7 Tips for Social Distancing Your Marketing

Social media is great, but it’s not exactly friendly to our industry, and it shouldn’t be your only marketing plan.

7 Tips for Social Distancing Your Marketing

It’s a beautiful Monday morning. You wake up, pour yourself a steaming hot cup of coffee, and proceed as you always do — by opening your Facebook account to look at some of the posts from your friends and customers, as well as make one of the many social comments and posts you do for your business.

Today, though, something is wrong. Your account won’t load. It’s having problems.

You do a search for your social media page and it returns no results.

After logging into your personal account, you notice a red mark under the notifications area of your account. When you open that notification, you read the following: “It has been determined that you have violated Facebook policies regarding your account. Your account has been permanently suspended.” That's all there is.

You panic. It’s Monday morning. You were in the middle of running a big social media contest and hadn’t extracted all of the names and data from your social programs yet. You need to find someone to call.

You spend the next two hours searching the social media site and, finally, researching on various search engines by typing in “my (insert chosen offending social media site here) account has been suspended and I don’t know what to do…” only to find there’s really no way to contact anybody or to get a good answer to what has happened. Years of hard work have been permanently deleted in an instant — and there’s nobody you can call and nothing you can do to fix it.

This scenario and more have played out hundreds of times in the firearms and outdoor industry.

Some of the larger media organizations and businesses have sent demand letters and their attorneys aggressively after these companies, many times to the tune of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. Can you afford to do that?

It is no secret that social media companies, many of their employees and their technological counterparts in the Silicon Valley most often do not agree with your right to keep and bear arms or your desire to pursue game and fish — and many other opinions and beliefs that you might have. They will use their powers to censor your voices and opinions and, ultimately, even to harm your business on their platform.

Social media has ingrained itself into our DNA and is an effective way to build and do business with your customer base, but it does have some rather serious risks. You’ve heard the term “never put all your eggs in one basket” before, right? Well, the same rule for eggs goes for your marketing plan. Additionally, social media has been around long enough now that there are people out there who have never experienced nor know much about the plethora of methods of marketing and advertising that can still have tremendous ROI for your business dollar. I have run across several who at least claim that 90% of their marketing is through “social” companies.

Regardless of the knowledge we now have as to the opinions and power of these main social companies, do you really believe it is a good idea to put that many eggs in a single basket?

Your business and livelihood deserve thorough planning. There’s no question that social media can be an effective business tool. Following are seven additional effective methods of marketing that your business deserves and should use.


The Irresistible Offer

Using one of the most powerful tools in marketing, the “irresistible offer,” will exponentially enhance the efficacy of each and every method of marketing you use. Nothing grabs a potential customer’s attention more than something of high value given to them in exchange for their business. This can be something like a low cost but high value gift, or even a single, very high discount for a first-time customer. The rule of thumb for determining if something is an “irresistible” offer is that it should make you at least slightly uncomfortable to give it.

Remember: In today’s hyper-connected world, almost everybody knows what things cost and can easily research it if they don’t. 20% off MSRP often puts the “real world discount” at between 1 and 5%. In the marketing world, we refer to these types of ads as “highly resistible.” This type of advertisement can actually force customers to shop or research elsewhere for their needs, giving you a net loss to your customer base.

Need proof that this works? Huge organizations like Ducks Unlimited often lose money on their initial (and sometimes even subsequent) membership dues because they include a premium gift like a duck call, microfleece, or pocketknife with their solicitation to do business with them. They do this because they have a deep understanding of the lifetime value of a customer. This is a very important concept that you should research, but it will take up too much space to explain here. The simple explanation is if you confuse the transactional value of a customer with the lifetime value of a customer, you are likely losing a lot of potential money. Remember, though, to always ask your customer for something of value in exchange — at least their name, address and cell phone number.


List Marketing

This should be the No. 1 priority of every business. A list of your current customers, potential customers, and the general public that have opinions and needs that align with your business is a gold mine of potential revenue. If you haven’t already been doing this, you need to start immediately.

A good way to get people to give you their information is to offer them a discount or “value-added” product or service in exchange for their contact information. Additionally, every time your customers check out, either online or in person, you need to do everything you can to gain, update and maintain their information. Several businesses I have worked with will give their customers an extra 90 days warranty on any products they buy from their store just in exchange for filling out some contact information on one of several electronic tablets located throughout their business. Another developed a private club that gave them a year of added value and service for a small fee. The Sportsman’s Guide has their Buyer’s Club that does the same thing. Think of this like your own personal “social media” company — but now you are the one in control of all of the content and information that is delivered and shared.

