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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.

firearm marketing rollout

How to Roll Out Your New Firearm Product (SHOT Show)

By Firearms and Shooting

 

This past year, we’ve seen several new products hit the market with plenty more to come. Several manufacturers unveiled new products at last week’s SHOT Show—which generated a lot of buzz among show attendees that resulted in hundreds of thousands of free advertising and purchase orders. Which begs the question—how can you create the same kind of buzz and attention for your upcoming product rollout? 

In this article, I look at this year’s four hottest releases: The Maxim 9 by SilencerCo., The Saint by Springfield Armory, the new H9 by Hudson Mfg. and, The Fixx by Q, LLC. When considering your product and how to introduce it to the industry and your prospective customers—here are ten considerations to take into account that will help you roll out your firearm product correctly and with greater success.

 

1. Proper testing before release

This obviously goes without saying. In this industry, it’s better not to launch a product until it’s been properly tested, validated, beat to death and reviewed—otherwise, you risk immense failure and expense. 

During the testing phase, be sure to collect any and all questions or concerns. Be patient and don’t rush your testing. SilencerCo. announced last year their integrally suppressed pistol, the Maxim 9, which at the time of the announcement— back in 2016—was already a year in the making. “You only get one chance with our marketplace. If I put out a product that is somewhat reliable or durable, and then I tell them it is going to get better, they won’t believe me. You got one shot. It has to be as good as it can be out of the gate.”  Says, Jason Schauble, CRO at SilencerCo.

Point being—don’t go to market until your product is ready.

 

2. Set goals, plan, and have a contingency plan

Depending on how your testing went—which can be many years in the making—you’ll want to start planning on what a successful rollout looks like well in advance taking great care that there will be no surprises on launch day. 

“Managers must learn to engage the brand team and marketing, sales, advertising, public relations, and web professionals early on, thus gaining valuable feedback that can help steer a launch or, if necessary, abort it. Hearing opposing opinions can be painful—but not as painful as launching a product that’s not right for the market or has no market at all.” (Source: HBR )

How will you know if your product rollout is successful? Will you have enough inventory in stock to fulfill orders once they ship? Do you have a plan to ramp up if the product takes off? How will this product disrupt your segment or the industry? Be prepared for the after effects of a successful rollout or even a failed one by planning for the best and worst-case scenarios. Set goals based on the SMART method. Instead of setting a goal like “dominate the industry” which is all fair and good—get specific. Set a goal like: I want to drive 400 dealer registrations, grow my Facebook followers by 1000, sign 50 purchase orders and earn 5 major media mentions. 

 

3. Determine your budget

At this point in your company’s history, you may only be able to afford a standard press release and a trade show booth at SHOT Show. But if you’re a larger brand, you may have the ability to go big by buying several media placements that blanket TV, PR, print, trade show and digital. Are you looking to cannonball the pool like Springfield Armory did with their SAINT release—or something smaller like Hudson Mfg. who introduced their new H9 at SHOT this past week with a new website, booth and earned media from the Gun Collective (see video below). Adequate budget should be put aside well in advance to create the buzz, interest, and sales needed for a proper launch. 

 

4. Build product launch assets

On top of all the decisions needed to time and plan your rollout, there is a library of assets required to pull it off. Below is a content list you will need to communicate your product’s validity.

Video List

  • 1-5, 60-90 second buzz-producing videos to be distributed over email and social media
  • 3-9 minute product demonstration video
  • Post launch video of others using your product (See the SAINT’s Popper Palooza Launch Video)
  • Video of the raw progress and story—use it for buzz, post-launch videos, and blog articles

Photography

  • Working off of your brand positioning, create the imagery (glamor shots) you’ll need to position the product in your prospects’ minds. Utilize imagery styles, models, influencers, and BETA customers to communicate its unique attributes.
H9 Glamour Shot

Photo credit Hudson Mfg.


Website & Social Media
There is a reason why most brands will build a standalone website for their product. By having a product website specific to your product’s launch—you will keep the focus on your product, and not on your other offerings (if you have them). Utilize other media assets to draw attention to the site like Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

Firearm Product Launch Website

Press Kit

• Press releases
• Media kit with approved or exclusive imagery
• Technical data
• Description, story and write-up

 

6. Answer-based blog articles

Create articles on the questions your reviewers and inevitably what your customers will ask. Record these topics as they come up during the testing and planning phase. Post these articles on your blog, optimize for search engines and incorporate this into your post-launch campaign. Slowly trickle these pieces of content out to your growing email subscriber list for the purpose of nurturing those leads into customers. It will be important to answer these questions as they will build trust and help provide a better customer service experience. 

