Editor’s Note: In the December 2013 edition of The Range Report, we asked three respected range representatives what has been the most effective promotion to attract new customers and members. Readers commented on the value of their answers, so we thought we’d present a similar question to three representatives of other shooting facilities.
Q.What has been your most successful and unique promotion?
Paul R. Bastean, Ultimate Defense Firing Range & Training Center, St. Peters, Mo.
A. In 2011, our first year in business, Ultimate Defense Firing Range & Training Center needed to replace all 100-plus rental firearms. We wanted a way to sell the rental guns quickly, but our retail center did not have the space to display all of the old rental guns. We therefore decided to host an outdoor auction at the range that would include our rental guns as well as consignment guns that our customers wished to sell.
We met with an auctioneer, whose excitement at the prospect of an all-gun auction was obvious. He offered to reduce his normal commission and to extensively advertise our auction. We created paper sales bills identifying all the items to be sold, and we advertised the guns, including photos, on the auctioneer’s website as well as our own. This maximized our exposure, especially to people who weren’t familiar with our range. In the weeks prior to our sale, the auctioneer passed out hundreds of flyers at each of his auctions, and as a result, we noticed heavier traffic in our retail center. As customers brought in more consignment guns, we updated the auction website listings each night. This resulted in thousands of website views per day.
The results of our auction were outstanding. Customer vehicles filled our parking lot, adjoining lots and both shoulders of nearby streets. Well over a thousand people assembled in the parking lot, anxiously awaiting the start of the auction. From the start, the bidding went crazy. The first item for auction was a rental Glock that had been fired 30,000 times. It sold for $30 less than the price of a new one. The next item was a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 that sold for above our retail price. Gun after gun sold for more than our expected price, and by the end of the day, we were tens of thousands of dollars above our goal. As an added benefit, customers floated back and forth between the auction and our retail area, picking up flyers about Ultimate Defense memberships, training courses and hourly rates. They purchased ammo, holsters and other accessories, and many utilized the range to try out their auction purchases.
The overwhelming success of this first auction resulted in a regular event that for the past two years has continued to excite existing customers while drawing hundreds of new customers to the range.
Gary Semanchik, Nashville Armory, Nashville, Tenn.
A. Nashville Armory has been privileged to take part in several promotions during this first year in Middle Tennessee, and each of them has brought with it different benefits for the shop and the community. To date, one of our greatest endeavors has been the addition of the Nashville Armory EATS food trailer, a mobile unit set up to serve gourmet hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches, along with some special treats, such as pulled pork tacos, jumbo-size Reubens, and possibly the best chicken-salad sandwich around. It is also a moving billboard for Nashville Armory, and gives us a unique opportunity to advertise within the community. The trailer has an attractive, eye-catching wrap all the way around, and stands out everywhere it goes.
This year we took the trailer to Live On The Green, a concert series in downtown Nashville that plays host to thousands of fans each year. There, we sold out of food on several nights and got the chance to talk to a many people who had always been interested in the shooting sports, but had been unsure where to start. Our trailer became a friendly place to grab a bite to eat and start that conversation. We have now catered several events around town, expanded our rotating menu and are having people show up to the shop to grab a burger and stay to do a little target practicing afterward. It has turned out to be a point of common ground and connection for many people within the local shooting sports community. We have seen positive increase in foot traffic due to the marketing provided, and we want to ultimately be known for the best burger in Nashville.
It took some serious effort to get things up and running, but it was definitely worth the extra energy. Instead of being about making huge profits selling burgers, it has really been about marketing and bringing more people into Nashville Armory and the shooting sports. And for that, it has definitely been successful.
John Monson, Bill’s Gun Shop & Range, three facilities in the Twin Cities region
A. Definitely our most successful promotion is our Spring Shooter Show, held the first Friday through Sunday in April, though the Friday may fall on March 31, and we will avoid Easter weekend. We invite all of the manufacturer reps—firearms, mainly, but accessories also–to come, and we set them up in a large area on eight-foot tables. We may have 30 to 50 reps, in all. Customers come and are allowed to use the reps’ guns and the range for free; they just have to buy the ammo. Every rep who comes can select one or two products, and we will stock up on those and put out some phenomenal pricing on those products. We will see over the three days some 2,500 to 3,000 people—we’ve had as many as 4,000—who will shoot a variety of guns. It’s a try before you buy kind of deal. We sell a lot of guns during the event, but there’s no hard sell. My three ranges have 180 guns each in their rental case. Usually, you have to pay $15 for the first rental and $10 for each gun thereafter. But on this day, at the one facility where our Spring Shooter Show is being held, individuals and families, from nearby and out of town, come for one or two days, and spend the whole day at the range, shooting for free. They give the rep their driver’s license, buy a box of ammo and wait for a lane to open up, and they do that over and over, shooting the reps’ guns for free. If the customer wants to purchase something we don’t have in stock, the rep will write the order and take it to our order desk. If they want one that is in stock, the customer goes to our retail floor, meets with one of our sales associates and he or she rings up the order. Attendees cannot bring their own guns or ammo, so during this weekend, people can’t rent a lane. We’re just too busy. We shoot over 100,000 rounds during those three days!