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Firearms Marketing

firearm hunting customer review marketing

How to Get Online Firearm Customer Reviews That Boost Your Business

By | Firearms Marketing

 

It’s not hard to figure out that online reviews are essential to building and maintaining a firearm, hunting or outdoor business these days. After all, we all use our phones, search engines, and social media profiles to look up new businesses and products every day.

Customer trust in businesses is fading. HubSpot Research found that customers trust recommendations from friends and family over any type of online marketing and advertising your brand can create. And in the absence of trusted recommendations, according to BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews are much as personal recommendations—the single most trustworthy and credible source of “advertising” out there. (Source: Hubspot)

This fact puts an exclamation point on the notion that you need to establish a robust digital footprint and keep the positive feedback flowing.

What many marketers and business owners want is a way to speed this process up and make it less time-consuming. So today I want to share some quick and easy tips you can use to get the online reviews you need to boost your bottom line in the real world. Here’s how you can get started…

 

Make Your Brand Review-Worthy

Before we get into the online marketing component of things, it’s worth pointing out that the best thing you can do to get more and better online reviews is to build a great product and create a brand that cuts through the clutter. Make sure your team is well-trained, and your products or services represent good value for the money. Do that, and many of your customers will feel compelled to leave positive reviews for you just because they’ve had a good experience.

 

Complete Your Online Profiles

You can’t accumulate dozens or hundreds of positive online reviews if buyers don’t have a place to leave them. In addition to issuing a space for reviews on your website, it’s crucial that you have an existing presence on Yelp (Dealers and Instructors), Facebook, and glowing reviews on YouTube, Full30.com, industry blogs, and publisher sites. Having completed accounts with photos and contact details makes your business easier to find while encouraging customer feedback at the same time.

 

Double Check the Pertinent Details

Although you may be primarily concerned with accumulating reviews online, you should know that all of these profiles serve a secondary purpose, as well. Google will often scan online business listings to verify things like location and contact details. That makes it very important that all of your different profiles be consistent from one entry to the next. In search results, your ratings will also show up in the results that will further build trust with your prospects.

firearm customer review ammo

Get Some Social Buzz Going

The outdoor and firearms community is not shy about sharing and interacting on social media—encourage them to add their comments, reviews, and experiences on your Facebook page or your website directly. Not only will their friends and contacts be able to see their comments, but you may see your reviews multiply—as groups of acquaintances and people in their network get in on the act to share their stories and opinions. Don’t be afraid to engage—and make sure to be available on Messenger, online chat or set up a chatbot.

Automate the Process

Setting up your accounts and getting those first few reviews is the hardest part of the process, but the work isn’t finished once a few buyers say good things about your business. The key is to keep your profiles up to date and encourage even more positive feedback. That gets a lot easier when you have the right tools.

Several services can automate this process. We utilize workflows within Klaviyo to ask for reviews 14 days after our client’s customers purchase from them. Other options include Rivet Works or Podium that gives you the capability to ask for reviews via text over mobile.

You can also set up free Google alerts or purchase social listening software like Mention to help you stay on top of negative reviews and leverage the positive ones to drive engagement and online sales.

In conclusion, if you’ve been missing out on the tremendous upside presented by online reviews and other cost-effective web strategies, now is the perfect time to implement them.

Contact Us Today

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

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

Firearm Brand Development

Do You Really Need A Firearm Brand Strategy?

By | Brand Development, Firearms Marketing

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

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

But, do you really need a brand strategy?

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

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

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

1. Make it easier for the customer to buy

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


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

Photo credit: Business Insider

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


3. Brand clarity and delivery spurs employee motivation

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


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

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

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

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

A brand strategy will save you from making costly decisions.

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

brand strategy extension failures

Photo credit: Recoil

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

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

6. The brand development exercise creates innovation

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

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


8. A strong brand creates preference which, equals profit

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


Photo credit: Guns.com

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

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

So, do you need a brand strategy?

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

firearm-brand-strategy

Photo credit: Magpul

 

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

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

Photo credit: F4 Defense, Jason Swarr, Straight 8

 

 

hunting-outdoor-firearms-brand-interview-guideFree Download:
Brand Development Interview Guide 

Developing your brand starts with asking the right questions. Use this guide to draft the questions to ask your customers/clients to uncover your brand.

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.

 

Marketing Firearms

Before You Invest In Firearm Marketing, Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

By | Firearms Marketing

Most new business owners in the firearm industry come from an engineering background. When it comes time to discuss marketing, most will avoid the subject—because after all, how many engineers studied marketing in college?

In light of this fact, you may be feeling anxious to do some “sort of marketing,” but you’re not sure what that “sort of marketing” is.

Should you buy a banner ad on Outdoor Wire, develop a full-fledged content department like Sitka, sponsor a woman-focused group like the Well Armed Women, pay $10,000 to go to SHOT show—and what about Facebook and Instagram?

Before you get to the part in your business that requires you to spend some money on marketing—there are four questions you need to ask to ensure that when it does come time to invest in marketing—it will work.

 

1. Solve a problem that has mass appeal.

If you look at the biggest companies and brands in the world, they all have one thing in common—they solve a problem that everyone has: computing (Apple), fast food (McDonald’s), transportation (Ford), fast consumer goods (Amazon). Or they have improved upon an outdated product (coolers) that everyone has to have (Yeti)—or they have brought to market a better product like Magpul’s polymer magazines. 

