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September 20, 2017

Range Marketing the Budget-Saver Way


By Jeff Swanson

Today’s shooters are accustomed to checking out firearms at local, independent retailers, only to buy them later online. In response, FFLs and savvy shooting range owners with robust pro shops or adjacent dedicated retail space are getting creative in their marketing and sales techniques.

Value-Added Benefits that Set your Range Apart

Clearance SignWhen Millennials come in armed with gun prices on their smartphones in their effort to make apples-to-apples comparisons, surprise them with apples-to-oranges buying opportunities and packages using the profit centers you have that are relatively immune from retail market disruptors: your range, training and memberships.

While it is often difficult to compete with online prices for a given item, there are many value-added benefits you can offer to alter the dynamic and earn customers’ long-term business. In addition to gun rentals for “try it before you buy it” opportunities, gun fittings, for example, also target new shooters and can boast high conversion-to-gun-sale ratios if properly promoted and conducted. This is a great opportunity to charge a nominal fee for the fitting service, while the instructors are given the opportunity to interact with new customers and build good rapport. The customers can be further enticed to purchase a firearm that day when you offer to credit back a portion of the fitting fee if they buy the gun that day. The goal with this kind of cross-promotion is to remove the anxiety and intimidation often associated with a firearm purchase by giving the guests a brief lesson and confidence in their purchase.

Additional incentives and packages you can offer for same-day gun purchases include:

  • Discounts on accessories with installation
  • Waiving a portion of a membership initiation fee
  • 10-percent discounts off classes
  • Including a range guest pass with the gun sale
  • Creating firearms packages that include a basic case, cleaning kit and your range-branded hat and t-shirt—“Retail value of $139, just $79 when purchased same-day as your firearm!”
  • Selling incentivized range “punch” cards. For example, the customer prepays for five lane rentals, and get the sixth one free.

Combined, any of these offerings build a value that online vendors and big-box stores without ranges cannot offer. And by emphasizing these value-added promotions, your staff team members will be working toward establishing rapport and uncovering other customer needs and potential selling opportunities. All of these things can equate to a greater sense of value and service for which your range guests are willing to pay.

Cost-Efficient Grassroots Marketing

Business Chalkboard There are countless other grassroots ways you can boost your marketing for nominal costs:

  • Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Their meet-and-greet functions are always a good way to garner local support and create buzz about your range and your calendar of events.
  • Contact the leaders of local shooting groups and work with them to cross-post information and invitations on each of your social media outlets.
  • Host charity and other civic-minded events, combined with giveaways and specials. Ensure the charity or group promotes the event through their own marketing tools, just as you will through yours.
  • Hand out free car window or bumper stickers bearing your logo when you complete retail sales for gear or ammo.
  • Invite known firearms instructors in the area to host a quarterly training class at your facility, under a profit-sharing arrangement.
  • Work with manufacturers to use co-op funding to help push manufacturer-branded events.
  • Attend gun shows to promote your range and brand. Raffles and range guest passes can provide incentive at these shows. with a raffle and range guest passes.
  • Promote gift card sales as gifts for Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays and holiday seasons.
  • Recruiting young shooters is an ideal way to reach out to the community to raise awareness of your range and firearms safety. Work with the local Boy Scouts of America troops to help coordinate shooting safety classes, or with local hunter safety instructors to promote hunting safety programs for young shooters and hunters.
  • Provide your local hotel concierges with event flyers and guest special notices (and be sure to treat those concierges to a “day at the range” for their help).
  • Offer guest passes, or even a basic one-year membership, to customers who allow your logo to be prominently advertised on their vehicles.
  • Meet with local security companies and government agencies to negotiate group training contracts.
  • During slower days and seasons, create lists and cold-call on one area of your region per day to promote corporate memberships and events.
  • Attend home shows to promote firearm safe sales and your range’s memberships and events. Wedding and bridal shows are great places to promote your range for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
  • Reach out to your local media, offering to be a firearm expert and the face of shooting sports for firearm-related stories (and treat those media professionals to a day at the range as well).
  • Groupon could be considered as an initial marketing tactic. However, you will only want to use this for a limited time, mainly for initial exposure; it is not usually something you want to employ for longer than six months.

These marketing suggestions are just some of tactics you can employ to make your “Next Generation” range brand more recognizable and usher new and experienced buyers alike into your facility. Keep your eyes open for new and unique ways you can connect with potential customers through your community’s resources, and with diligent work, those slow days and seasons will be a thing of the past.

About the Author

Jeff Swanson is co-founder and an owner of a “Next Generation” range in Oklahoma, and the Managing Member of NexGen Range Consulting. An attorney, entrepreneur and business development consultant with more than 22 years of experience, Swanson and his team created NexGen Range Consulting to help new and existing range owners across the country create their own next-generation facilities. He also serves on NSSF’s Range Action Specialists team and can be reached for consulting services by contacting NSSF Member Services at 203-426-1320. For more information on NSSF’s Range Action Specialists and their services, click here.