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October 24, 2019

Engage To Expand: 4 Tips To Increase Waterfowl Sales

By Seth Dortch, FMG Publications

As a firearms retailer, you need to engage if you want to expand. When it comes to waterfowl sales, the success of your business will be contingent on how intentional you are in learning what waterfowlers are looking for — rather than focusing on sales efforts independent of them. If increasing waterfowl sales is the ultimate goal, engaging with those customers represents the best mode of action.

A hallmark of today’s customer is he or she no longer wants to be sold to. They’re weary of having product and sales campaigns pushed down their throat because they don’t want to be valued as numbers — but as people — and the brands and retailers thriving today are the ones who portray their humanity in their marketing and branding. It’s impossible to expand a relationship without first engaging with them where they are — be it online or in-store. So let’s use this as a base while we explore four tangible ways to boost waterfowl sales.

1. Entertain, Educate & Inspire.

If you’re looking to connect with your customer base, it’s crucial your store excels in these three areas. Barton Ramsey, owner of Southern Oak Kennels (Okolona, Miss.) and founding partner of Cornerstone Gundog Academy, shared how all three components are connected: “To have one and not the others leaves a gap in the connection you could have with consumers, and also the connection the consumer desires to have with your brand.”

This is an important consideration for social media strategy. On every social platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) there are hundreds of thousands of posts and ads seeking to grab the attention and trigger the decision-making of the user. The question must be asked (and it must be asked by you, your management team and employees): “What do waterfowlers need, and are we meeting it?”

Waterfowl Sales - Final Flight Instagram
When putting together social media campaigns, remember to include things that seek to educate, entertain and inspire followers.

There’s power in doing what you can, with what you have. There’s power in embracing your authenticity, because no one else can be you and operate the way your business does. Entertain customers with content that connects with their passions. Educate them with content that enables them to have more success at what they’re seeking to do. In essence, make their success your success.

Inspire customers with content that piques their interests. We can be entertained and have all the education we’d ever want, but if we aren’t inspired to put our ambition into action — it doesn’t go anywhere. Customer testimonials, encouragement and helping the customer connect their senses with their experiences are great ways to ignite their ambition. Embrace these three principles and use them as guidelines for social media strategy.

2. Stock Right, Move Product.

As straightforward as “stock right, move product” sounds, there’s a lot that goes into realizing it. Every management team has a wide range of opinions — which means there are a lot of different approaches to what looks good, feels good, which brands are best and a sense for the overall trends of the waterfowl market. Successful stores focus on what their customers are asking for, rather than making unilateral decisions. If the phrase “I thought that would sell pretty good” is ever uttered in your store, it’s generally the result of a product being selected by a staff member’s personal preferences — rather than by those who are buying/using product.

Waterfowl Sales - Devin Cranford
Devin Cranford, a sales manager at Final Flight Outfitters, advises “retailers should be quick to listen and intentional about embracing what customers have to share” when it comes to understanding new trends and stocking the right products.

When asked about stocking the right inventory, Final Flight Outfitters (Union City, Tenn.) Sales Manager Devin Cranford advises: “retailers must be quick to listen and intentional about embracing what customers have to share. It’s important to take that overall information to understand in-demand trends and preferences.”

Cranford shared several of the leading brands stocked by Final Flight. “Some of the top waterfowling brands we keep in stock not only have beneficial dealer programs, but also really resonate with our customers: Higdon Outdoors, Rig ’Em Right, SITKA Gear, Power Calls, Duck Commander and Lucky Duck,” he said. “These are just a few of the many brands we carry at Final Flight that really care for us as a retailer, as we pursue the ambition of helping our customers be successful.”

Waterfowl Sales Shotgun Selection
When it comes to stocking shotguns for waterfowl customers, tailor your product mix to appeal to a wide variety of wants, needs and interests.

In shotguns, the store maintains a healthy inventory of both new and used options from numerous manufacturers, including Benelli, Retay, Winchester, Stoeger, Franchi, Browning and Beretta.

3. Capitalize On Collaborations.

Forging relationships with others who do things you aren’t can result in growth of branding and profit — for both parties. On the reverse, it’s possible you’re doing something they aren’t, and can provide resources they don’t have. Take time to have a conversation with local/regional dog trainers, guide services, conservation organizations, etc., and explore how collaboration would be mutually beneficial.

Waterfowl Sales - Partnerships
Seeking out local partnerships is one way to expand your store’s influence for a particular hunting demographic. J.P. Hewitt, owner of The Gadget Company, sought out a partnership with a popular outfitter to boost his store’s credibility with waterfowl customers.

J.P. Hewitt, owner of The Gadget Company, an independent retailer in Tulsa, Okla., shared how crucial this has been for his store over its 30-plus years in business. “We’ve engaged in a partnership with FowlCo Outfitters, which gives us credibility with waterfowl hunters of having the knowledge from field experience to provide our customers with product and hunting strategy,” he said. (FowlCo Outfitters is Oklahoma’s premier waterfowl hunting lodge based in Garber — about 110 miles from Hewitt’s storefront.)

Waterfowl Sales - Final Flight Storefront
First-time customers to Final Flight Outfitters in Union City, Tenn., will instantly have a grasp of what clientele is prominently served: all things waterfowl.

It is also wise to invest time with manufacturers and buy groups. Catherine Rash, Nation’s Best Sports (NBS) marketing manager, shared how this 350-member buy group embodies the “strength in numbers” mantra.

“NBS continuously encourages members to connect and network with each other regularly because we know they truly are stronger together,” she said. “The collective buying power of a buy group is what initially attracts independent retailers, but the intangibles our members receive from the relationships they build with other retailers benefit tremendously over time.”

If you’re a member of a buy group and not currently connecting with your peers, you’re both likely missing out on opportunities. Buy groups have resources, market power and the ambition to help members grow their presence and influence among the waterfowl space. Doing this will help all involved because collaborations enhance potential.

4. Be engaged.

Engaging without a clear purpose is like shooting at a duck in the air while aiming at the water. Unfortunately, it’s a strategy too often employed by retailers in the waterfowl industry. Retailers with the mindset to intentionally engage and focus on others will find success follows naturally; opposed to efforts ignorant of what customers are truly in search of.

If there’s one takeaway here for you to share with your team it’s this: be intentional about engaging with waterfowlers, and meeting them where they’re at to expand sales.

VIDEO: Selling Waterfowl Equipment Can Increase Your Profits

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