Want to dramatically enhance the results and revenue from your list? First, make certain that you deliver a great deal of value in your communications, rather than just the typical, “Hey, you’re my customer, buy my stuff, here’s the stuff that’s on sale,” messages that are all too common — though this type of communication is better than NOT communicating regularly at all. Instead, use the 5-to-1 rule: Deliver at least five things of value before you ask for anything. I preach the mantra of “What, When, Where, How.”

What can they go and do, when do they go and do it, where is it done and how can they easily do it? This can work with everything from starting in competitive shooting to easy weekend hunts for kids. Make a list of 25 or 30 and get writing!

Don’t overwhelm your list with communications. Once a month should be considered under-delivering. Once a week is about perfect. Offer an option for subscribers to upgrade to a premium service that gives more information, services or discounts.


Print Advertising

Flip through the magazine you’re reading right now, and you’ll see examples of businesses marketing their business to a very targeted audience. You can, too, and can add significantly to your bottom line by doing so.

The opportunities for this are almost endless. You can advertise in your local paper. Local magazine publications, regional publications, and, yes, even national-level publications such as Hunting Retailer, Shooting Sports Retailer, Tactical Retailer, and Archery Business. If you add a compelling headline and an irresistible offer, these already effective methods can often double or triple your ROI.


List Sharing/Co-op

This is also a very effective way to increase the size of your marketing list, but it needs to be done with an abundance of caution. Your goal here is to find companies that align with your business, products and values and offer to send a message to your list in order to have them do the same for you. A great example of this would be an archery store pairing up with a gun store. Each could offer the other’s customers a special discount for signing up for their monthly/weekly newsletter or even a special “deal week” where the other store’s customers can shop in your store for a special, discounted rate. What you want to avoid is a simple exchange of names without something of value for the customer, because nobody likes marketing emails out of the blue. This can actually have negative ramifications on both your spam rating for email marketing and your list size, as customers will unsubscribe at a higher rate.


Direct Mail

Remember that list you’re supposed to have been building over the life of your business? Make sure that, in addition to their email, you also get your customers’ physical mailing address. You would be surprised at how effective even something as simple as mailing out a coupon for your business can be.

Don’t have a list? There are hundreds of places where you can buy or rent the use of a list of your exactly desired demographic — all the way down to things like income level, past license purchasing, other purchasing habits, and even if someone is right- or left-handed! Many companies that provide the service can also provide the mailing list for prospecting, making it even easier for you to do business with them.


Dialing for Dollars

It’s not too often people talk to their customers outside of their place of business. Especially with the change in economy caused by the recent coronavirus and subsequent quarantine, most people have extra time on their hands. That might be you and your customers. You may have fewer customers coming to the store, or perhaps you have too many employees and not enough business to support them all being at your business during this trying time. Now is a great opportunity to “dial for dollars.”

Hopefully, you have a thriving business with hundreds or thousands of regular customers who happily come in and spend money with you on a frequent basis. Hopefully, you have some of their names and contact information. Obviously, it would be difficult for you or your employees to call 10,000 people (however, there are services that can do this for you — and, if you have their cell phone numbers, it makes it really easy) — but what if you or a few of your employees took just your top 200? Imagine if you and/or your staff took the time to pick up the phone and called 20 customers a day for 10 days. Have a pre-written message and topic – something like, “We wanted to make sure to let our best customers like you know that we are still open during this event…” Or, “You’re such a valued customer to our business that we wanted to offer you personally a special discount of 10% off anything in the store on Thursday.”

If each call takes only a couple minutes, that’s one hour per day. This type of marketing works especially well around an event, promotion or holiday, so keep that in mind.

Join “The Club”

Everybody wants to be a member of “the exclusive club.”

There are currently several large retailers in the outdoor industry that effectively utilize this type of promotion, and there’s no reason you can’t do it with your business as well. In exchange for an upfront fee, you give members of the club discounts and special pricing on future services. That might mean that they get two hours of free range time every month. It may mean they get an extra 5% off for every purchase. It could earn them 25% off labor in your store. The possibilities are endless. One of the keys to making this program work effectively is to make sure club prices are listed prominently and separately from regular customer prices.

Retailers who rely too heavily on social media for their marketing could be in for a nasty surprise at the most inopportune moment. In the marketing and business world, there was a phrase that I have become very fond of “Diversity is security.” The more customers you have, the more products you carry, and the more methods of effective marketing you use, the more confident you can be in making money no matter what the environment.

Photos by John Hafner


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