be competitive, the benefits of getting there for the business, the purpose and values that the brand culture will need to adhere to in order to make that journey and the competitive resistance that the brand may encounter getting to that end point. It’s the why and the where. (Source: BSI)

Stool Leg 2: Build respect

What aspects of your story must be created and perfected to get you to your ultimate brand destination? Is it an investment in talent? Is it infrastructure? Is it a reputation among law enforcement or the special operations community? Define how you can link your marketing efforts to strategy, product development, operations, and other areas to create unique value for your customers, so you have a compelling story to tell.

After the success of Marty’s upper, and a follow-up sling mount product—he designed the RIS II Rail System and was awarded a lucrative contract with SOCOM. And then won an additional contract with the UK Ministry of Defense’ which in essence proved his engineering prowess and design capabilities as a serious manufacturer. This created the second leg of his stool: Respect.

How to stay there once you arrive.
Staying on top is sometimes much harder to achieve than getting there. So you must ask: “What’s my next success?” What has your brand planned for next? How will you capitalize on what works? Why will that feel like a natural extension of the relationship that your customers already have with you? Your purpose should provide clear guidelines for future development. (Source: BSI)

Stool Leg 3: Scalability

By thinking of itself as a manufacturer of the world’s finest weapon systems—not just rails or rifles—Daniel Defense has extended its development license considerably. It can literally look for new ways to give people experiences they haven’t had and positions them to be one of the largest manufacturers in the industry. 

three-legged-stool-brandTo scale his business, Marty saw three components to add to the momentum of Daniel Defense: In-house equipment (hammer forge machining) that allowed him to control quality, output, and price. This all lead to increased customer service and his intuition to surround himself with competent staff and employees. Today, Daniel Defense is the epitome of an American success story and one of the most admired brands in the firearm industry.

You can build a brand around the three most coveted value propositions in the firearms industry: accuracy, reliability, and a strong reputation—by thinking critically about the journey it’s going to take to get you to your desired brand position. This path may be somewhat familiar of other firearm brands, but proving your product’s ability to fulfill a niche in the industry, proving that your product is reliable and scalable, you have the three legs to sustain your brand that will stand the test of time and win the hearts and minds of those who depend on what you create.

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Position Your Firearm Brand

How To Position Your Firearm Brand

By Firearms and Hunting

Most companies struggle to carve out their own niche in the hunting and firearms industry and maximize their brand’s unique selling proposition (what makes you different from your competition) because they overlook a critical marketing strategy used by today’s top brands.

With over 400* firearms and ammunition manufacturers (Source: First Research), 30+ different optic companies, 20+ suppressor companies and a thousand more who produce products in the $30+ Billion dollar firearms industry today (Source: NSSF), one might ask—if you’re starting a new hunting or firearms company—how is it possible to compete in this highly concentrated, regulated and competitive industry?

In this article, I want to draw your attention to one of marketing’s most valuable methodologies called “positioning”—and how you can use it to help your hunting or firearms brand break away from the pack.

For some context, let’s imagine you are trying to build a new shotgun brand for entry-level pheasant hunters that’s water-resistance, and that costs less than the current leading brands. I will use this example throughout the article, but first, let’s define what positioning is.

What is positioning?
The concept of “positioning” was created by market and branding pioneers Al Trout and Jack Reis back in the late 60’s and explained in their book: Positioning, The Battle for the Mind. If you haven’t read the book, I highly suggest checking it out.

Positioning is a marketing strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position, relative to competing brands, in the mind of the customer. Companies apply this strategy either by emphasizing the distinguishing features of their brand (what it is, what it does and how, etc.) or they may try to create a suitable image (inexpensive or premium, utilitarian or luxurious, entry-level or high-end, etc.) through outbound (advertising, trade show etc.) or inbound or content marketing. Once a brand is positioned, it is very difficult to reposition it without destroying its credibility. It is also sometimes called product positioning. 

So how do you go about finding your new product’s positioning? There are two initial steps that you need to do first.

 

marketing pyramid1. Define your purpose
What gets you out of bed in the morning besides the motivation to make money? What is the sole purpose of why your company exists? Customers are drawn to companies that stand for something other than just making a profit. (Source: Inc.) Is it to increase a hunter’s safety? Is it to bring a greater level of protection for concealed carry? Or using our shotgun example, is it to provide novice hunters a way to take up pleasant hunting without spending a fortune?

Whatever your purpose is, write it down and put it on your wall. When the mission isn’t going well and the vision seems like a mirage, a strong purpose will keep getting you out of bed and people coming back to work, day after day. (Source: Marty Neumeier)

 

2. Find the whitespace
Now that you know what your purpose is, you can define what your positioning is (positioning is tied very closely to purpose). Look for the “whitespace” in your intended market segment—meaning an open slot that other brands don’t occupy in your target customer’s minds.

As you look at the viability for your shotgun product—you know that there are three other shotgun brands in the market. One is higher priced, and the other two are positioned for more experienced hunters who are willing to pay a higher price leaving open a huge space for another brand to move in and offer an entry level shotgun at a slightly lower price point.

This is called finding the whitespace. A space in the market no other brand occupies.

 

3. Hack your competition’s positioning
A second step in finding and determining where the whitespace is—is to do some reconnaissance on your competition’s website, social media accounts and press releases to determine what piece of the market they seem to be going after.

If your competitors seem scattered and unfocused—meaning they are trying to be someone to everyone—than this can be used against them by focusing your brand messaging specifically at the customers you want to attract—in this case, entry-level pheasant hunters.

The narrower you can focus your brand and its message to a specific segment the more effective your marketing will be. (Source: Adage) You must seek to be known for “one thing,” that your customers will find viable, interesting and worth paying attention to. In today’s overcrowded and noisy marketplace of giveaways and me-too products, where the typical person is exposed to 250-500 advertisements a day—brands must find ways to stand out.

A great example taking place in the industry today is SilencerCo’s #fightthenoise campaign. This campaign’s goal is to pass legislation that lifts the NFA ban on suppressors. Not only is SilencerCo. the hottest brand going, but they are using this inventive marketing strategy to build awareness for a greater cause under the purpose of hearing/noise protection. In the process, this effort is allowing them to build and position their brand and sell silencers at the same time—while benefiting the industry as a whole. Brilliant.

 

silencerco

 

3. Define your positioning statement
A positioning statement is the What, Who, How and Why of your brand. By creating a positioning statement, you further distil your brand’s message that gives you the key differentiators to expand upon in your advertising, content marketing, and elevator pitches. This also helps you and your team to understand what it is that makes your product unique that supports your sales efforts. You can’t sell efficiently without a clear positioning statement.

It’s important to point out that our hypothetical shotgun company “wants families to spend more time together.” This purpose will allow the brand to use imagery that reflects its purpose and have a more unique and memorable brand focus in the segment. 

firearms-marketing-positioning

 

5. Qualitative customer interviews
Next, validate your assumptions by interviewing your intended customers. When it comes to positioning—it’s important to understand how your customers view your brand’s product and how they describe it. The adage, “It’s not what you say about your brand, it’s what they say about your brand” —is what counts. This is a crucial step in defining your positioning as it will further inform all future marketing initiatives and decisions. Interviews also eliminate any assumptions you may have and gives you and your team the understanding and confidence to create effective marketing.

What if I have no customers?
Start with your assumptions of who your product will appeal to. Upon launching your business, analyze and be prepared to pivot quickly if the messaging and target market is not resonating with your messaging. Draw upon quantitative industry data from the NSSF to get a better understanding of your intended customer. Other sources like Hoovers can also provide insight.

 

6. Define your buyer persona
I speak a lot about the importance of defining who your buyer persona in my articles. Once you have collected your interview data, it’s time to focus your efforts specifically on how your particular product solves their problems or how it will appeal to them.

Get as granular as you can to put your customers in the context of using your product and how your positioning will appeal to them.

  • Basic details about persona’s role
    What do they do for a living and how did they get there?
    What is their level of education?
    What are their biggest challenges?
    Where do they get their information?
  • Key information about the persona’s business/company

    List facts like employees, management structure, competitors etc.
    What does their brand stand for? Check their website (if applicable) to learn more.
  • Relevant background info, like education or hobbies

    What do they typically do in their spare time. Are they rushed for time, busy parents? Weekend warriors? Workaholics?

 

7. Implementation
Now that you have defined your positioning and buyer persona, you can begin mapping out how your positioning implements on your website. Your website is the hub of all your marketing efforts. It is your #1 salesman, working for you 24/7/365. The firearms and hunting industry lags behind other industries in their understanding and approach to fully utilizing the web as their main marketing channel. With over 72% of all purchases starting with a web search (Source: Pardot), your T.V. and print marketing should seek to drive your audience to your website through some incentive so your messaging and positioning can be analyzed and evaluated. This will help you determine if your marketing is getting traction.

Utilize your sales funnel to decide how to move your customers to your desired outcome. Begin creating messages for each stage of the sales funnel based on your positioning. Utilize analytics, heat mapping and tracking on your website to test each phase and include A/B testing to optimize the messaging and workflows to optimize your efforts—whether that be increasing blog subscribers, social media followers, social media shares or sales.

