America has no shortage of people looking to buy guns. In 2021, 2 million firearmshttps://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/02/03/gun-sales-january-background-checks/ were sold in January alone. However, reaching those customers, as you’ve probably found, can be a bit tricky.
If you’ve ever tried to advertise a gun shop, or even a business which is only vaguely related to guns, you’ve likely gotten the door shut in your face. Most advertising networks are scared to even touch firearms, despite the huge amount of money that they’re leaving on the table not catering to these businesses. So, what’s a new gun store owner to do? It’s time for a new game plan.
10 Ideas For Marketing Your Firearms Business
1.) Buy Ads From Private Websites
Guess what? Advertising networks don’t like websites that talk about guns any more than they like businesses that sell them. If your blog even talks about guns (like ours), you’re not getting approved by Adsense and most other ad networks.
This means that a lot of gun blogs are open to selling advertising space directly though! While this is more work than bidding on ad space in Google’s display network, the results can actually be better.
You can personally pick your placements, and you are basically getting an endorsement from that website. People come to them for information and trust them to recommend good products!
PS. Don’t forget about other opportunities! Plenty of local groups in your area have websites too, and they are likely open to sponsorship in exchange for promotion. This could include fairs, festivals, trade shows, 4H clubs, and other events and organizations which are not “gun shy”.
2.) Grow Your Social Accounts Organically
While paying for advertising on sites like Facebook and Instagram is a no-no for gun brands, you can still participate on these platforms by running a business account. There are tons and tons of gun pages on Instagram showing off their wares.
However, you need to go about this very carefully. Do not try to make any sales through Instagram/Facebook. If you do, it’s very likely your account will be banned and all your hard work will be wasted.
Instead, build an account showcasing what you have to offer, and then subtly hint that people can see more at the website link in your bio. This strategy takes a lot more effort than paid ads, but it does work very well.
The key to this strategy though is consistency. If you only post once every 6 months, you won’t get anywhere. You should be posting and interacting with potential customers every day if you can, but at least a couple times per week.
If you are a local shop, research local hashtags to get eyeballs on your wares. While targeting broader hashtags may get you followers, it doesn’t do much for your business if they can’t actually buy anything from you!
PS. Don’t forget about Youtube! When you get new products make sure that your account is the first one to post hands-on video reviews!
3.) Team Up With Influencers
Influencer marketing is really powerful. A lot of these people have really dedicated niche audiences that interact with them regularly and trust their recommendations. Becoming a sponsor could easily win you new clients.
You need to pick your influencers carefully though. If you just send out free product or money to anybody with a few followers, you’re in for a bad time, but if you pick the right partner – you get marketing magic!
Demolition Ranch is a great example of a gun influencer channel on Youtube, but there are plenty more! These people have cultivated an audience across pretty much every social media platform, and for some free product or a bit of cash, you can make their audience your audience.
If you manufacture your own products the best way to do this is to ask to send something their way to test it out. Youtubers love testing stuff, and they might do it for free, or use an affiliate link if you’ve got one to snare some commissions.
However, if you’re a local gun store it might not make much sense to target what is essentially an international audience. If this is the case for you, then consider sponsoring some “local influencers”. This could mean some youth shooting clubs, local shooting competitors, etc.
Hook them up with some free gear and some cool looking t-shirts with your brand on it, and they will be happy to help advertise your business.
4.) Start An Affiliate Program
An affiliate program pays people like influencers and bloggers for promoting your products. By using a bit of software your affiliate system will pass a tracking cookie through your links when people click on them.
If the influencer or blogger refers a sale to you then they get paid a commission. The amount of this commission is up to you but a higher commission will be more enticing, obviously.
The easiest way to do this is to join a network like Shareasale where they will help you get everything set up, AND you also get added to their affiliate network. By being part of the network you’ve already got a built-in base of expert affiliates who are ready to promote your products and start making you money.
Shareasale is hands-down our favorite affiliate network to work with, because it’s super easy to use, has a good selection of merchants, and they get everybody paid on time. (Another thing you won’t have to worry about managing!)
5.) Get Active On Forums
Before you do anything, realize this won’t work if you just jump into some forum and start spamming your products. People will hate you and you will never make any sales. Read that again. Okay, good.
Tons and tons of people congregate in forums or on Reddit communities to talk about guns, share pictures of guns, and get recommendations for different gun-related products. This creates a good opportunity for the gun brand owner who is willing to network and participate in the community.
