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Joshua Claflin

outdoor marketing 2023

5 Ways to Kick Off Your Outdoor, Hunting and Shooting Sports Marketing in 2023

By Outdoor Marketing No Comments

Now that it’s officially 2023, you’re undoubtedly itching to get your internet marketing plan firing on all cylinders, especially now that we’re getting news of a coming recession with economists predicting a 70% chance of economic downturn this year.

According to our sources and network of clients, the outdoor, hunting and shooting sports industry experienced a significant boost in online revenue, with an increase of 30-120% in e-commerce sales between 2020 and 2022.

Suppose you’re like most outdoor, hunting, and firearm business owners we talk with—in that case, you’re hoping to keep some of these record numbers, get off on the right foot, and overcome the setbacks, distractions, and inconsistencies that might have kept you from achieving your goals now that boom years of the lockdowns are over.

In this article, I’ll give you five ways to kick-start your outdoor marketing this year and what you should focus on most to improve your online efforts.

1. Get A Website Audit

A website audit is an in-depth look into your site’s HTML that reveals issues like search visibility, security, device compatibility, page loading speeds, mobile, and so on. With a few simple diagnostics, you might be able to identify problems costing you sales and search engine rankings you didn’t know you were missing. Take a look at these tools to get started:

If you need a more in-depth review, our experts are here to help.

2. Review Your Web Traffic Sources

Google continues to throw out algorithm updates that can significantly impact outdoor, hunting, and firearm business. That’s why now more than ever, you need to pay attention to where your web traffic is coming from. Look at your analytics dashboard to see which sources send the most visitors to your website.

How many people are finding your business’ website? What are they looking for, and where are they coming from? You can’t optimize your site for sales and conversions without knowing the answers to these questions, but lots of business owners are afraid to dig into their analytics to find the info they need. Some don’t even know! An experienced outdoor marketing team can help you decipher this information and turn it into actionable next steps. The outcomes can mean more search engine visibility and hence more sales.

3. Update Your Text and Images

Is the content on your website out of date? Do you have duplicated paragraphs between pages? January is the perfect time to review your text and images, ensuring they are all unique, compelling, and current. The last thing you want is to give customers the wrong impression because your images and messaging are out of date.

4. Fix Your Messaging

As the economy slows, it will be essential to capture your website visitors immediately.

Without a clear message, customers will ignore you. When you clarify your message using the StoryBrand Framework, orders and revenue increase.

A clear message on your website (what you are selling and why someone should buy it) is key to success. Your website should be able to pass the “grunt test.” Someone should be able to grunt what it is you sell. We utilize a process called StoryBrand to help clarify our client’s messaging that can help you with this.

Want to see how your messaging and marketing stacks up? Take this assessment.

CompNChoke Outdoor Web Design
Example of clear messaging on Comp N’ Choke

5. Put a Content Plan in Place

Internet marketing is all about growth and focus. It’s a day-by-day, brick-by-brick type of operation. If you genuinely want to make 2023 a productive year as far as your website is concerned, now is an excellent time to put a content/SEO plan and get an editorial calendar in place so you won’t have trouble generating blog posts, lifestyle photography, videos, social media posts and other forms of content once you get busy later in the year.

Before you know it, SHOT Show and another trade show season will be here—with it, another year of passed opportunities.

If you’re looking to make 2023 your best year ever—now is a great time to reach out to our team and schedule a free assessment. In just one short meeting, we’ll be able to show you what you need to put the power of the internet to work for your outdoor, hunting, or firearm business this year.

Get Free Assessment

Photo credit: Chris Dorsey

5 Firearm Marketing Alternatives You Haven’t Thought Of Yet

By Firearms and Hunting, Firearms Marketing 3 Comments

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 firearm marketing programs over the years are reaping the awards of their efforts as guns, ammo, optics, and accessory sales that set the third highest sales record in 2022—mostly from women. 

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 – Podcasts will continue to be a strong channel in 2023.
  • Inbound Marketing – Create a strong digital footprint for years to come by creating value-added blogs, videos, lead-generators, email marketing and SEO to generate traffic, contacts and customers.
  • ExpertVoice – Incentivize behind-the-counter retailers and experts. 
  • Focus on women and minorities – Women and minorities are the largest purchaser segment of firearms over the past 3 years—are you focused on them yet?
  • Influencers – Reach your audience through trusted firearm social media content creators.

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. We’ve seen several accounts cancelled over this past year. 

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 defensive and recreational minded 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 others 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
  • More than 420 Podcast Listeners
  • 78% of Americans Are Aware of Podcasting
  • Almost 62% of US Consumers Listen to Podcasts
  • 180+ Million Americans Have Listened to a Podcast
  • 68% 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. 


expertvoice- firearms marketing3. ExpertVoice

ExpertVoice is a website that connects brands with experts in various fields, primarily sales associates and behind-the-counter workers in retail stores like Scheels, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cabela’s, and thousands of other retailers in the U.S. These experts can try out products and provide feedback and reviews to help promote the products to their followers and communities. Brands can also use ExpertVoice to offer special discounts and promotions to these experts. It is a platform for companies to connect with and engage influential people who can help promote their products to a broader audience. ExpertVoice harnesses the most effective marketing channel of all: Word of Mouth. By getting listed on ExpertVoice, your brand can connect with the people your customers interact with when in the store actively shopping for gear.  

 

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. Almost all brands like Glock have added women in their imagery and are 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.

 

Final Thoughts

I have seen brands popping up on Hulu’s new self-serve ad platform, like Strikeman and Henry Firearms, on mainstream radio. I also saw a Glock commercial air of a woman running with no visual of a firearm. 

In conclusion, marketing in these times may not be as difficult as you think. By utilizing podcasts, content, the women segment, and influencers—you have the makings of a robust digital marketing strategy that is trackable and more efficient. Maybe another billionaire will come along and buy Facebook and allow firearm brands to advertise again. 