 

Yeti Coolers

Photo credit: Yeti

Question: What is the #1 problem your product solves? Find that problem or unique difference and solve it.

 

2. Quality is job #1

A quality product that is reliable and durable is only the starting line in this industry. If you can’t do that, you need to go back to the drawing board.

According to a leading manufacturer rep, I had the opportunity to talk to the other day stated, “if word gets out on the street, you have a good product—the product will sell itself, just stay out of your own way.”

Question: Is your product of high quality and has it been thoroughly tested?

But this is still not enough—there are two other factors that form the basis of successful marketing—and that is timing and price. If the time is not right for your product, it can suck the life out of your business.

 

Maxim

Photo credit: SilencerCo.

3. Is the timing right?

A recent example of hitting the market at the right time is the Maxim 50 by SilencerCo. The Maxim 50 solves a huge problem everyone has: hearing loss and hunting in States where only shotguns and muzzleloaders are allowed.

According to Williams Mullen’s firearm industry practice group, “The Maxim 50 and its permanently attached silencer is not considered a firearm or a suppressor under the NFA.  Individuals looking for a hearing safe gun, whether for hunting, collecting, or recreational shooting, can now purchase one without having to go through the ATF’s burdensome registration process, which requires certain law enforcement checks, fingerprints, law enforcement notifications, a multi-month waiting period, and a $200 tax stamp paid directly to Uncle Sam.”

By integrating the silencer into a muzzleloader platform, SilencerCo. was able to solve a major problem in the market at the perfect time, earning massive industry attention. On September 19, 2017 upon the product’s release, SilencerCo’s website crashed due to the massive response.

Question: Is the timing right? What trends will fuel your marketing efforts?

 

4. Is it priced right?
If you can’t achieve good margins on your product, or if you extend yourself by going to market with several products (instead of just one or two), you might be heading down a black hole where there is no return.

According to Entrepreneur, no matter what type of product you sell, the price you charge your customers will have a direct effect on the success of your business. Though pricing strategies can be complex, the basic rules of pricing are straightforward:

  • All prices must cover costs and profits.
  • The most effective way to lower prices is to lower costs.
  • Review prices frequently to assure that they reflect the dynamics of cost, market demand, response to the competition, and profit objectives.
  • Prices must be established to assure sales.

A new resource in the industry you may not have heard about is Gun Broker’s Pricing Report. Gun Broker offers access to National Firearm Pricing and Trends to help you understand how to best price your firearms and accessories. GunBroker.com boasts 6 million unique monthly visitors a month and conducts over $3 Billion in cumulative merchandise sales. 

 

Pricing Report

 

What about sales and distribution?

For most startups and growth-phase manufacturers, distributors typically won’t take you on until you have a sales record. The exception is, of course, you have a breakout product – like the Hudson H9. So start with the above—develop a winning marketing strategy—and in time—and with some sales hustle, you’ll have distributors taking note.

In conclusion, by solving a problem that has wide appeal, building a quality and thoroughly tested product, launching at the right time and pricing your product accordingly will help make your marketing more successful. 

Free Marketing Firearms Ebook


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the tech, 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 marketing seo

3 SEO Reminders for Firearm Website Optimization

By | Firearms Marketing

Search engine optimization is crucial for small-large firearm businesses when it comes to finding customers over the internet. Current estimates suggest that Google is processing roughly 4 ½ billion searches per day. It has largely replaced the Yellow Pages, print advertising, and even word-of-mouth recommendations when it comes to finding products and services.

Given that reality, it’s not surprising that so many small firearm business owners are constantly looking for a way to improve their visibility on Google (64% of market share), Bing (21% of market share) and others. However, experience has taught us that many of them miss the point in important ways. They want to get more search traffic but focus their efforts and attention on the wrong details and techniques.

In this quick post, let’s look at three reminders that firearm businesses need to keep in mind when optimizing their website for search.

1. Don’t Over-Optimize Every Page for Search

On-page search optimization is important and valuable, but it’s easy to overdo it. For one thing, content that is too focused on search visibility can have a dry, robotic feel. And for another, there are declining returns involved. Making a bunch of small changes to one page isn’t nearly as valuable as adding fresh content to your site in the form of a blog

This isn’t to say that you should prioritize quantity over quality, or that activities like keyword research, internal linking, and keyword optimization aren’t important. Instead, it’s a recognition that you need to balance your time and effort between polishing what you have and being a source of fresh content and ideas.

TIP: If you’re using WordPress, use Yoast to help you find the right balance of content and keywords.

 

2. Don’t Ignore Obvious Technical SEO Challenges

No matter how great the content on your website is, or what you’ve done to optimize your pages, Google isn’t going to pay much attention if you have obvious technical errors. Broken links, missing images, and slow page loading times are all signs of a poor user experience that will depress your search position.

Additionally, mobile functionality and SSL connections have become major search signals. If your website is missing these, then adding more content or focusing on different keywords isn’t going to make much of a difference. You simply can’t overlook the technical aspects of SEO and expect to get ahead of your competitors.

TIP: Use this Website Grader to see how your website stacks up.

