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Firearms and Hunting

Hunting or Firearm E-commerce Website Design

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

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

You may have heard that Amazon just surpassed Walmart as the number one retailer on the planet.  And now with Sporting Goods retail chains like Dick’s restricting certain firearm platforms—firearms and hunting brands are waking up fast to the fact that a strong e-commerce component is critical to business. 

Here are some interesting statistics according to Internet Retailer and the NSSF:

  • E-commerce sales grew 16% in 2017
  • E-commerce sales are expected to grow to more than $400 billion in the next several years, with Forrester Research estimating $414.0 sales in 2018 and eMarketer estimating $491.5 in 2018.
  • 61% of global internet shoppers are loyal to the online retailers they use
  • 29% report to having already purchased a firearm online and 58% are willing to consider purchasing one online.

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

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

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

You most likely have a good idea of who your customer is—but taking the time to understand what they want from your website will make all the difference. Seek to understand what their wants, needs, problems, behaviors, and questions are. Create a web experience based on them. This will ultimately make for higher sales and less abandoned carts.

2. Prepare your product image library

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large manufacturer, you may have over 2000 SKU’s that are jumbled into a hundred different sizes, on gray backgrounds, outdated, or that show your product in a less than ideal format.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

Start by creating a shot list:

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

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

3. Identify how you’re going to fulfill orders

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

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

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

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

ECOMMERCE FFL SHIP DIAGRAM

 

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

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

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

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

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

    US Mail – licensed persons:

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

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

    FedEx Express:

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


    FedEx Ground
    :

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


    UPS
    :

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

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

 

4. Get the security issues out of the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pick A Plan

5. Consider an Enterprise Solution

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

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

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

 

 

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Marketing + Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

firearms-hunting-digital-marketing

How To Set SMART Goals For Your Firearms or Hunting Business

By | Firearms and Hunting

Setting goals can sometimes quickly become a cruel lesson in futility. Like New Years’ resolutions—you set goals with great motivation and vigor—only to have your best intentions sidetracked by company requests, family life or other distractions. That is unless you’re a part of the only 8% who keep them.

To stay focused on your firearm or hunting inbound marketing initiatives—here are three points to help you organize your thoughts and make a plan to achieving them.

1. Create a Vision

If you were given a 50,000 dollar budget to spend on marketing—what would you do with it? Build a better website? Write more content? Produce more videos? Upgrade your photography? Increase sales by 20% within 9 months? The first step to creating a goal is to figure out what you want. If you don’t know what you want, you don’t know what you need to achieve to get there. What do you really want to create for yourself, your business or your brand? How will this benefit you personally? Don’t be afraid to think big. Take fifteen minutes and document your vision. Take note of the details. Try to incorporate all the different angles into your vision to make it effective. (Source: Forbes)

 

2. Use the SMART method to set your goals

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely – think of these as the ingredients of success. Here’s what they mean and how to apply them:

Specific: Set real numbers with real deadlines. Don’t say, “I want more website visitors,” or “I want to dominate my category.” Look at your website metrics, sales numbers or anything else you have tracked in the past in the form of visits, leads, sales or customers to establish benchmarks. These metrics work, because they are measurable, and they can be used to understand how they affect your bottom line now and in the future. 

Measurable: Make sure that you can track your goals. Don’t hide behind buzzwords like “brand engagement” or “social influence.” If it’s leads, how many leads do you want? Don’t pick something out of thin air, pick something you can measure correctly and track.

Put the right tools in place to measure like Google Analytics or other web tracking software like HotJar, Databox, or HubSpot. You can’t measure what you can’t track. 

firearm-marketing-SMART-goals

 

Attainable: Work toward a goal that is challenging but possible. Don’t try to take over the world in one night. How much time is it going to take? How much budget and resources do you have?

Realistic: Be honest with yourself, because you know what you and your team are capable of. Don’t forget any hurdles you may have to overcome, e.g. competitors, economy, changing regulations, talent, etc. 

Timely: Give yourself a deadline. Don’t keep pushing towards a goal you might hit “some day.” How long is it going to take? 6 months, 1 year? Set a realistic timeframe. Give yourself enough time to reach your goal, but not too much that it drags on.

By utilizing the SMART method—your goals are much more attainable and measurable. (Source: Hubspot

Here’s an example of a SMART goal:
Increase visits by 25% (2,250 per month to 3,000 per month) and make $150K in additional revenue by EOY.

 

goal-setting-planning3. Write it down!

According to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write down their goals. Who doesn’t want to accomplish significantly more? If you don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist. We all know that having a plan is one thing, but accomplishing that plan is something different. 

Get out a big pad of paper and a sharpie and begin writing down your goals and post them on your wall. That way you can refer to them every day and track progress as you cross them off the list.

As marketers and business owners in the hunting and firearms industry, we are always being pulled in 10 different directions. We’re constantly trying to find ways to keep the train on the track. By establishing the above SMART goals, you can alleviate a lot of stress when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing. SMART goals keep you laser-focused and on task. Now that your goals have been set—plan it out and get moving. Don’t forget to celebrate each goal as you achieve it! 

 

hunting-outdoor-firearm-inbound-marketing-checklist2

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Chances are, you might be overlooking a few that can help drive more business to your website. To make sure you’re not missing any opportunities, we’ve put together a Free Campaign Checklist with our partner HubSpot.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Firearm content banned from YouTube

Firearm Content Gone From YouTube? Now What?

By | Firearms and Hunting

Last week, YouTube dropped a highly restrictive policy on the firearm industry and gun content creators that—for the most part—prevents the publishing of all firearm-related content.

Much like Facebook, YouTube now acts as a virtual public square. The exercise of what amounts to censorship, then, can legitimately be viewed as the stifling of commercial free speech, which has constitutional protection. Such actions also impinge on the Second Amendment. (Source: NSSF)

Digital marketers in the firearms industry have been stripped of Facebook Advertising, Google PPC and now YouTube, which will ultimately hinder growth and sales in the digital age for the short term until alternative channels have time to develop.

Over the past week, I’ve watched the industry’s reaction to the situation as well as content creators like TGC News, Military Arms Channel, Tactical Toolbox and others. And like you, I wonder what this means moving forward without the use of YouTube’s free platform to leverage the benefits of influencer marketing, product reviews, training and educational content that is so important to communicating and reaching prospective law-abiding customers and outdoor enthusiasts.

This is a severe blow to the industry and a direct assault on First and Second Amendment rights. And when you calculate the thousands of hours and millions of dollars gun creators and brands have devoted to  YouTube, the investment has been substantial.

In this post, I want to give you a few thoughts from a marketing perspective about what the future holds for firearm marketers, gun content creators and brands with the loss of YouTube.

1. Back to the future

Where were you in 2005 when the YouTube.com domain was registered? I remember SEO was a simple matter of placing keywords on your website to get first page rankings. We enjoyed open email rates of 50% or higher, all the while, Mark Zuckerberg was in his dorm room at Harvard building a website called Facebook. Much of the digital channels we utilize today were unavailable. Magazine ads, catalogs, a visit to the local dealer and gun shows were the only way for people interested in firearms to find out about new products.

In just 13 years, after YouTube’s $1.65 billion acquisition by Google (2006), it has grown to the world’s second largest search engine with over 30 million visits per day and 300 hours of video uploaded every minute.

These are massive numbers, and by all estimations are only getting larger.

6 out of 10 people prefer online video platforms to live TV and by some predictions, by 2025, 50% of all viewers under the age of 32 years old will not subscribe to a pay-TV service. (Source: Fortune Lords)

The three most important metrics to any digital marketer is reach, engagement, and conversion. Without entrance to the YouTube platform, industry marketers have been cut off from a significant channel of communication to achieve these metrics. 

This leaves us with only a handful of viable digital channels and tactics to consider in our marketing mix:

  • SEO
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Ecommerce
  • Automation
  • Referral Marketing
  • Lifestyle Marketing
  • Native Advertising
  • Banner Ads
  • PR
  • Sponsorships and paid placement on Publisher sites: RecoilTV, MOTV, SOFREP and others.
  • Influencer marketing via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest
  • Organic Facebook posts – which only get 1% reach

2. Hurry up and wait

With YouTube taken off the table as a choice for free content distribution, what’s the alternative?

There are only a few options when you take into account Vimeo, BitChute, Twitch, LiveStream and a few other obscure channels.

  • Full30 – Free to sign up, but limited due to a small infrastructure and audience. Full30 is opening up soon to all content creators, but it may be a while before they can handle the bandwidth.
  • Patreon – Pay to subscribe for as low as $1 per month

https://garrisoneverest.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/full30-video-content-creation.png

Paid subscription channels like Patreon may be a barrier for some smaller channels.