In conclusion, to find your positioning, define your brand’s purpose, find the white space, hack your competitors positioning, define your positioning statement, conduct customer interviews (quantitative and qualitative), define your buyers persona and implement your positioning through your sales funnel on your website.

By taking the time to understand your positioning, your brand will be better equipped to stand out in today’s highly competitive hunting and firearms industry.

* Some sources report 5,400 manufacturers. 

 

Firearm Brand Strategy

Do You Really Need A Firearm Brand Strategy?

By Firearms Marketing

Maybe you’ve just come out with some disruptive technology, game-changing accessory or new firearm platform.

Or maybe your business has been around for a while and you’ve realized that to compete in today’s environment, you need to focus more on your messaging and how your company and/or products are understood.

But, do you really need a brand strategy?

The truth is… a brand already exists, even if you’ve never taken the time to develop it.

Your customers, dealers, distributors, employees, and partners already have some kind of feeling, thought or understanding of you or your product—negative or positive. 

What is the difference between branding and marketing? Marketing and branding is a two-sided coin. Branding is about feeling and emotion (fonts, colors, imagery, tone etc.). Marketing is about generating activity in the marketplace (advertising, PR, email, trade show etc.). 

Below are 10 surprising facts that you may not have considered in regards to your brand development strategy and why it’s important to have one—if you intend to leave your mark on the firearms industry.  

1. Make it easier for the customer to buy
Customers make decisions on products they know and trust. If a customer is not familiar with your brand, they are less likely to buy it.

Think of the last time you were in the gun store and you had to pick up some ammo. Hornady—a ammunition category brand leader—was not on the shelf. Do you buy the “I’ve never heard of you” brand of ammo—or forgo the purchase altogether? Most likely, you’ll wait till the next trip or drive across town to another store. Brands help us make buying decisions.

Photo credit: Business Insider

2. Make it easier for the sales team (and dealers) to sell
Having a strong brand reputation in the marketplace will allow your dealers and sales team to close more sales based on brand performance alone. A reputation for service, quality and the ability to solve your customer’s problem will be more likely received and sought after.

3. Brand clarity and delivery spurs employee motivation
Brands give your employees purpose. Having a clear cultural direction, goal and mission based on your brand values will create higher performance and productivity. A strong brand will turn your employees into brand advocates versus people who just show up to collect a paycheck. It will also give you and your stakeholders a clear understanding of your vision, mission and purpose.

4. Increase the value of your company over time
Brands are line items on today’s most valued companies. The Coca-Cola brand alone accounts for 51 percent of the stock market value of the Coca-Cola Company (Source: Brandchannel). The same could be said for Ruger or Smith & Wesson.

By developing a strong firearm brand—especially for companies with/or seeking investors—brand development aids in building a successful exit strategy. 

5. Brand definition brings clarity to your business goals and direction

If you have a good product that everyone is excited about, alot of times you just have to stay out of your own way.

A brand strategy will save you from making costly decisions.

A recent example is Vista Outdoors’ Black Hawk product line of silencers. Black Hawk a gear supplier for military and law enforcement agencies—ventured into the silencer market and after just eighteen months pulled out.

brand strategy extension failures

Photo credit: Recoil

In May of 2016, when the silencers were first announced, many were musing if this was too far a departure from Blackhawk’s bailiwick. When asked why the line was being dropped, a Vista representative put that musing to rest: “After completing a strategic review of our product lines, we determined that suppressors did not align with our core business. In order to streamline our products more efficiently, we felt it was best to eliminate suppressors from our current line-up.” (Source: Recoil)

Millions of dollars would have been saved if brand managers would have practiced “brand discipline.” Read more on The 5 Rules of Brand Extension.

6. The brand development exercise creates innovation

Most of us are so busy we sometimes just go through the motions in our businesses day after day with the mentality of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it attitude.” By purposefully sitting down and thinking about your brand, product and business you will give yourself and your team time to create new processes, products, components and other ideas that will drive innovation. This is time well spent and the life blood of successful firearm brands.

7. Saves money on future design and advertising costs
Instead of reinventing the wheel every time that new ad needs to be placed, trade show booth or package redesigned—your brand standards will provide a guideline for consistency that creates visual recall and recognition.


8. A strong brand creates preference which, equals profit
By consistently delivering the same value, service and quality—along with the same visual identifiers—you begin to create preference and repeat customers. This is called “branding.” The goal of brand development is to create preference, branding is to create recall.  


Photo credit: Guns.com

9. Attract talented employees
In today’s war for talent—companies are struggling to find talented and skilled workers. Those with strong employer brands coupled with a strong corporate brand will win.

10. Provides the foundation of all your marketing efforts
Without a brand strategy, it will be very difficult to focus your influencer or inbound marketing efforts. The absence of your customer’s buyer personas, key messaging and brand-centric visuals will make any marketing effort less effective. 

So, do you need a brand strategy?

Well, if any of the above points appeal to you—I would say yes—brand development is a business necessity for business owners serious about growth and leaving their mark on the firearm industry. Even if competition is non-existent—you eventually will need to develop your brand to pre empt competition as Magpul has done, who by all measures dominates the magazine market.

firearm-brand-strategy

Photo credit: Magpul

 

We have in any given category 10-20 of everything (ammo, handguards, holsters, ARs, shotguns etc.). By having a well-defined brand, you will be able to compete at a higher level than your competition, stand head and shoulders above the rest and build a valuable asset for the future.  

One last thought to end on: Brand is the last remaining business currency.”

Photo credit: F4 Defense, Jason Swarr, Straight 8

firearm brand extension

The 5 Rules Of Brand Extension For Firearm Companies

By Firearms Marketing

There will eventually come a time in your firearm or hunting company’s history that you’ll discover opportunities to branch out into new product/service segments or into new categories all together.  

Brands take years and thousands of dollars to develop. The most effective and safest way for established brands to introduce new products and services without damaging their brand is by utilizing a practice called brand extension.

Brand extension leverages the equity and power of your current brand to penetrate new segments and categories faster and for less cost.

However, utilizing brand extension does come with some inherent risks. If the product doesn’t align or make sense with its parent brand, you may risk diluting your brand altogether. You also may end up alienating your current customers—leaving them wondering what it is you stand for. 

The golden rule in brand development is to be known for your one thing. You can read more about identifying your brand’s one thing here. But for this article’s purpose, your one thing must align with the new product or service you are introducing.

Below are a few simple rules with examples to consider when using brand extension to penetrate new customer segments or if you’re evaluating bringing a new product/service to an entirely new product category.

 

Ruger Pepper Spray

Ruger Pepper Spray

Rule #1. Do not dilute your current brand.

Brands that can successfully extend into a different product category have already established brand equity. If your company has yet to build brand equity, you will find leveraging an unknown brand is like starting from scratch. It is better to carefully extend by appealing to a segment of your current base while trying to reach new customers.

Industry example:
Ruger is using its name to sell a line of pepper spray products. Although this tactic seems somewhat strange from the manufacturer, I can see where this makes sense. Ruger has built its brand on reliability, you may recall their tagline “Another reliable firearm from Ruger.”  Their pepper spray may be reliable, but does it fall out of alignment with what the Ruger brand is known for: firearms? I would have suggested starting a new brand from scratch and subtly mentioning that it was manufactured by Ruger. This I feel would leave Ruger’s brand essence in tact while introducing a high-quality pepper spray while not confusing customers. 

Compare this to a brand like TASER, who is known for non-lethal self-defense products.  

 

sig-suppressor-ad

Sig Sauer Silencers

Rule #2. Identify your brand’s core attributes.

You must know your buyer persona and brand’s core attributes (also known as brand values) in order to understand if your brand can successfully carry a new product into a new category. For example, if your attributes are classified as rugged and tactical, and you want to extend a new product to be smart and sleek, your new brand extension is going to be out of alignment with what the parent brand is known for.  

Try to tie the new product to the parent brand’s core attributes as much as possible. Utilize the dominant elements of your logo, imagery and color palette. The goal is to keep the branding recognizable while offering up a slight variation to signify the difference.

Industry example:
Sig Sauer introduced their line of suppressors back in 2013. This is an example of a firearms brand entering an entire new category (suppressors). Except this time it works pretty well. The ad and their website stays close and aligns with the main Sig brand making this extension work seamlessly. 

 

Rule #3. Make sense out of your reasoning.

There have been some grand out-of-industry brand extension failures over the years. If you’re unsure about extending your brand with a new product, go with your gut, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Here are a few that failed to hit the mark:

brand extension

Would you fly on Hooters air? Wings yes, flying… no. 

 

Rule #4. Decide if you are a House of Brands, Branded House or a Hybrid.

Are you a House of Brands or a Branded House? What’s the difference? Brand Architecture is an important consideration when introducing new products. A House of Brands relies on multiple brands while the parent brand sits in the background and mostly goes unnoticed. A Branded House is a corporation who runs multiple brands under the same name. A Hybrid is a combination of both. 