 

7. Influencers

In the firearms industry, it is imperative to get your product into the hands of as many targeted influencers and industry professionals as possible. Begin recruiting them during the testing phase to help promote your product post-launch. Send them free or review product along with your press kit. Looking at Hudson Mfg’s launch, they included well-known firearm training instructor and firearms aficionado, Chris Cerino. Give your reviewers and bloggers a product spec sheet that describes what the product is, what it isn’t, what makes it different, the story behind it and high-res graphic assets so they aren’t putting out pixelated photos. It’s important to steer and guide your product brand adequately so the blogosphere and the forum guys don’t make up their own.

 

8. Outbound Ad placements

Target the publishers that will best reach your buyers personas. Get their media kits and publishing dates well in advance, so you don’t miss their deadlines. Create a batch of different banner ad sizes and similar print ads from your photo and video library you’ll want to place on sites like Ammoland and others. Duplicate these in your social media feeds. Use retargeting Ad platforms that can increase banner ad response rates by 400%. (Source: CMO)

Outbound Firearm Ad Placement

 

9. Start the buzz

2-3 months out from your launch date, start creating the buzz. Release teaser emails, place your banner ads, launch your website and let the industry know something is coming. Build it by communicating your value propositions and using your teaser imagery over social media that announces the big reveal with small snippets of your product. Track response through your analytics tool and social media comments. Be prepared to make any copy or imagery changes. 

 

Firearms Launch Party

Photo credit: Q, LLC

10. Launch day event

Depending on your goals, planning, and budget, your launch day event can be as simple as doing a Facebook Live post at your local range or a massive launch party like Q’s Q-ball at the Voodoo lounge. 

Product launches are typically more effective at a trade show where you can rent out a suite to invite industry friends, dealers and distributors to celebrate your success that further instigates buzz and word of mouth. 

Track the response of your event, record questions, and plan for inevitable marketing improvements as there will be many. Release your post-launch content, retweet/share social media posts and try to stretch the buzz that you’ve worked hard to create for as long as possible. Follow up with all distributors, dealers and buying groups promptly.

After several years of hard work, you can either cannonball the pool or dip in hoping someone will notice you. If you’ve innovated something that will disrupt the status quo, an investment in a proper rollout will give you an immense ROI for years to come. Rolling out a product is a delicate and stressful process. But done correctly, it will build your brand, jumpstart your sales and help you make your mark on the gun industry and perhaps history. 

Contact us for a free marketing consultation and how we can help launch your firearm or hunting product.

GET PRODUCT ROLLOUT HELP

How to use inbound marketing at SHOT Show

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Inbound Marketing Approach to SHOT Show

By Firearms and Hunting

 

With SHOT Show 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

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

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.

shot-show-2016-marketing

5 Key Marketing Takeaways From SHOT Show 2016

By Firearms and Hunting

By now your feet have hopefully gone back to their original shape, and your head has cleared from the craziness of what ended up being an epic SHOT Show 2016.

I logged over 20,000 steps and 11 miles on my Garmin between Thursday and Friday and thought I was able to get into every major exhibit on the main floor. I kept my schedule open on Thursday to catch up with friends, track down Willie, Jase, Goodwin and Martin for an autograph, take in Dana Loesch’s live radio broadcast and as luck would have it, run into Kyle Lamb and Jim Shockey.

Now that the show is over, and you begin to re-group and think about next year’s show (yes, it’s time to start getting ready). I wanted to share a few of my thoughts from a marketing perspective on the event and give you a few takeaways on how you can make next year’s SHOT Show even better.

1. Creative marketing concepts in exhibits
The exhibits I felt that had the most energy and excitement were the booths that incorporated an original concept that brought their brand story to life. They somehow tapped into my craw to create an extremely memorable experience. Not only did these concept exhibits pick up media attention—but they also seemed to be having the most fun. The three most interesting exhibits I experienced were: CAA/Kalashnikov USA, Battle Arms Development, and SilencerCo.

CAA/Kalashnikov’s exhibit was like stepping into an underground Slavic dance club. Hard white floors, high ceilings, AKs on the walls and the contrasting American/Russian imagery and other European-type aesthetics added to the experience. For a brief moment, I felt like I was somewhere else other than Las Vegas.

Battle Arms Development’s mad scientist theme featured employees wearing white lab coats under blue lighting which created a similar vibe to CAA—but more science-fiction-like. The added Star Wars and super-hero themed rifles made the exhibit absorbing and engaging.

SilencerCo’s booth had a covered walk-in that integrated seamlessly with their ‘Fight the Noise’ campaign along with their catalog, booth staff, past year’s advertising campaign and website. With a gray spray-painted outdoor scene and impressive imagery, the booth was also very experiential that brought the brand to life. Darren Jones, Media Relations and Sales with SilencerCo, said, “This show has been completely overwhelming—in a good way. We’ve had tremendous response to our newly launched products, and it will probably be one of our best years ever. We fully expect the ball to keep rolling.” (Source: NSSF)

silencerco booth

Photo credit: SilencerCo.