 

3. SEO is an Ongoing Process

You can put a good search engine optimization plan into place, but unless you execute and refine your approach over time, you’re eventually going to end up being “stuck” in a lower search position. That’s partly because search patterns and best practices change, but also because it takes time and testing to increase conversion rates for incoming visitors.

In other words, search engine optimization isn’t something you’re going to do or invest in once and then cross off your list. If you really want to make it an important part of your inbound marketing plan, you’re going to have to stick with it over time.

When search engine optimization was still a new marketing technique, you could do a little bit of work and see your sales numbers increase dramatically in a very short period of time. Now, the rewards of earning a top position on Google are greater than never, but the competition is more intense. If you want to improve your bottom line through SEO, it’s imperative you keep adding fresh content, don’t overlook the technical aspects of your site, and follow a plan that keeps you moving forward.

TIP: Check out SEMRush’s free tool to get the inside track on SEO and your competitors.

 

Get Free Marketing Assessement!


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the tech, 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 Voice Search Web Marketing

What is the Best Way to Optimize Your Firearms Website for Voice Search?

By | Firearms Marketing

As you’ve probably noticed by now, everyone is using voice search these days. More and more, your customers are bypassing Google’s minimalist homepage and opting to simply ask an app — backed by artificial intelligence—to find what they are looking for. The change isn’t being driven solely by mobile devices, either – digital assistants are making their way into operating systems, bringing voice search capability to traditional Windows (Cortana) and Apple (Siri) laptop and desktop computers.

For the average internet user, this means more convenience than ever. For a marketer, though, the rise of these tools poses a brand-new question: how do you optimize your website for voice search?

In this post, we give you a few things to consider and how to prepare for the future.

 

1. The First Step Towards Optimizing Your Website for Voice Search

40% of adults now use voice search once per day, according to Location World. Some predict, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. If you want to capture voice search traffic (and you should), then it’s important to realize that these types of queries aren’t structured in terms of traditional keywords. Instead, they are spoken in a natural language question-and-answer format.

Although exact matching has become less important and relevant in recent SEO iterations, it does still hold weight with voice search. So, having text, titles, and headlines like the one we used above – how do you optimize your firearms website for voice search? – can be helpful. The more of this type of content you have on your website, the easier it’s going to be for voice searchers to find you.

 

2. How to Integrate Questions and Answers Into Your Website

For firearm marketers who are used to thinking in terms of market-based keywords, posting content in natural language terms can actually feel a bit awkward. Besides, you don’t want to undo your existing SEO efforts to capture voice search traffic.

Knowing that one great idea is to simply beef up your Frequently Asked Questions page. This is the one place on your website where you can post as many natural language phrases as you want, and they are likely to be structured in a way that Google can easily crawl and understand.

Additionally, you might consider adding separate pages or blog posts for questions that come up often or point specifically to your expertise. Articles like this one can standout in Google’s search listings without making your FAQ pages seem unnecessarily long.

 

3. Finding the Right Questions and Phrases to Target

As with anything else in search engine optimization, finding the right targets is every bit as important as executing your plan. And with nearly 50% of people now using voice search when researching products (Source: Social Media Today), you should do what you can to identify the kinds of questions your best customers are likely to ask when using voice-assisted search apps.

Open Siri and give these a try:

  • What is the best AR15?
  • How much does a gun safe cost?
  • Where is the closest gun range?
  • What is Springfield Armory’s XDE Series warranty?
  • How do I attract Millennial gun buyers?

Naturally, you could begin by evaluating the kinds of things buyers tend to ask you about on phone calls, chats or during face-to-face meetings. You could also look into your web analytics to see what searchers are typing into Google that leads them to arrive at your website. Another good source for material is Google’s own auto-complete function, which could suggest natural language question combinations to you.

Firearm Website Voice Search

Each of these is a good way to brainstorm new ideas, and all of them can help you bring more voice searchers to your site. At the moment, that simply means you have one more edge over your online competitors. As voice search becomes more and more popular, though, it could put you on the cutting-edge of SEO for years to come.

If you could use some internet marketing and search engine optimization advice that’s tailored to your business and challenges, now is the perfect time to schedule a free consultation with our team and see how we can help. The future is coming! 

Get Free Assessement!


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the tech, 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 Lifecycle Marketing

Use Lifecycle Marketing to Boost Your Firearm E-commerce Revenue

By | Firearms Marketing

Growth is hard—and expensive. The companies you see growing quickly, have a lot of money and usually have a really cool product. Does this describe you? 

When you think about ecommerce—the first thing most people think about is generating a sale. It’s all about the money, right? But what if I told you there’s more to it than that, and your thinking is too linear, and you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not taking the process further.

In this post, taken from a recent webinar by Austin Brawner, of Brand Growth Experts for Klaviyo—you’ll learn three assertions about how to boost revenue through your e-commerce store via lifecycle marketing.

What is Lifecycle Marketing?

Lifecycle marketing is creating a managed communications or contact strategy to prioritize and integrate the full range of marketing communications channels and experiences to support prospects and customers on their path-to-purchase using techniques such as persuasive personalized messaging and re-marketing. (Source: SmartInsights)

 

Firearm ecommerce Marketing

Source: SmartInsights

What is Klaviyo?
Klaviyo is a marketing automation platform that helps e-commerce marketers get better results from data-driven marketing. In data-driven marketing, the main objective is to use data to get the right message to the right person at the right time. The best way for a firearm, hunting, and outdoor companies to do so (right now) is by email marketing.