With a very limited list, we will have to wait until other channels—free of industry influence and publishers—are developed. One company reportedly working on this are the founders of Utah Gun Exchange. 

Some content creators have gone to PornHub. I am absolutely against this and will not advocate or allow any brands that we represent to be promoted on that platform—for obvious reasons.

3. A pause in growth

As a marketer who has relied on social media and YouTube to drive results in the past, I am moving my clients to other strategies and tactics to achieve their goals online. I think we all should expect the possibility that Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google Search may soon censor gun content as well.

4. What’s next?

Like the Facebook algorithm change in January, this will also need time to play out. I’ve always been a proponent of brands and content creators taking a “website first approach” that provides their own private platform to build their audiences rather than relying on third-party channels that are anti-gun. Google doesn’t own the internet. Developing your audience on your own website will always be a good fall back when significant disruption happens. By building your traffic, email subscriber list and then using social media as a distribution channel, you’ll always have plenty of options when disruption comes. 

Regardless, things have inherently changed, and the firearms industry has been pushed out to the fringes of the digital world. I believe YouTube’s decision will only make our industry stronger in the long run.

 

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Shot Show 2018 Firearm Marketing

Four Marketing Takeaways from SHOT Show 2018

By | Firearms and Hunting

Like other industry marketers and professionals in the Firearms, Hunting and Outdoor industry—SHOT Show was crazy busy—rushing from meeting to meeting, trying to squeeze in time to see new products, exhibits, make new contacts, say hi to existing clients and old friends.

But through all the running back and forth, and thinking through what this year holds after several weeks of reflection—I’ll give you my four observations and takeaways from SHOT 2018.

1. Brand innovation pays off

There are many manufacturers who had trouble moving the needle in 2017, due to bloated inventories, immense competition and the “reset” of normal due to the election of President Trump. But one such brand that seems to have bucked the trend is Christensen Arms (CA).

CA innovated the first ever carbon-fiber barrel back in 1995 that enabled them to find the “white space” in our industry that no one else occupied—which created the differentiation CA needed to break through the myriad of hunting rifles.

Firearm Marketing Exhibit

Christensen’s solid product line and innovative designs—including the launch of their MPR, have enabled the brand to cement a solid foundation that will fuel their marketing efforts for many years to come.

TAKEAWAY: Many brands—especially start-ups—don’t take the time to correctly develop their brand, an innovative product roadmap, and their customer journeys before going to market which leaves them flapping in the wind and their audience wondering who they are what they stand for.


2. Virtual reality

I noticed many exhibits showcasing virtual reality (VR). VR may not be able to deliver the full experience your customers are looking for, but it can add to their experience that creates a lasting impression.

firearm marketing virtual reality

Here are some interesting VR Statistics to take note of:

  • 500 million VR headsets could be sold by 2025, according to Piper Jaffray
  • 171 million people could be using VR hardware and software worldwide by 2018, according to research firm KZero.
  • Nearly 1.3 million people subscribe to the YouTube 360 channel. Google’s push into panoramic 360-degree videos is also paying off and getting mainstream viewers interested in the idea of viewing VR content. That interest is fueling the rise of pricey 360-degree camera rigs.

As the market continues to evolve digitally, I expect more brands to create apps with VR experiences this year and in the years to come.

TAKEAWAY: VR is going mainstream and seems like an excellent way for customers to experience your brand. 

 

3. Harvesting vs. Hunting

Localvores or eco-hunting has been a growing trend since it was coined back in 2005. There seems to be an increasing trend popping up around the word “harvesting.” 

This word “harvesting” is being used in many instances to replace “hunting.” But aren’t they the same?

Consumer demand for organically produced goods continues to show double-digit growth, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 out of 4 conventional grocery stores.

Organic sales account for over 4 percent of total U.S. food sales, according to recent industry statistics. (Source: USDA)

Arby’s’ “We have the meats” slogan is right on target.

The fast-food chain, known for its slow-roasted roast beef sandwiches, began selling limited-edition venison sandwiches a year ago in select markets. (Source: AJC

The company announced this week the “100 percent deer meat” sandwiches will be available nationwide in the chain’s 3,300 locations later this month. They’ve also started testing Elk! When Arby’s is pushing a wild game message nationally—we may all have a chance to benefit. 

SilencerCo, even calls their blog “Harvested.

A quick look at Google Trends suggest “how to hunt” and “deer meat” increasing in interest. This is intriguing because we all know hunting numbers are in decline. Or are they?   

hunting marketing trendsI believe with the increased interest in eating organic and healthy, the growing distrust of corporations (who process our food) and other factors like negative press and the continuing attacks from anti-hunting groups—the idea of “harvesting” could be a new and fresh approach in marketing hunting and hunting products. People who have been persuaded that hunting is bad or unethical, but who agree hunting for healthy organic food is acceptable—harvesting may be the position in which to communicate from. Without getting caught up in the semantics of hunting versus harvestingharvesting from a marketing perspective—is worth consideration. 

Meat Eater

Steve Rinella of Meateater is another example of this emerging harvesting trend that may be pointing to things to come. He’s one of only a few hunting personalities that have crossed over to Netflix. Steve intertwines eating healthy with harvesting, gathering, and cooking (field to table).

Across the country, people in every community and from all walks of life are more focused on healthy eating than ever before. (Source: Christopher Cogley, NSSF SHOT Daily)

Heck, even Mark Zuckerberg is on the train. Who knows where this is going—and I am NOT advocating for anything here—but it’s something that should be on every marketer’s radar in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry.

For more thought on this, check out this article: Hunting Matters: Harvest or Kill? Considering Our Choice of Language in Hunting Stories

TAKEAWAY: Always be looking for out-of-industry trends and shifts that your brand can either leverage or avoid. 

eva shockey

Photo credit: Dangersoup


4. Women’s influence grows

It was nice to see more women being placed in exhibits and presented as professionals at this year’s SHOT Show. I think the industry has crossed the bridge and has embraced women respectfully for their talents and skills as hunters and shooters.

These shifts will also continue to attract other women that can expand industry brands’ appeal and reach.

TAKEAWAY: Start integrating women into your brand’s communications that showcase their skills, talents and professionalism.

By all counts, industry brands that continue to invest in brand development, consider new and upcoming channels for prospective customers to experience their brand, continue to push product innovation—whether, through materials, design (or a combination of the booth) and who stay on top of emerging trends outside of the industry will fare better this year than others. These have always been the recipe of marketing success.

 

Grow Your Brand

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Facebook Change Outdoor Hunting and Firearms Industry

What Facebook’s News Feed Change Means For Firearms & Hunting Marketing

By | Firearms and Hunting

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced last night that it’s making a significant change to its News Feed in the coming months that will ultimately affect brands and publishers in every industry—including the firearms and hunting industry.

Firearms and most hunting brands have been banned from advertising on Facebook since late 2015. We’ve been shunned by the platform in more ways than one. So why does this change matter and what are the implications for business owners, publishers, and marketers?

In a Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments [from friends and family] that lead us to connect more with each other.”

Explaining, however, that recently “video and other public content have exploded on Facebook … [and] since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other.”

Zuckerberg also goes on to talk about mental health issues associated with the news feed stating: “We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being…the research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long-term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”

Zuckerberg states users will see “less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media” and that he expects “the time people spend on Facebook … will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

 


How does this affect your brand?

As a result of this algorithm change, your Followers may see even less of your stories, product announcements, giveaways, videos or any other piece of firearm or hunting content — unless it’s engaging.  For many smaller brands and publishers, this will result in a further drop in visibility, reach, engagement, website traffic, readership and therefore revenue.

 

Facebook organic reach

 

We see in this chart above that even if a business page was doing a super job with its content in 2011, only 26 percent of their followers would see its posts. Today, the organic reach for an average business is less than 1 percent. (Source: Business Grow)

 

So what can you do to counter potential reach declines?

Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri offers some suggestions: “Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”

A bit of good news out of all this, (based on Mosseri’s above statement) is that the outdoor, hunting and firearms industry is an affinity culture — filled with publishers, influencers, celebrities and out-spoken characters who are highly active in discussion on Facebook. From gun guys to huntresses — our customers typically and enthusiastically share content and discuss new products and topics with their networks that sparks the “meaningful discussions” Zuckerberg is trying to instigate.