An example of a House of Brands is the Freedom Group. Freedom Group owns Remington, DPMS, Bushmaster, Barnes Bullets, Mountain Khakis, Tapco and others. For comparison, an out-of-industry example would be Proctor and Gamble (Tide, Vicks, Downey, Crest, etc.).

browning-brand-extension

Browning Clothing Brands

An example of a Branded House would be Springfield Armory, Glock, and most other manufacturers. For comparison, an out-of-industry example would be FedEx (FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and FedEx Services). 

An example of a Hybrid is Browning. Browning manufactures knives, guns, safes, clothing, ammunition, flashlights and more. They even license their brand out. Each category has their own individual brand with Browning’s brand intrinsically intertwined. For comparison, an out-of-industry example would be Coca-Cola.

Rule #5. Test it out with your customers before going all in.

Not sure if your brand extension will work? If you have a loyal customer base, a little transparency and getting your customers input on your plans can go a long way. Utilize a small test group or conduct a survey to test the new product and record the feedback for validation of your offering. Testing is always the smart thing to do first before going all in. 

In conclusion, extending your brand can be done, but it must be done with careful consideration. Make sure whatever you do doesn’t dilute your current brand that you’ve worked so hard to establish. Know your brand’s core attributes and make sense out of your reasoning. When designing your new branding—stay close to your brands’ look/feel and test it out on a small group of your most loyal customers with surveys. If you’re just starting out and you know that somewhere down the line you’ll be adding more products—take the time now to plan for how those products will be added into your brand architecture to save time and cost.

firearms marketing agency

How to Choose A Firearms Marketing Agency

By Firearms Marketing

Most business owners, (marketers and executive directors) in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry you are tasked with a million things a day. Payroll you’ve got to make, the person you have to fire, the new person you have to hire, the CNC machine replacement, the sales team meeting at 4, review the new product design project plan plus you got to make the plan for this weekend’s shoot.

When it comes to your branding, marketing or design—your thoughts immediately go into overdrive when you remember that one of your customers commented that your website did not pull up for them on their iPhone (because your company’s home page is not mobile-friendly). You’ve also seen a steady decline in online sales, most likely due to that old 4-step shopping cart you’re running. Your sales team needs new collateral that showcases the new product line and the packaging needs updating, plus you got to get ready for SHOT Show.

But where to start? The designer you used last time missed the mark. The design firm you called doesn’t work with hunting or firearm companies and there is no way you’re using Bob’s son again for the catalog. Choosing a marketing and branding firm can be a daunting and time-consuming process. You need someone you can trust. Someone who is responsive, trustworthy, reliable and knows what they’re doing. The problem is finding those people—the diamond in the rough—someone who meets your expectations and will get the job done right and prove that your investment was worth it.

If you’re looking for a new firearms or hunting marketing agency—here are 8 things that will help you choose the partner that solves your toughest business challenges.

1. Start by clearly defining the problem

Simple enough… but not so fast. We often times don’t go far enough to define what the problem actually is. A good marketing agency will get to the heart of your challenges and pain points to help you make the right decisions—not through a hard sell like a haggling car salesman—but someone who truly takes an interest in your business and cares about your success. Typical marketing problem

A good hunting and firearms marketing agency with years of experience will be able to get to the heart of the matter.

See this article: Do I Really Need A Brand Strategy?

2. Set goals

Be specific about your goals. Is it a revenue goal? Then what is it and is it reasonable? Can you double sales in one year? The more defined your goals are the better the marketing agency will be able to suggest strategies and approaches to achieve your goal. Use the SMART goal method to set specific benchmarks that will move your business forward.

3. Do they have a proven process?

Processes are important because they define a linear way of solving a problem and accomplishing an objective. Most marketing companies will follow some type of process. Make sure it is clearly defined so you know what to expect as you move forward through the project. The process should be easily found on the agency’s website or be communicated on the initial call.

4. Verify references

In today’s world, everyone is a skeptic. One way to make sure that the firm is ‘solid,’ is to see if they have a good set of testimonials. Look on Facebook, Google and other social networking sites to see if reviews exist. Check their case studies page to see past experiences and how they’ve helped other businesses with similar problems.

5. What do they specialize in?

Today’s best agencies are specialists in 2-4 areas like email, SEO, influencer or PR. They can offer traditional and digital services to meet your needs and know how outbound and inbound marketing methods fit together to offer you a range of solutions to achieve your goals. They want and desire to earn ‘trusted advisor’ status shedding the horrid ‘vendor’ designation. The most successful agencies desire and thrive on their client’s successes and truly show interest and passion about their service or product. Also be sure to check their certifications. HubSpot, Google, Email etc. certifications mean they’ve put in the time to deliver value.

6. Are they problem solvers?

What is the principal’s experience? Do they have a good track record in the industry and the business acumen required? There are a number of firms out there who lack true experience in solving real-world business problems. Ask for past examples or how they might approach your current marketing challenges.

7. Do they practice what they preach?

Does the marketing agency have a strong and identified brand? Do they utilize a business-first approach? Are they themselves implementing the programs they are suggesting to you? It will be important that they understand the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry. This will save you time so you don’t have to teach them about the subtleties of our industry. Other industries are far more advanced in marketing and branding tactics than the hunting and firearms category, so knowing how your customers are reacting to other industry tactics and strategies is just as important because they will expect the same from you. Especially now that the industry has added over 5 million new gun owners.

8. Do you click with them?

80% of the time your intuition is the best way to choose a marketing agency. If you are compatible as people, you most likely will work well together—assuming everything else adds up. I’ve had many opportunities over the years to work with well-known brands but in the end, we just didn’t click. Business is all about people and relationships. Pick an agency you like and who you can work with.

In conclusion, a good hunting and firearms marketing agency will know how to get to the heart of the problem, help you set SMART goals, have a clearly defined process, good references and testimonials, a specialized service offering, are natural problem solvers, practice what they preach, and are people you like.

Build Your Hunting Brand

8 Ways to Build Your Hunting Brand

By Hunting and Outdoor

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eighty percent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of other studies have recorded the strong influence those reviews have on the decisions people make.

Social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours. In the old days, you might buy a Remington hunting rifle or Bear Bow because that’s what your dad hunted with. Today, such considerations to brand loyalty matter much less due to the availability of customer reviews. Now, each product has to prove itself on its own.

A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – Office of Consumer Affairs

If you have a great hunting, outdoor or firearm product and are looking for ways to maximize your branding to increase sales and build your reputation in the industry—here are 8 sure-fire ideas to help turn your customers into raving fans that will increase your bottom line and build your hunting brand.  

1. Be somebody
The old saying goes, “you can’t be everything to everyone.” Companies must find a way to stand out among the marketplace clutter and find the “whitespace” to stand for something. Don’t just tell your customer your products are quality, superior or dominating—demonstrate it. Prove to them you are worth their time by demonstrating your brand values, mission and how it will benefit them.

 

2. Make them feel something
The best way to connect in today’s digital world is through storytelling and contextual marketing. Our ancestors sat around a fire telling stories since the dawn of time, and this still continues today—except now we get it from the TV, the internet or social media. There is something intrinsically valuable to storytelling. When you connect with people at the heart level and make them feel something—your message will go a long way. Today’s marketing isn’t about highlighting features and benefits, it’s about “celebrating the benefit in the way it impacts other people’s lives,” says Simon Mainwaring, author of “We First.”  Put your product in context of real everyday stories for greater impact.

“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

3. Be authentic
The best way to be authentic is to just to be yourself. Too many hunting and firearm brands try to be something they’re not. Weave your personality into your content, messaging and imagery. Through authentic and good-willed communication, customers will innately share your message and bring it to life.

4. Delight them after the sale
Do not have a “one and done” mentality. At the end of the sales process and after the product has been delivered, add value to your customers through events, continued education or through helpful content that continues to solve their problems. This will increase their loyalty to your brand. Show them you care after the sale. It costs 5 times more to acquire new customers than it does to keep current ones. (Source: Forbes

5. Make it all about them
Every product or service should be centered around what is called a buyer persona. If you don’t know who your customer is, you leave a lot of opportunity on the table.  Make your customer the superstar of your business.

Here are a few examples:

  • I’m in the market to buy a new MSR and I can’t figure out which brand I like better. Daniels Defense, DPMS or Stag Arms. I may find an ebook on Daniel’s website “How to choose the right AR.” In an easy to understand format, it provides me options, use, price and other customer reviews to help me make a better decision. I’ll most likely choose a DD. 
  • I’m a gun store owner looking for information on how to best track my inventory. A manufacturer may send me a case study on how other gun store owners are using their product to help them to keep track of their firearms and remain compliant. The manufacturer then follows up with a series of emails that builds trust.
  • I’m a hunter who is not sure what kind of bow I will need for an upcoming elk hunt. A manufacturer might send me their top 3 bow recommendations based on my stated preferences.

6. Talk their language
Don’t use fancy terms and ‘gobblygook’. Talk their language. Using the examples above, meet them on the range, in their facility or on the mountain. Talk to them like an old friend. You have to earn your customer’s money more than ever.

7. Give them what they want
Do your absolute best to make a great product and don’t cut corners. If enough customers ask for something—give it to them. Give them a way to sound off on what is needed to make your products better. You can create a customer support portal with an area titled “Submit product ideas” to encourage participation in your product development. Don’t let Facebook be the platform they choose to voice their disapproval if something with your product goes wrong. 

