Successful ranges have found the promotional mix that delivers for them
Advertising is essential for the continued growth of your business. Choosing where to put your advertising dollars, however, is a challenge. In this age of immediate gratification and electronic everything, do you run ads on TV? Radio? Newspapers? Finding the right mix of all those media, plus all the new advertising opportunities that are available, can try the patience of the proverbial saint.
Calibers Shooting Sports Center, Albuquerque, N.M.
Will Hogsett, general manager of Calibers Shooting Sports Center in Albuquerque, N.M., said advertising is absolutely critical to the success of Calibers.
“We’ve found that advertising in traditional media such as newspapers doesn’t work very well for us,” he said. “We stick with mobile, Internet and digital advertising. We’re going to move into Pandora streaming radio in October.”
Pandora is Internet-based radio that allows users to create custom streaming audio stations based on their own music tastes.
When he refers to mobile advertising, Hogsett said, he’s talking about cell phones.
“There are different companies that will put you on mobile advertising, but we’ve chosen to use our local news stations,” he said. “With mobile, when people are looking at news stories on their mobile phones, our ads will pop up with them. We get a lot of click-throughs from those. Those ads are reaching a younger demographic.”
Hogsett said this kind of advertising can be tailored to reach a particular demographic.
“Let’s say you want to speak to people with disposable income, or people who live in a certain neighborhood,” he said.
With Internet and digital advertising, Hogsett said, you’re reaching people while they’re at their computers and can visit the range’s website quickly.
“We tried to do Google ads, but after the Connecticut shootings last year, Google didn’t want to do anything with guns,” he said. “So we had to go to with search engine optimization techniques. We still come up very heavy when you search for something, and we also use local outlets for ads that are less expensive than Google but give us the effect that we want.”
As an example, Hogsett cited advertising that Calibers is doing with a big local TV station.
“Several times a year we do a web page takeover,” he said. “For 24 hours, when someone goes to that website, the only ad they’ll see is ours.”
Calibers does similar advertising with radio stations that do live streaming over the Internet.
“When the person clicks on our ad, they go to our website,” Hogsett said. “If there’s a call to action there, the person is more likely to respond than if they see it somewhere else and have to remember the name of the website. It’s immediate.”
Hogsett said you don’t have to use an ad or marketing agency to develop this kind of an advertising plan, but it does take some legwork.
“It’s all about making phone calls and saying, ‘Hey, can I meet with somebody who can help me with some ideas?’” he said.
A Sunday ad in the local newspaper runs about $15,000, Hogsett said; a digital ad, which is much more versatile and marketable than a newspaper ad, may be as little as $1,000 for a web page takeover where you can get 100,000 views.
“You can change a digital ad in 15 minutes,” he said. “So you can start with one thing in the morning, change it to something else in the afternoon and run something else in the evening.”
H&H Shooting Sports Complex, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Miles Hall, president of H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City, Okla., said the shooting sports industry has a unique tradition and heritage.
“We have a duty to those two things to perpetuate our industry,” he said. “It’s all about growing the shooting sports, not living off the shooting sports.”
When it comes to planning your advertising, Hall said, the first thing is to think about whom you’re trying to attract.
“Are you trying to attract old white men?” he said. “If you are, your options are going to be in one direction. If, however, you are going to focus on all the people who are not yet involved in the shooting sports—which is pretty much everybody who is not old white men—then you’re going to have to get a little more intuitive about who these potential guests are. Many years ago, we made a conscious decision to go after the people who are not already in the shooting sports. And it’s all about image; it’s not about selling anything.”
The audience that’s buying and shooting, Hall said, is people in their mid- to late-30s.
“They are ethnically diverse, and almost a 50-50 split between male and female,” he said. “They spend money, and they’re technically savvy. They are not hunters, and they don’t read gun magazines. They don’t watch Outdoor Channel.”
If you advertise in those places, you’re speaking to the audience that already is coming into your range.
“This new audience watches ABC, NBC and CBS,” Hall said. “They watch a little bit of the Fox Channel and a lot of Discovery Channel and History Channel 2.”
Hall said people want to see themselves in advertising, so when he does a TV ad showing people having fun shooting, he includes people of different ethnicities and ages, as well as both men and women.
“There’s diversity, and there’s laughter,” he said. “We don’t do an ad with a super-serious tone. People shoot because they want to have a good time.”