Nobody likes it when your sole purpose there is to hock your products to people, but if you present yourself as a helpful and cool community member, you can foster a lot of loyalty for your brand or shop.
However, if you’re upfront about it, you can likely get away with posting about your new business in local subreddits or forums directly. Just be honest about it, and don’t try to hide anything or you’ll just make people mad when they figure out that you tried to deceive them.
You should also make sure that you read the rules of the forum or subreddit before you proceed. Each one has its own rules and some do not allow self-promotion. If they do allow it, make one post and don’t spam them or you’ll be banned quickly.
Pro Tip: If you know your stuff, then the best way to get involved is just answering questions. Help people out and they’ll want to check out your business.
6.) Invest In SEO
SEO is frustrating for a lot of business owners. It takes a lot of time, and some people may question whether it’s worth it. Hint: It is. Here’s the stats.
46% of Google searches are for local businesses, and 80% of those searches convert to a sale. “Near me” style searches have also increases 500% in recent years, as people look to the internet for business/service recommendations. https://www.webfx.com/blog/seo/local-seo-stats/
Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody in your city Googled “gun stores near me” and your shop was the first one that popped up? Well, I’ve got good news for you. Lots of local businesses are really, really bad at SEO. That creates an opportunity for you if you’re willing to learn how to do it correctly.
Unfortunately, SEO for small businesses is a huge topic that falls outside the scope of this article. BUT, to get you started, check out this post on how to make local SEO work for your business.
Hey, wait! What about ecommerce and online businesses??
If you sell online as well, then you may need a little help there too. So, here are 101 SEO tips for ecommerce businesses to help you out. I know it seems like a lot, and it is, but mastering SEO will help your business a lot and it’s worth spending some time on learning how to get it right and start pulling in more online traffic.
7.) Start a Blog
If you sell products online, you need to be blogging. A lot of people don’t have the patience for content creation, because it’s a long play. But they are missing out.
Unlike other forms of advertising which you either have to constantly pay for, or strategies which involve a platform like Facebook where you can be banned for no reason, a blog is a traffic generating asset which you own!
Year after year, your blog can continue to bring qualified traffic to your business. You can use this traffic to collect sales leads, help current or potential consumers to understand the value of your products, or even just to establish yourself as an authority within your niche and build trust with your community.
So, what should you blog about?
Write about what your customers care about! Teach them the ins and outs of different products you sell, post honest reviews about those products, and give them tutorials that shows them how to use and care for what you sell. This gives them value before they even buy from you, and it can help to foster life-long relationships with your customers.
8.) Start An Email List
Much like your blog, your email list is an asset! If something happens tomorrow and your main traffic source for your business stopped, what would you do? What if your Instagram account gets banned? What if Google gives you a swift kick up the backside and stops sending you that tasty search engine traffic?
If you have a nice mailing list full of followers who value what you have to offer, then you can just send your new blog posts, sales, etc. out to them and weather the storm. However, it also helps you to get new content seen faster!
While it’s a challenge to grow and manage an effective email list, it’s definitely something you should look into to help safeguard your business. Being able to stay in contact with past customers who have a higher chance of converting to a sale, or even to catch the ones who almost got away, is very valuable.
Pro Tip: Having trouble getting sign ups? Try giving them something for free to sweeten the deal. A discount, or even a cool virtual product goes a long way.
9.) Start Guest Blogging
If your own website seems to be attracting traffic very slowly, then why not go where your target audience already lives and introduce yourself?
Guest blogging can be a great way to meet new clients while sharing your expertise with them. People want to know that they are buying a product or service from somebody who knows what they’re talking about, and establishing a reputation in the community by guest blogging is a good way to do it.
Start by searching Google for different gun blogs or websites and ask them about contributing a guest post. Just make sure your pitch email introduces you as an expert with something to say. Many webmasters (even smaller ones!) get tons and tons of low-quality post pitches from people that are worthless. Offer them something they’d be proud to publish and you’ll get better responses.
Guest blogging can not only help you get traffic if you post on gun blogs with active readership, but it also gets you valuable backlinks which helps to boost your website’s profile in the eyes of Google, netting you more organic traffic.
(Pro Tip: This is an important part of your SEO strategy!)
10.) Go To Trade Shows
Trade shows are everywhere and if you’re trying to get a new gun-related business off the ground, or even just test the waters to see how well your product sells, then this can be a good way to do it.