8. Fanatical customer support
Last, but not least, customer service—has become the new marketing. When you provide great customer support, you are much more likely to have that experience passed on via word-of-mouth.

A survey by Harvard Business Review concludes that customers want knowledgeable front line customer service reps and that the problem be resolved on the first call. On average, 40% of customers who suffer through bad experiences stop doing business with the offending company. This points to the importance of companies hiring people who align and know their brand(s) products best. Hire your customers.

Are you in a boring industry segment? Then the focus should be shifted to recruitment and employer branding. There are 1.6 million people who work in the hunting industry (Source: Congressional Sportsman Foundation). Are the best people working for you?

A great non-industry example is Zappos, the shoe company. Who gets excited about selling shoes? At Zappos, the culture is the product and shoes are what they do on the side. Create a great culture to work at and the boring product stuff becomes fun. 

“So many people when they go to the office, they leave a little bit of themselves at home, or a lot of themselves at home. And they have to put on this different persona in the office, especially in corporate environments. And our whole…there’s a lot of talk about work life separation or balance and so on, whereas our whole thing is about work life integration. It’s just life.”— Tony Hsieh, CEO

In conclusion, it all starts with a great product that solves a problem on a massive scale. To connect that great product with your customer—you must be somebody, you must be authentic, play the guide, not the hero in their story, make your brand all about them, talk their language, give them what they want and provide outstanding customer service above all else so that good customer reviews come natural. 

Outdoor Hunting Shooting Sports Buyer Persona

 

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shooting-sports-firearms-digital-case-studies

3 “Must Read” Outdoor Industry Digital Marketing Case Studies

By Case Study, Inbound Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Marketing, SEO, StoryBrand

Most marketers looking to start a digital marketing program for their company in the outdoor, hunting, shooting sports industries are usually met with some resistance from the higher ups.

After all, PR, print, and tradeshow have always been the industry norm. But COVID has changed everything. The need for a robust digital marketing program that focuses on D2C sales is essential in 2022 and beyond. 

If you’re still on the fence about pulling the trigger on the benefits of a cost-effective digital and inbound marketing program and are serious about getting on track to building your digital footprint for the future, now’s a good time to reconsider. 

In this post, I share three case studies that we’ve worked hard on over the past 2 years that received some outstanding results.

12-Month E-commerce Case Study

Garrison Everest was approached by a 2-year old consumer products company who had big growth goals that were having trouble getting traction in the marketplace. Due to the cost of entry to place print advertising—they were looking for other means to make their brand known. 

A rebrand was conducted that included new packaging, logo, and e-commerce website to make their products more appealing and more attractive to prospective buyers. Next, we built out three digital marketing programs that included SEO, email, and industry partnerships. To build brand awareness, the SEO program utilized content and industry writers to build backlinks on popular publisher sites. On-page and off-page optimization was also included. Lastly, we began engaging on social media daily, which added a human component versus a faceless brand image with their followers who in the end, shared the client’s brand goodness with their followers.

 

firearms digital marketing


Results

  • 400% Increase in traffic from the previous year
  • 40% in social media followers across Facebook and Instagram
  • 112% increase in email subscribers 

 The amount invested provided the client with a 624% return on investment. The program paid for itself six times over.

 “That’s like putting a dollar into the stock market and getting six dollars back.”

 

12-Month Influencer Case Study

A mid-growth company was having problems getting its product to penetrate a competitive accessory segment. Print and banner advertising provided diminishing returns, which set them looking for other ways to get more bang for their marketing dollar. Garrison Everest provided an influencer marketing strategy that worked with prominent industry celebrities and social media influencers to raise awareness of their product.

 

Results

  • 9.1 M Impressions
  • 7.2 M Estimated Reach
  • $6.5 CPM
  • 670K engagements

What made this influencer marketing program remarkable was the low CPM. Compare a $6.5 CPM to the cost of placing a banner ad on leading sites where CPM costs can be as high as $25. Influencer marketing provided great value to this company. 

 

24-Month Inbound Marketing Case Study

Faced with growing competition and a changing landscape, a B2B company contacted Garrison Everest to help them differentiate in the marketplace and generate leads and customers online. 

They were already placing large print buys but were not getting good returns, nor were they able to track their results which made them feel like they were throwing their money out the window.   

We started with a comprehensive brand development assignment that led to a website redesign and a 12-month inbound marketing campaign. Over the course of the next 12 months, traffic increased, leads multiplied, and through automation, we were able to nurture those leads into customers. 

The first campaign was so successful that they renewed for an additional 12 months.

 


Results

  • 233% increase in traffic
  • 564 leads
  • 383 new customers
  • 664 additional blog subscribers
  • 225% in social media followers

So does digital marketing work in the outdoor, shooting sports and defense industry? 

Yes, it does— unfortunately banging on this drum is difficult because for most marketers putting all their money towards print, PR and tradeshow is more comfortable. However, with the customer base skewing younger, I would argue traditional is becoming a risky bet. 

Digital marketing is all about daily repeatable tasks. Identify a clear message, the right channels, launch, track, optimize, tweak, rinse, and repeat. 

As you consider this year’s marketing budget, think about what a reliable digital marketing program can do for your company’s growth and the added benefits of a profitable revenue channel that works for you 24/7/365.  

 

 

5-Keys-To-Stand-Out-and-Attract-New-Customers

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2020 Hunting or Firearm E-commerce Website

5 “Must-Do’s” Before Starting a Hunting or Firearms E-commerce Website 2022

By Firearms and Hunting

Firearms, hunting and shooting brands have awakened to the fact that a strong e-commerce component is critical to doing business in the future—especially now that COVID-19 has changed consumer buying habits for good

With more retail outlets closing, disruption within distribution, some large firearms and hunting brands are bypassing distribution and dealers and going straight to the customer. The manufacturer/dealer relationship is still vital to most brands, and will remain so for the foreseeable future — but the trends are getting harder and harder to ignore because of customer behavior changes.    

Here are some interesting statistics according to Fortunly:

  • More than 80% of online shopping carts are abandoned before checkout on mobile devices.
  • American consumers spent around $8.9 billion on online shopping during Black Friday 2021.
  • eCommerce sales are expected to surpass $735 billion by 2023.
  • It is estimated that 95% of all purchases will be made online by 2040.
  • eCommerce businesses lose more than $75 billion per year because of bad customer service.
  • eCommerce sales are expected to reach $7.3 trillion on a global scale by 2025.
  • Around 80% of US customers said that free shipping would make them more likely to make an online purchase
  • Credit cards are the most popular payment method for shopping online, followed by electronic wallets and debit cards.

In this post, I want to give you five critical “must-dos” (before you consider how to generate traffic) if you’re evaluating a new e-commerce website initiative that will help you organize your team, save time and make it easier and faster to implement your new e-commerce-based website if you are a manufacturer or retailer. 

 

1. Build your e-commerce website for your buyer persona

Before you get to the part of what you want your website to look like, nothing will bring your web team more clarity and focus than understanding your buyer persona.

You most likely have a good idea of who your customer is—but taking the time to understand what they want from your website will make all the difference. Seek to understand what their wants, needs, problems, behaviors, and questions are.

Create a web experience based on them and use story to create clear messaging.  This will ultimately make for higher sales and less abandoned carts.

2. Prepare your product image library

The second step is establishing your product library. If you’re a large manufacturer, you may have over 2000 SKU’s that are jumbled into a hundred different sizes, on gray backgrounds, outdated, or that show your product in a less than ideal format. Since this aspect of the project can take the longest, you can save a lot of time by starting now.

Start by creating a shot list:

  • What products need to be reshot?
  • Which product images can be reused?
  • Locate a lifestyle photographer
  • Have the photographer provide the raw sizes and cropped images set to 1000 x 1000 pixels for use on the website

Sort all these on a spreadsheet so the photographer can easily sort and organize when it comes time to shoot your products. Make sure you place all your products on a white background. Placing products on a clean white background allows your product to be the hero and creates a clear understanding in your customers mind without any unnecessary background clutter.

3. Identify how you’re going to fulfill orders

With over 20,000 (Source: CNS) laws on the books—determining how you want to fulfill orders that comply with federal, state and local laws is the next consideration and if you’re a firearm manufacturer. Below are five considerations.

1. Utilize a third-party cart.
Ruger, for example, utilizes the GearFire and Gallery of Guns.com to sell its products online. All you need to do is apply for membership with your FFL and set up an account. This can also be done through your distributor. This allows your products to be embedded in hundreds if not thousands of online gun store websites and outdoor specialty retailers and takes the hassle out of you (or your staff) having to deal with running your online store. The downfall is you rely on their somewhat antiquated looking shopping cart that doesn’t align with your website’s look and feel.

2. Ship direct to customer via an FFL
Daniel Defense’s website is an example of how to set up a shopping cart where the product is shipped directly to an FFL of your customer’s choosing. They will enter their local FFLs address, notify them that your firearm is being shipped to them, and the FFL will handle all the paperwork. This all happens after the purchase. There are hundreds of shopping cart software solutions on the internet from WooCommerce and Magento to name a few. Choose the software that best suits your needs and one that you feel is easiest to use. I recommend WooCommerce as it is used by over 21% of all shopping carts on the web if you’re doing a custom install with WordPress. 

