March 29, 2018
Range Improvements: Making Factory Days Memorable
“We hold ‘factory days’ just like every other gun shop that is on the planet,” says Ultimate Defense (UD) Range Director and part owner Paul Bastean, “except that we make them truly an event people want to come to.”
I thought back on the various gun shop factory days I’ve been to over the years, but none of them actually came to mind, and that speaks directly to Bastean’s point. “Everyone does their event,” he says. “It’s come in Saturday morning, we give you some special pricing and the first 50 guys who come in get a hat. That’s just too blasé for what we want to accomplish.”
That typical factory day does sound pretty pedestrian, especially once Bastean opens up about what he does differently. UD sees its factory days as opportunities to attract pre-qualified customers with an exclusive pre-event, and then creates a main event for the public where they have fun and do cool things, things that draw people in for the sake of the event and embolden sales opportunities.
“We typically hold our factory days on Fridays and Saturdays,” Bastean says about the main event. Factory reps arrive in town the Thursday before, so UD hosts special catered events that evening for their pre-qualified customers. Bastean likens these exclusive events to Pampered Chef parties, explaining that, “Whenever my wife went to one of these [Pampered Chef parties], she felt obligated to buy something, so that’s what we’re doing.”
While Bastean’s POS system can identify these pre-qualified customers, he relies more heavily on his counter staff to winnow prospective buyers from tire-kickers. They’re looking for customers who are almost there but just need a little nudge to close a sale. “We keep little invitation cards behind the rental counter,” he says of how people get invited to a pre-event. “We usually have 30 slots, so we normally give out 90 invitations. About a third of the people we invite actually show up to the event, and of those who do attend, we’re converting a third to a sale,” he says.
Pre-event customers are treated to hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to be the first UD customers to see new products, creating an air of exclusivity. “We do pony up ammo for these guys, too,” says Bastean. “We typically load up a magazine and they shoot the mag with our compliments.” UD also makes sure there are suitable accessories so that when a pre-event customer makes a purchase, they also buy the magazines, holsters, ammunition and other gear that can be logically packaged with a gun.
How successful are Bastean’s pre-events? “We did a Glock event, and the guys bought up all of our Glock 43s before we got into our main event,” he laughs, admitting that it was poor planning on his part.
For the main event, UD uses email as the primary driver to get customers in the door. “Everyone who comes into the range to shoot has to fill out our range rules and safety waivers and that includes providing their email,” Bastean explains. “I’ve got about 64,000 names on my direct-email list right now.”
As any email marketer knows, one key to a successful campaign lies in the subject line. Bastean insists that line must have the word “exclusive” in it if you want success. “It makes a big difference, as opposed to just a general email broadcast,” he explains, adding that “exclusive” is something big box stores usually can’t offer. “If the word ‘exclusive’ appears in the title, then people feel like, ‘Well, if it’s exclusive, that must mean me specifically.’ After the email is opened, we usually have some outstanding picture that draws them into the text itself. Social media and Facebook are our other promotional avenues.”
Factory day main events rely heavily on various shooting games for memorable entertainment. Bastean parlays that into raffle ticket opportunities. “We advertise whatever game we’re going to play,” Bastean says. With such games, instead of somebody walking through the door, getting a hat and then leaving, UD asks them to play the game —for $5. At a recent Smith & Wesson factory day, for example, UD took a piece of cardboard and glued four playing cards to it along with a fifth card on edge. “You play our game, and if you hit four cards we give you one raffle ticket. If they hit the card that’s on edge, they get five extra raffle tickets,” says Bastean, explaining how these games engage customers with a fun challenge that could win them promotional items that other stores simply give away.
Raffle tickets also capture contact information for follow-up. “As soon as our customers see an event, they want to know what game we are going to play. They don’t have a problem throwing us $5 for our game.”
There doesn’t seem to be a limit to Bastean’s creativity when it comes to factory day games. Tic-tac-toe and poker are obvious, but perhaps the most entertaining game is played on Glock days. Glock sells stress balls that exactly fit X-Products’ Can Cannon and replaces an AR upper for use with blanks. “We took a full sheet of plywood, put Glock banners all over it, cut a hole that was about 24-inches, put it downrange at 25 yards, and for $5 people got three shots out of the ‘Glock cannon.’ They shoot the stress ball, and if they ended up getting it through the hole, they got extra tickets for the Glock raffle.”
Is there a measurable ROI for how UD does its factory days? According to Bastean, there is. Actual dollars are, of course, a big indicator, but he also measures traffic. “Overall sales for the day is a measure of how successful we were at converting walk-ins to customers. So that’s a big indicator of how good a job we’re doing,” he says. “But the success of the day is pretty much defined by how many opportunities we create: how many people came through the door to participate in that event. So money is a big factor, but clients through the door are just as big for us because we want to develop loyalties. We want customers to be excited by coming in the door.”
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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 such storied publications as 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.