This is especially true if you’re trying to gauge interest for a new kind of gun-related product and you’re not sure if people will be interested in it yet. You’ll get tons of walk-by traffic, and you won’t have to make a huge investment in retail space or big amounts of inventory if it doesn’t work out quite how you thought.
However, even if you’ve already got an online or brick and mortar business, going to a trade show is a great way to introduce yourself to the community. It gives you the opportunity to see what kinds of questions people have, ask them what it is they want but aren’t getting at the moment, etc.
11.) Take Out A Billboard
Contrary to popular belief, you are allowed to advertise guns on billboards in most places, as long as you don’t do something stupid. It’s also a lot cheaper than you might think depending on where it is you want to put the billboard.
A quick search on AdQuick will display tons of billboard advertising options in your area which you can browse through, it even allows you to scout potential locations in other states if you have an online business.
You can quickly see monthly prices, locations, and how many “impressions” you might expect to get should you choose that billboard placement.
So, how much does a billboard generally cost? That depends. In a high traffic area, you may pay through the nose, but in more rural areas, they can be much more affordable.
According to AdQuick, the median cost of a billboard is around $600, but they have some inventory as low as $100. If you live in a small town without as much demand, it might be more affordable to advertise your gun shop this way than you think.
12.) Host A Give Away
If you’re looking to grow your mailing list or your social media following, contests are a great way to do it. However, you can also use this as a great way to get foot traffic into your brick and mortar store if you’ve got one too.
BUT, you should be very careful about what kind of prize you give away. Giving away ammo to build an audience of gun enthusiasts is a good idea, but giving away an Apple gift card is a recipe for disaster.
Why? Because lots of people who don’t care about your business want an Apple gift card. You might get a lot of email sign ups or followers, but almost none of them will care about you or your business. People who sign up to win ammo are likely more in line with your target audience and will probably stay subscribed to your updates.
The bigger the prize, the bigger the impact, but even if you can’t afford to give away thousands of dollars worth of merchandise; many people are thrilled to win something small too.
If you don’t have a ton of cash, think about what you can give away that won’t cost you much. Does your shop have a range? Giving away free range time is a great prize with a lot of value but doesn’t really cost you much. Passes to gun safety/training classes are also great ideas.
13.) Offer a Free Class At Your Store
If you’ve been having trouble getting people in the door at your brick and mortar shop, have you considered becoming more involved in your community? Offering a free class once a month could be a good way to snag new clients!
The NSSF reported that 40% of 2020’s gun buyers were first time gun owners https://www.nssf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/FirstTimeResearch.pdf. Many of these new buyers are inexperienced, they might not have even had guns in their homes growing up and are still unsure of themselves.
Sticking your nose up at these newbies is a mistake!
This is a huge new audience of potential customers for you, and offering a community class and being even just a little welcoming to them could net you some lifelong customers who come to you for everything they buy in the future.
You could teach them about gun safety, how to clean their guns, or even do an introductory course to hunting. Tons of new gun owners are actually interested in hunting but they don’t have anyone to teach them.
When your course is finished, make sure to tell everyone about the other services that you offer. You might even offer them a discount on range time or their first purchase for good measure if you really want them to come back.
PS: Sell online too or want your classes to work double-duty? Film the class and put it on Youtube or Facebook! People who see it may come in for the next one.
14.) Sponsor An Event
Local clubs, events, charities, and other organizations are always looking for sponsors to help cover the cost of their event. If you’re interested in participating, a ton of people in your community could be introduced to your business.
In many cases, you’ll get a banner or signage that event-goers will see with your logo on it, and you can also be mentioned on their social media accounts.
Though the best way to take advantage of this is to actually go to the event and participate yourself. This gives you the best opportunity for networking with people in your local community, and if you’ve got branded t-shirts – then you’re your own walking billboard for the whole day. You might also consider giving away something at the event if you can.
Can’t find an event for your business to sponsor? Consider hosting your own. If you’ve got your own property for your business it’s easy to put together and advertise a charity event for your community. So, get crackin’!
15.) Find A Partner Business
Let’s say that you own a gun shop but it doesn’t have a range. Well, what if a guy across town owns the gun range, but he doesn’t sell guns? Sounds like opportunity!
By learning about other similar businesses in your area you can figure out what they don’t have and offer a cross promotion deal. You’ll advertise their gun range inside your gun store, and they can advertise your gun shop at their range!
It’s an easy win-win if you’re willing to meet people in your community, and there are plenty of other places to do this too. Think about where else in your town your target customer visits and offer that business owner a deal.