2022 UPDATE: I do not recommend signing up with any third-party solutions like Miva, Wix, GoDaddy, and especially Shopify, who as of (August 16, 2018) has banned Franklin Armory from using their platform. When building on these networks, you are essentially handing over your lawful online business that puts you at risk because these providers can shut you down at anytime—sometimes without warning.

firearms ecommerce diagram

 

3. Dealer only
Springfield Armory, Benelli and Beretta only sell through their dealer network—some use a hybrid (dealer and third-party cart). You can purchase other accessories on their websites, but to purchase a firearm you are redirected to a dealer locator.

4. What States should I NOT ship to?
Some manufacturers do not ship to New York, Illinois or Hawaii. Other states have magazine restrictions like Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and California. The anti-gun laws in these States are very confusing and can leave you open to a lawsuit. It’s better to not even take the risk unless you have a good attorney advise you on your options.

5. What shipping provider should I use?
The shipping of firearms seems to constantly change. The main rule of thumb is to always ship to an authorized FFL—never to a personal residence. Below is the latest information from GunBroker.com. If you have any questions, it’s always wise to check with your attorney, USPS, UPS or FEDEX representative.

  • US Mail – unlicensed persons:
    • Unlicensed persons can ship a rifle or shotgun by US Mail.
    • Unlicensed persons cannot ship a handgun by US Mail. Pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person (for example, short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles) are defined as handguns.
    • Postal regulations allow the Post Office to open your package for inspection.
    • Ammunition cannot be shipped by US Mail.

    You can search the US Post Office Postal Explorer site for specific USPS regulations regarding firearms and ammunition (Hazardous, Restricted and Perishable Matter).

    US Mail – licensed persons:

    • Licensed persons can ship rifles, shotguns, or handguns by US Mail. In fact, we suggest you use the USPS, as it is now the most cost-effective way to ship a handgun.
    • To ship a rifle or shotgun, you need only inform the Post Office the package contains a firearm.
    • A licensed manufacturer, dealer, or importer can ship a handgun via the US Post Office if the licensed dealer fills out a US Post Office Form PS 1508 and files it with the local Post Office branch where the handgun is to be shipped.

    You can search the US Post Office Postal Explorer site for specific USPS regulations.

    FedEx Express:

    • FedEx will only ship firearms via their Priority Overnight service.
    • Ammunition must be shipped as hazardous goods via Ground in compliance with “Limited Quantity.” Special labeling is required.


    FedEx Ground
    :

    • FedEx Ground will transport and deliver firearms (excluding handguns) as defined by the United States Gun Control Act of 1968 between areas served in the U.S.
    • Ammunition must be shipped as hazardous goods via FedEx Ground in compliance with “Limited Quantity.” FedEx Ground will accept shipments of ammunition. Special labeling is required.


    UPS
    :

    • UPS will accept handgun shipments by Next Day Air only.
    • Rifles and shotguns can be shipped by UPS ground service.
    • UPS will accept shipments of ammunition. Special labeling is required.

6. Flat rate or box size?
The easiest and most hassle-free way to ship your products is by weight. You can set-up different weight tiers of pricing for all of your products. However, if you’re in a segment that is highly competitive and $5-$10 is a factor in getting the sale, then be prepared to discount your shipping.

 

4. Get the security issues out of the way

The next “must-do” is security and encryption. Everyone who sells online must take precautions for their customer’s data. And with every website now a target for hackers, it’s more important than ever.

1. Payment Processor or Gateway
To take payments online, you first need a payment processor. Authorize.Net acts as the middleman in between you and your merchant bank account that securely transfers funds from your customers’ credit card to your account. During this process, Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and Discover—whatever credit cards you accept on your site all take a percentage of the sale, usually 1.5-2%. Your bank may also charge a percentage as well. Be sure to configure these fees into your product costs.

2. A Secure Socket Layer or SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and your customer’s browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. You can purchase an SSL through a number of providers like Symantec, Thawte, or RapidSSL. Your host provider will need to install it for you. Before purchasing an SSL, make sure to ask your host provider what kind of server software they use for example, Apache, Oracle, IBM or others.

3. Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy pages are essential in protecting your site from users who may encounter problems. These important legal pages on your website ensure your business is protected from any fraudulent behavior from users. Read here for more information and some horror stories. Always get an attorney to look over your T&C and PP before launch. 

4. Secure and Speedy Hosting is usually the last component considered when building your e-commerce website. But beware, there are many services out there who sell you on services and packages you don’t need and who guarantee speed and security but fail to deliver. One #2A friendly company that we recommend is WP Engine. WP Engine provides you with a secure and fast platform to run your WordPress website. For many years, we have enjoyed little to no downtime, fast speeds and literally no hacks. With Google now ranking websites based on speed, WP Engine remains a good choice for the hunting and firearms industry.

  • Content Delivery Network
  • Included SSL
  • Content Page Performance
  • Fast 24/7 Support
  • Staging Server
  • 24/7/365 Backup

Pick A Plan

5. Consider an Enterprise Solution

For enterprise manufacturers, it may be time to connect your CRM, ERP, and WMS and eCommerce altogether. Companies like NetSuite, Sage, SAP and other software companies serve larger companies with large global inventories with complex supply chains. These software solutions allow you to manage your inventories in greater detail and with greater efficiency. If you’re a large manufacturer, taking the time to explore these solutions may be what you need rather than a simple shopping cart. A SAP or NetSuite implementation can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If that seems like overkill, there are other low to mid-market solutions like Magento Enterprise that can be connected to your back-office operations and warehouse that tracks inventory, shipping, and accounting.

In conclusion, when considering your next e-commerce store, it’s important to identify who your buyer persona is, get a good product image library created, identify what kind of shopping cart setup you want, make sure you have the right security components in place to take payments securely and if you’re an enterprise manufacturer, consider a larger solution to more efficiently run your operations.

By taking into consideration these five “must-dos,” you’ll have what you need to engage a web development firm and make your website project go much faster.

 

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5 Firearm Marketing Alternatives You Haven’t Thought Of Yet

By Firearms and Hunting

It’s harder than ever to get your message out to attract the influx of some 8 million+ new gun owners who’ve flooded the market (Source: FOXNEWS). For brands that have invested time in building their brand and digital marketing programs over the years—are reaping awards as guns, ammo, optics, and accessory sales set new records.

If you’ve been on the fence about marketing and are now ready to capture this moment, in this article you will learn about:  

  • Podcasts – The old is new and the new is old.
  • Inbound Marketing – Create a strong digital footprint for years to come by creating blogs, lead-generators, email marketing and SEO to generate traffic, leads and customers.
  • Native Advertising – Publish branded content on major publisher sites and add your advertising within the content for context and greater ad results.
  • Focus on women and minorities – Women and minorities are a burgeoning segment—are you focused on them?
  • Influencers – Reach your audience through trusted firearm social media content creators.
  • Storytelling – Leverage the power of the StoryBrand Framework to clarify your brand message so customers will listen.

If you’re not a big well-known brand like Ruger or Smith & Wesson, marketing your firearms brand and line of products for recreational shooting and hunting can leave you scratching your head wondering what to do.

Facebook, Google and YouTube which was once a bastion for firearm, ammunition, and hunting knife companies to advertise, now bans all paid advertising related to direct weapon sales. And Instagram announced in 2020 that they will begin cracking down on influencers who work in the firearms segment. 

Fox, the NFL and other major media outlets that used to be friendly to firearm manufacturers have shut the door as well. You may remember when Daniel Defense tried to run an ad in 2003 on the Super Bowl. 

Below I’ve identified five firearm marketing alternatives that you haven’t thought of yet that will help you get your message out, build your brand and attract new customers. 


firearms marketing podcast1. Podcasts

The old is new and the new is old. In the last two years we’ve seen a resurgence in podcasts. Podcasts like Dan Bongino, GunTalk, The Dana Show, Restless Native and Bear Arms podcast offer a way for your brand to reach a broader audience and leverage the trust of the host. According to Influencer Marketing Hub

  • There are over 2 million podcasts.
  • 78% of Americans Are Aware of Podcasting.
  • 91% of Australians Are Aware of Podcasting.
  • Almost 60% of US Consumers Listen to Podcasts.
  • 160+ Million Americans Have Listened to a Podcast.
  • 65% Listen to the Whole Episode.

2. Inbound Marketing

I make it no secret that the inbound marketing methodology is a perfect fit for firearm manufacturers with a lengthy purchase process. Brands like Mossberg, Springfield Armory, Havlon, Stag Arms and Beretta have been using inbound since 2018. These brands have built digital fortresses of content that will continue to grow contacts and sales well into the future. Inbound marketing uses search engine optimized content, downloadable offers, landing pages, forms, social media and email marketing to attract, engage and provide real value to their customers. Inbound provides substantial cost savings to manufacturers, and the best part is, it’s all completely trackable. It removes the black box of advertising and provides real ROI and understanding of your brand and marketing efforts. Inbound is an important digital marketing element to Influencer Marketing. If your customers have questions about your product, you should be writing content. 