 

Klaviyo Firearm Email Marekting

Assertion #1
The fastest way to grow is to outspend and out-convert your competition.

Right now web traffic is a commodity. You can go and cut a check to any industry digital media outlet, Google or Facebook (non-FFL items) to buy traffic. If you can spend $10 where your competitor can only spend $5, you win that customer. And if you can out-convert your competition, this means you are getting more of that traffic and more customers—which means more market share.

Assertion #2
Email marketing (when done correctly) virtually guarantees that you can outspend your competition. To spend more, you need to be able to either convert better or net a greater Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

To explain this, let’s look at the Cost of Acquisition Payback Model.

What is CAC and Why Should You Care?

To put it simply – CAC is the total cost of sales and marketing efforts that are needed to acquire a customer. It is one of the defining factors in whether your company has a viable business model that can yield profits by keeping acquisition costs low as you scale. (Source: ProftWell)

CAC Model Lifecycle Marketing

The Cost of Acquisition Payback Model says that it will cost you money to get a customer (red), but after that customer purchases from you, you begin to break even and start to make that money back—over time. The goal is to move those customers into the (green) through repeat purchases. And the best way to do that is through email. The reason? Email creates more repeat purchases which are more profitable. According to the Direct Marketing Association, it yields an estimated 4,300 percent ROI. Every dollar spent on email marketing offers a return of $44, says ExactTarget.

If you have customers, that are interested in what you’re doing and you’ve won them over with your brand and products, email (right now) is the best way to continue to market to them. In the table below, you can see how one company was able to double purchases—the second order is almost 4x more valuable than the first.

Firearm CAC

Source: Brand Growth Experts

But one of the hardest parts of e-commerce is turning a 1x customer into a repeat buyer. Customer churn is expensive, time-consuming, and taxing. Once you have your customer, you must work hard to keep them engaged.

Repeat business is the key from going to ‘feast or famine’ to stable, predictable revenue—like a SAAS company.

In a second example (below), when compared to Pay Per Click, you can see from this data, the difference between email and paid search, even when the order amounts are the same (250), the profit margin between email and paid is substantial. PPC obviously won’t apply to FFL items—but for scopes, holsters, safes, and other kinds of hunting, outdoor or firearm gear—this can be substantial savings.

 

Firearms PPC vs Email Marketing

Source: Brand Growth Experts

 

Assertion #3
The best way to implement email marketing is via a handful of proven lifecycle marketing campaigns.

Lifecycle Marketing

When a customer comes to your site, the customer is usually fairly excited and may end up purchasing more than one product from you. But over time, they become less engaged and will need more incentives and better offers to entice them to buy. So your goal as a marketer is to decrease friction with better offers. It’s also smart at this point to augment your email marketing efforts with content or inbound marketing to build/sustain your customer base and influence customer loyalty. 

The lifecycle dictates how to market: right offer, right segment, right time.

Conclusion: Master lifecycle marketing, master growth.

Email marketing combined with lifecycle marketing is one of the most powerful tools available to firearm, outdoor and hunting marketers—yet few have implemented it. Investing in a robust email marketing program that is wrapped into lifecycle marketing not only can generate revenue but build your brand and create customers for life.

Interested in seeing how your e-commerce store can be improved?

Contact Us Today!

 

Enhance your Firearm Digital Marketing


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the tech, 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 Marketing in a Slow Economy

4 Questions About Firearm Marketing When Sales Slow Down

By | Firearms Marketing

Whether you’re seeing a “Trump Bump” or a “Trump Slump”—there are plenty of conflicting reports out there that provide insight into the health of our industry. Some true, but most of them false.

However, when sales are in a slump or your segment of the gun industry is stagnant (i.e. suppressors), consistent and creative marketing can be done cost efficiently to give you a little extra boost if you know where to start.

In this post, I answer four questions recently asked of me by a friend in the firearms industry that pertains to marketing when things begin to slow down. I hope these answers will give you some insight on how you can cost effectively boost your online sales if you’re in a slump.

 

Q1. What should a company think about when determining its marketing strategy in a slower economy?

A: It’s generally accepted that it costs three times more to find a new customer than it does to sell to an existing customer. In a slow economy (or when sales slow), focusing on your current customer base by using cross-sell/upsell tactics and customer-only incentives through email should be part of your plan to boost/sustain sales. Firearm enthusiasts tend to be fiercely loyal to the brands in which they put their trust. If you’re not showing love to your current customers via email marketing and social media—they may go somewhere else. Firearm manufacturers can no longer afford to have a one-way conversation with their customers, especially in a slow economy.

 

Q2. How does the slower economy affect, if at all, the mix of print vs. digital marketing?

A: A majority of firearm companies have not moved with their customers online. We need to remember firearm customers are also buyers of smartphones, music, cars, home repair services, technology etc. Over 60% of people begin research for these products and services on search engines. I believe traditional marketing is still important in the firearms industry because a lot of the opportunities other industries have available have been taken away from firearm brands (Facebook Ads, YouTube, and Google PPC). However, as firearm enthusiasts become younger, more urban and more ethnic, a magazine will not be the first place they go to research guns. Trends show more marketing budgets are being allocated to digital marketing (influencers, email, marketing automation, SEO, e-commerce, and content) because it’s cheaper, trackable and can be done in real-time. 

