How to Become a Marketing Master

If your business and sales are stuck in neutral, it could be time to put a marketing campaign into high gear.

How to Become a Marketing Master

Does it seem that the customer traffic coming through your business’ front door has dwindled? Are items that used to move at a quick pace from the shelf to the check-out counter now seemingly frozen in place? Wondering why? If your business and sales are stuck in neutral, it could be time to put a marketing campaign into high gear.  

First steps to become a marketing master — gather the details and make a plan.

Marketing strategies should be a key part of any productive business plan and part of your ongoing business practices. The best roads to profits can often be mastering the details of how to market to your customers — and the surrounding region. From marketing a business and its wares and services to promoting products to visitors/customers who step within the walls of your store or range, it pays to master marketing. 

The marketing process is far more than buying an ad in a newspaper or placing an ad on a local cable or TV channel. Marketing can also help educate customers and better bridge the connection between you and them. Some businesses see sales as the work to convert product into cash by encouraging the customer to buy. Marketing starts that process by calling the product(s) and your retail store or range to the customer’s attention. It’s much like planting a seed — or thought.

When making your marketing plans, take inventory and talk to your customers. Search out the reasons why customers come through your door, what they buy, what they say — and what they tell their friends. These key points can provide messages for ads you create or marketing messages you promote. Marketing is calling attention — or more attention — to the things you and your staff do well. There are many ways to gain the interest of customers. From Facebook to your website to fliers you place in shopping bags to printed circulars dropped into the post office for mass mail distribution, you can garner more attention. Then you need to define your message.

The message you move in your marketing efforts could be something as simple as you are the region’s exclusive dealer of a certain brand of rifles or much-sought tactical bags, or that your business is the city’s leading dealer of certain products. Zero in on what makes you stand out against the competition, and remember to explore co-op dollars if you take this approach to promotions with specific products mentioned. Then blow your own horn and motivate customers to stop and shop.

To better move your marketing message, develop a timeline of when what message and the delivery method needs to be completed or submitted. Marketing is the time to put your best foot forward so plan to hire graphic pros and photographers so you look professional on print and in promotions. Completing those chores is not the time to let a high school art student make your graphic pieces. 

Be creative in the message you craft. For example, nearly everyone knows about Virginia’s promo slogan: Virginia is for Lovers. It’s an easy-to-remember campaign that gets attention — and it lets everyone know the state welcomes visitors. Great marketing! You could do something very creative that calls attention to your business, such as organizing an annual campaign to buy bulletproof vests for the local law enforcement K-9 units or supporting a children’s burn wing in the local hospital. Have a brainstorming session with employees or close friends to develop a slogan if you need one. 

The message, the delivery channel and the call-to-action in any advertising and marketing campaign should be quick to read, easy to understand and on target. Simple messages such as “Stock Up!”, “Set your Sights”, “3-Gun Season Starts Soon” and others grab interest and remind customers in a subtle way.

Reach Out ... Way Out!

While marketing sends out the details on your business, its products and the services available to your customers, you should explore ways to grow that reach to gain new customers. This outreach could include having a booth at regional gun shows, placing a billboard beside a busy highway in the area, or advertising in statewide magazines that focus on products your customers shop for with you. 

You should also diversify the customer groups you reach out to. If your shop is full tactical 24/7, you may also find customers in the self-defense, hunting and other niche markets who will cross over and purchase items — especially ammunition — from your retail shop.  Those groups will need to see different messages through different channels, such as an ad in a statewide hunting regulations booklet, to learn about your business. 

Reaching across the table to new customer bases can also be accomplished at county fairs in rural areas or possibly at a statewide hunter expo such as the Dixie Deer Classic held in Raleigh, North Carolina each March. If you pursue this outreach plan and attend consumer shows, go with eye catching items to display, much sought products to sell, and be ready to hand out lots of brochures and flyers with details on your location, your website and contact information and the dates of any mega sales or annual events in your store.    

It pays to also grow your business base in your backyard — your local community. Attend networking events such as those held by the chamber of commerce or other in-town groups. If you can, host these meetings in your shop as an open house so other businesses and leaders know what you sell and how your business serves the community and citizens who live there. Collaborate with other businesses and especially the ones on your street or block. Pull your share and then some in the community effort and be ready to gain attention.

A top marketing strategy today is using social media — and using it often. If you are posting text and images once a week, or only putting store hours and general info into those such as Facebook and Instagram channels, you are far behind. Social media has become the new gossip grapevine or word-of-mouth in the web age. You need to post frequently, use many images and announce nearly everything connected to your range or retail shop. Feel free to show customers, staff, the dog sleeping behind the counter and all things that can build and promote that human connection. There is, however, a line between promoting and boasting and bragging. Stay on the right side or risk turning customers off.

Another way to effectively market is to build on an email list and use that list to keep in touch with customers. Build the list with names of customers who enter an in-your-store-only contest to win a prize, or who fill out a questionnaire on your website or in the shop — or both. Email marketing with programs such as Constant Contact or MailChimp help you send messages, track open rates and determine responses and reader actions. You can also easily segment customers by shopping and buying habits. Explore your options, the costs and the results you seek to achieve, then move your message. This type marketing can help you see successes — and plan future marketing projects. If you need help, the Small Business Administration (  and other agencies have programs to help you develop your marketing plan. 

Everyone loves a deal — period. Creating and offering a package, such as a well-stocked home self-defense kit or range bag any SWAT officer would love to have, can generate interest within a specific shooting community that comes through your door. These giveaways or special promotions do gain attention and are spread near and far by word of mouth.  If entrants must fill a card and drop that in a box in your store, be certain the box is located near items that sell well. 

When to Move to Marketing Messages

Remember that information moves at various speeds. Your store’s Facebook page could let those customers who follow you know about newly arrived products — today. If you post something at lunch time today, however, be realistic in expectations of when customers will arrive. Most customers in today’s hectic world need to also plan and prepare to shop. Unless they are buying online, they need to find time to make the drive, shop and pay. 

On special sales events such as holiday shopping that fills parking lots in late November and most of December, you need to start marketing in October or earlier. Get ahead of the competition, plant the seed to buy in the customer’s mind about your retail business and the products, and then give time for the customer to become motivated. Your marketing messages could be the motivator that causes the customer to take action. 

When the dust settles after a marketing project is completed, take the time to evaluate everything — and keep notes. What did you do, what happened and what did customers do? Answering these many questions will put you on the trail to becoming a marketing master.


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