 

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

5 KEYS ON HOW TO STAND OUT IN A COMPETITIVE MARKETPLACE

Is your firearm brand getting noticed?
In this ebook, we’ll give you 5 keys for 2023 that will help you differentiate and grow your business. We’ll share why it’s important to have a clear brand message, how to build a website that works, a simple marketing plan, how to gather testimonials the right way and a few marketing tactics that offer the biggest bang for your buck.

STAND OUT IN THE MARKETPLACE

outdoor hunting firearm product launch tips

Don’t Overlook These Tips For A Successful Product Launch

By Firearms and Hunting

SHOT Show kicks off in a few weeks in Las Vegas, and gun aficionados, dealers, media, shooting enthusiasts, and other industry professionals worldwide will be in attendance. Product launches are always a highlight of any SHOT Show, and this year is no exception.

Unfortunately, most brands will manage their launches without adhering to a few proven methods that lead to a successful product launch. In my research and experience, there tend to be three key factors that determine the success of any product launch in the outdoor, hunting and shooting sports industry.

Although it may be too late for you to make any changes now for SHOT 2023, the following post will delve deeper into these three factors and how to apply them when planning your product launch later this year or for SHOT 2024.

Note: Before you get to any of the below, it is vitally important for brands to have done their due diligence before launching a new product. Researching the market, understanding consumer needs, and anticipating buying trends are essential to ensure you’re not wasting time and money on a product no one wants. 

 

1. Add Value and Activate Your Buyers

The first factor to consider in a product launch is to add value and activate your buyers (or email list). Begin by engaging with your target audience through various marketing channels and tactics by cultivating curiosity and piquing their interest in the product idea before the launch.

Utilize a a pre-launch campaign that builds excitement before the reveal and gives customers a chance to share input and what they can expect. It also allows companies to build relationships with potential customers or partners during the development process, which adds another layer of value to your launch efforts. People buy into what they invest in. This premise is the same reason crowd funding sites like Kick Starter are so popular.

Here are four ways how to add value before your launching

  1. Survey your email list on what they want
  2. Tease your new product idea through email and social media
  3. Get influencers to survey and ask their networks about certain aspects of your product: color, shape, function, benefits etc. 
  4. Write a series of articles stating the current problem and the solution you are considering solving

Track engagement and feedback and make adjustments early before investing heavily in your launch.

 

2. Create Hype and Desire Before Availability

Top Gun opened early this year and grossed huge box office numbers due to the high levels of hype and desire created before its release. The same principle applies for product launches. Companies must create the hype and generate desire for their product with consumers before revealing it; otherwise, interest may be low and short-lived.

Top Gun Trailer

A few ways to create hype and desire before the reveal include:

  1. Develop a story around the product that is compelling and interesting
  2. Leverage content marketing to create interest and discussion
  3. Use influencers or celebrity endorsements to generate buzz
  4. Use social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter to share sneak peeks of the product

Most companies just add their product to their website and send a press release to media outlets, but it’s important to think outside the box and try to create desire before launch.

SilencerCo’s 2015 Product Teaser

 

3. Law of Limited Supply or Scarcity

The law of limited supply or scarcity is the third factor to consider when launching a product. Companies must create a sense that the product is in high demand and low supply to drive pre-launch interest. Scarcity can be accomplished by limiting access to certain product versions or making it available for a limited time only. Here are a few ideas: 

  1. Price increase
  2. Limited runs
  3. Exclusive availability
  4. Early access/pre-order incentives
  5. Social media pre-launch contests with exclusive gifts, discounts, and prizes

These all create a sense that the product is highly sought after, creating high anticipation for the launch. It also encourages customers to take action sooner rather than later to get their hands on your new product. People want what they can’t have. 

Springfield Hellcat Release Video

In conclusion, when planning a successful product launch, brands must remember the three key factors that influence success:

  • Adding value and activate your buyers
  • Creating hype and desire before availability
  • Leveraging the law of limited supply or scarcity

With these in mind, industry brands can ensure that their products get off to a great start in 2023 and have ample time to prepare for SHOT Show in 2024 and beyond! 

Most product launches are uncoordinated, fall flat and do not reflect the investment, time and effort you put into developing your product. 

GET A PRODUCT LAUNCH PLAN

 

Sources:

  1. Launch, by Jeff Walker, 2021
  2. Photography by Chris Dorsey 

 

This is How You Optimize Your Outdoor Products for Higher Profitability

This is How You Optimize Your Outdoor Products for Higher Profitability

By Hunting and Outdoor

What would you do if you had to increase revenue and profit by 25% next year? If we’re heading into recession—and most telltale signs tell us we are (or already in one according to some economists)—how would you increase your profit to stay afloat? 

Well, you might start by working on your marketing. Or you might start cold calling customers i.e. dialing for dollars. Or do what most companies do—cut costs. 

In this article, I outline Business Made Simple’s Product Optimization Framework and give you five ways to find the money you need to grow your business in 2023 that might be right underneath your nose. 

1. Perform a product profitability audit 

So many business owners lose sight of their most profitable products. Revenue is crucial to keeping your business from crashing. So how do we audit our products to give us the clarity we need to optimize our product offering? 

When sales are down of a particular product, we tend to increase marketing spend to get those sales back up—regardless if they are profitable or not. But, what we need to do is sell more of our profitable products to make up any shortfalls. 

Now, you may be thinking, duh—of course I’m going to focus on selling more of my profitable products, but the reality is you don’t because you don’t know which ones are the most profitable!

We chase the downward trends of unprofitable products because the psychological reality is our minds tend to grab onto problems that cloud our ability to see what the real opportunity is. We are incredibly good at solving problems but awful at letting go of problems.

Product Profitability Sheet

Product Profitability Audit Worksheet

And this is the reason to conduct a product profitability audit. It will wake you up and help you see where your most significant opportunities are. 