Hall said television advertising is the most important advertising he does.
“You can’t do just one kind of advertising without doing them all,” he said. “TV is the spark—the key—that leads other kinds of advertising. Everything flows outward from there.”
Then there’s radio.
“We have one radio station that does phenomenal for us,” Hall said. “It’s WWLF, the Sports Animal. As a favor to our ad agency guy, I spent $750 on a radio deal, and, oh my gosh, did it work! We were stunned, because radio has not worked in the past in our market. Now we’re doing a lot more radio.”
The key to the success of this particular radio advertising, Hall said, is the demographic.
“I’m sure there are some old white men listening to it, but not nearly as many as the younger crowd,” he said. “Bob Barry, Jr—who is the Sports Animal here locally and also is a TV sports guy—comes out and does a live remote from our store. What he mostly talks about when he comes here is our café. He talks about the food and all the people that he sees. One day he was on the air at another location that was not related to guns. He started talking about H&H. For the next 30 minutes, at this other location, he talked with people about H&H.”
Now it’s become kind of a tradition; people chatting with Barry at other locations always ask what’s happening at H&H Shooting Sports Complex, Hall said.
Social media comes next, he said.
“Social media is part of this group’s daily life,” said Hall. “But anything you post has to be meaningful and relevant. If you turn social media into an advertising campaign, you’re destined to fail. If I put on my Facebook page ‘Come buy this,’ people will start to not like me.”
However, if Hall writes something about all the different varieties of polymer framed firearms, then he has given the people who read his Facebook page something interesting and educational, which at the same time creates a positive image of the range.
H&H also has a website that serves as an advertising site for current and potential customers. In fact, Hall said, the section of the website called “Wireshots” gets a huge amount of traffic. This part of H&H’s website is set up for strictly news reporting on the shooting sports industry.
“That has more traffic than the regular website,” Hall said. “People want information.”
Metro Shooting Supplies Indoor Range and Shooting Academy, Bridgeton, Mo. and Belleville, Ill.
Steven King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies Indoor Range and Shooting Academy in Bridgeton, Mo., and Belleville, Ill., is in a market where several shooting ranges are fairly close together.
“Customers have some loyalty, but they’re always looking for another place to shoot,” he said. “If you do the same old thing every day and nobody knows who you are, your circle of customers doesn’t grow.”
King said some of his most productive advertising has been on radio.
“We have our own hour and a half radio show every Sunday night on KTRS in St. Louis,” he said. “It’s the second largest AM radio station in our market. We have about 100,000 listeners every Sunday night.”
The range also advertises on six other radio stations throughout the week.
“Our advertising has been so effective that people will come in and say they saw one of our television commercials, but we don’t have any,” King said. “Our competitors have some cable television commercials but customers—since they hear us so often on the radio—come in and say they saw our TV commercial and they have a couple questions about it. We ask them where they saw it and what they liked about it, and we use that information for in-store promotions. So we ‘get’ TV commercials without paying for them.”
The range also does a promotion called “Happy Hour” every weekday between 4 and 6 p.m.
“People can come in and get free rental guns during our Happy Hour (Editor’s Note: There’s no alcohol involved in this Happy Hour),” King said. “We’ll run a commercial on the radio about beating the rush-hour traffic, or why be stuck in rush-hour traffic when you can come in and relax and shoot and have a good time. Then if you leave after an hour at the range, you’ll still get home at almost the same time you would have if you’d been stuck in an hour’s worth of rush-hour traffic.”
King also relies on e-mail and social media to reach out to customers.
“We do an e-mail blast to let them know we have special sales going on, and we use Facebook and other social media to let people know what’s happening on the range,” he said. “Radio is first, e-mail is second and Facebook is third.”
King said the range spends more than $150,000 a year on radio advertising, taking both locations into consideration.
“There’s really no way to map out our return on investment,” he said. “However, we have noticed that if we do a promo on our show on a Sunday night, we can tell from the number of products we sell during that week how many people were really listening. We get probably 15 to 20 new customers per week—people who have never been in the store before—just from radio advertising.”
King said about half of those new customers will come back and bring a friend, or refer someone else.
“So the numbers just keep going up,” he said. “We have not been able to track those numbers specifically to say ‘These people we’ve gotten from the show,’ but we can tell you that the sales we make well pay for the expenses for the show. We’re selling so much product from our radio show that we can’t give it up.”