Leadership | Marketing

Weapon industry marketing issues amid the gun control era.

What’s the Problem?


 Every industry faces its share of obstacles and roadblocks when it comes to marketing strategies. Few compare to the difficulty of marketing in the firearms and weapons industry. There are few platforms that genuinely support the marketing of guns, and those that do really tread lightly in their definition of “support.” Due to the mass shooting incidents that have taken place over the last decade or so, guns have been under constant scrutiny from the government and society. As a direct result of pressures and backlash after incidents many of the largest channels to market in shut their doors to never be opened again. How do you market without the use of Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Shopify, and web designers like Squarespace, Wix, or many other platforms that are commonplace for many industries? The answer is that you need to take a hard look at your Search Engine Optimization, your Website Design, and your Social Media.


Data Driven Decisions:


 Given that the traditional means of paid marketing is off the table, how will potential new clients find your site? How will you grow your business in a highly competitive market dominated by large dealers? How in depth have you gone with your analytics to determine your strengths and weaknesses? These are all questions you must ask yourself. Organic and direct traffic are the factors that you want to look at as a metric of overall performance as those two traffic channels will receive users by. To influence these channels, you must investigate improving your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is imperative to due your research into the strength of your keywords. Google Trends is an excellent tool to check, compare, and analyze possible keywords for SEO. A single letter’s difference can drastically alter what audience will see your content. An example would be when optimizing for Heckler & Koch products using the abbreviation HK versus H&K— both being popular abbreviations of the company name.

The raw data shows a HK winning by a landslide. So, optimize using HK, right? Well try googling HK and see what comes up. It is mainly results relating to Hong Kong, aka likely not your target audience. However, H&K directly results in Heckler & Koch related results. This is important to highlight the significance of your SEO, small subtleties matter and can edge out competition when used strategically or your own listing if used carelessly. In addition to keywords, look at editing page result titles and meta descriptions to match with the chosen keyword so that Google’s algorithm will rank it higher in the results. Yoast is a great SEO tool that can aid in your quest for optimization.


But What’s Wrong with My Website?


 Well, when was the last time it was updated visually or with modern features? It’s 2019, there is zero room for Comic Sans or distracting text colors. It may have been tolerated in the earlier days of the internet but is unacceptable in the modern digital marketplace. You must view your site as it is, as if you were a new user unfamiliar with the site. What features have you implemented to make the site more user friendly and guide your potential clients? The online demographic has shifted predominantly to mobile devices as the primary means of surfing the web. Have you optimized your website for mobile? If not, you could be losing a significant portion of potential traffic to slow load times or features that don’t port correctly. The answers lie within your site data. For me my weapon of choice for data is Google Analytics as it provides a vast amount of possible insights and ability to visually analyze data within the site. From a technical perspective, key performance indicators I recommend focusing on would be looking at your Bounce Rates, Average Page Load Times, and Site Engagement reports. Specifically, how they relate to one another, and how they vary in the different device segments. Analysis of these KPIs can help retain more of the traffic that comes to your site from your SEO efforts.


Build Your Community:


 Social media is tied into all aspects of modern life it seems and it’s a valuable tool of soft marketing. While social media sites have specific rules against selling weapons there is no rule against making a company account and posting content that builds a following. The buying process in the gun industry occurs overtime and likely when people are visiting your site are doing research to see what company they will do business with when they are ready to buy. As the demographic of buyers begins to become younger (money being a main barrier to entry) online presence is increasingly important. Create content that will serve to foster positive brand association and make a schedule to post consistently. Understand the importance of collaborations with other companies and how they can benefit or hurt your company. It takes a long time to build a reputation but only one blunder to ruin it, keep this in mind and be selective of what, how, and who you post with and about on social media. Social media can serve as a valuable intel source as most forums are public and people speak on them as if they were private, choose your battles carefully and always air on the side of caution to protect your brand.


  So That’s It?


 Not quite, but these are 3 of the most important in my opinion. I encourage you to seek out answers for yourself as well. This is not a one-size-fits-all guide. As a marketer you need to know your company’s unique needs and strategize accordingly. These are glances at topics that WILL benefit your business long term. I recommend reading through this related article by Joshua Claflin of Garrison Everest. He has a few tactics; I didn’t touch on and shares his take relating to the topics I’ve discussed here.


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