Here’s how you do it: 

Rank the products you sell from the most profitable to the least profitable. Use the following table for your outline:   

  1. Cost to produce 
  2. Cost to sell and market
  3. Cost to distribute 
  4. Cost of additional support
  5. Total profit per unit

Roughly figure out what it’s costing you, and then calculate your profit after you’ve added all that up. This is the number you want to know. Don’t worry about being exact; this is a leadership exercise—not an accounting exercise.

Now that you have them listed, what stands out? Take notice of your top sellers and your low ones. 

Tip:  If you have 5,000 products, list the top 10 per category.   

Source: Business Made Simple

2. Devote more marketing and sales energy to your most profitable products 

Now, look at your top three products to determine what is selling. You want to focus your time and energy on these products. It is easier to increase sales on products that are selling than it is to sell products that are not. 

The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, captures this perfectly. In most cases, 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your products. So, what this means, is if you increase your focus on sales/ marketing on the products that are selling, you’ll most likely double revenue! 

So how do you do this? 

  • Can you create a sales funnel that sells more of your most profitable products?
  • Can you feature your most profitable products more prominently on your website?
  • Can you feature your most profitable products more prominently in your retail store?
  • Can your sales (or customer service team) mention your most profitable products to every existing customer? 

Tip: People buy solutions to problems. If you clearly define their problem, you’ll sell more products.

 

3. Consider dropping your least profitable products 

Yes, you have products that you should no longer be selling. For example, you’ve created something you love—but no one is buying it. In other words, what you’re cooking, no one is eating. And if they are, that product is not making your business money. 

Consider dropping your least profitable products. Here’s how: 

  1. How much overhead goes into creating and selling your least profitable products? 
  2. Are any of your least profitable products loss or even break-even leaders?
  3. How much time will be freed up to market and sell more profitable items if you drop your least profitable items?

Tip: Remove all emotional detachment from products that need to die! This will happen when you see how much money they are sucking out of your business. 

hunting product bundle

Can you batch your products together and sell them as a new product? Photo Credit: GoHunt

4. Batch existing products to create a new product offering 

Can you batch products together that solve a single problem? What combination of products can you combine that further solves your customer’s problem? For example, in the outdoor, hunting and shooting sports industry, you rarely head afield with one piece of equipment. We often need, in addition to a rifle: an optic, ammunition, sling, case, truck, gas, lunch, camo, etc. What can you combine to increase perceived value and cost in your product offering? 

 Here are a few examples:  

  • Pre-Season Scouting Kit (OnX app discount, binoculars, harness, and lens cloth) 
  • Wilderness Launch Bundle (tent, bear spray, fire stove and water filtration)
  • Long Range Shooting Package (optic, mount, case, ballistics app and a wind meter)

Combine your top-selling products with add-ons your customers will need. These work great for retailers and online direct-to-consumers (D2C) brands. 

 

hunting-product-optimization

Photo credit: Hunt Nahanni

5. Consider creating new products that are similar to your most profitable products 

What new products can you create that will immediately increase your revenue that aligns with your best sellers? This typically works excellent for outfitters and guides who can add additional value to their clients’ hunting or fishing experience.  

10% of people will spend 10x more of their current investment with you if you can deliver a better experience. For example, let’s say you’re an outfitter that charges $20,000 for a big horn sheep hunt. But for $10,000 more, you offer the VIP experience, providing an upgraded cabin, meals, and maybe a helicopter service from the airport to your location.

Don’t be afraid to ask for money if you can deliver more value. 

In conclusion, the money you need to grow your business may be right underneath your nose. Your product optimization is the low-hanging fruit you need to generate more revenue in 2023 to come through the upcoming recession on top. 

If you’re interested in tightening up your business as we head into 2023. Take the below assessment. 

 

Thanks to Chris Dorsey for photo use.

Discover what’s wrong with your outdoor business.

Get a free assessment on how to fix it. 
Take this 10-minute test to pinpoint the areas of your business you need to work on:

  • Leadership
  • Personal Productivity
  • Messaging
  • Marketing
  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Sales
  • Finances
  • Management
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5 Reasons Why People Buy Products in the Hunting Industry

5 Reasons Why People Buy Products in the Hunting Industry

By Hunting and Outdoor

The hunting industry is a $23 billion dollar a year industry. Though some may see hunters as a niche group, the fact is that there are over 20 million licensed hunters in the United States alone. That’s a lot of people who are passionate about hunting!

The economic impact of hunting and sport shooting to local, state and the federal economy cannot be overstated,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “If hunting and shooting were a company, the jobs it supports would place it as the third largest private-sector employer, and $65 billion, the retail sales it generates, would place it at fifty-second on the Fortune 500 list.”

This blog post is somewhat introductory, but it’s a good reminder to all marketers, salespeople, and business owners of why we work in this industry. It’s easy to get in the weeds of selling and planning now that sales season is in full-swing and forget why customers buy our products.

1. To be successful

No one wants to go home empty handed after a long day (or even weekend) of hunting. When you buy products from the hunting industry, you are increasing your chances of being successful. From clothes that help you blend in with your surroundings to scopes and other equipment that help you get a better shot, the right products can make all the difference.

outdoor marketing engagement

Utilize the three stages of customer relationships to engage your customers.

2. For the challenge

For some people, half the fun of hunting is in the challenge. They enjoy trying new things and pushing themselves to their limits. These people are always on the lookout for new products that will help them up their game. Whether it’s a new type of ammunition or a better way to clean their gun, they want to be sure they have what they need to take on any challenge.

3. For the camaraderie

Hunting is often seen as a solitary sport, but for many people it’s all about the social aspect. They enjoy getting together with friends and family for a weekend (or even just a day) in the great outdoors. Buying products from the hunting industry helps support this social activity and ensures that they have what they need to enjoy their time together.

why-people-buy-hunting-products4. To connect with nature

For some people, hunting is less about the kill and more about connecting with nature. They see it as a way to appreciate all that our planet has to offer – including its wildlife. These people are more likely to buy products that help them live off the land, such as tents and sleeping bags that allow them to camp out in comfort or fishing poles that help them catch their dinner.