3. Native Advertising

What is native advertising? Native advertising delivers top-level paid or earned content within the normal reading stream of organic content. These would include recommendation widgets, sponsored content and in-feed social. What binds all of these distribution tactics together is the word “in-feed.” They all deliver top-funnel content within the normal reading stream of organic content. It looks like it’s supposed to be there. (Source: Chad Pollitt)

Similar to the below example by Crimson Trace, native advertising is about creating helpful content and then placing your product within it as a reference or as a sponsor. For example, you may write an article on the “5 Things You Need To Know About Home Defense” and submit it to an online magazine (earned or paid)  then mention your brand as the perfect fit for a first-time buyer. Combine this with an ad, and you’re likely to double your advertising investment. 

Check out how Crimson Trace does it within their First Defender Library.

 

Glock Women Marketing

Photo credit: Glock

4. Women & Minorities

Women and minorities are a burgeoning segment in the industry as you might already know (Source: NSSF). You should consider using content or sponsoring a free shooting class or range day in your local newspaper or county magazine to attract interested customers. Women are helping change some of the negative stereotypes typically associated with the firearm industry. Firearm manufacturers should embrace this trend and do all they can to promote it. Larger brands like Glock have added women in their imagery and creating sections in their publications and websites that speak directly to them.  

 

5. Influencers

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that uses category leaders or celebrities to communicate your brand’s message and content to their vast number of followers. Instead of buying print ads or filming commercials, you use the influencer to get the word out for you instead. The industry is taking increased notice of influencers like Guns Out TVHickok45, IV8888, and Warrior Poet Society. Influencers who have large networks of trusted followers represent an important component of your marketing mix. By tapping these well-known hunters and shooters, you can gain entrance into larger audiences.

 

Bonus! But wait there’s more…

Another alternative that will transform your marketing, brand awareness, and overall messaging is utilizing a framework based on storytelling. Story is a sense-making device used since the dawn of time to communicate—our brains are hardwired for it. Used properly, story will give you an edge over your competitors—even if their product is better.  The reason why story works so well is that it cuts through the clutter and distraction of today’s ultra-competitive outdoor, shooting and firearms industry that helps your brand stand out among all the other “me-too” claims and clearly communicates the benefits of your product’s benefits without all the fluff. Too many brands play the hero, when they need to be playing the guide. This helps your customer understand your offering faster and helps them become something better e.g., a better marksman, more accurate, more aware, savvier or in some cases more advanced. For more information on story check out this online workshop.

In conclusion, marketing in these changing times may not be as difficult as you think. By utilizing podcasts, content, the women segment, influencers and story—you have the makings of a strong digital marketing strategy that is trackable and more efficient.

 

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outdoor hunting marketing email

4 Reasons Prospects Get Stuck in Your Online Sales Funnel

By Email Marketing

If you have a hunting, outdoor or shooting sports website that was designed to generate email contacts and sales, then you are probably already very familiar with online sales funnels. They start with ads, PR, email or blog articles (like this one) that move prospects through a series of steps that include internal links, emails, CTAS, or lead generators—eventually giving the visitor to your website the chance to take the next step, like buy now.

It’s a proven system, and one that works better than ever in 2021. However, we often meet with business owners and marketers who aren’t having much success with online contact/lead generation. They know that something isn’t working in their funnels but struggle to identify the problem.

There is never going to be a single solution, of course. Problems range from poorly communicated products or even a slow loading website. In our experience, however, most “lack of conversion” types of problems tend to boil down to one of four issues. Let’s look at each one in turn…

1. They Didn’t Have a Real Interest in Your Products

It’s very easy to mistake “website visitor” for “qualified prospect.” You may think the two are interchangeable, but there might be a lot of people who show up to your website without any intention of buying anything.

There are a lot of reasons for this. It could be that you compete in a highly competitive segment like i.e. holsters that require a great deal of searching and research. Or, you may be focused on search terms that have a lot of overlap with another type of product like “hunting scope” vs. “best deer hunting optic.” However, the most common problem has to do with marketers using SEO and paid ads (if you can do paid ads) to increase traffic rather than focusing on conversions.

Your sales funnel only works if you bring in qualified buyers, or at least interested prospects. Focusing too tightly on clicks or impressions just wastes money and opportunities.

2. You Haven’t Built Up Enough Credibility

We can say definitively that almost every business owner in our industry would like to have more qualified customers. The vast majority of them could use help making sense of search engine optimization, social media, and other online marketing channels. And yet, we still have to produce new content updates to stay competitive. Why is that?

The answer, of course, is that these potential customers don’t yet know that you have solutions that can help them. They are aware that they want to achieve a certain result, (secure their electronic fishing equipment, hunt with an AR, or export firearm products) but haven’t yet seen the proof that you can solve their problems. So, you have to demonstrate the possibilities through blog posts, social media, PR, testimonials, and more.

For our clients, we help them create articles, customer testimonials and videos that help prospects see them as the leader in their given segment.

If you have a credibility gap in the sales funnel, it’s always going to hinder conversions. No one wants to explore working with you until they trust you and have faith that you can help them resolve whatever problem they have.

3. Your Sales Funnel Isn’t Set Up Correctly 

Your online sales funnel has to start and lead somewhere. What is the offer you ultimately make? Is it a demo, 30-day trial (like Walther’s Try or Buy) or maybe a discount on your product?

Try or Buy WaltherPPQ

In other words, if the final offer in your online sales funnel doesn’t make prospects think “I want that,” then there’s always going to be a bottleneck in the contact/lead generation process.

➡ See this article to fix your sales funnel.

4. Use the Right Sales Funnel Software

So many brands in the outdoor, hunting and shooting sports industry when approaching their sales funnel don’t think that it involves the complete customer lifecycle so they sign up for Mail Chimp or Constant Contact and send a few emails here and there only to see their time wasted when click through rates and sales generate little to no results, which can be frustrating.  There are three softwares (hunting and 2A friendly) we use to create highly effective automated sales funnels that work to our client’s advantage:

  • Klaviyo – Geared specifically for ecommerce brands that provides easy to understand segmentation and SMS.
  • Keap – A complete CRM and Automation program that can connect your store.
  • HubSpot – An inbound marketing software for companies that generate over $3M/year that provides a complete end-to-end solution for growth-stage companies.

If you have questions about these solutions, Garrison Everest is certified in all three to help you generate more online sales.

Is It Time to Fix Your Broken Online Sales Funnel?

It doesn’t matter how great your website looks, or how much money was spent on its development – if it isn’t helping you save money or create more sales, then you’re losing money.

Contact our team of business and marketing growth specialists today so we can schedule a free assessment and help you generate a plan that moves your company forward!

Photo credit: Buzz Hayes of Confluence Group

Outdoor Email Marketing

Three Ways to Catch More Subscribers with Outdoor Email Marketing

By Email Marketing, Outdoor

Article first appeared in GuideFitter Journal Summer 2021

Most outdoor businesses struggle to find cost-effective ways to harness their website traffic and generate qualified contacts/subscribers. Many will spend hours creating newsletters only to have no one open them or read them. This work results in wasted time and money and ultimately giving up on making email marketing work.

But what if there were a better way? What if people looked forward to your emails and were compelled to open them?

According to HubSpot, a marketing software company, email generates $38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3800% return on investment, making it one of the most effective marketing options available. Furthermore, over 59% of marketers say email is their most significant source of ROI. So how can you take advantage of this highly effective strategy to grow your business?

This article will introduce you to a simple strategy based on a hypothetical guide service (but can be used for product companies too) we’ve implemented numerous times with clients in the outdoor industry that will help you build brand awareness, generate and nurture leads 24/7/365 and add revenue to your bottom line.

Step 1 – Create a Clear Message based on a Story 
Any effective email marketing program should be based on a story-based framework. Psychologists have proven that story is hardwired into our brains. It’s the reason why movies can hold our attention for hours, and campfire hunting stories never get old.

Below is a framework based on a process called StoryBrand™. This framework show you how to write story into your marketing by answering the seven questions your customers are asking in a story-based order. By answering the below questions, you will have all the words you need to write and create an effective automated email program. I’ve also included example responses.

  1. What does your customer want?
    They want the fishing trip of a lifetime. 
  2. What problem does your product or service solve?
    Our guided trips give you memories that last forever.
  3. Have you positioned your service as the solution to their problem?  We understand what it’s like to want to fish the most exciting locations in North America, which is why we specialize in dream fishing trips.
  4. How do they do business with you? Or, in other words, how do they go about booking a trip with you?
    To book your dream fishing trip, pick your date, complete our questionnaire and submit deposit. 
  5. What is the call to action?
    Book Now!
  6. What does a successful fishing trip look like?
    Smiling faces of past clients with monster trout.
  7. What does it look like if they don’t choose your service?
    We make you feel at home and won’t leave you going home empty-handed.

By taking the time to answer the above questions, your business will have a more straightforward message and copy blocks to create the emails outlined below.

For more information on how to clarify your message and write your business’ story, check out this article.

