A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eighty per cent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence those reviews have on the decisions people make. The rise of social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours. In the old days, you might have bought a Remington because that’s what dad had. Today, such considerations matter much less than reviews that you might find on Optics Planet, or Brownells. Each product now has to prove itself on its own.
The very first thing you must do to build your customer base is to have an outstanding product or service that solves a problem, lends status or helps your customer survive in a conventional way—and make it really cool. The product must be valid and ready for the world otherwise you’ll crash and burn.
However, if you have a great product (√check) and are looking to maximize your marketing to increase sales and build your brand and customer base, then here are 8 branding ideas to help you do that.
1. Be somebody
The old saying goes, “you can’t be everything to everyone.” Companies in the outdoor, hunting, adventure and shooting sports industry must find a way to stand out amongst the marketplace clutter and find the “whitespace.” Prove to your prospective customers you are worth their time by demonstrating how you will guide them to achieve their goal, i.e better marksman, hunter, self-defense or law enforcement.
2. Make them feel something
The best way to connect in today’s digital world is through storytelling and contextual marketing. Our ancestors sat around a fire telling stories since the dawn of time, and this still continues to this day—except now we get it from the social media. There is something intrinsically valuable to storytelling. When you connect with people at the heart level and make them feel something it will go a long way. Today’s marketing isn’t about highlighting features and benefits, it’s about “celebrating the benefit in the way it impacts other people’s lives,” says Simon Mainwaring, author of We First. Put your product in context of real everyday stories for greater impact.
For example, here is a great ad by Smith and Wesson, highlighting their customer promise.
“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” —Carl W. Buehner
3. Be authentic
The best way to be authentic is to just be your self. Too many brands today try to be something they’re not. Weave your personality into your content, messaging and imagery. Through authentic and good-willed communication, customers will innately share content and bring it to life.
4. Delight them after the sale
Do not have a “one and done” mentality. At the end of the sales process and after the project or product has been delivered, add value to your customers through events, continued education or through content that will solve their problems. Use social media to add value in the form of education, entertainment or problem solving. Show them you care well after the sale.
5. Make it all about them
Every product or service should be centered around what is called a buyer persona. If you don’t know your customer on a very personal level, you leave a lot of opportunity on the table. To truly make a product/service resonate with your customers your entire days’ activities should be based on solving their problems whatever they may be. Make your customer the hero of your business.
Here are a few examples:
- I’m a new gun owner and I can’t figure out what handgun to buy to protect my family. A retailer may offer me a free training class or range session for me to ask questions, test different guns and get a comfort level when shooting.
- I’m a facility manager looking for tips and products to best comply with OSHA standards. A distributor may send a video to the customer with options, how-tos and a case study of their service offering.
- Knife choices can be difficult for those who are not sure what type of hunting blade they will need. One option is to send recommendations to help them choose the appropriate tool.
6. Talk their language
Don’t use fancy terms and ‘gobblygook’. Talk their language. Using the examples above, meet them on the range, in their facility or in the field. Talk to them like an old friend. You have to earn your customer’s trust.
7. Give them what they want
Do your absolute best to make a great product and don’t cut corners. If your customers ask for something—give it to them! Give them a way to sound off on what is needed to make your products better. We will typically run surveys for our clients. This is a great way to gather data, improve products and build trust. You can create a customer support portal with an area titled “Submit product ideas” to encourage participation in your product or service development.
8. Hire for passion
Last, but not least, customer service—it has become the new marketing. When you provide great customer support you are much more likely to have that experience passed on via word-of-mouth.
A survey by Harvard Business Review concludes that customers want knowledgable frontline customer service reps and that the problem be resolved on the first call. On average, 40% of customers who suffer through bad experiences stop doing business with the offending company. This points to the importance of companies hiring people who align and know their brand(s) products best. Hire your customers. Three of the best examples out there is ETS, Seekins and Ruger to name a few. Go into any NSSF 5-star gun retailer like Royal Range here in Nashville, and you’ll find people as passionate about good equipment and the shooting sports as you are. You can’t train passion.
Is your product boring? Then the focus must be invested in storytelling, influencers and dramatizing your product. A great real-world example is Otis. Who gets excited about cleaning guns? Their social media feed takes a boring product and dramatizes to it another level.
In conclusion, it all starts with a great product. If you can’t get to the starting line with a great product, you need to go back to the drawing board. To connect that great product or service with your customer—you must be somebody, you must be authentic, social, make it all about them—not you, talk their language, give them what they want and provide outstanding customer service above all else!