Since Facebook’s new algorithm will prioritize posts that drive authentic discourse (i.e. engagements: comments, likes, and shares), brands should start listening to their audience and tailoring content to their interests. That way, users can engage organically and brands can earn boosted social rankings in an authentic way. Intelligent marketers should see this as an opportunity. (Source: HubSpot)

According to Social Media Today: “Your key focus will likely need to switch to engagement, on generating interactions amongst those in your audience. That means Pages will need to dedicate more time to responding to comments, in addition to scheduling posts; to engaging in Groups, in addition to maintaining their own Pages. There’s no cover-all answer, it’ll be the cumulative impact of various efforts, but generating conversation will be key.”

Like all disruption, other media channels and solutions will emerge due to this change. We’ve already seen other brands in the industry launch podcasts, apps, groups and move to lesser-known social media channels to communicate online with their customers.

As marketing pundits continue to weigh in, one point of agreement is that brands and publishers need to keep creating engaging content. What the future holds today is anyone’s guess. More time is needed to analyze this change and for business owners and marketers to adjust their strategies. 

This will undoubtedly be a topic of debate for marketers at SHOT Show next week.  

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Firearms Marketing

5 Firearm Marketing Alternatives You Haven’t Thought Of Yet

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

As we move into 2019, it’s harder than ever to get your message out to law-abiding customers.

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

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 this ad from 2013 when Daniel Defense tried to run an ad on the Super Bowl.

 

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


1. Full30

If you have not heard of Full30 you should go check it out. It’s YouTube for the firearms community. “The Full30 platform also offers unique video advertising opportunities for the firearms industry, who have been blocked from valuable pre-roll advertising on YouTube, and Facebook. The pre-roll and banner ad server on Full30 now opens the door to firearm brands looking to capitalize on the extraordinarily high click-through rates, and unmatched brand exposure video advertising provides.” (Source: Truth About Guns


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, Stag Arms and Beretta, are already using inbound effectively and getting great results. Inbound marketing uses search engine optimized content, downloadable offers, landing pages, forms, social media and email marketing to attract, engage and delight 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


3. Native Advertising

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

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

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

 

weatherby by women

Photo by Weatherby

4. Women

Women 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. Weatherby just launched their Women of Weatherby website devoted and targeted towards women. Springfield Armory’s Night of Saint also seeks to capitalize on women as well. These two brands have recognized the immense opportunity this demographic holds and are seizing the opportunity by getting out in front. Look for more large manufacturers to follow in the months to come.

 

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 Military Arms ChannelHickok45, IV8888 and Jon Patton of the Gun Collective. 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.

 

In conclusion, marketing in these changing times may not be as difficult as you think. Through utilizing content and tapping into new firearm specific channels, the women segment and influencers, you have the makings of a marketing strategy that is trackable, and that bucks the trend of declining traditional marketing methods.

 

shooting-firearms-CTA
Free Updated Ebook: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing for the Shooting and Firearms Industry Vol.2

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

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

Download Now

Brand Development Inbound Marketing ConsultantBy Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Marketing + Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

firearm hunting web design ecommerce sales

3 Secrets to Reducing Your Firearm Website’s Bounce Rate

By | Firearms and Hunting

Do you know what your bounce rate is? A bounce rate is like having a hole in your boat. By not plugging it, you’re leaking potential revenue—and lots of it.

For example, if you look at your Google Analytics, and it says you’re getting 10,000 visits per month (which is a great amount of traffic), but your bounce rate is 60%—this means you only have 6,000 visitors—not so great. Bounce rate could be the one metric in your firearm or hunting brand’s digital marketing program that is holding you back from reaching your online sales goals.

When considering inbound marketing or any other kind of digital marketing program, it is necessary before any content is created to build an “inbound-ready website.” Since inbound is a long-term strategy that builds traffic, contacts, and customers over time, a firm and fast digital foundation (your website) is mission critical for success.

The web is a highly fast, get in and get out kind of medium. By making your visitors wait for more than 3 seconds, you’re leaving a lot of revenue on the table.

firearm hunting website design performance

Below are three critical considerations to reduce your firearm or hunting brand website’s bounce rate.

1. Site speed

The first place to start is to determine where your website is now and what to fix. Check out these four tools to determine your website’s speed
:

If your website takes 3 seconds to load, it’s time to raise some red flags and make the necessary changes quickly. 

The first step is to look for large images. Every image should be around 50K or lower. The smaller your images are, the faster your site will load. Video should be compressed if you’re embedding it.

The second step is to minimize scripts and combine CSS files or move javascript (the code that makes your site come alive) to the bottom of the website. This tells browsers to load the content above the “fold” (content you see in your browser’s window) first.

The third step is server speed.
A lot of us spend little to nothing on a quality web host. GoDaddy, WordPress Engine, Rackspace and others provide a reliable service, however when every second counts— and you’re serious about moving the needle on ROI, a dedicated server or a CDN should be considered.

What’s the difference between a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and a Dedicated Server?

Content Delivery Networks serve content across a network of “edge” servers putting your website in closer proximity to your visitors no matter where they are in the world. This makes download speeds faster because data doesn’t need to travel across a shared network. CDNs like Cloudflare or Amazon are fairly inexpensive and can be implemented relatively quickly. CDN’s are a must for companies who have (or are interested) in acquiring international customers. For a more technical explanation on CDNs, please see this resource.

CDN

Source: GT Metrix

A Dedicated Server gives you the same type of computing power of a new 2.4 GHz 8GB Mac laptop—except it’s deployed over the internet. This means instead of sharing your hosting with hundreds or perhaps thousands of other websites—you have one server dedicated to your site alone. A Dedicated Server will boost your website’s speed exponentially. In a recent test, we were able to get a 5 – 12-second savings (over mobile and desktop) from moving to a dedicated server versus a shared server. Dedicated hosting is worth it especially if you’re running an e-commerce store and every sale counts.

2. Use engaging images and CTAs

A mantra I’ve tried to live by when it comes to web design is “don’t let my website visitor think.” This means that when a visitor hits your site for the first time, they are in “learning or search mode” and it’s up to you to think for them by matching their question, curiosity or interest with the solution your product offers. Provide the information to them in a quick and engaging way; then define the path you want them to take to achieve your goal: share, like, signup, contact or purchase. Use CTAs to direct their actions. 

3. Engaging modules

Quality photography and video is a must in the firearms and hunting industry because of its experiential nature—but what works even better is something that is interactive that helps users learn about your product and that moves them further down the sales process. Rifle builders, tabbed or accordion modules, interactive content, surveys, etc. can keep visitors engaged for a longer period and keeps them coming back.

Google uses site speed, and there is indications that bounce rate (Source: Search Engine Land) as a ranking factor. So if you’re in a competitive segment of the industry and need a boost from your search engine marketing efforts, a dedicated server, CDN or both will make your website faster and move you up in rankings. 

By focusing on the above measures, you won’t be left wondering what’s wrong with your conversion funnels and can be free to concentrate on optimizing other areas of your digital marketing without the nagging suspicion that your website is holding you back.

 

 

firearms-growth-driven-design

Free Download:
Introduction to Growth-Driven Web Design

Is your website performing at its peak, or has it been sitting idle for 2-3 years? Was your last website redesign over-budget, out of scope and delivered late?

In this ebook, Luke Summerfield explains a different approach to website design that will help you save cost, launch faster and create a more effective sales and marketing tool that will grow leads, customers, and sales online.

Download EBook!

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

How to use inbound marketing at SHOT Show

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Inbound Marketing Approach to SHOT Show

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

With SHOT Show 2018 right around the corner, it’s do or die time for most firearms, ammunition, law enforcement, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, and related product manufacturers and service providers.

Buyers, dealers, distributors are all looking for the next big thing and to make profitable deals to stock their shelves and inventory for the coming year. The largest trade show of its kind in the world and the fifth largest trade show in Las Vegas, the SHOT Show features more than 1,600 exhibitors filling booth space covering 630,000 net square feet. The show, which is a trade-only event, attracts more than 62,000 industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries. (Source: NSSF)

With so much of your hard earned money going into SHOT (booth design, travel expenses, sponsorships, product and staff)—the question then becomes, is SHOT Show going to pay off? Have you done the work of attracting buyers and prospects before the show that delivers qualified leads? Or is your approach more based on booth babes, free t-shirts and a celebrity selfie station to drive traffic? Isn’t there a more strategic, effective and trackable way that will make the most important trade show of the year pay off?

In the infographic below, we help you think through how an inbound marketing approach to SHOT Show can increase your sales opportunities by 20%. (Source: Demand Gen) And that continues to build sales and that creates a foundation for an effective and powerful marketing strategy all year long.