Step 2 – No One Wants Your Newsletter
Once you have your story questions answered, you now need to create a way to collect email addresses. It may come as a shock to you, but prospective customers don’t want to read your newsletter. They want to know more about how you’re going to solve their problem, deliver a world-class experience, and create a lifetime of memories.

Two types of buyers show up on your website: direct and transitional.

  • Direct buyers are people who know of you, heard about you, or got referred to you and are ready to book.
  • However, transitional buyers need more information and time to understand what you offer. For this reason, we suggest creating a lead generator. A lead generator is a piece of content (ebook, video series, checklist, or guide) that warms your prospect up to the idea of doing business with you. They should find your lead generator valuable enough to give you their email address. For example, you may create an ebook that showcases the area your fishing in more detail—complete with specifications, maps, fantastic photography, and success stories. Or you may design a “What to Bring to on your Fishing Trip” checklist that gives your prospect a better idea of what to expect that smooths out any fears, concerns, or questions they may have. The idea here is to get them to say, “tell me more.” Put yourself in your prospective client’s shoes and give them something they will find both valuable and memorable.

Step 3 – Write Your Automated Email Sequence the Right Way
Once you’ve had your web developer add a form to your website for prospects to download your lead generator, you now want to keep the interest and momentum going by staying top of mind in their inbox.

The human brain needs to see your brand message 7-8 times before it can be internalized, noticed, and taken action on. Also called the Rule of 7. We live in a high-distraction world, and it’s easy for people to forget why they visited your website, so it’s your job to remind them.

At this point, you’ll want to pull out the answers to your story questions and begin using them to create your copy. Each email should be sent 2-3 days apart at 7 AM to your prospects’ time zone.

 

Outdoor Marketing Sales Funnel

The email should also include:

  • Your logo
  • Links to your social media accounts
  • Contact information
  • One button at the bottom that calls the prospect to Book Now/Buy Now
  1. Welcome Email – The welcome email is just what it sounds like. It’s your chance to thank them for downloading the lead generator and introduce them to your product or service by stating the problem you solve. You may want to welcome them to your family or give them a discount on any future bookings or sales.
  2. Add Value #1 The second email should offer helpful information. Resist the urge to sell—try to help. For example, you may want to talk about making the most of their guide trip or offering best practices when traveling with equipment.
  3. Add Value #2 – The third email should, again, add value. This time you may want to offer recipes or tips on how to stay warm and dry at altitude in October. Once again, the idea is to warm your prospect up to the idea of doing business with you.
  4. Overcome an Objection – At this point, you should see an average open rate of 50% and click-through rates around 20%. These are good indicators that your prospect is still interested in your service. This email should begin to address any friction points they may be having. Friction points consist of price, the location of your lodge, fitness level, or transportation obstacles. Address those objections and offer solutions with transparency.
  5. Problem and Solution – In this email, list the problems your guide service solves. People book guided trips for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps they’ve always dreamed of fishing the Miracle Mile in Wyoming. Maybe they are taking their son or daughter for their first fishing trip. Or they are looking to create some lifelong memories with their friends. Address these problems and what the customer wants—and tell them how you solved them with past clients.
  6. Deliver a Paradigm Shift – A paradigm shift means your prospective customer thought one way about your guide service but now thinks differently. For example, they may have considered all guide services are the same—when in fact your guide service offers much more. If your service or product is different, explain why that is.
  7. Customer Testimonial/Success Story – Next is the email that tells what your customer’s life looked like before they booked a trip with you and how their life has changed after their trip. Ask for your clients to provide their stories and highlight them in this email.
  8. Close with a Sales Letter – Finally, if they haven’t booked with you but are still opening your emails – offer a time-sensitive incentive like 10% off if you book with us by the end of the month. Ask for the sale with a clear call to action: Book Now! If they open the email, reach out personally to close the sale.

The above sequence gives you almost a month of automated emails. It can be used as a baseline strategy to help you create your email automation program. Once you get these emails set up in your email program, begin testing subject headlines and content to see if you can improve open rates, click-through rates, and bookings.

Your lead generator can also double as an advertisement on social media or other platforms. Use it at trade shows and local events to generate leads.

In conclusion, the above gives you a simple strategy for creating an effective lead generation and automated email workflow. Start by clarifying your message through story-based elements. Create a valuable lead generator in the form of an ebook, checklist, video series, or guide that your prospects will exchange their email address for. Then create a series of eight emails that nurture your prospective leads that keep your guide service top of mind, which incentivizes them to book. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly right away. Like anything, it takes time to get it right. Just by having this strategy in place, you’ll begin to see results that grows your business.

 

 

firearm-inbound-marketing-tips

3 HubSpot Tips for Firearm Industry Marketers

By Firearms and Hunting

HubSpot is the leading marketing automation tool for inbound marketing. Heck, they coined the term “inbound marketing.” If you’re using the system or are interested in HubSpot and how it can bring a much-needed understanding to your online marketing efforts, then in this post—I’ll give you 3 tips I’ve learned along the way to keep your HubSpot portal organized and running smoothly as you build traffic, leads, and sales for your outdoor, hunting or shooting sports company. 

1. Keep your CTAs organized
“CTA” stands for Call-to-Action. CTAs are those little (or big) bright buttons (see the bottom of this page) or small ads on your web pages, blog posts and emails. They are like beacons that lead your visitors through the buyers journey and tells them what action you want them to take and where to go on your website.

Here’s why CTAs are important:

  1. More than 90% of visitors who read your headline also read your CTA copy. (Unbounce)
  2. Emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks 371% and sales 1617%. (WordStream)
  3. Adding CTAs to your Facebook page can increase click-through rate by 285%. (AdRoll)

We live in an attention deficit world. CTAs help you focus your website visitors on what to do next. If your goal is to convert your website visitor to a customer, lead or subscriber—CTAs are how you do it.

CTAs however in HubSpot can get quickly out of control. By not organizing your CTAs properly, you’ll start to get lost when it comes time to analyze the data. A simple suggestion is to label your CTAs in this syntax: LOCATION: TITLE OF POST/OFFER. See example below.

HubSpot CTA

By keeping your CTAs organized by where they appear on your site and by title, you can quickly analyze which pieces of content are working and which ones are not. You can also use the various sort functions and charts within HubSpot. 

2. Start your persona and list segmentation early
One of the biggest mistakes I see when companies begin an inbound firearm marketing program is they start with unsegmented lists that they built from their previous email marketing program like MailChimp or Constant Contact.

This is problematic because they failed to capture key prospect information like hunter or shooter type, company name, and essential buyer persona interests. This leaves you with a mixed bag of contacts that doesn’t provide you with the understanding of who makes up your contact list, which is foundational to personalization or “one-to-one marketing.”

Personalization statistics:

  1. When asked to prioritize one capability that will be most critical to marketing in the future, one-third of marketers answered: “personalization.
  2. Marketers see an average increase of 20% in sales when using personalized web experiences. 
  3. Personalized CTAs resulted in a 42% higher conversion rate than generic CTAs.
  4. 74% of consumers get frustrated when website content appears that has nothing to do with their interests.
  5. 76% of marketers define real-time marketing as personalizing content in response to customer interactions.
  6. 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. 

If you’re planning on starting an inbound marketing campaign in the near future, start your segmentation efforts now if you’re still using a standalone email or form marketing application. Define your buyer personas and add in form fields that allow your prospective customers to self-identify when they provide their contact information when exchanging it for one of your downloadable offers.

firearm-inbound-marketing-personas

Buyer Personas

 

3. Build 10-15 landing pages to supercharge your lead generation efforts

Without a focused and persuasive landing page, your lead capture efforts will fall flat. But also just as important is that you have enough.

Landing page facts: 

  • 48% of marketers build a new landing page for each marketing campaign. 
  • 68% of B2B businesses use landing pages to garner a new sales lead for future conversion.
  • 16% of landing pages are free of navigation bars. 
  • A whopping 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel.
    (Source: HubSpot)

While most companies don’t see an increase in leads when increasing their total number of landing pages from 1-5 to 6-10, companies do see a 55% increase in leads when increasing their number of landing pages from 10 to 15.

firearm marketing landing page

And look how that leads index number spikes, even more when a company has 40 or more landing pages on their website. And here’s how it breaks down for B2B and B2C businesses:

firearm marketing index pages

Source: HubSpot

Make sure to clone each form for each landing page so that you can label and test for maximum effectiveness, especially when working with workflows.

By keeping your CTAs organized, segmenting your contact list from the beginning and creating more than 10-15 landing pages—you’ll keep your HubSpot subscription running like a well-oiled M4.

Have a question about HubSpot, schedule a call!

 

shooting-firearms-CTAFree Ebook: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing for the Shooting and Firearms Industry

In this comprehensive guide, you will learn the 6 essential steps to internet marketing success.

1. Optimizing Your Website
2. Creating Content
3. Implementing a Social Strategy
4. Converting Visitors into Leads
5. Nurturing Leads into Customers
6. Analyzing & Refining Data

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outdoor hunting shooitng sports business coach

Outdoor Wire: Garrison Everest Announces Business Coaching Services for Outdoor Professionals

By Outdoor Hunting Shooting Sports

Franklin, Tennessee – Garrison Everest expands their brand and marketing services to include business coaching for professionals in the outdoor, hunting and shooting sports industry.