 

Q3. What are some low-budget but effective marketing tactics firearms and gear companies should consider? 

A: Influencer marketing has always been part of a smart marketing mix in the firearms industry. I believe it’s never been more important given the rise in fake news and manipulative advertising. Influencer marketing can be a low-cost way to reach hunters/shooters who have trusted followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The second—and just as important—is combining email marketing with segmentation, abandoned cart, personalization and automated workflows. These programs have shown to have a high-rate of return on investment and are a highly effective way to convert new customers, retarget old customers and keep current ones engaged. 

Check out these email automation software providers:

  1. Klaviyo
  2. Seventh Sense
  3. HubSpot
  4. Mail Chimp / Mandrill

Q4. What marketing strategy or tactic is absolutely crucial these days — and why?

A. Today, companies still need a marketing budget that mixes print, tv and trade show—but when things slow down, digital and e-commerce can deliver more bang for the buck. This is especially important for manufacturers with smaller budgets and a small list of dealers. By focusing on helping your customers become better in whatever their particular interests are (recreational, competition, home defense, tactical etc.) along with an innovative product roadmap, firearm brands will be able to remain fresh and relevant.

Customers want to hear from the brands they trust. When your brand is the most trusted and top of mind—customers are more likely to choose your brand over any alternatives.

What do you think? Comment below or send me an email.

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the tech, 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 marketing success failures

5 Successful Firearm Marketing Failures To Learn From

By | Firearms Marketing

Over the past 17+ years as a designer/marketer—I’ve experienced many successes as well as failures. To fail is human, and to fail is to get better—as long as you learn from your mistakes and don’t give up.

After some recent time off and reflection on a recent face plant—I asked myself, how can I reduce failure and improve my processes, so I don’t repeat them?

In this “rubber meets the road” post, I want to share five hard-learned “successful failures.” I call them “successful failures” because I have learned from these “biffs” which have made me a better marketing professional and person. I hope you can apply some of these to your own business or marketing career—whether you work for a firearm brand or are going it alone.

 

1. Always identify the problem you’re solving.

I was recently approached by a large brand with the goal of expanding market share. They didn’t know how, why or where to start. This vague and all-encompassing goal had no clear finish line. After much time and thought I realized I had nowhere to start on building a strategy because the goal was too broad. After going back to get the information I needed, I was met with resistance because the VP was not open to new ideas. This left me with a proposal that talked in circles and that was ultimately turned down. 

When goals are not defined, they end up causing a lot of confusion. Pain must be identified to find the problem you’re trying to solve. If the goal isn’t black and white; figuring out which way to proceed can be costly.

Lesson: Define the pain points you’re trying to solve for and use the SMART method to determine your strategy. Get to the heart of the problem and stick to it. When things start to veer off-course—always point back to the goal you and your team agreed on. Do not accept directions or requests that are vague.

 

2. You can’t put lipstick on a pig.

Several years ago, I worked with a start-up who came to me with the goal of quadrupling their online sales in one year. The company was unknown, and the product had several flaws. They had ample budget from the start but soon ran out of money once the program didn’t bring in the expected revenue. This was mostly due to product returns, complaints and the fact this product was more of “nice to have” than a “have to have.” Plus, the product was overpriced and their website was poorly designed and loaded slowly.  

They raised more money, tried a different marketing approach with a different firm which also failed. They eventually went out of business.

I receive calls weekly from start-ups and entrepreneurs who claim their product is a game changer. In my early days, I would take any project that came across my desk. But after several failed projects—like the one listed above, I now know better.

When a new lead comes in, I’ll spend 15 -30 minutes on the phone to talk with that person to understand more about their product and more importantly—try to figure out what kind of person they are. After reviewing and running it through my qualifying filter which looks something like this:

  1. What is the problem this product solves?
  2. Is there a large group of people who have this same problem?
  3. Does this product address the problem in an easy way?
  4. Is this product a “nice to have” or a “have to have?”
  5. Does this product disrupt a category?
  6. Is it the right timing for this product?
  7. What trends can this product ride?
  8. Can I work with this person or company?
  9. What does the competitive landscape look like?
  10. What will it take to achieve this business’s goals?

After the above ten questions are answered—I’ll usually have a good idea on whether or not we can help them and go back to schedule a longer exploratory call. It’s taken a long time to get to this point of understanding and many setbacks.

Lesson: All the marketing in the world won’t make a bad product good.

 

3. Pick the right projects and learn how to “manage your boss” (or client).

I’ve met many hard-charging entrepreneurs, business owners and marketers over the years—and one thing I’ve learned through—trial and error—is how to best manage them. I’ve worked with many individuals who I’ve liked, some who have become good friends and others who I’d rather not ever think about again.

Everyone is different and everyone has different expectations, ways of learning communicating and working. It’s up to you to figure out how to best manage the relationship. 

In his book, Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker explains how to figure out the best way to work with your boss (or clients) through understanding your strengths, weaknesses, how you work, how you learn, your values and how you can best contribute to your organization. 

“Bosses are neither a title on the organization chart nor a “function.” They are individuals and are entitled to do their best work in the way they do it best. It is incumbent on the people who work with them to observe them, to find out how they work, and to adapt themselves to what makes their bosses (or clients) most effective. This, is fact, is the secret of “managing” the boss.