5. For the thrill of the hunt

Of course, there are also those who hunt purely for sport – and they love nothing more than bringing home their trophy at the end of the day. These hardcore hunters are always looking for ways to up their game, whether it’s by buying a new rifle or upgrading their scope. They want to be sure they have what it takes to make that perfect shot – and they’re willing to pay for it!

When designing your messaging and marketing, remember to include these reasons to your customers. Focus on how your product will make them better in their outdoor pursuits and remember—this is an enthusiast sport. If they love your product, they will tell everyone about it.

These are just a few of reminders why people buy products in the hunting industry. No matter what motivates someone to hunt, there’s no doubt that it’s a passion that runs deep – which is why this industry continues to thrive year after year.

Photo Credit: Chris Dorsey

6 Secrets Of The Duck Dynasty Hunting And Outdoor Brand

6 Secrets Of The Duck Dynasty Hunting And Outdoor Brand

By Hunting and Outdoor

Sometimes, a brand comes along that is really different—and goes against the grain of everything else you’ve been accustomed to. With over $40 million dollars in revenue in 2012 (Source: Wikipedia), and the number one cable show in history, no one can deny that the Robertson Family/Duck Commander/Duck Dynasty brand has done something right.

If Willie Robertson were to sit down in my office (see end of this post), and I was able to ask him what advice he had for hunting and outdoor business owners and marketers about building their brand, I think this is what he would say…

1. Be authentic

One thing that Willie Robertson would say about your branding efforts is to be authentic. This has been one of the genuine traits of the Duck Commander/Duck Dynasty brand. No fluff, no gloss, no razzle-dazzle. Customers feel a real connection to the Robertson’s and buy their products because they are real.  A lot of companies develop their brands that feel and look manufactured. For decades we’ve been soaked with Madison Avenue style advertising that it’s become something we naturally ignore. Kind of like air. You know it’s there, but you don’t really think about it. By being authentic your chances of cutting through the clutter increase.

2. Keep it real

Willie would say keep it real. Don’t be something you’re not. Your company starts with the personality and character of you—the founder. Don’t loose that one thing that separates you from everyone else—you. Great brands are built on men and women who keep it real. Look at Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, Chuck Buck and Howard Shultz.

3. Know your customer

Willie says, know your customer. Duck Commander and Buck Commander as well as the Duck Dynasty and Robertson brand all meticulously built their brands around their customer that truly connects on a personal level. Research and interview your customers—find out who your ideal customer is. Build your brand and your branding efforts around them. Talk like they talk, do what they like to do, hang out where they hang out.  Engage them, solve their problems. This is the most important step in developing a brand.Duck-Dynasty-brand

4. Hire your customers

Willie only hires people who are hunting fanatics and who adhere to their cultural virtues. Hire people who are naturally passionate about what you do. This will pay considerable dividends from a customer service and standpoint and reduce turnover costs. Customers generally turn out to be among the best performers when they become employees. You already know them and they know you. (SOURCE: ERE)

5. Sell the experience

The old saying “your brand is your product” certainly applies here. I would bet that like Harley Davidson, most of Duck Commander’s revenue is made through shirts, hats and other branded apparel—people aren’t necessarily buying just duck calls. People want to be associated with the Duck Commander/Duck Dynasty experience—which is another reason why the brand is so powerful. They want to feel like they are apart of the family or out in the blinds with them.

Whether you like Duck Dynasty or not, as a hunting and outdoor business owner you have to admit that what makes this brand unique is its authenticity, their approach to keeping it real, their intimate knowledge of their customers, the experience they sell and the people they hire. The brand’s story and ability to connect with millions of people make it a great brand to emulate and apply to your own company’s branding efforts.

Photo Credit: Jeff Riedel

Outdoor Instagram Marketing

How To Create a Instagram Social Media Strategy For Your Outdoor Brand

By Social Media

Instagram is a powerful tool for outdoor, hunting, and shooting sports businesses of all sizes. It can be used to build brand awareness, connect with customers, and drive traffic to your website. If you are a business owner who sells products or services that can be enjoyed outdoors, it is especially important to have a social media strategy in 2022.

In this article, you will learn the necessary components of a Instagram social media strategy for outdoor brands and get some tips to get started.

Goal

As with any marketing strategy, you should always start with a goal. Setting a goal gives you strategic direction and outlines where you are going and provides a context in how to get there. Without a goal, you are simply posting content for the sake of posting. So, what do you want to achieve with Instagram? Do you want to increase brand awareness? Drive traffic to your website? Sell more products? Once you have answered this question, you can start to develop your strategy.

Sample Goal: We will accomplish a 20% increase in Instagram followers by Q3 because we want to build brand awareness of our new broadhead.

Target Audience

Who is your target audience or buyer persona? This is an important question to answer as it will dictate the type of content you share, the tone of your posts, and the social media platforms you use. For example, if you are targeting young adults who are active and enjoy spending time outdoors, hunting or fishing, you will want to focus on platforms like Instagram. However, if your target audience is politicos fighting for 2A and conservation rights, you will want to be active on platforms like Twitter or TruthSocial. 

Additional Reading: 5 Ways Social Media Works For Your Hunting Company

Now that you have a basic understanding of what you need to get started, you have to develop 7 talking points based around the art of storytelling. Creating this framework or communication playbook will provide you the guidance you need to ensure each social media post is on brand, on message, and adds value to your audience. The most important aspect of this approach is you know what to say and what order to say it in.

The following should be included in your Instagram strategy:

  • Name your campaign: product launch, hunting season, holiday season, ATA Show, etc.
  • A content calendar
  • Key messaging
  • A process for creating and curating content
  • Posting frequency
controlling idea

Photo credit: Spectre Broadheads

1. Controlling Idea

First, start by creating a controlling idea. A controlling idea is the “why” or the point of why you are posting. Every Instagram campaign should have a controlling idea. This ensures that all your posts in your campaign has a purpose and is not just random content.