SHOT Show preparation begins right after the show is over. By taking this approach, your 2018 SHOT Show will be more successful. 

inbound-marketing-increase-sales-shot-show-infographic[columns]

inbound-marketing-hunting-outdoor-firearms-trade-show

Free Ebook: The Inbound Marketing Trade Show Planning Guide

In this planning guide, you will learn how to use inbound marketing to make your trade show more successful and profitable.

  • Picking the right tools
  • Defining clear, measurable goals
  • Tracking and measurement
  • What to do before, during and after the show
  • Tips and tricks to drive booth traffic
Download Now
[/columns]

Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Shot Show Trade Show Marketing

Steal My SHOT Show Strategy

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

SHOT Show 2019 is right around the corner. If you’ve done an adequate job of promoting your SHOT Show presence and built a booth that rivals the Taj Mahal (or not)—the next and sometimes most difficult step is how to organize all those booth visitors you are going to attract into qualified leads. After all, that’s why you’re at SHOT right?

Before you hand over that koozie, T-shirt or iPad—have you determined the right questions to ask that qualifies your booths’ visitors—with the goal of turning them into promoters, leads or customers?

Trade shows, for the most part, are huge lead generators. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), exhibitors identify lead generation at 80-85% as the reason that companies exhibit at trade shows. This is closely followed by branding and customer engagement.

If you’re a wholesaler, distributor or manufacturer in the hunting, outdoor or firearms industry, here are 6 points from my B2B strategy for SHOT Show that you can steal to make the most of your leads and build better relationships with buyers and dealers. 

 

1. Set Goals

It’s crazy how many companies go to SHOT without some sense of what they hope to accomplish. If it’s a certain number of handshakes, booth visits, clicks, leads, sales, contacts, P.O.s—whatever, set a goal and make a plan to achieve it. It will give you some sense of measurement of how successful your show was. 

Steal my strategy: Take your overall  SMART goals for the year and decide what a good show ROI looks like. Begin setting up meetings two-three weeks out via email and personal messaging via LinkedIn and then broadcast your attendance on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Make sure to use the shows hashtags: #shotshow or #shotshow2019 so your posts show up in the SHOT Show App.  Track engagement through a good analytics tool. 

 

2. Identify the difference between a prospect and a lead

With over 65,000 attendees and 1,600 exhibitors do you know what your ideal customer/buyer looks like? It’s amazing how many marketers and salespeople don’t understand what the difference is between a prospect and a lead—let alone how to qualify them. A whopping 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their sales funnel. (Source: MarketingSherpa)  When someone strolls up to your booth without an appointment, they most likely are in the awareness/information gathering stage. They found you online, heard about your product/service or saw what you offer as they were walking by. 

Make sure that you have a list of questions to initiate a conversation that helps you identify where they are in the buying process and how you can best help them. I want to emphasize the word HELP. How can you help their business? 70% of people make purchasing decisions to solve problems. 30% make decisions to gain something. (Source: Impact Communications) Focus on that aspect and not pitching your product/services first. In the back of your mind, you need to be always thinking about uncovering what their problem is and how your product or service helps. 

Here’re a few examples:

  1. What brings you to SHOT Show? (identifies their intent)
  2. How did you hear about us? (identifies understanding)
  3. What kind of business are you in? (identifies who the prospect is)
  4. What are you looking for in this type of_____?
    (identifies if they are serious or are just browsing)
  5. What are your goals/challenges for the show/or 2017?
  6. What are some things you’ve been working on lately?

For more questions, see this post: 16 Sales Qualification Questions to Identify Prospects Worth Pursuing

By taking the time to focus and talk about their business—not yours—you are saying “you are important to me” which builds trust with the prospect. This brings down the hard-sell barrier and allows for a more engaging conversation.

Steal my strategy: If you’ve been executing an inbound marketing strategy throughout the past year, meetings at SHOT Show may be just a formality at this point. The sales cycle is 95% complete, and a face-to-face meeting is just icing on the cake on what will be a long and successful business relationship. The meetings I have at SHOT, are with qualified leads I’ve nurtured over the past 5-6 months. 

 

trade-show-booth-strategy3. Take advantage of the “Lookie Lous”

While no definite industry statistics are available on this, likely only 10-20% of booth visitors are potentially qualified leads, if that many. So the question becomes how to sort out the best potential leads from the rest before initiating an expensive and time-consuming lead qualification process? (Source: Biznology)

If you’ve come to the realization that the person you’re talking to is not a qualified lead or what I like to call a “lookie lou,” (someone who is strictly there out of curiosity and who may just want to grab some schwag)—what can you do to make the most out of this touch point while not wasting valuable time? For example, you may pass him/her off to your booths’ official “lookie lou” ambassador. Someone who is solely responsible for handling unqualified leads that free up your front-line sales person. That person might ask them to tweet about your brand with your company’s #hashtag in exchange for a booth chachkie. Most people will be willing to do this in exchange for some schwag.

The more activity you can create over social media the better. You may want to add a label or sticker to your giveaways instructing them what to post. When you see the person’s post, thank them and follow them back to close the loop.

Steal my strategy: Don’t let any touch point go to waste. You never know who the person you are talking to may be; they may be an influencer with thousands of followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Gun District or Instagram. Make sure to gather their info and connect on social media and remain in contact with them to build your network.  

 

4. Enter leads into your CRM and follow-up fast!

Whether you’re scanning badges or entering leads into a CRM—send them a follow-up email within 24 hours or less. Thank them for stopping by and mention what you talked about to jog their memory. Depending on your conversation, make sure you find them and connect with them via LinkedIn if possible. Most prospects will be impressed on how fast you followed up. If you’re getting hundreds of leads per day—it will become difficult to follow up the night after the show because you’ll be exhausted. This is were using a CRM can come in handy.

Steal my strategy: Create your follow up email in advance with MailChimp, Constant Contact or your marketing automation tool and then import their names and email addresses, a note on the nature of the conversation and next steps. Send and track for engagement within 24 hours. Make sure to let them know that you will follow up by phone next week to discuss your sales conversation further or appointment details.

 

5. Qualify prospects through an automated workflow

Depending on how many contacts you gather over the week of SHOT Show, you may not have had time to qualify every single person you talked to. Or you may have experienced some push-back. Using your contact list, begin to nurture your leads through a series of emails based around a workflow that addresses the specific problems that your product or service solves. Link to your company’s blog and downloadable offers to educate your leads. Get your emails sent within 5 days. 

Steal my strategy: Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (The Annuitas Group) By educating your leads through automation, you speed up the sales process, save time, build trust, brand awareness and rapport. 

 

6. Standout through social media

Do you have a social media strategy? How are you going to use social media to draw and attract leads to your SHOT Show booth? A simple strategy starts first with automation. Using HubSpot’s social inbox, Hootsuite or Buffer, you can schedule all your promotional tweets and posts (Facebook and Instagram) in advance. Start with a schedule then create eye-catching graphics based on your promotions, product releases or giveaways. Make sure to include the hashtag #shotshow2107 and #shotshow along with your own specialty hashtag.  Then create a mobile-friendly designated landing page that specifically showcases your promotions and a meeting signup form. Make sure to use your hashtag in your printed materials like an ad or sponsorship. 

Steal my strategy: During SHOT Show 2016, I was amazed on how few brands utilized social media. This gives savvy companies an opportunity to stand out and attract leads. Schedule anywhere from 6-10 tweets, 3-5 Facebook and Instagram posts per day and perhaps one a day on LinkedIn (Personal and Company Page). 

So to sum up, identify the difference of what a prospect and lead look like, make the most of every touch point, follow up within 24 hours, utilize automated workflows to nurture leads along your sales funnel and get busy on social media. 

Have a great show! 

 

[columns]
inbound-marketing-hunting-outdoor-firearms-trade-show

Free Ebook: The Inbound Marketing Trade Show Planning Guide

In this planning guide, you will learn how to use inbound marketing to make your trade show more successful and profitable.

  • Picking the right tools
  • Defining clear, measurable goals
  • Tracking and measurement
  • What to do before, during and after the show
  • Tips and tricks to drive booth traffic
Download Now
[/columns]

Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Firearm Digital Marketing

What are Successful Firearm Digital Marketers Doing That You Aren’t?

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

If you’ve ever launched a new website that didn’t attract visitors or sales, poured time and money into a search engine optimization plan that failed to improve your position in Google, or watched in vain as your social media posts fell flat, then you probably ask yourself a common question: what are my successful competitors doing that I am not?

