April 10, 2019
First Shots Helps The Range of Richfield Grow
The Range of Richfield only recently started hosting NSSF First Shots® events, but already range owner Jim Babiasz has formed some pretty strong opinions about the program.
“First Shots has been wonderful for us. It helps us grow, period,” he states emphatically before going on to explain in more detail how First Shots events are not only the right thing to do for the sake of recruiting new shooters but that they also generate new sales that otherwise might not happen.
His interest in something like First Shots started when Babiasz noticed a lot of folks coming to The Range who weren’t sure whether they might like shooting but who wanted to give it a try without any financial commitment. Babiasz and his staff were working on a no-cost way to get new shooters in the door when he discovered First Shots.
“Folks like stuff for free,” he says. “We were actually going to start our new shooter program on our own, but all of a sudden First Shots came up — and it was perfect! And that is how we grow this business, by getting folks in here who are interested but not sure. That’s what First Shots does, and it does a good job at it.
Having been brought up with shooting mentors all around me, I never really gave much thought to how challenging or even impossible it might have been to get into shooting without them. When my neighbor went out back to target shoot, I’d watch, and he’d let me fire a few shots each time, and that’s how it happened for me. First Shots provides a similar path into the shooting sports, but under a basic curriculum created by NSSF.
“These new customers don’t want to invest a lot of money in renting a gun, renting a lane and then going out there by themselves to see if this is something they like,” explains Babiasz of how intimidating getting into shooting can be for someone and why he doesn’t charge much for new shooters to take part in the program. “The First Shots program gives them a way to take a free look into the shooting world without cost or commitment.”
One of his lead instructors, Heather Borland, agrees.
“We’ve got a lot of people who want to dabble in this, but are not 100 percent sure it’s for them,” she says, adding that First Shots solves this problem because “It’s for anyone willing to see if the shooting sports is something they want to get into, but without having to spend a lot of money.”
Though Babiasz calls his events “free” for students, he does charge $20.
“We ask everyone who is interested to give us $20 to reserve a seat,” he explains. “After their class, we give them a gift card for $20, so basically it’s free. They can use that $20 gift card for more shooting, which is typically what they’ll do, and if they decide shooting is not what they want to do, then they can use the gift card on any other merchandise we have here at The Range.”
“The classes fill up quickly, and from the responses we get, people are loving First Shots, says Borland. “First Shots has really taken off at our range. Every class is full.”
To locate and recruit new shooters, Babiasz says they’re doing a lot of promotion on Facebook and The Range’s website. He also says radio is “very good” for his range. “NSSF has all kinds of great advertising that we’ve been using and incorporating in our regular advertising,” says Babiasz, adding that word-of-mouth about his First Shots classes is also helping people find his range. As an example, he tells me how he once stopped at his local bank and, during the course of normal conversation, he explained First Shots to one of the tellers.
“Well, next thing I know, two of the tellers there are coming to the class, and now they’re talking to the rest of the bank staff and they want to take the class. Now even some of the other bank customers want to come to the class. So, it’s really kind of amazing how word travels,” he laughs.
In addition to the help with advertising, Babiasz says NSSF stays on top of things and is always there to help.
“Any time I have a question, I can call them. They have a website and a portal with all of the information on it. They’re very proactive,” he explains. “They provide us with enough ammo, enough eye and ear protection, enough Shoot-N-C targetss — whatever we need to get it going. I don’t even have to call. A lot of times it just shows up on our doorstep, so they’ve been very helpful.”
Getting people to try something for free is one thing, making them a customer is another. To help convert first-time shooters, The Range puts their email addresses in their database as part of registering for the class. “We have an email bulletin that goes out in the middle of the month and a calendar that goes out at the beginning of the month, which gives them a list of all our activities,” Babiasz says of his typical follow-up. “We really stress the educational portion, so we stay in touch with them through that type of contact. Every so often, because we have the new shooters list isolated, we’ll reach out to them and ask, ‘Hey, how did you enjoy the class? Can we help you with anything else?’”
Borland sees the follow-up is working.
“We have had a couple of students come back who have purchased firearms,” she says. “I’ve had one student who took First Shots and who has now had two private lessons with me, so we are seeing more and more of the students in the First Shots class come back and continue to shoot at the range.”
Babiasz continues to be amazed at how readily people have accepted First Shots and encourages all ranges to offer the program. According to him, it’s is a great opportunity to get folks on the range and into the shooting sports.
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.