“Most business mistakes are avoidable. I’ve seen first-hand the struggles and avoidable mistakes directors, entrepreneurs, and first-time business owners make, which is why Garrison Everest offers a proven business coaching framework that will help professionals focus, save time, grow profit and win in the outdoor, hunting and shooting sports marketplace,” says Josh Claflin, President of Garrison Everest and Certified Business Coach.

Garrison Everest’s Business Made Simple (Powered by StoryBrand™) framework gives the entrepreneur, business owner, department head, executive director or manager everything they need to grow a business and become a more confident professional—without having to spend thousands of dollars to get an MBA.

Topics include:

• Leadership
• Personal Productivity
• Messaging
• Marketing
• Communication
• Negotiation
• Sales
• Management
• Execution

Business coaching has been proven to increase profit by 46%, reduce stress by 57%, increase confidence by 52% and improve quality of life by 43%. (Source: International Coach Federation)

“If you’re ready to take your game to the next level, invest in your business or career, don’t go it alone. Get a proven framework and the guidance you need to build the life, career and business you want,” adds Claflin.

Garrison Everest is accepting applicants to join its Spring coaching cohort starting March 1, 2021 and select applicants for one-on-one coaching. Interested professionals can also learn on demand by signing up at Business Made Simple University.

Schedule a call to apply.

 

Outdoor Hunting Firearms Business Assessment

 

How Healthy Is Your Business?

Take this 15-minute test to determine the fitness level of your Outdoor, Hunting or Shooting Sports business in these key areas:

  • Leadership
  • Personal Productivity
  • Messaging
  • Marketing
  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Sales
  • Management and Execution

ASSESS MY BUSINESS

firearm influencer marketing

What’s Around the Corner for Firearm Influencer Marketing in 2021?

By Firearms Marketing, Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing in the shooting sports industry has changed a lot since 2016. Back then, brands didn’t understand how to collaborate with influencers, and influencers weren’t sure what to charge. Most influencers were happy to receive a free product—but all that has changed.  

Marketing budgets continue to expand for influencer marketing as more money pours into influencer pockets. Brands are going to spend up to 15B on IM by 2022 (Source: Business Insider). And for a good reason—the effectiveness of an influencer strategy continues to yield unprecedented results— 5x, 10x, and even 2000x return for just one video posted on YouTube. 

In this article, I look at a few shifts brands and influencers should be aware of in the outdoor, hunting and shooting sports industry as we move into 2021. 

firearms influencer marketing

Photo Credit: Alex Zedra

1. Increasing Prices, More Significant Returns

Influencer costs continue to rise. On average, it costs 500% more to collaborate with prominent influencers today than it was just three years ago. As you might guess, this is due to increasing network sizes and content that is Hollywood-grade. For example, I’ve worked with a prominent influencer for the past three years. He used to charge $1,000 for a YouTube review—today he charges $6,000. This cost may seem steep, but his content (over time) has generated massive returns for our client(s). As influencers increase their followings and their brand grows, their economic value and ROI increases as well. 

Authenticity and engagement remains the secret sauce that makes influencer marketing so powerful. Alex Zedra, a popular influencer in the firearms industry—who has over 2 million followers—works with several top brands and runs her own AZ branded fan store says,

“Companies are starting to recognize the creativity and the impact creators have on a brand. Influencers know what content/ads work best for their following. It comes off organic and genuine—better than a corny television or magazine ad.” 

 

2. Here Come the Talent Agencies!

Over the past five years, the talent agency business model has rapidly adapted to influencer marketing. Talent agencies believe that an influencer can be treated the same as a famous actor, model, or athlete. 

In the entertainment industry, talent agencies begin by finding talented actors to represent their agency. They attract and contract actors that they believe will book jobs for them i.e. commercials, radio spots or movies. (Source: Top Hollywood Coach) These agencies then add a percentage to the total bill — usually 10-30%. 

However, some have figured out that the talent agency model can be adapted to influencer marketing, which may seem the same on the surface—but are quite different and pose challenges to both the influencer and the brand manager.

According to Danielle Wiley of The Sway Group, a leading influencer marketing agency with first-hand experience, says, “The talent agency model simply isn’t ideal for full-scale production of highly successful influencer marketing campaigns.” Furthermore, “Today’s influencer marketing industry has evolved beyond simply securing paying gigs for creators: the most successful campaigns are the result of expert creative guidance and in-depth program management from start to finish.”

In other words, to make influencer marketing work, you shouldn’t just approach it as “hiring an influencer.” The strategy involves collaboration, management, ongoing communication and support to make it useful—for both the brand and influencer.

The good and the bad of talent agencies

If you’re a professional influencer who is too busy to market yourself, then signing up for representation may be a good idea. Still, you should be aware of the upside and downside of working with talent agencies.   

The upside:

    • Talent agencies can help you market your influence. 
    • Signing exclusive contracts may guarantee you more jobs.
    • Joining a group of other managed influencers makes you feel supported.

The downside:

    • Talent agencies are tempted to favor higher-priced influencers than lower-cost influencers.
    • Talent agencies can throttle or block influencers’ earning potential by increasing costs.
    • Influencers are locked into exclusionary contracts that prohibit them from working with brands they want to work with.
    • You may be forced to give up your current relationships to the talent agency that may harm your existing agreements.
    • Talent agencies may require you to do more work than you typically agree to.

So depending on your needs, hiring a talent agency comes with the good and the bad. If you’re an influencer, I recommend not signing exclusive agreements so that you can maximize your opportunities. 

3. Saturation and Competition is Increasing, But So Are The Number of Influencers

As a person who conducts marketing in the industry, I commend the folks at Black Rifle Coffee. They were wise (before influencer marketing was a thing) to sign up every famous gun influencer (mostly women) on social media. It seems like you can’t go anywhere without seeing one of the industry’s top female gun/fitness/politico influencers wearing something with the BRCC logo on it. Other brands have also done a great job as well: Vortex, Yeti and Liberty Safes to name a few. 

 

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A post shared by Katie Pavlich (@katiepavlich)

We work in a highly competitive industry where most brands are blocked from advertising on Facebook and Google. More and more brands are making the move to influencer marketing, which is causing saturation and are finding that the influencers they want to work with are already representing their competitors. 

But don’t fret—there are also thousands of new gun-related content creators popping up every day. And with 7 million + new gun owners this year, you can expect even more. As of this writing, according to our search tool, there are 48K influencers with a global reach of 8.1B—with the majority going to female accounts. 

how many firearms influencers are there?

NOTE: 8.1B does not represent people; it means total social media accounts. 

4. What is Your Influencer Marketing Plan B? 

As we move into 2021 and the Biden/Harris presidency looming, what can industry marketers expect regarding social media and the use of influencer marketing? Working with influencers is an effective way to build brand awareness, especially for lesser-known brands. But what would happen if all gun-related content were suddenly shut down? Instagram made a move earlier this year with their Collab Tool to require all influencers to start tagging brands they work with and threatened to shut down all gun-related accounts. We have yet to see the massive cancellations they promised. A popular YouTuber’s Facebook page got pulled down this year, only to be re-activated after public outcry—but how much longer will these efforts work before full-out censorship? How would you pivot if your influencers got shut down? 

Here are five things I would consider:

  1. Move investment into podcasts and podcast sponsorships
  2. Identify ways to identify and engage forum influencers at scale
  3. Incentivize customers as influencers at scale – See Live Capture by Upfluence
  4. Incentivize at the counter/retail level – See ExpertVoice
  5. Test out lesser-known/used channels like Parler, MeWe and 99 others 

This is the year to think seriously about what your Plan B is if influencer marketing plays a big part of your marketing plan.  

5. A Few Things We Are Looking Forward to in 2021 

Olivier Kennedy of Enigma Swiss says, “We live in a post-truth world, influencer marketing is one of the rare trust enablers that works.” Influencer marketing is not going away anytime soon and is one of the best ways to earn your prospective customer’s trust. And with the “sold-out year” upon us (more to come on that later), remaining relevant will be crucial as manufacturers struggle to fulfill demand.  Below are a few things we’re going to do more of this coming year to make influencer marketing more effective: 

  1. Turn our client’s customers and counter-level retailers into ambassadors
  2. Recruit more pico influencers (300) to create content for our clients and rely less on larger influencers
  3. Offer more revenue sharing opportunities to our influencers, so it’s a win-win situation for both the brand and influencer 
  4. Focus more on niche influencers
  5. Focus less on vanity metrics and more on performance

Another ample opportunity on the horizon that I’m excited about is social commerce’s evolution on platforms like TimeToGoWild.com, Everest.com and Guns.com.

In conclusion, we’ll see influencer prices continue to increase, more brand saturation and competition, and talent agencies hinder influencers. Think about your Plan B if you rely heavily on influencers and keep an eye on new exciting new trends like social commerce.   

What about you? What do you see in regards to influencer marketing in 2021? 

 

 

Photo Credit: ETS Model and Influencer Charissa Littlejohn: https://www.instagram.com/charissa_littlejohn/