In my experience, the answers tend to be surprisingly simple. Although a lot of business owners imagine it must come down to differences in budgets, we have learned that most successful firearm digital marketers simply share a few common traits and habits. If you’re seeing another company do better than you are, here are a few of the likely reasons why…

They know who their buyer personas are

While a lot of average marketers take a random approach to their messaging, the best know exactly who they are trying to reach and what kind of message they want to convey. If you aren’t sure what your best prospects look like, and where they hang out on the web, you’re going to have a hard time reaching them in a cost-effective way.

They have a distinct brand message

With so many me-too products, taglines, slogans and imagery in the firearm industry—successful digital marketers also have a firm understanding of what their brand purpose, positioning and value proposition is in their respective segments. They then beat key messaging into every piece of communication through text, imagery, tone, and style.

They invest in growth-driven web design

Unsuccessful business owners tend to see web design and digital marketing as a one-time cost. The best, on the other hand, devote a monthly or quarterly budget with the goal of improving and optimizing website performance over time. That’s important because consumer behavior, technology, and competitor tactics change roughly every six months. Conversely, it’s hard to do well when you take a “one-and-done” approach and try to accomplish everything at once.

They keep adding new blog posts and social content

Experienced marketers know that customer interest, search engine traffic, and a strong social following are all the byproduct of regular content updates and engagement. So, they work hard to release new content on a regular schedule. If you simply let your website and social profiles set without any new updates or additions, customers and search engines alike are going to perceive your business as having gone stale.

They check their web analytics regularly

The longer you spend in digital marketing, the more you learn that the devil – along with the opportunities – is always in the details. By paying attention to web analytics, you can see trends developing in real-time and remove bottlenecks from your website or sales funnel. But, if you aren’t keeping a close eye on the numbers—or you don’t even know what your numbers are—it’s difficult to make sense of the seemingly random results you get from your website from one week to the next.

They are getting experienced creative help

Web design and digital marketing are highly complex topics. Even if most business owners and executives could manage to stay on top of all that’s going on in our industry, they wouldn’t have time to execute most of their best plans and ideas. That’s why they turn to experienced creative teams that have a proven track record of success. Without a bit of outside help, they just wouldn’t have the time and focus needed to get everything done.

Digital marketing can be incredibly complicated, but it’s based on simple principles. If you aren’t getting the help you need, or the right kinds of results, now is the perfect time to call us and see how we can help in 2017!

 

firearms-growth-driven-design

Free Download:
Introduction to Growth-Driven Web Design

Is your website performing at its peak, or has it been sitting idle for 2-3 years? Was your last website redesign over-budget, out of scope and delivered late?

In this ebook, Luke Summerfield explains a different approach to website design that will help you save cost, launch faster and create a more effective sales and marketing tool that will grow leads, customers and sales online.

Download EBook!

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Digital Firearm Marketing

3 Digital Firearm Marketing Trends Poised To Continue In 2017

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

It’s not always easy to tell the future in the world of Internet marketing. New ideas, apps, and challenges can seem to spring up from nowhere in a heartbeat. However, there are some trends and ideas that are so clear and profound that you can’t help but notice them on the horizon. The rise of search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising (firearms excluded), and social media (as examples) were all fairly easy to see coming for those of us working in the firearms and hunting industry.

And so, as we gear up for the end of an eventful year and head into SHOT Show, it’s worth taking a moment to look ahead and see which new ideas are likely to pick up steam in the coming year as you evaluate your marketing plan. If you want to get a jump on your competitors, and make your business as profitable as possible, here are three firearm digital marketing trends you should prepare for in 2017…

1. Mobile-First Web Design

In a relatively short amount of time, responsive web design became the accepted way to create new websites because it allowed companies to maintain one presence that would work for desktop, tablet, and mobile visitors all at the same time. Now, many businesses are thinking primarily of mobile web visits, since they make up a growing majority of all web traffic.

Responsive design still makes the most sense for the average firearm or hunting business. The big change, though, is the knowledge that mobile visitors are likely to make up the bulk of your visits within the next year or two. And now with Google adding a mobile-only index to mobile users, if you’re not responsive, then you’re basically non-existent. 

2. Local And Niche Search Marketing for Firearm Dealers

Not so long ago, engaging in search engine optimization or pay-per-click marketing meant competing against other businesses in your market or industry from around the world. But, customers have gotten savvier – looking for both local businesses and those that can meet very niche demands especially when looking for the best deals.

The net result is that marketers have to be much more focused about the kind of visits they attract online. Targeting large groups of buyers might sound appealing, but it’s no longer efficient.

3. Conversion Optimization

Because the effort and expense associated with attracting visits to the website has gone up, the pressure on marketers to convert visitors into buyers has become greater, too. And so, companies aren’t just worrying about their search engine positioning, but also the rate at which potential customers are completing purchases and requesting information.

If your website isn’t efficient, then you’re leaving money on the table. Or, you might not even be making money at all. For those reasons, conversion rate optimization (which is the art and science of turning web visitors into buyers) is going to keep getting a lot of attention.

There’s no guarantee these will be the only three trends you have to worry about next year, but you can bet being ready for them will put you in a much better position than most of the other companies in your segment. Isn’t that worth aiming for?

 

firearms-growth-driven-design

Free Download:
Introduction to Growth-Driven Web Design

Is your website performing at its peak, or has it been sitting idle for 2-3 years? Was your last website redesign over-budget, out of scope and delivered late?

In this ebook, Luke Summerfield explains a different approach to website design that will help you save cost, launch faster and create a more effective sales and marketing tool that will grow leads, customers and sales online.

Download EBook!

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Hunting Firearms Influencer Marketing

What I Discovered About Influencer Marketing in the Firearms & Hunting Industry

By | Firearms and Hunting, Influencer Marketing

 

Buffalo Bill Influencer Marketing

Buffalo Bill for Savage Arms

Influencer marketing in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry has been a tried and true method of connecting with hard to reach demographics since the days of Buffalo Bill.

Often referred to as Pro Staff or Ambassadors—top hunters like Jim Shockey, Brian “Pig Man” Quaca, or shooting professionals like Colion Noir and Julie Golob and hundreds of others—have been commissioned by the industry’s top brands to exert their influence over their vast number of social media followers.

Consumers trust recommendations from a third party more often than a brand itself. And it makes sense if you think about it in a more personal context. You don’t usually trust a person at a party who comes up to you and brags about him/herself and spouts fun facts about his/her personality to convince you to be a friend. But you often believe your mutual friend who vouches for that person. An influencer is a mutual friend connecting your brand with your target consumers. (Source: Kissmetrics)

In this post, I answer five questions about influencer marketing that will help you understand how to integrate this powerful tactic into your marketing strategy.

1. What is influencer marketing?

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.

Influencer marketing typically involves content marketing and social media as the mechanisms to propel those messages. Whether they are producing the content themselves like Mia Anstine for Beretta or you are writing it for them and putting their name on it—influencer marketing almost always involves the tactics of content marketing with social media as its primary distribution channel. (Source: TapInfluence)

2. How do you find the right influencer?

Did you know that just 3% of people generate 90% of the impact online? Considering this alarming statistic, it should come as no surprise that leveraging the power of this select group of influencers serves as a highly valuable strategy for businesses looking to expand their reach. (Source: HubSpot)

In the hunting, outdoor and firearms world, the industry is full of shooting, firearm hunting experts, and proponents that blog and create videos. A few are popular celebrities like Luke Bryan or nationally syndicated radio host Dana Loesch. Below, I used Followerwonk and Buzzsumo to identify top Twitter accounts of industry advocates that have large audiences to get an idea of the numbers we’re talking about.

  1. Dana Loesch / 611K
  2. Ted Nugent / 329K
  3. Matt Staser / 153K
  4. Michael Waddel / 136K
  5. Eva Shockey / 80.9K
  6. Colion Noir / 89.6K
  7. Fred Mastison / 51.5K 
  8. Jim Shockey / 55.1K
  9. Greg Kinman / 53.5K 
  10. Mark Kenyon / 41.5K 
  11. Steven Renella / 32.7K 

But how do you go about finding and choosing the right influencer? Do you go for a big name like Matt Staser in the hunting category who has over 147K followers on Twitter—or someone less known but who has a very niche group of fans—otherwise known as “power-middle” influencers? Both have pros and cons and will ultimately depend on your product’s contextual fit and marketing budget. There is growing evidence that “power-middle” influencers (2.5K – 25K followers) are shown to have a 16x higher engagement.