In the following, we’re going to use an archery broadhead product called Buck-O’ as an example. Your posts might revolve around the following controlling ideas:

  • Buck-O is different than other broadheads because it flys farther and straighter
  • Buck-O performs in extreme conditions
  • Buck-O is hand made from 0.36 stainless steel blades

2. Story Question

The story question is the question you must posit in your customer’s mind: Will this product help me harvest more bucks? Will my broadhead fail when I have that once-in-a-lifetime shot? The story question outlines the problem and the what-ifs.

The human brain is a problem-solving device. When you give it a problem it’s interested in, it will work on that problem until it solves it. This is called the reticular activating system, and you can use this to your advantage on social media by agitating the problem your customer is having.

For example:

  1. Tired of your broadhead failing?
  2. Does your broadhead leave a big enough blood trail?
  3. Did your broadhead not perform as advertised?

3. Agitate the Problem

Next, create a statement that agitates the problem further. The key here is to take the problem your broadhead solves and make the situation worse. Taking what we created above, add the agitation:

  1. Tired of your broadhead failing? That buck get away again?
  2. Does your broadhead leave a big enough blood trail? Great shot, but now you can’t find where your trophy shot went.
  3. Did your broadhead not perform as advertised? Your family is not going to be happy. 

See how we stated a problem our customer is having and then agitated it a little more? This is what you need to do in your social media posts.

The next step is to come up with what’s at stake.

4. The Stakes

If there are no stakes in a story, then it’s not a story. The stakes are what make the story interesting and worth telling.

Once again, let’s add to the above…

  1. Tired of your broadhead failing? Did that buck get away again? The season ends next weekend.
  2. Does your broadhead leave a big enough blood trail? It looked like a great shot, but now you can’t find where trophy shot went. That freezer is going to be bare this winter.
  3. Did your broadhead not perform as advertised? Your family is not going to be happy. You don’t want to tell them you had another mechanical broadhead malfunction.

In the next section, you get to save the day by coming in and helping your customer save the day.

Photo credit: WASP Archery

5. The Guide

The guide is you. Your customer is the hero. Your brand is not the hero in your story, your customer is. So many brands in the industry want to play the hero. So now that you’ve stated a common problem, agitated it, and described the stakes you now get to step in like Yoda (or Morpheus) and save the day. For more on the what it means to play the guide, read this post. 

  1. Tired of your broadhead failing? Did that buck get away again? The season ends next weekend. Luckily Buck-O broadheads have a 100% open rate and will never fail you.
  2. Does your broadhead leave a big enough blood trail? It looked like a great shot, but now you can’t find where trophy shot went. That freezer is going to be bare this winter. We understand what it’s like to make a great shot only to see your trophy run away, thats why Buck-O broadheads are consistent, durable and reliable.
  3. Did your broadhead not perform as advertised? Your family is not going to be happy. You don’t want to tell them you had another mechanical broadhead malfunction. We had enough of the silent treatment when coming home empty-handed and decided to do something about it and created Buck-O broadheads.
Outdoor Communication Framework

Create a sheet like this to outline your talking points.

6. The Plan and Call to Action

Every guide has to give the hero a plan to win the day and call them action. Next add your plan on how to solve their problem and what to do next. Give them the stepping stones to cross the creek and a clear yes or no decision.

  1. Tired of your broadhead failing? Did that buck get away again? The season ends next weekend. Luckily Buck-O broadheads have a 100% open rate and will never fail you. To keep bucks from getting away, go to our website and buy one today.
  2. Does your broadhead leave a big enough blood trail? It looked like a great shot, but now you can’t find where trophy shot went. That freezer is going to be bare this winter. We understand what it’s like to make a great shot only to see your trophy run away, that’s why Buck-O’ broadheads are consistent, durable, and reliable. Shop our website or see your local dealer.
  3. Did your broadhead not perform as advertised? Your family is not going to be happy. You don’t want to tell them you had another mechanical broadhead malfunction. We had enough of the silent treatment when coming home empty-handed and decided to do something about it and created Buck-O’ broadheads. Our broadheads are field tested and proven. Go to our website, shop our broadheads and have it delivered to your door in 3 days!

Lastly, we want to end our posts by foreshadowing the climatic scene.

7. Foreshadow the Climactic Scene

Now add the last piece of your post by foreshadowing the climatic scene. This is typically the outcome or the do-or-die moment in your short story that satisfies the brain’s desire to solve the problem.

  1. Tired of your broadhead failing? Did that buck get away again? The season ends next weekend. Luckily Buck-O broadheads have a 100% open rate and will never fail you. To keep bucks from getting away, go to our website, choose your broadhead. Never lose a shot again. #hunting #archery #whitetaildeer
  2. Does your broadhead leave a big enough blood trail? It looked like a great shot, but now you can’t find where your trophy shot went. That freezer is going to be bare this winter. We understand what it’s like to make a great shot only to see your trophy run away, that’s why Buck-O’ broadheads are consistent, durable, and reliable. Shop our website or see your local dealer and make bigger blood trails. #hunting #deerseason #whitetaildeer #archeryhunting
  3. Did your broadhead not perform as advertised? Your family is not going to be happy. You don’t want to tell them you had another mechanical broadhead malfunction. We had enough of the silent treatment when coming home empty-handed and decided to do something about it and created Buck-O’ broadheads. Our broadheads are field tested and proven. Go to our website, shop our broadheads and have it delivered to your door in 3 days! Join the Buck-O’ brotherhood and make your family happy. #hunting #archerylife #deer

A quick word on #hashtags

Hashtags are used so others can find you. Here are three rules of thumb. You can use up to 11 hashtags, don’t use the same hashtags over and over again and you can bury them if you don’t want them to be seen by adding spaces or placing them in the comments. Instagram does ban some hashtags but they don’t make the list public. For guns and other hunting hashtags experiment with your hashtags to see which ones get the most engagement (views, likes and shares). This will help you understand if you’re being throttled. If you post a bloody picture, you most likely won’t see it show up in the feed or it may get blocked or flagged.

