It’s 2017, and it’s harder than ever to get your message out to law-abiding customers. If you’re not a big well-known brand like Colt, Remington 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, 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 six 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. Hard coded Ads on YouTube
With over 1 billion users per month, YouTube is the largest broadcast network on the planet. Owned by Google, their policy states gun advertising is not allowed. However, by utilizing product review videos, or how-to videos, you can essentially hard code your ad into a video. Below is an example by Military Arms Channel. Skip to 16:27—notice how Optics Planet inserts their ad at the end. Prices can vary from $500-$15,000 depending on who you sign up with, but you can still advertise (for now) on YouTube if you provide it in the context of a how-to or product review.
If you have not heard of Gun District, you should go check it out. It’s Facebook for the hunting, shooting, firearms and outdoor community. With growth averaging 100,000 page views per week with more than a 100 percent increase in membership on a weekly basis (Source: Ammoland)—Gun District has the potential to be a viable marketing channel for firearm manufacturers.
3. 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, close, convert 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.
4. 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.
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.
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 Hickok45, 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 new marketing strategy that is trackable, and that bucks the trend of declining traditional marketing methods.
Free Ebook: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Inbound Marketing for the Shooting and Firearms Industry
In this comprehensive guide, you will learn the 6 essential steps to internet marketing success.
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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.