To find your perfect influencer, you can start with good ole’ fashion research. Or you can pay for the latest and greatest influencer marketing software to help you find that perfect influencer as well as track ROI. Here are a few to check out:

You can also use sites like AlltopBuzzsumoFollowerwonk or Kred to start your search. While someone with hundreds of thousands of social media followers certainly could expose your brand to their followers, if they are not a snug contextual fit, their post or tweet would be moot as far as driving leads and customers. (Source: Kissmetrics)

true-influence-drive-action3. How to start with influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing starts with your ideal influencer image—and if your product fits within the context of what your influencer typically talks about and how they align with your buyer persona(s). You wouldn’t hire Justin Beiber who has over 88M followers to tweet out a picture of your Deer Scent Product next to a fallen Buck (although that may be kinda funny).

Create your ideal influencer based on age, gender, location, vertical, personality and average audience size. Next figure out, where can your brand’s content can be amplified. Do you need the visual component of Instagram or Pinterest or something more substantive and instant like Facebook or Twitter? Are you looking for social media followers, website traffic or both? Define your goals and begin your search.

According to Social Chorus, the best way to reach out to influencers is to start by getting their attention on social media through likes, retweets, mentions and shares. Then you’ll want to reach out via email. Keep your email simple, introduce your brand, why you’re interested and describe what you both can expect to gain through the relationship. You can negotiate your engagement by direct sponsorship, sponsoring their giveaways, content collaboration, shout outs or commission.

 

4. How to measure influencer marketing?
Below are three ways influencer marketing can be tracked during a campaign.

  1. Trackable links: Most software programs have their own conversion tracking technology that enables you to track how many online sales each influencer drove for you. However, trackable links can only be posted on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. 
  2. Promo codes: Not only do promo codes help you track the impact of your campaign, but they also build urgency and an extra incentive for viewers to buy your product.
  3. Correlation: This entails correlating the time of posting with increases in sales or installs.
    (Source: Ready Pulse )

 

5. Brands doing it right.

As I looked across the industry, here are some examples of brands that base a large majority of their strategy on influencer marketing:

Hunting Outdoor Influencer Marketing

Photo by Yeti

 

Yeti
Yeti’s influencer marketing program is known as probably the best in the outdoor industry. “We do a lot of endorsements, from celebrity hunters to fishermen, and always try to engage them as ambassadors of the brand and then tell their stories in as many places as we can.”
—Corey Maynard VP of Marketing (Source: Adweek)  

Cabela’s
Cabela’s has about 20 “authenticity experts” who are asked to chime in on their areas of expertise (hunting, fishing, camping, etc.) to make sure their messaging truly matches the outdoor and hunting space. These are people who volunteer to participate because they are passionate about their own experiences, social media, and Cabela’s brand. (Source: Convince and Convert)

 

Mountain Ops
Mountain Ops uses several hunters/huntresses or “wilderness athletes” to inspire and help you get in “outdoor shape.” 

Hunting Influencer Marketing

Photo by Mountain Ops via Instagram

 

Glock
Glock may be the first in the industry to start using Facebook Live. This is a great example of mixing influencer marketing, content and live video.

 

Consumers have always valued opinions expressed directly to them. Marketers may spend millions of dollars on elaborately conceived advertising campaigns, yet often what makes up a consumer’s mind is not only simple but also free: a word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted source. (Source: McKinsey)

So, is influencer marketing a right strategy for your brand? Here are a few statistics:

  • 78 percent of brands increased their content output in the last two years, but average content engagement decreased by 60 percent. Content marketing needs influencer marketing to succeed.
  • 92 percent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands.
  • 74 percent of consumers use social media to make purchase decisions.
  • 81 percent of marketers who have used influencer marketing judged it to be effective.
  • 59 percent of marketers will increase influencer marketing budgets in 2016. Make sure you pick the right influencers for your brand. They’ll be in bigger demand.

(Source: Ion)

In the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry, I’d say there is overwhelming evidence that influencer marketing is a good way to move the needle. Combined with inbound or content marketing, influencer marketing could be the strategy you’re looking for.

What about you, what are your thoughts on influencer marketing? 

 

Contact us for a free consultation

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

Josh Claflin, Principle at Garrison Everest, helps companies in the outdoor, tech, and firearm industries who are struggling to develop clear brand messaging and increase revenue through online channels to grow in the digital era of marketing. Contact Josh  for a free consultation. 

how-to-track-and-score-your-digital-firearm-marketing-efforts

How To Track and Score Your Digital Firearm Marketing Efforts

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

When it comes to tracking digital marketing in the firearms and hunting industry, it’s easy to get confused with what metrics matter most. A lot of times we think we are tracking the correct metrics or ‘key performance indicators’ for improvement—but get lost in the pretty charts and graphs of what are commonly referred to as ‘vanity metrics’ that can lead us astray.

vanity-metricsIn this post, I want to give you a practical way on how to track, measure and report on your online efforts using a scorecard we use with our clients to prove the efficacy of our digital marketing efforts. The scorecard also helps us to understand where our strategy needs improvement and what to adjust over the course of our campaign(s).

So let’s dive in!

 

1. What is a KPI?
A key performance indicator (KPI) is a business metric used to evaluate factors that are crucial to the success of an organization. KPIs differ per organization; firearm businesses’ KPIs may be net revenue or a customer loyalty metric, while the government might consider unemployment rates, or non-profits, donations.

In digital marketing, there are three classes of KPIs we recommend you pay attention to.

A. Mechanical KPIs
Mechanical KPIs deal with the performance of your digital hub, or in other words—your website. Four critical KPIs to gauge are:

  • Organic traffic – The number of strangers visiting your website of their own free will that found you on the first page of search engine pages vs. paid where you paid to be on the first page.
  • Bounce rates – Bounce rate is one of the most misunderstood metrics. Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits (or web sessions). It is the number of visits in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further. A good industry bounce rate to aim for is 20-30%. To decrease bounce rates, entice your users to click to a second page on your website.
  • Marketing Grader – Your website must be fast and load under 3 seconds and meet these basic standards.  Grade Your Website Now!
  • Search engine optimization –Does your website meet the minimum criteria to be considered optimized? Fix Your Website Now!

A fast-loading, search engine (and don’t forget mobile) optimized website is the first step in ensuring a strong digital marketing foundation.

B. Website Conversion KPIswebsite-grader
Website conversion KPIs deal with how well your site is changing traffic into leads and nurturing them for customer conversion. Here is a list of conversion KPIs and how to improve them.

  • Returning visitors – Add a blog and other fresh content to keep your prospects coming back.
  • Visitor-to-lead conversion rate – Create problem-solving offers with landing pages and forms to convert visitors into leads.
  • Lead-to-customer conversion rate – Does your shopping cart get above a 2% conversion rate? Crunch your numbers using this tool.
  • CLV– Customer lifetime value (CLV or often CLTV), is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer.
  • CAC – Customer Acquisition Cost can be calculated by simply dividing all the costs spent on acquiring more customers (marketing expenses) by the number of customers acquired in the period the money was spent. For example, if a company spent $100 on marketing in a year and received 100 customers in the same year, their CAC is $1.00. (Source: Kissmetrics)
  • Workflow conversion rates – Research from Gleanster suggests that, even when it comes to qualified leads, more than 50% of leads aren’t ready to buy on the day they first convert on your site. If you call up these leads and push them into making a decision right away, you will likely lose them. Workflows help by nurturing these leads through an automated workflow that are based on a series of actions taken by leads on your website with the goal of nurturing them to customers or warming the sale. Make sure to track these steps and optimize for each stage.

You can also conduct A/B testing on small tweaks to your website that can be tracked over time, so you know if your metrics are improving or declining.

C. Brand KPIs
In the digital space (websites, mobile, social media, text, blogs, forums, etc.), it’s much easier to track brand engagement and understand if your brand is taking hold in your customer’s minds. One way is to monitor customer interactions and comments on social media or through Google Alerts. Record how many positive and negative social signals (likes, shares, retweets, and mentions) are posted about your firearm, ammunition or hunting product and track over time.

A few relevant brand KPIs are:

  • Direct traffic – Direct traffic comes from people who actively type in your brand’s name from memory, giving you a good indication of how well your prospects remember your products/services.
  • Brand mentions – How many people out there are posting positive or negative comments about your brand or product?
  • Network growth – Are your networks growing across your social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn)?
  • Blog subscribers – Are people finding your content interesting and signing up to receive more?

 

2. What KPIs don’t matter?
In the firearm and hunting industry, we are up to our eyeballs in statistics. From FFL registrations, background checks and the annual surveys released by the NSSF, these reports help us get our heads around how the industry is doing and how it relates to the health of our businesses. But there are some KPIs out there that just don’t matter.

