For most emerging firearms and outdoor sports companies growing market share comes down to a matter of numbers.
You know your product is good because you’ve gone to great lengths to make it durable, reliable and functional (which is an absolute must in this industry). You’ve received positive feedback from your customers, signed some solid purchase orders, your website, packaging and brand look great—but you just can’t seem to grow in the way or as fast as you’d like.
Smaller firearms, and outdoor sports manufacturers struggle to take their businesses to the next level because of the expensive barrier of entry to print advertising, T.V and trade shows.
Market industry leaders—or the goliaths—enjoy market dominance and the bulk of the market because of years of brand building. Their massive marketing budgets are hard to beat, making it seemingly impossible for the David’s or the emerging companies to compete against.
However, as some us well know—to bag the beast—you must outthink the beast.
If you haven’t noticed lately, magazine subscriptions are in decline (Source: Folio) and everything seems to be migrating online. Your customers are going to the internet first to research products. Look at some of these revealing statistics:
- 61% of global Internet users research products online. (Source: Interconnected World: Shopping and Personal Finance)
- 93% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. (Source: Hubspot)
- 90% of the purchase lifecycle is over before a customer decides to buy (Source: iMedia)
- 65% of U.S. shoppers research products and services on a computer and make a purchase in-store (Source: Cisco)
… and these numbers are on the rise.
In this article, I give you 6 points about how you can “outthink” your competition in the firearms, shooting or outdoor sports business by looking at an online strategy first—versus investing more in trade show, TV or print.
1. What is inbound marketing?
Since 2006, inbound marketing has been an effective marketing method for doing business online. Sometimes called “digital” or “content marketing,” “inbound” is the opposite of “outbound marketing.” Where outbound is buying print ads, placing a TV spot and praying for customers; inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests and by solving their problems and answering their most burning questions about: “What AR-15 should I buy? What do I need in an optic? Or what kind of recoil pad is the best? — you naturally attract website visitors—or inbound traffic—that you can convert to customers and turn them into promoters of your brand. (Source: Hubspot)
An inbound approach also lends credibility and trust to your dealers by enabling them to reference great information off your website when their customers are asking for recommendations on what to buy or how your product works.
2. Why inbound marketing now?
Consumer behavior has shifted over the years. The days of “push” advertising and “salesy” tactics have lost their effectiveness. If you think about it, you yourself skip television commercials when watching your favorite show on the Sportsman Channel, ignore flashing online ads when surfing GunsandAmmo.com, hang up on cold callers, tune out radio ads that you have no interest in and throw the direct mail in the trash. Years of being bombarded with this “intrusive” form of advertising has changed the way consumers prefer to get information about the products they want to buy. Inbound turns outbound on its head. Instead of constantly pushing your message on your customers, you attract them to your website through your content.
Inbound marketing has been proven to generate 54% more leads than traditional paid marketing and saves you $20K on average a year over outbound marketing.
3. Content is the secret sauce
Content can be a blog, video, checklist, ebook, whitepaper or a download that attempts to solve your customer’s problems in a relevant way. Blogging is the best way to get started. Did you know that if you’re not creating content on a regular basis, Google will drop your search engine rankings?
For a good example of a blog, take a look at Beretta’s blog.
4. What am I going to write about?
Everyone is an expert in something. If writing isn’t your forte, you can always hire someone to help you out. There are hundreds of industry writers looking for work. Start by forming a list of questions that you hear most from your customers or dealers. Take that list and form it into a series of blog posts. In time, you’ll have more than enough to write about.
Most companies in this industry who blog—are blogging mostly for self-promotional purposes. Shooters, firearms, and outdoor enthusiasts don’t want to hear how great you are—they want to hear how you can help them. In the process, you’ll earn their respect, trust and ultimately their wallet.
5. Online marketing is not about Facebook and Instagram likes
There are plenty of manufacturers who have thousands of followers and likes on their Facebook/Instagram page. However, those likes don’t necessarily translate into website traffic and sales—especially now that less than 1% of your posts are ever seen by your followers. It is important to show “social proof” but Facebook likes alone does not mean you have an online marketing strategy. And with more and more anti-gun sentiment on social media, investing in Facebook is getting risky.
Today, there are only a few companies in the hunting, firearm and outdoor sports industry doing inbound marketing. From working in multiple industries and in the firearms/outdoor industry with a very well known brand—that the world, in general, is moving more and more online. The companies who start now will have a huge advantage down the road. By owning the online space in your category—be it knives, firearms, tactical rifles, safes, optics, suppressors, EDC etc.—you will gain significant advantage over your competitors.