Building Your Gun Shop's Brand

These five daily activities will provide the insight necessary to serve customers more effectively.

Building Your Gun Shop's Brand

Running a retail business is an exercise in branding, which includes the prioritized management of resources — the continual organizing, deploying and evaluating what works and what doesn’t in order to build the business in the eyes of the customer. 

This of course includes matters involving inventory, sales, facilities, and personnel. And then there’s marketing: pricing and product and two other P’s that may slip your mind from time to time. Don’t forget the yearly business plan review, budgetary considerations, and making sure there’s soap in the bathrooms. Add to that a few customer wins and perhaps several woes and get ready for the ups and downs of elation and exhaustion. 

Amidst the many plans and tasks and events that running a retail business demands, several means exist to stay on top of all that goes into building your company’s brand. One of those means is to systematically and categorically organize and prioritize each day so you hear from five key people: a sales staff member, a competitor, a follower, a customer, and yourself. 

A Sales Staff Member

Your sales staff is of course a frontline team in the quest to encourage and record actual sales of your products and services. Naturally, you should want to hear their opinions and thoughts about how business goes. Too often we regard salespeople as people to be motivated, strongly and regularly, to meet sales goals or quotas. That’s all fine and good, but make sure to take time to listen to your sales team. This means regular, planned times to ask them questions and ample opportunity for thoughtful reflection and comments. 

Give your sales people the questions in advance (e.g., “What’s the one thing you would change about the sales process here?” or “What’s a roadblock you often face when closing a sale?” or “What is the company’s key strength and/or most significant weakness?”) and when it’s time for them to answer, listen. Don’t immediately comment or interject; let them provide a full answer to your question. It may take some time for you and the sales team to get used to this kind of interchange but in the long haul you may discover them growing into the exercise and providing more insight. And that’s what you want: thoughtful comments from your frontline people. 

Engage with one salesperson per day. If you have only one or a few sales people, once a week might be fine. The point is to have regular times for interaction scheduled where they’re purposefully being asked about the business and listened to when they respond.


A Competitor

Your competitors aren’t likely to provide any truly helpful information directly to you; after all, they’re competitors. But they actually do provide some information you can use to your advantage. And it’s all public and available to you through simple research. Now we all know you’re already super busy running your retail business but consider the competitive research you can do just by scanning social media feeds — something you probably already do during parts of the day. Find out what social media channels your competitors are using and follow them. Watch regularly what they post and how the followers react or comment. In just a few days or weeks you’ll have a solid understanding of how they are marketing and handling potential or actual customers.  

Depending on several factors, your competitors may be so large in number that this kind of social media tracking can’t be a daily exercise for you. If so, delegate it to another staffer. But no matter who does the research, be sure it is aggregated, categorized, documented, and discussed internally. Keep the research under control by limiting it to 15 to 20 minutes per day, at the same time each day.


A Follower

Your followers include anyone who is following (or who is connected in some way) to any one of your social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc.). Every day, send a single question to one of them by direct message and ask something along the lines of “What do you enjoy most about [your company name] and what can we do to serve you better?” 

Some won’t respond. Some will respond with very simple comments. Some may think this is their invitation to lecture you on all things retail. And so on. Follow up with thoughtful commenters by asking one more specific question related to their first response. For example, if their initial response was along the lines of “Love the posts about the products but would like to see some videos of the product in use,” then follow up with “Thanks for asking about product videos. Is there a particular product that you’re interested in seeing in a video?” The point is not to promise a custom communication to every person who asks but rather to engage in some conversation and learn more about what drives their interest. Ultimately, these 1:1 messages will yield more insights about your followers’ (as potential customers) underlying desires — and allow you to craft your marketing accordingly.


A Customer

A follower may be a customer or a potential customer. A customer is someone who has actually purchased from you or who at least is “in the store,” strongly considering a purchase. Ideally, your daily tasks include the ability to ask an actual customer about their experience with your retail operation. These interactions can happen in a variety of contexts: as they are browsing or trying out a product, as they are completing a purchase at the register, as they are exiting the store. They can occur as informal conversations or more formal surveys. 

In any case, the point is to find a way to ask a customer why they bought from you. The reasons can vary: only store in the area, best price, good customer service, aligned with company values, user friendly website, free or fast shipping, and, of course, any combination of these or others. 

Here’s what to listen for: the customer’s core values. Ask questions that help reveal the why behind the buy. If the customer reports positively on their overall experience with the store — price, service, etc. — that’s great. Probe a bit and see what they think you do very well and what they think you can do to be even better. If the customer reports positively on only one aspect of their experience — say, price only — then probe to find out where you can improve. In other words, don’t be content with merely winning the sale on price alone (even if the customer is basing their decision on price only). Be a retailer that meets broad customer needs; otherwise some other retailer will eventually undercut you in price.


A Non-Sales Staff Member

Your non-sales staff person is a person who isn’t in direct sales but who works for the company in some capacity. Perhaps he or she supports sales and other broader company communications. Your questions for people in this kind of role include matters related to how they see sales and non-sales operations. So ask general questions about what is going well and how things could be better — in any category of company life. The point here is to not miss the valuable inputs of those who work in the company who may not often have a chance to chime in. Providing a regular opportunity for all the staff to provide feedback may not provide significant insights immediately but it will foster a growing trust amongst the staff. And that foundation will eventually yield more and better interactions and plans over a longer term.  

A key to growing and improving the brand in all these areas includes having a written marketing plan and understanding how each of these people are a part of it or contribute to it. The marketing plan should minimally be about sales goals and so forth but ideally it is about people — including not just yearly or quarterly efforts but daily or weekly tasks to make all these interactions happen.



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