Instagram Post Example8. Add a professional photo or video

Now that you have a basic framework on how to write engaging posts that get results, you need to identify and reach out to a photographer/videographer who can bring your posts to life. Content is king. Professional imagery and video will provide your followers with engaging, memorable content that will make them want to follow you and purchase your products.

Right now, Instagram seems to favor reels (short videos). Try experimenting with short videos and track your results in the form of views, likes, shares, website traffic, email signups and sales.

9. Bring it all together by combining Instagram with email

Due to the unfair and illegal censorship of our industry, you must drive your followers to sign up for your emails to stay informed. A lot of times they won’t see your posts, especially on Facebook. You can also use other platforms like GoWild, TruthSocial, or MeWe to reach a wider audience. You can also sign up influencers to help expand and create content for your brand.

So in conclusion, an effective social media strategy for an outdoor, hunting to shooting sports brand should include:

  • A goal
  • Target audience
  • A short, attention-grabbing intro/headline
  • Compelling copy that tells a story and/or solves a problem
  • Professional imagery or video
  • A call to action telling the audience what you want them to do next
  • Hashtags
  • Double down with email
  • Expand with influencer marketing

Now that you have the framework, go out and create content that will engage your audience and convert them into customers. If you got questions, give us a call or signup for an online course in communication to get started.

firearms marketing customer service

Do These 8 Things To Build Your Customer Base

By Hunting and Shooting Sports

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eighty per cent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence those reviews have on the decisions people make. The rise of 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 have bought a Remington because that’s what dad had. Today, such considerations matter much less than reviews that you might find on Optics Planet, or Brownells. Each product now has to prove itself on its own. 

The very first thing you must do to build your customer base is to have an outstanding product or service that solves a problem, lends status or helps your customer survive in a conventional way—and make it really cool. The product must be valid and ready for the world otherwise you’ll crash and burn.

However, if you have a great product (√check) and are looking to maximize your marketing to increase sales and build your brand and customer base, then here are 8 branding ideas to help you do that. 

1. Be somebody

The old saying goes, “you can’t be everything to everyone.” Companies in the outdoor, hunting, adventure and shooting sports industry must find a way to stand out amongst the marketplace clutter and find the “whitespace.”  Prove to your prospective customers you are worth their time by demonstrating how you will guide them to achieve their goal, i.e better marksman, hunter, self-defense or law enforcement.

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 to this day—except now we get it from the social media.  There is something intrinsically valuable to storytelling. When you connect with people at the heart level and make them feel something it 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.

For example, here is a great ad by Smith and Wesson, highlighting their customer promise.

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

 

3. Be authentic

The best way to be authentic is to just be your self. Too many brands today 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 content 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 project or product has been delivered, add value to your customers through events, continued education or through content that will solve their problems. Use social media to add value in the form of education, entertainment or problem solving. Show them you care well after the sale.

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 your customer on a very personal level, you leave a lot of opportunity on the table. To truly make a product/service resonate with your customers your entire days’ activities should be based on solving their problems whatever they may be. Make your customer the hero of your business.

Here are a few examples:

  • I’m a new gun owner and I can’t figure out what handgun to buy to protect my family. A retailer may offer me a free training class or range session for me to ask questions, test different guns and get a comfort level when shooting. 
  • I’m a facility manager looking for tips and products to best comply with OSHA standards. A distributor may send a video to the customer with options, how-tos and a case study of their service offering. 
  • Knife choices can be difficult for those who are not sure what type of hunting blade they will need. One option is to send recommendations to help them choose the appropriate tool. 

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 in the field. Talk to them like an old friend. You have to earn your customer’s trust. 

7. Give them what they want

Do your absolute best to make a great product and don’t cut corners. If your customers ask for something—give it to them! Give them a way to sound off on what is needed to make your products better. We will typically run surveys for our clients. This is a great way to gather data, improve products and build trust. You can create a customer support portal with an area titled “Submit product ideas” to encourage participation in your product or service development.

8. Hire for passion

Last, but not least, customer service—it 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 knowledgable frontline 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. Three of the best examples out there is ETS, Seekins and Ruger to name a few. Go into any NSSF 5-star gun retailer like Royal Range here in Nashville, and you’ll find people as passionate about good equipment and the shooting sports as you are. You can’t train passion.

Is your product boring? Then the focus must be invested in storytelling, influencers and dramatizing your product. A great real-world example is Otis. Who gets excited about cleaning guns? Their social media feed takes a boring product and dramatizes to it another level. 

In conclusion, it all starts with a great product. If you can’t get to the starting line with a great product, you need to go back to the drawing board. To connect that great product or service with your customer—you must be somebody, you must be authentic, social, make it all about them—not you, talk their language, give them what they want and provide outstanding customer service above all else!

How to roll out your hunting, outdoor or firearm product

How to Roll Out Your New Hunting, Outdoor or Firearm Product

By Firearms and Shooting

This past year, we’ve seen several new products hit the market with plenty more to come as we head into SHOT Show 2023.  Manufacturers unveil new products every year, some just place them live on their website and send an email, while others launch with great fanfare that results in hundreds of thousands of free advertising and purchase orders.

Which begs the question—how do you create the buzz and attention your new product deserves? 

In this article, I look back at 2017, which in my mind, was the single most exciting year for rollouts. The Maxim 9 by SilencerCo., The Saint by Springfield Armory, The Fixx by Q, LLC and the ill-fated H9 by Hudson Mfg. which was so successful that the company failed.

When considering your product and how to introduce it to the industry and your prospective customers—here are ten considerations to take into account that will help you roll out your firearm product correctly and with greater success.

