April 17, 2019
First Shots Classes Sell Themselves at Ann Arbor Arms
Ann Arbor Arms’ Range Manager Jonathan Mykala says that one of the best things about his range hosting NSSF’s First Shots® classes is that the classes essentially sell themselves.
“We don’t have to put a whole lot of marketing dollars into promoting this class,” he says, adding that while they have done some social media and billboard advertising for the range, word of mouth is the big driver for First Shots. “A lot of the students tell us they were told by a friend that this was the class they took and that they really enjoyed it,” Mykala says. “That’s how their friend got into, for instance, competitive shooting. So they come in and take First Shots and then try to follow up and get to where their friend or family member is at in their shooting.”
Creating Pathways to Shooting
To Mykala, First Shots “opens avenues” to basically anybody who’s interested in learning about firearms in general, regardless of their knowledge or background. “The class we offer is typically geared for handguns, but the way the program is developed, even if you are going into rifle or any other shooting discipline in the future, the way First Shots is set up, you can branch off any way you need.”
If your range is going to include an introductory class in its roster, Mykala points out that with First Shots, NSSF has done the course development work for you so that range owners can focus on developing their more advanced training classes. “The reason I continue to promote First Shots and want to offer more classes with it is just because the program NSSF has developed is actually really well developed and laid out. Basically, they take care of everything you need to start up a program,” says Mykala, who repeatedly praised how NSSF designed the class. “Everything is just really laid out perfectly and designed really well for instructors and the students,” he emphasized.
Turnkey Implementation Helps Make Return Customers
In addition to having a well-developed curriculum, Mykala says First Shots is pretty much a turnkey program for a range to implement. “We made contact with NSSF, and within a month we were offering the program,” he says, adding that his contact at NSSF is always on top of things. “If I need anything, Ann Gamauf gets back to me in a timely fashion. NSSF is so hands-on that if we need anything from them, they’re so easy to work with.”
Transitioning to First Shots from the introductory class Ann Arbor had initially been teaching was equally easy, says Mykala. The range had a lot of educational material it was already providing to students, and that material was only enhanced by the additional pamphlets and information that comes with First Shots. “Also, NSSF provides ammunition and other materials as well,” adds Mykala of NSSF’s involvement and its partnerships with Howard Leight, Birchwood Casey and Aguila Ammunition.
Each month, Ann Arbor Arms runs an average of 15 students through First Shots, charging $50 each. Not only does First Shots yield 180 new students each year, Mykala says about 80 percent of them return to use the range, buy a gun or take more classes.
“It really became like a launching platform,” he says of how First Shots impacts his bottom line. “Not only do they take the First Shots class, they take our handgun fundamentals and then they take our CPL. They build from just that First Shots class, so it not only brings in new students, it creates long-term customers.”
A Way to Counter Misinformation
To convert students into those long-term customers, Mykala relies heavily on his instructors to promote other classes and programs, and he also follows up with targeted emails.
“Each person who comes in signs a waiver form, and on that waiver form we capture their email information,” explains Mykala. “From that we will send out emails detailing other classes they can take after they have taken First Shots.” The range also offers First Shots students an 8-percent discount on any purchases made within 30 days of taking the class.
From the student’s perspective, Mykala sees First Shots as changing a lot of misperceptions about firearms.
“A lot of them see what’s in Hollywood, and they come in and fire a gun for the first time and it’s not as bad as what friends, family, Hollywood, whatever their source is, makes it out to be,” he says. “It’s just amazing that, basically, you can have someone come in who has never fired a gun before and, by the end of the class period, they have a pretty good grasp of firearms and how to operate them.”
Not only do they have a better understanding of firearms, Mykala says First Shots students genuinely like the class.
“They would say that it’s a great program and that if you’re looking to learn more about firearms it is definitely the class to take,” he says. “It’s truly a great class to offer for a beginner’s program. This class sells itself.”
About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for various publications including American Rifleman and Field & Stream. He has produced award-winning television programs on personal defense and has hunted extensively in North America, Europe and Africa.