Lesson: Learn who you are, what you’re best at, how you learn and how you best work. Keep to your core set of skills and inform the people that you work with how you work. Then learn how your clients, boss or co-workers work. This will make for better business relationships and ultimately better marketing outcomes.

 

4. Slow down. 

I’m very eager to please my clients—and this has gotten me in a lot of trouble when the production schedule gets off track.  

By saying you’ll have it done on Tuesday and then are not able to deliver it till Friday because a hundred things popped up (hacked website, downed servers, file transfers, email issues or just life in general) will tarnish your reputation and leave people questioning whether they made the right decision to hire you. Or, you rush through the deliverable to find out (from the client) it’s riddled with spelling errors and missed requests. 

Lesson: Don’t be afraid when setting the timeline to add one or two days (or a week) to everything you promise to deliver on. When it comes to contracts or project specs, go over the schedule in detail to make sure everyone is on the same page and expectations are set correctly. If you’re going to be late, tell the recipient well in advance, explain the situation and remedy it as soon as possible. Send your team, clients or stakeholders progress/update at least twice a week. Always remind yourself of the adage “under promise, over deliver.”

 

5. Don’t deviate from your core skill set.

I try to focus on three disciplines: brand development, design and utilize inbound marketing tactics to deliver my client’s brand to their customers. When I find myself talking to clients about things out of my core area of expertise, things start to go sideways and I end up trying to stick a round peg into a square hole.

Lesson: Stick with your core skill set and don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Find experts in the areas you need help with. You will cause yourself less stress and deliver a better work product.

To sum up, marketing a firearm business can be extremely difficult—filled with failures, restarts, and do-overs. This is a competitive industry. Sometimes you need to figure it out as you go before finding out what works.

It took NASA over twelve attempts to get a rocket off the launch pad (Source: Wikipedia). Imagine if NASA would have given up after the 11th try. There’d be a Russian flag on the Moon rather than the Stars and Stripes. 

Hard-lessons make us better. The world was built on them.

So no matter where you’re at, keep at it. You might be one month away from a breakthrough that will change your life and business forever. Keep trying and don’t give up. Figure out what you’re best at and focus on getting better. Slow down, over communicate, fail often—fail fast and always keep striving to achieve your goals, no matter what they are.

Questions. Comments? Comment below or send me an email.

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the tech, 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.

 

SEO and Firearm Content Marketing

SEO and Firearm Content Marketing – Why You Can’t Do One Without The Other

By | Firearms Marketing

With the firearms industry coming off of eight record years of growth—traffic on your website may be dropping, sales may be slowing, and panic may be beginning to set in.

You may have clicked on this post because you’re looking to get into digital marketing and you’ve heard SEO may be the place to start.

Whatever best describes you, in this short and abbreviated post, I’ll explain the difference between SEO and firearm content marketing and why in 2017 you can’t do one without the other.

SEO

SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. (Source: Moz) By gaining visibility on search engines through organic (non-paid) results, your business can generate traffic, which in turn can equal sales. And with over 81% of all product searches beginning on the web, if you’re not showing up in search, your business may as well not exist.

Organic traffic in the firearms industry has a much higher rate of return because people searching are actively buying. This means their wallets are open and they are looking for a solution to their problem.

There are many factors involved in optimizing your website for search engines. Listed below are top ten must-dos to start. 

  1. Your website must be mobile responsive.
  2. Keywords that your prospects are searching for should be placed in the title tags of your website.
  3. Make sure your images are optimized to their lowest file size to decrease page load times and that they are also named using your keywords.
  4. An informative META description on your web page(s) that also include your keywords.
  5. Writing content on every page of your website that contains those same keywords at least five times (or 0.8%) within a 600-word text block.
  6. Having a well-designed page structure and code base where load hogging scripts are compressed and placed beneath the web page’s fold (the visible area of your website when it pulls up).
  7. A fast server and content delivery network.
  8. A good user interface that also contains your keywords in the main headings <h1>, <h2>, <h3> etc.
  9. Keywords in your URLs when possible.
  10. A good sitemap that can be read by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others.

And that’s just ten. There are almost 200 other ranking factors that go into a well-optimized website.

 

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. (Source: CMI)

SEO and content marketing is like a double-sided coin. Just like weight loss, you can’t just work out and expect to lose weight, you have to make smart eating decisions too— day after day, week after week, month after month to achieve your goals.

SEO and content marketing are somewhat similar.

You can’t gain and sustain ranked keywords without doing both SEO and content marketing—day after day, week after week, month after month to achieve your goals.

Here’s why. Google who controls over 60% of the entire planet’s traffic indicates you must create fresh and relevant content (Source: Google) for your site to attain and sustain keyword rankings.

Once again, ranked keywords = visibility = traffic = $$$.

When you optimize your website or are building a new one from the ground up—SEO is needed to start the fire where content is the fuel that keeps it going. Depending on how competitive the segment you play in (ARs, Outfitting, Concealed Carry, Optics, Safes, Lasers etc.) you may need more or less content to compete. Online dealers get this. Companies like Optics Planet, Brownells, and Lucky Gunner have large digital footprints and have been building content for years and in the process turned themselves into a brand which Google also seems to favor

Content marketing also helps to build backlinks, gives empowering information to social media followers and your email marketing subscribers, and attracts Influencers. Backlinks are important because they tell search engines that your site is more popular than your competitors hence, giving you higher rankings.