1. Proper testing before release

This obviously goes without saying. In this industry, it’s better not to launch a product until it’s been properly tested, validated, beat to death and reviewed—otherwise, you risk immense failure and expense. 

During the testing phase, be sure to collect any and all questions or concerns. Be patient and don’t rush your testing. SilencerCo. announced last year their integrally suppressed pistol, the Maxim 9, which at the time of the announcement— back in 2016—was already a year in the making. “You only get one chance with our marketplace. If I put out a product that is somewhat reliable or durable, and then I tell them it is going to get better, they won’t believe me. You got one shot. It has to be as good as it can be out of the gate.”  Says, Jason Schauble, former President and CRO at SilencerCo.

Point being—don’t go to market until your product is ready.

 

2. Set goals, plan, and have a contingency plan

Depending on how your testing went—which can be many years in the making—you’ll want to start planning on what a successful rollout looks like well in advance taking great care that there will be no surprises on launch day. 

“Managers must learn to engage the brand team and marketing, sales, advertising, public relations, and web professionals early on, thus gaining valuable feedback that can help steer a launch or, if necessary, abort it. Hearing opposing opinions can be painful—but not as painful as launching a product that’s not right for the market or has no market at all.” (Source: HBR )

How will you know if your product rollout is successful? Will you have enough inventory in stock to fulfill orders once they ship? Do you have a plan to ramp up if the product takes off? How will this product disrupt your segment or the industry? Be prepared for the after effects of a successful rollout or even a failed one by planning for the best and worst-case scenarios. Set goals based on the SMART method. Instead of setting a goal like “dominate the industry” which is all fair and good—get specific. Set a goal like: I want to drive 400 dealer registrations, grow my Facebook followers by 1000, sign 50 purchase orders and earn 5 major media mentions. 

 

3. Determine your budget

At this point in your company’s history, you may only be able to afford a standard press release and a trade show booth at SHOT Show. But if you’re a larger brand, you may have the ability to go big by buying several media placements that blanket TV, PR, print, trade show and digital. Are you looking to cannonball the pool like Springfield Armory did with their SAINT release—or something smaller like Hudson Mfg. who introduced their new H9 at SHOT this past week with a new website, booth and earned media from the Gun Collective (see video below). Adequate budget should be put aside well in advance to create the buzz, interest, and sales needed for a proper launch. 

 

4. Build product launch assets

On top of all the decisions needed to time and plan your rollout, there is a library of assets required to pull it off. Below is a content list you will need to communicate your product’s validity.

Video List

  • 1-5, 60-90 second buzz-producing videos to be distributed over email and social media
  • 3-9 minute product demonstration video
  • Post launch video of others using your product (See the SAINT’s Popper Palooza Launch Video)
  • Video of the raw progress and story—use it for buzz, post-launch videos, and blog articles

Photography

  • Working off of your brand positioning, create the imagery (glamor shots) you’ll need to position the product in your prospects’ minds. Utilize imagery styles, models, influencers, and BETA customers to communicate its unique attributes.
H9 Glamour Shot

Photo credit Hudson Mfg.


Website & Social Media
There is a reason why most brands will build a standalone website for their product. By having a product website specific to your product’s launch—you will keep the focus on your product, and not on your other offerings (if you have them). Utilize other media assets to draw attention to the site like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

Firearm Product Launch Website

Press Kit

• Press releases
• Media kit with approved or exclusive imagery
• Technical data
• Description, story and write-up

 

6. Answer-based blog articles

Create articles on the questions your reviewers and inevitably what your customers will ask. Record these topics as they come up during the testing and planning phase. Post these articles on your blog, optimize for search engines and incorporate this into your post-launch campaign. Slowly trickle these pieces of content out to your growing email subscriber list for the purpose of nurturing those leads into customers. It will be important to answer these questions as they will build trust and help provide a better customer service experience. 

 

7. Influencers

In the firearms industry, it is imperative to get your product into the hands of as many targeted influencers and industry professionals as possible. Begin recruiting them during the testing phase to help promote your product post-launch. Send them free or review product along with your press kit. Looking at Hudson Mfg’s launch, they included well-known firearm training instructor and firearms aficionado, Chris Cerino. Give your reviewers and bloggers a product spec sheet that describes what the product is, what it isn’t, what makes it different, the story behind it and high-res graphic assets so they aren’t putting out pixelated photos. It’s important to steer and guide your product brand adequately so the blogosphere and the forum guys don’t make up their own.

 

8. Outbound Ad placements

Target the publishers that will best reach your buyers personas. Get their media kits and publishing dates well in advance, so you don’t miss their deadlines. Create a batch of different banner ad sizes and similar print ads from your photo and video library you’ll want to place on sites like Ammoland and others. Duplicate these in your social media feeds. Use retargeting Ad platforms that can increase banner ad response rates by 400% if possible. (Source: CMO)

Outbound Firearm Ad Placement

Photo credit: Springfield Armory

 

9. Start the buzz

3-6 months out from your launch date, start creating the buzz. Get your subscribers involved. Start answering any objections around features, design, specs or price. Release teaser emails, place your banner ads, launch your website and let the industry know something is coming. Build it by communicating your value propositions and using your teaser imagery over social media that announces the big reveal with small snippets of your product. Track response through your analytics tool and social media comments. Be prepared to make any copy or imagery changes. 

 

Firearms Launch Party

Photo credit: Q, LLC

10. Launch day event

Depending on your goals, planning, and budget, your launch day event can be as simple as doing a Facebook Live post at your local range and opening your shopping cart on your website or throwing a massive launch party like Q’s Q-ball at the Voodoo lounge. 

Product launches are typically more effective at a trade show where you can rent out a suite to invite industry friends, dealers and distributors to celebrate your success that further instigates buzz and word of mouth. Who doesn’t like free drinks? 

Track the response of your event, record questions, and plan for inevitable marketing improvements as there will be many. Release your post-launch content, retweet/share social media posts and try to stretch the buzz that you’ve worked hard to create for as long as possible. Follow up with all distributors, dealers and buying groups promptly.