Takeaway: The highly saturated MSR segment and burgeoning suppressor segment will become increasingly harder for brands to stand out. Consider integrating a theme into next year’s booth that incorporates and aligns with your brand’s story to make it more attractive. Introduce your theme in your advertising and digital marketing over the next 11 months. Take your booth visitors out of SHOT Show and into your brand’s world. This would play exceptionally well down on the first level where the exhibits aren’t as exciting.

 

2. Sig Sauer goes big

shot-show-sig-sauer

Photo Credit: Fox News

This second point also ties into #1. The exhibit that stood out head and shoulders above all others on the main floor was Sig Sauer. If you saw it, you know what I’m talking about. It was unbelievable. Sig looks to be doubling down on their repositioning effort as a “total system provider.”

“Obviously, SHOT Show is important to us,” said Tom Taylor, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Sig Sauer. “We made a huge investment in the booth because we want our customers to know that we are a total system provider. And it was evident from the crowd in the booth that the effort wasn’t lost on anyone.” (Source: NSSF)

Takeaway: To make a lasting statement—go big! (if you got an extra few million dollars in your budget).

 

3. Busyness hindered social media
I frequently posted on Twitter and couldn’t help but notice that a lot of brands were not engaging with the network as much as I expected. There were two hashtags being used: #shotshow (23,699 tweets) and #shotshow2016 (14,345 tweets)—which fragmented the feed and caused some confusion on which one to follow. Some brands I noticed didn’t use the show’s hashtag at all. Instagram got 55,555 posts.—and noticed that #shotshow wasn’t even trending on Facebook. In comparison, events become trending topics on Twitter when they have over 50K followers. So the question I ask is ‘why wasn’t there more tweets/posts!?’

A few thoughts:

  1. It was a really busy show. A lot of my friends and client’s booths—where I got a chance to get behind the counter—were jammed packed. Buyers were lining up which barely gave us time to talk. Mike Schwiebert, Vice President of Marketing for Weatherby, put the show in context by saying, “In my 17 years of working SHOT Shows with Weatherby, this is perhaps the busiest show I’ve ever had.”
  2. Perhaps the industry still doesn’t understand the power and opportunity of these networks and how to use them effectively during trade shows—or they just don’t care.
  3. Businesses who cater to the military and law enforcement may be frowned upon. Most manufacturers who work with three letter agencies, choose not to engage with social media—for obvious reasons.
  4. It will be interesting to compare this year with next year’s event.

Takeaway: Using conference hashtags are important because it allows you to reach a larger audience. Even though the show was busy, there exists an opportunity to stand out by posting to social media more regularly throughout the week to drive traffic to your website and booth. Other exhibitors don’t seem to be taking advantage of this opportunity. Maybe you can?

 

4. Trending: lightweight and quiet
I noticed a lot of companies incorporating carbon fiber into their platforms like Christensen Arms’ CA-15 VTAC as well as suppression like the new Maxim 9 by SilcencerCo., and Daniel Defense’ 300 BLK integrally suppressed rifle—the DDM4 ISR300. Patrick Woods from Spring Guns & Ammo said, “One of the biggest innovations he saw was lighter-weight long guns. “There’s a lot of new rails out that are much, much lighter, that still provide the modularity that people are looking for in an AR-15, and are still incredibly durable and rigid.” 

Takeaway: How can you begin to integrate lightweight materials into your product offerings? Knife handles, tactical gear, holsters, cans, hand guards, stocks, barrels, mags, etc.? This may be worth taking a look at.

 

5. The industry is strong and “on alert.”
Paul Pluff, Director, Marketing Communications with Smith & Wesson, said, “This is the premier show for us, and once again this has been a very busy time. The response to our new products has been fantastic, and based on what we’re seeing; we’re very much looking forward to the year ahead.” (Source: NSSF)

With the ever-increasing attacks on our industry from the administration and the anti-gun/hunting groups—the industry remains extremely strong. I was surprised by some who suggested to “hold back” on spending for development and hiring until things pan out in Washington. I can see their point, and most likely many will heed the advice. However, rewards always favor the risk takers. We have to be “on alert” as NSSF President Sanetti suggests, but we must also continue to push and grow our businesses regardless of the political climate. I expect many forward-thinking manufacturers to continue with their plans irrespective of the industry warnings and threats we face this year.

Takeaway: We are always going to have opposition to our industry, lifestyle and heritage. But it shouldn’t stymie innovation and manufacturers’ plans to continue with their development plans. To do so would mean to admit defeat.

To wrap up, exhibits who integrated creative concepts had greater interest, use social media in future shows to help your brand gain greater awareness, lightweight, and quieter products are on the rise, and with a strong industry powered by some of the smartest and bravest people in the world who keep this country safe (collectively and individually) 2016 looks to be a great year.

What were some of your takeaways? Please comment below.

 

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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.