SEO and content are a double-sided coin. You can’t be successful with one without doing the other. They go together like gunpowder and brass, bows and arrows, turkey hunting and 12 gauges. If you hope to start building your own digital footprint through SEO and content for the future, the time to start is now.

 

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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.

 

artificial intelligence firearm marketing

What Does AI mean for Firearm Marketing?

By | AI Firearms Marketing, Firearms Marketing

Imagine knowing what email subject line always gets the highest open rate, what media buy offers the best value, and what combination of graphics, products, text, and CTAs produce the greatest results.

If you’re still skeptical on what you hear about artificial intelligence marketing or AIM for short, consider this post an introduction to help you understand what most are calling the “second industrial revolution.”

As more demands are put on marketers in the ultra-competitive firearms industry—an added advantage can mean the difference between who gets to market first and who doesn’t. We all know a great product goes a long way, but a great product with great marketing dominates.

For most of us, data can be a good thing—but it can also be a digital firearm marketer’s worse nightmare. With more and more data streaming in from social media, search engines, email marketing, automation, trade shows, banner ads, influencer platforms and others—data is or has become something of a curse. The term: “Paralysis by analysis” comes to mind.

That’s the irony with data-driven marketing. We have spreadsheets upon spreadsheets and dashboards upon dashboards—but do we really know what to do with it all? On any given day, you make a lot of small decisions that can have a significant impact on results:

  • What time should I send my email newsletter?
  • What topic should I write my next blog post on?
  • Should it be a blog post, or should it actually be a video?
  • And for that CTA in the conclusion, what color will actually make people click?

Thankfully, very soon, all of these questions will be answered by robots. Well, not robots, exactly … but artificial intelligence. (Source: HubSpot)

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence first and foremost isn’t what you’ve been led to believe in the movies. It doesn’t mean we’ll be under the rule of evil sentient beings i.e. the Terminator—or an army of robots seeking to take over the world. Even the best and brightest say that is an impossibility. (Source: GovTech) What it does mean is that man and machine will work together as a team.

Artificial intelligence is the “science of making machines smart,” says Demis Hassabis founder and CEO of AI company DeepMind (which was acquired by Google). At a basic level, “smart” means achieving a goal by mimicking human cognitive functions. That goal could be winning a board game, correctly identifying a cat in a photo, adeptly using data from sensors to drive a car or anything else a human can do.

There are many forms of AI already in existent. You might recognize a few already:

  • Siri by Apple
  • Watson by IBM
  • Einstein by Salesforce
  • Alexa by Amazon
  • Spotify Music Suggestions
  • Facebook face/tag recognition
  • Growthbot by HubSpot

How AI will help you

How AI correctly can be applied to the firearms industry, for the most part, is still unchartered waters. Companies with large eCommerce stores like GalleryofGuns.com and GunBroker.com may be the ones to benefit most from AI to help them analyze user data and trends—if they’re not already.

Other cutting edge manufacturers like Beretta who was one of the first to adopt marketing automation can adopt AI to analyze trends through their programs to send cross-sell and upsell email offers to their contacts at the right place and at the right time.

Tools like Databox can aggregate data from your entire Martech stack and give you a way to improve KPIs across the board based on accurate and definitive data that can be understood. Perhaps even a print ad in Guns and Ammo may be possible to optimize by design bots in the future.

AI Firearm Marketing Data

Business analytics by Databox combines data from multiple sources.

“AI is about automating known tasks without distraction. As humans, we get easily distracted. AI can operate without distractions and without wasting time, making AI teams more efficient,” says Digital Visionary, Kevin Kelly.

How AI can help you market more effectively

AI MarketingAI marketing assistants
If you’re looking to get started with AI, I recommend checking out Growthbot, a chatbot designed by Dharmesh Shah at HubSpot. Growthbot can help you discover keywords your competitors are using, top blog posts and other information that will inform you about your content marketing efforts. Here are a few sample commands of what Growthbot can do:

  1. What are top articles on recoilweb.com?
  2. What software does gunbroker.com use?
  3. Show me top posts from ammoland.com
  4. Company overview for sigsaurer.com
  5. Grade website walther.com
  6. Show me something funny
  7. Connect my Google analytics account
  8. How was organic traffic last week?

“Your marketing assistant in the future might well be an app that provides advanced analytics information to guide advertising or content-creation efforts to drive traffic to your company’s website,” says Dave Burnett of AOK Marketing.

These apps—most in their beginning stages—will continue to get smarter over time. They will help you save time, make smarter investment/media buying decisions and increase and accelerate revenue.

AI websites
Imagine a website you speak to, rather than typing in a search or clicking on the nav bar. A future prospect may visit Springfield Armory’s website, tell the site what they are looking for and then the site serves them three pistols for self-defense along with some videos and training articles—specifically designed and tailored to that known user’s interests.

This type of work is already taking place with companies like grid.io where all you do is place content and the site designs itself.