After several years of hard work, you can either cannonball the pool or dip in hoping someone will notice you. If you’ve innovated something that will disrupt the status quo, an investment in a proper rollout will give you an immense ROI for years to come. Rolling out a product is a delicate and stressful process. But done correctly, it will build your brand, jumpstart your sales and help you make your mark on the gun industry and perhaps history. 

Contact us for a free marketing consultation and how we can help launch your firearm or hunting product.

GET PRODUCT ROLLOUT HELP

outdoor digital brand

4 Ways to Strengthen Your Outdoor Digital Brand

By Brand Development

The brand is the entire experience that a person has with your business’ purpose. 

Most brands start with their product/service and sell based on their features and benefits—which is important—but in doing so, leaves them only to compete on the product’s understanding, not its why.

“Brands have become the global currency of success.”
– Brand Atlas

At each touch point, your brand must be integrated for maximum efficiency that drives your prospect to your goals that simultaneously solves their needs and wants along the way.  

If you’re interested in building a strong brand rather than just a product-based company, here are four points to keep in mind when thinking through how to strengthen your brand in 2018.

 

1. Map your brand’s touchpoints

When thinking about what a brand is, you need to understand that it’s not just 2-3 pieces like your website, logo or catalog—but all the pieces. It’s your dealer sheet, the way your product feels, your customer service, your influencers, content, email signature, Facebook and Instagram page—everything.

Here is a simple representation of what brand looks like: 

 

What is a brand?

Each touchpoint is an opportunity to increase awareness and build loyalty.

 

2. Align your brand

Ask yourself and your key stakeholders (the people with invested interest) what your brand means and write it down. Then go ask your customers what your brand means to them and then 10 or so of your employees. If they all say the same thing—congrats, you have brand alignment! If they say something different, then you may want to rethink your brand and figure out why there are inconsistencies.

Brand inconsistencies take away from your marketing’s effectiveness and create confusion among your prospects. 

Common problems that cause brands to be out of alignment is clarity of the mission, customer service, brand identity and broken promises.

  • Brand Strategy AlignmentBrand promise – If what you’re promising isn’t being delivered on, then your brand isn’t trustworthy. Today, trust is everything in the age of #fakenews. Make every effort to fix and make good on what your brand promises to its customers.
  • Brand identity – Does your brand’s look and feel (color, shape, format, type, imagery, texture etc.) accurately convey the it’s key emotional and visual attributes? If not, it may be time for a redesign or invest in lifestyle photography.
  • Customer-centered – Is your customer service receiving high-marks? Without strong brand alignment between your employer brand and corporate brand you will not be able to deliver customer-centered service. 

3. Connect your brand to your customer

How do you connect your brand to your customer? In the past, most brand development processes solely focused on the product and what the marketer wanted the customer to think and feel. Today, every marketing brand strategy should start with the customer first.  This can only be done by defining what is called a buyer persona.

Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

By defining your buyer persona, you will be able to develop a strong brand foundation to help guide you when you get lost in the day to day activities of marketing and running your business. Keeping regular tabs on what your customer is feeling will help you build brand loyalty more quickly.

The fastest way to connect your brand is to communicate how you solve your customer’s problem. Track these data points through your online forms, Facebook insights, analytics and artificial intelligence programs. It doesn’t hurt to survey your customers every once and while either.

“Solve their problems and be empathetic.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk

4. Brand is built on consistent, helpful service

Are you using Facebook Messenger, Drift or Intercom on your website to answer customer questions? These new tools allow you to communicate in real-time that have become central in providing an excellent customer service experience online. One bad customer experience, late delivery or rude response can tarnish your brand—especially when the person on the receiving end posts what happened on Facebook for the whole world to know.

The hard truth about your customers today is:

  • They want to help themselves, not call you.
  • They learn from friends, not salespeople.
  • They trust your customers, not your marketing.

According to Harvard Business Review: Evidence shows that customers will no longer tolerate the rushed and inconvenient service that has become all too common. And now with voice chat, chatbots and AI hitting the web, customers are more empowered than ever and demand answers to their questions faster than before. For example, 61 percent of participating Baby Boomers say a potential chatbot benefit is “getting an instant response,” while just 51 percent of Millennials say the same. (Source: Convince and Convert) The total chat volume in 2016 nearly tripled that in 2015. Both statistics can back up the conclusion that the demand for live chat has been steadily growing. (Source: Comm100)

Our recent research demonstrates that when customers contact companies for service, they care most about two things:

  • Is the frontline employee knowledgeable?
  • And is the problem resolved on the first call or chat?

Yet these factors often aren’t even on customer service manager or business owners’ dashboards. Most service centers continue to measure time on hold, time to respond and minutes per call, as they have for decades. Such metrics encourage agents to hurry through calls—resulting in just the kind of experience customers dislike.  

According to HubSpot, The key to growth in 2018 is:

  • Happy customers who recommend your company to their friends
  • Successful customers who share their results with the world
  • Modern customer support that matches how people communicate

More than half of the customers we surveyed across industries say they’ve had a bad service experience, and nearly the same fraction think many of the companies they interact with don’t understand or care about them. On average, 40% of customers who suffer through bad experiences stop doing business with the offending company. (SOURCE: HBR)

In conclusion, to strengthen your brand, you must map every touchpoint, align for consistency, connect with your customers problems by putting them center and focus on delivering helpful, consistent service. Once these touchpoints are built out and set, then you are able to provide a great experience built on the standards of today’s empowered consumer that will reward your company with future sales growth.

 

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. 

START A CONTENT MARKETING PROJECT

 

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 marketing

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 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, the new product design project plan—plus you got to make plans 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.

Do any of these problems sound familiar:

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?  Can you really double sales in one year? The more defined your goals are the better the marketing agency will be 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 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 or an industry. 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? 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 and marketing 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 achievable 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.