Mentioned at the start of this post, vanity metrics are considered nice to have but don’t necessarily give us actionable data on making decisions about our marketing. Vanity metrics are things like registered users, time on site, pages/visits, downloads, and page views. They are easily manipulated and do not necessarily correlate to the numbers that matter: active users, engagement, the cost of getting new customers, and ultimately revenues and profits. (Source: Techcrunch )

I’ve talked to a lot of companies in the industry who consider Facebook and Instagram ‘Likes’ key metrics. But many struggle to tell me how many of those ‘Likes’ drive traffic, customers and sustained engagement.

Did you know that only 3% to 5% of your Facebook Page’s “fans” see the content you post? Regardless of how many people have clicked ‘Like’ once they’re on your brand’s page, the vast majority of them never return to the page itself and never see the content in their newsfeeds.

What to Measure Instead: % Feedback and Impressions

Use Facebook Insights, Facebook’s free analytics tool, to check which posts generate the highest level of engagement. The higher the level of engagement, the higher your EdgeRank score. (EdgeRank is kind of like SEO for Facebook newsfeeds) Think about the content and conversations that have the highest % feedback and impressions, and then come up with a plan for how you can replicate it. (Source: Hubspot)

reporting-add-on-funnel-reports

HubSpot Funnel Report Add-On

 

3. You can’t measure what you don’t track.
If you’ve ever tried losing weight, you know that every week you’ve got to stand on the scale to check your progress. Digital marketing is the same way. When it comes to tracking, there are a number of tools out there to use. We explicitly depend on Google Analytics and a paid software program called HubSpot.

When it comes to reporting, Google Analytics is way more powerful. It’s more flexible than HubSpot, and puts data in a granular, broken-down form. With Google, you can tell more about your online marketing and website mechanics as a whole, and you can slice the data in a million ways.

But, HubSpot shows you more about how individuals interact with your marketing and website. It lets you connect performance data to an individual lead, giving you insight into their specific journey, and helps you nurture them through the buying funnel. HubSpot is also better organized than Google, and will show you the need-to-know information about your marketing campaigns. (Source: Nectafy)

 

hubspot-vs-google-analytics-2

 

4. Track it with the scorecard.


firearms-digital-scorecardNow that you got a good download on what the right and wrong KPIs are, let’s turn these metrics into something you can use.

A good place to start is by setting a SMART goal across the board at 20%. 20% is enough to cause you to feel a little pressure and angst, but it’s not so high that it’s out of reach. Digital marketing takes time, and it’s important that at each stage you test your efforts to see if they’re working or not—in a logical way (we’ll be discussing what to test in a future blog post).

In our scorecard, we’ve listed out most of the metrics stated above in a table to track over 6-months. Make sure to collect data from your sales team every month to accurately report revenue. Pay specific attention to increases and pieces of content that help you make actionable decisions.

By scorecard tracking, you’ll be able to more accurately gauge the performance of your digital marketing efforts and turn strategy into targets.

As marketers, we track so many different data points to better understand what’s working and what’s not that it can become easy to lose sight of what’s most important. Reporting on your business impact doesn’t mean you should no longer pay attention to site traffic, social shares, and conversion rates. It simply means that when reporting your results to your executives, it’s crucial to convey your performance in a way that your C-suite can get excited about.

Rather than talking about per-post Facebook engagement and other “vanity” metrics, use the six metrics we detail in the below cheat sheet to report on how your marketing programs led to new customers, lowered customer acquisition costs, or higher customer lifetime values. When you can present marketing metrics that resonate with your decision-makers, you’ll be in a much better position to make the case for budgets and strategies that will benefit your marketing team now and in the future.

 

ebook-6-metrics-your-boss-actually-cares-about

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Six Marketing Metrics Your Boss Actually Cares About Cheat Sheet Plus! Digital Marketing Scorecard

Do you know which metrics actually matter to your boss? In this cheat sheet of metrics, we’ll share the six metrics that do.

  • 6 marketing metrics that prove the value of your marketing efforts
  • Formulas and examples to help you calculate your own metrics
  • Explanations and scenarios of why these metrics are important and how to interpret them
  • Bonus! Digital Marketing Scorecard Template

Download our cheat sheet to show your boss the true value of your marketing.

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Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

AR-15 Firearm Marketing

How to Stand Out In The Competitive AR-15 Marketplace

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

A recent article in the TC Palm, a member of the USA Network cited that: “The increase in gun manufacturing licenses since 2009 has strained the resources of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.” This means that there are so many new firearm companies popping up, the ATF can’t keep up with all the new license requests.

I would bet (even though I don’t have any data only hear-say from industry sources) the majority of these licenses are going to companies building ARs.

The AR-15 has soared in popularity among gun owners, due to a wide-range of factors. It is customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate that can be used in sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations. Civilians can also modify and personalize their AR-15 from carbine-length, stocks, optics, barrels, etc. The AR-15s ability to be modified to your own personal taste is one of the things that make it so unique. (Source: NRA

But before you jump into this highly saturated market segment and start an AR business, or make that next big investment—I want to share with you a video by Ryan Deiss’ of Digital Marketer titled: “How You Deal With Competition.” I thought his analogy of water (yes, water) aligned perfectly for those looking to start or build an AR company.

So to start, here are four questions that will help you think through how you’re going to build a successful AR company and brand. 

  1. What is the reason your AR company exists?
  2. Why are you getting into the AR business?
  3. Why would your customers want you to exist?
  4. What do you bring to the AR-15 marketplace that adds value and moves the industry forward?

There are hundreds of other AR companies trying to sell what you’re trying to sell. Using Ryan’s analogy of water he gives us a good framework and a fresh perspective on how to deal with the competition. 

Water is the most abundant resource on the planet Earth. We have more water than we know what to do with (kind of like AR companies). Water is sold in many different formats and in various ways, some of it is even free. Heck, we have so much of it, we flush it down the toilet. But yet some people have found a way to package it, sell it and market it and make you pay $2.99 for a bottle of it.

So using water, an abundant commodity—let’s look at how you can take this same line of thinking and apply it to your marketing strategy to create something in the industry that will stand out and give you a reason to belong and to exist.

 

custom-ar15

Photo credit: Sharp Bros.

1. Find your unique AR-15 flavor

Taking our analogy and applying it to the AR market—you have to start by finding your unique flavor. Some water tastes different; it may include minerals or additives that change its taste. Maybe it’s a different manufacturing process that contains a different type of material or machining. Whatever it is, it should be something that provides you with your own little spin. Maybe it’s your gruff “take–no-lip” attitude. Maybe it’s your location or color. Maybe it’s your team who happens to be former Navy SEALs. Whatever it is—find your unique flavor that will appeal to your buyer persona(s).

 

2. Add a unique AR-15 additive

POFUSA-charging handleAnother way to give you a reason to exist is to have your own unique additive. What is it that you do that no one else does? Is there a feature that you’ve added that no one else has? A great example is once again POF-USA. They’ve added “God Bless America” on their ejection port covers and a cross on the top of their charging handles. These little embellishments give their guns distinction and their owner’s something to be proud of. What can you add to your platform that makes it different? Maybe it’s a little spike on the trigger guard or a different kind of cerakote coating. Whatever you got in your bag of tricks, make sure it’s something that belongs only to you. Cobalt Kinetics and Battle Arms Development are also good examples of brands that break the mold in the AR category.

 

3. Add unique AR-15 packaging or delivery

custom-gun-case

Photo credit: Custom Made

How can you create some kind of distinction on how your customers receive and interact with your product(s). Every gun must be transferred legally through an FFL dealer after a passed background check to your customer. What if your product was only transferred through certified dealers that have agreed to your brand’s standards—that when your customer goes to pick it up, they receive 5–star service? Or perhaps your AR arrives in a handcrafted metal case with an engraved American flag on it? The gun your customer has waited for three weeks should be like Christmas morning. It could also be as easy as including a hat and sticker or a coupon for 10% off to their local gun range to go shoot their new AR. Whatever it is, focus on ways to differentiate your product’s delivery.

By picking one or all three of the ways mentioned above, you’ll have a very compelling reason why your AR company should exist. At the end of the day, you must be able to answer the question: “Am I adding value to the marketplace and my customers?” If you can respond to that question with a “yes,” then you have the beginnings of successful marketing strategy in which to build upon.

Interested in learning more about our services and how we can help your AR company stand out?