Better content through AI
Artificial intelligence platform Acrolinx uses a unique linguistic analytics engine to “read” all your content and provide immediate guidance to improve it. “Our technology is transforming how the world’s biggest brands create high-performing content,” says Dr. Andrew Bredenkamp, founder, and CEO. Other companies you should start becoming familiar with is MotivaAlbert, and BoomTrain.

Will AI take away our jobs?
Some say yes, some say no, regardless, what you should be doing right now is learning all you can about AI. How to use it, how it works and how you as a marketer will fit into the disruptive changes coming soon to our industry and marketing as a whole.

As you start to drink out of the fire hose that is AI, it’s important as firearm marketers to think ahead about how we can continue to push the industry forward in terms of technology, attract younger customers, delight current customers, and how all this wraps into protecting our 2nd amendment rights.

I predict, like others—AI will soon impact us all. Regulated industries seem to run 5-8 years behind when it comes to new technologies. Companies who can get out in front first will have a head start on what is sure to be an very interesting ride.

 

Enhance your Firearm Digital Marketing


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 email marketing

The 4 Principles of Effective Firearm Email Marketing

By | Firearms Marketing

Email marketing in the firearms industry continues to be a viable and cost-effective way to reach current customers and build trust with those who’ve yet to buy from you.

With more and more channels taken away from digital firearm marketers (Facebook Ads, YouTube, Google PPC, etc.) email marketing can become one of your brand’s greatest ways to generate revenue—if you understand how to do it right.

In this post, I’ll outline the four principles of an effective email marketing framework to help you make your email marketing more effective.

 

1. Rise of mobile

81% of smartphone users say email is the most popular activity they use their phone for. (Source: Pew Research) With this statistic in mind, it’s important for marketers in the firearm industry to design and develop emails with a mobile first strategy. Most popular email platforms like MailChimp, iContact, and Constant Contact provide mobile-based templates built-in. Just make sure when testing your campaigns that you check them in a mobile browser to make sure they load fast, the type is large enough to read, and the call-to- actions look correct.

 

2. The significance of segmentation

When asked to rate the statement: “Most of the marketing emails I receive include no content or offers that are of interest to me.” 63% agree or strongly agree. (Source: DMA)

Data suggests that context is just as important as content. Don’t send offers for hunting products to people who are only interested in concealed carry or vice-versa if you have multiple product lines.

“Segmentation is the first step in personalization.”

Get started with segmentation by using forms that ask users to self-identify. Start by identifying your buyer personas and create lists within your database or marketing automation software around customer groups with the same interests.

For example, a form element that asks a website visitor to signup for your newsletter or downloadable user manual may look like this:

What best describes you?
– Hunter
– Recreational Shooter
– Competition
– Military
– LEO

This will help you understand more about who your customers are so you can move closer to personalizing your offers.

 

3. The power of personalization

94% of businesses say personalization is critical to their current and future success. (Source: eConsultantcy). 

After segmentation, the first step in personalization is to have a way to sort your database contacts according to their interests within the broader segment. The second is to be able to identify what behaviors (actions) they took on your website to identify other areas of your product offering they might be interested in.

Behavioral marketing (BM) is perhaps one the biggest advancements in email marketing in recent years. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and event driven email technology, digital firearm marketers can become even more targeted and precise. (Source: Email Vendor Selection) BM can offer a distinct competitive advantage to companies wishing to optimize their firearm digital marketing and automation further.

What is behavioral email marketing?
Rather than maintaining simple ‘lists’ of customers, behavioral email marketing software allows you to build up an individual profile for each of your subscribers and sort them accordingly.

Behavioral email campaigns are based on the actions that your customers do (or do not take) when interacting with your business’ website. This allows you to send emails that truly matter to each individual recipient. (Source: Email Vendor Selection)

Using our example above, you may have a customer who has identified them self as a Hunter—but who has also visited your web page that sells choke tubes for turkey hunting at a middle price point. With behavioral marketing, you would send them an offer for a choke tube in the context of turkey hunting at the price point they’re interested versus a generic choke tube offer (or nothing at all). By using context, you’ll provide a more meaningful interaction and meet your customer at the right place and the right time—when they are actively looking for a choke tube for turkey hunting.

Statistics show that contextual emails (such as transactional and trigger-based campaigns) have an average open rate of around 50%, while offer-based emails have an average open rate of around 22%.

 

Context Firearm Email Marketing

 

Behavioral emails are effective because they are triggered based on a prospect’s behavior. As a result, these emails are almost never a surprise. They are an expected reaction to an action taken by a user.

That’s the true power of behavioral emails – they are activated by the user, not the marketer. (Source: HubSpot)

 

4. The importance of data-driven analysis and optimization

Analytics is the engine that powers the growth of your business. (Source: Hubspot)

Without a good and “understandable” analytics tool, you won’t know how to improve your email marketing efforts. Analytics helps you get away from “the send and pray you get a good click through rate” approach, that most firearm marketers conduct. Tools with A/B testing, dynamic content and the ability to use a customer’s name can help you understand what messages are working and what aren’t and help you become a better digital marketer in the process

When starting an email marketing program, begin with a mobile-first approach, start segmenting as soon as possible, personalize through behaviors and use a robust analytic tool to send event-based emails. By incorporating these four principles and optimizing over time, you can turn your email marketing program into one of your most profitable marketing channels.

 

Enhance your Firearm Digital Marketing


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.