I was once told “people at events are not "MY" customers”, by a very successful business man. That got me to thinking who is your customer and why? For me, it comes down to two simple things: Are they legal to buy? Do they have the funds? If the answer to both are Yes, then they are my type of customer.
Gun and knife shows come in all sizes. From the flea-market like get togethers seen in many small communities across the country all the way up to the NSSF Shot Show held once a year in Las Vegas that is the largest ‘dealer exclusive’ gun show in the world.
For dealers there should be three primary objectives attending gun shows.
First and foremost, sales. Gun shows offer the opportunity for dealers to get their inventory in front of as many eyes as possible. With attendance ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands, showing one’s inventory can help generate a vast number of sales and revenue. The biggest downside to this is that because so many vendors share the same type inventory many cut their prices down to bargain basement levels. In theory this is what most gun show attendees are hoping for and a primary reason they attend.
While going bargain basement is certainly one option this is not always the best business strategy. A better strategy is often found by taking otherwise hard to move and more uncommon merchandise. By making such items the bulk of your gun show inventory this helps maintain pricing, margin, and profits while at the same time helping to clear out older and unwanted merchandise allowing to recapitalize on newer more in demand items.
Using the above strategy, one should make sure to also include at least some well-known, high demand or other teaser type merchandise. This type merchandise can help capture the attention of show goers allowing you an opportunity to move other merchandise that is either lower in demand or requires a more niche specific market.
Second, generate brand awareness. Like sales, getting one’s brand in front of as many weapon and gun advocates and enthusiasts as possible is critical. Too many gun stores think the primary objective of a gun show is to turn product and make a profit. While these things are important, they are also very short sighted. For the professional who is looking to build a long-term business model they should consider such events just as much from a brand building perspective.
Because gun shows tend to draw hundreds to thousands of show attendees this offers the small guy just getting started as well as the large establishments significant opportunity at expanding their brand awareness. Don’t overlook this marketing aspect if you are serious about gun, knife and weapons sales. Don’t take your prospect customer or the opportunity for sales for granted.
Here are our top 10 helpful tips that will not only boost your sales but will help you establish a long-term presence and solid brand awareness:
1. Take custom inventory sheets with pricing. And hand them out.
2. Offer gun show pricing for a limited time through your online store with a special discount code.
3. Offer a mix of hard to find and got to have merchandise.
4. Have business cards available and easily accessible at your table or booth.
5. Have additional promotional material. Hint – many brands give their catalogs, flyers and other marketing material away free to dealers. Share this with your customers making sure that all such pieces have your label attached that provides your personal contact details including business name, website, street address if appropriate, phone number and email.
6. Create a positive first impression. Use banners, enlarged photos and posters, display well known product logos, have nice displays. All these can create a great impression and will set you apart from that guy across the aisle with a junky setup, face in a book and seemingly no personality for sales.
7. Work for attention. Whether it is renting multiple show spots, whacky visuals, the sound of racking guns, holding of contests and giveaways, or a simple bowl of candy. Get their attention! Those who make sales and build brand awareness are the ones that capture the most attention.
8. Get their info. In today’s digital driven world getting good, customer centric emails are like gold. Once you have their email make sure to do an after-show follow-up. When doing the follow-up tell them you appreciated their interest and hope they will consider you for future business. Encourage future business by offering unique discounts on merchandise, services, and exclusive opportunities to inside members.
9. Upsell. Remember every pistol needs a holster and every gun needs ammo. Also, remember that the greatest margins and profits are often-times not in the gun itself but in the related merchandise that supports ownership.
10. Be friendly. People remember those they like. They also remember those they do not like. Being friendly will not only help create greater brand loyalty but will also encourage your most loyal followers to share their joy with others and recommend your brand whenever they have a chance. Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to get your brand known to a broad audience.
The third reason why dealers go to shows is the comradery of like minds and the ability to network and make inside contacts. You never know who you will meet at a gun show. It might be the hottest up and coming politician, business professional or some good ole’ boy/girl that has got a fantastic deal.
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