Free AR Company Consultation

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

firearms digital marketing

7 Firearm & Hunting Digital Marketing Factors You Can’t Ignore

By | Firearms and Hunting

 

The term digital marketing gets thrown around quite a bit in the firearms and hunting industry. You know you need to “go” digital, but are still unsure what going *digital* exactly means or how to integrate these tactics with your current pre-paid outbound ad spend.

Digital marketing is an all-encompassing term that uses strategies like inbound marketing and content marketing or tactics like banner advertising, PPC (pay-per-click), SEO (search engine optimization) SEM (search engine marketing), social media and video, specifically on the internet to market products and services. Digital is not print magazine advertising, billboard, radio, tradeshow or T.V. Although digital is used to promote or augment these traditional mass marketing methods towards the desired result e.g. more sales, these methods are often difficult to measure.

Digital marketing budgets continue to increase as a preferred method of marketing and advertising by senior executives because of digitals’ ability to prove ROI. (Source: HubSpot)

According to the latest survey, more than two-thirds of Americans own smartphones. More people are shopping online—up 14% from 298.3 billion in 2015. (Source: Internet Retailer) And now for the first time over 50% of all web traffic is from mobile.

I would also add—just as an observation—more hunters and shooters are taking their smartphones into duck blinds, deer stands, and gun ranges. They’re searching for tips, products, and information while participating in outdoor activities. They are also comparing prices with other retailers online while shopping in-store. 

hunting-firearms-marketing

Photo credit: Bass Pro Shops

Although many customers still prefer to shop in-store—customers are increasingly buying firearms, ammo, hunting supplies and accessories directly online. (Source: NSSF)

With over 70% of the sales process starting online and digital marketing becoming something hunting and firearm brands can no longer ignore—here are seven factors necessary to making the move to “digital.”

 

1. Website: Build a mobile-friendly digital hub

Some of the biggest names in the industry still have yet to move towards a mobile-friendly or otherwise known as a responsive web page format (websites that scale with screen size). Did you know that Google—who controls over 60% (Source: Search Engine Land) of all web search traffic—favors websites that are mobile-friendly? 74 percent of mobile users will leave unresponsive sites. And nearly a fourth of all Internet users access the Internet solely through mobile devices.

If you haven’t made the move to a mobile-friendly website, this should be your number one priority because right now you’re losing out on hundreds to thousands of potential customers, subscribers, and sales. 

A recent Google survey of mobile users found that 72 percent of mobile users say it’s important to them that websites are mobile-friendly, yet 96 percent have visited a site that doesn’t work well on their device. Almost three-quarters of respondents said they are more likely to revisit a mobile-friendly site. Users are five times more likely to abandon the task they are trying to complete if the site isn’t optimized for mobile use, with 79 percent saying they will go back to search and try to find another site to meet their needs.

Almost three-quarters of respondents said they are more likely to revisit a mobile-friendly site. Users are five times more likely to abandon the task they are trying to complete if the site isn’t optimized for mobile use, with 79 percent saying they will go back to search and try to find another site to meet their needs. (Source: Search Engine Watch)

If this is starting to make you feel uncomfortable—there are several ways to get “mobile-friendly” fast. A complete website redesign is usually what’s required, but you can convert your current static website through making a few changes in your CSS (cascading style sheets) which means just changing your site’s code to percentages rather than fixed heights and widths. Talk to your web designer/developer on what it would take to make these changes if a web redesign isn’t possible.

 

2. Content: Build a robust content library

Starting with your positioning and brand strategy, create your content: downloadable offers, photos, and imagery. Start with your FAQs. How many of those questions can be turned into articles, how-to’s and videos?

Invest in professional photography and helpful search engine optimized blog articles and content, to begin building a digital foundation that can be grown and improved over time. The best part about content is that it can be tested, used across multiple formats and eventually retargeted. This can save time and money in the long run. Distribute this content far and wide through blog posts, email, social media, trade shows, dealer training, T.V. commercials and even in your sales process. Just like the print advertising you’re used to—think of content as “small ads” that “pull” your prospects to your brand through entertainment, education, and information—instead of “pushing” a message.  

 

social-media-firearms-digital-marketing

Photo credit: Springfield Armory

3. Social Media: Use a mix of “push” and “pull” 

One way to expand your shares and likes as well as drive traffic to your website is by having a good mix of helpful content in addition to the news, events and giveaways you’re most likely posting now. Brands that have this figured out are not only “pushing” their products but are also “pulling” their customers to them by helping them to become better at their identified interests. See Springfield Armory’s Facebook feed for a good example. 

“If you’re not heading in the direction of digital in the hunting and firearms industry, your brand is being left behind, and thousands if not millions of dollars are not making it into your company’s bank account.”

As mentioned above, you can only grow your audience and brand so far on social media with what you’ve been doing which most likely consists of “pushing” your product(s) with photos, videos, giveaways or questions i.e. “who’s going hunting this weekend?” Sure these posts are fun and sometimes drives engagement, but this doesn’t keep your brand relevant. Seek to add value and information to your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds. Add in a video from Facebook Live to increase engagement. Aim to make your customers better, smarter and more informed. Your brand should be seen as “the expert” in your category. These tactics will pay dividends when your prospects or customers start looking to purchase that new optic, handguard, suppressor, lower, backpack, etc.

 

firearm-email-marketing

Photo credit: Stag Arms

4. Email Marketing: Your most effective channel

Email marketing is more powerful than it’s ever been. The reason is clear–for ten years in a row, email is the channel generating the highest ROI for marketers. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI. When you want to grow your business, acquire new customers, launch a new product, offer a promotion, you turn to email. Why? Because email delivers better than any other channel. Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. (Source: Campaign Monitor) And as discussed in my last post, 7 Ways to Deepen your Digital Marketing Footprint, email marketing is the main mechanism to build and stay in contact with your audience. 

 

5. Landing Pages: Capture your audience

Landing pages are used to capture user data, such as a name and email address. The sole purpose of the page is to collect information that will allow you to market to and connect with the prospect at a subsequent time. As such, a lead capture page will contain a form along with a description of what you’ll get in return for submitting your personal data. (Source: Unbounce

There are many uses for landing pages:

  • Ebook or whitepaper
  • Giveaways
  • Discount coupon/voucher
  • Contest entry
  • Free trial
  • Notification of a future product launch

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

 

6. SEO: Don’t miss out on organic traffic

SEO is becoming an increasingly overlooked way to drive more traffic and sales to industry websites. Top brands are missing out on traffic that typically total in the tens of thousands because they don’t rank for the terms their prospective customers are searching for. This leaves open opportunities for your competitors to outrank you in the digital space. People are no longer just searching Google, Bing or Yahoo—they’re also searching Facebook, Twitter, Gun District, YouTube, forums and other networks as well. 

Start by conducting what search terms classify your products and what will drive the most traffic with tools like Moz, SEMRush or Wordtracker. Most offer a free 30-day trial.

Here are a few examples of how many leading industry product search words you may be missing out on per month:

  • hunting scope: 4,400
  • ar15: 110,000
  • ak47: 49,500
  • gun safe: 90,500
  • hunting knife: 6,600
  • suppressor: 12,100
  • silencer: 9,900
  • hunting backpack: 1,600

(Source: HubSpot’s keyword tool)

 

7. Analytics: Measure your results 

Do you know what your bounce rate is? Do you also know if your social media likes or shares are translating into sales? Analytics are critical in any digital firearm or hunting marketing strategy because it allows you to track what’s working and what’s not. Analytics allow you to make better decisions like how much ROI your marketing is providing.

The ability to track and measure your marketing is perhaps the greatest benefit to going digital. This is especially beneficial for brands that run an online store.

Click here to get Google Analytics installed to begin measuring your website’s efficiency if you haven’t already. Without analytics, you’re flying blind.

Overall, most industry brands have a long way to go. Those who start now will be in a position to add a valuable revenue channel to their company’s bottom line and leave their competition in the dust. By building in the above seven factors, you’ll be well on your way to “going digital.” 

 

 

hunting-outdoor-firearm-inbound-marketing-checklist2

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Inbound Marketing Checklist

Are you utilizing the most efficient channels for your digital marketing?

Chances are, you might be overlooking a few that can help drive more business to your website. To make sure you’re not missing any opportunities, we’ve put together a Free Campaign Checklist with our partner HubSpot.

Download Checklist 

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

Josh Claflin, Principle at Garrison Everest, helps companies in the outdoor, tech, and firearm industries who are struggling to develop clear brand messaging and increase revenue through online channels to grow in the digital era of marketing. Contact Josh  for a free consultation.