Author Topic: Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)  (Read 1822 times)

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Kord

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Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)
« on: January 11, 2015, 12:08:06 PM »
The web provides the opportunity to reach wide spread customers, but it can be very difficult in a over flooded market to make your brand and products stand out.  Sometimes old fashioned word of mouth and old school marketing can help sell some product.

Working with/for locals can give you immediate feedback and in a world of internet anonymity it can provide a real person to stand behind a product.  Being able to talk one on one goes a long way in establishing trust in a business and a product.  In today's economy "buying/supporting local" isn't something just individuals are doing, state governments are doing it as well (check you local government websites for small business programs).

I am in no way a master of marketing, but I have had success is building a local customer base.  I have found that local events, such as gun shows, can put you in contact with people looking gear.  Most Law Enforcement groups have morale boosting and training events that are always looking for sponsors, vendors, and or displays.  For a very small "advertising budget" and a little time you can be in direct with you end user.  But, just like anything else, it won't happen overnight.  You might have to go to half a dozen gun shows before the gearhead at the local PD stops by your table and when that happens you have to stick your foot in the door and do what ever you can to spread your brand to every officer in the department.  The local EMS might be looking for a new belt, Fire Department might be looking for a pouch for carabiners because the ones they have are falling apart.  However you look at it do not dismiss your local market base you never know who you might run into and what they're willing to spend.

When I go to a gun show, a shooting match, or whatever I'm not concerned about what I sell it's about who I meet and the sales generated from that meeting.  I always try to cover expenses (and usually do) but its the after sale where you will make money.  You can never be sure you if samples will make it across the Police Chiefs desk when you mail them in but if you're sponsoring a police event they are obligated to say thank you and its usually a Captain or 2 doing the introduction.

In the first 3 events I attended lead to the sale of over $25,000 to Law Enforcement in 3 different cities and countless individual sales.  It did take a couple of years to get things worked out after the initial contact but I think it was worth a few weekends.  With all of these contacts I always heard the same thing "I've heard about you and wanted to check you out but haven't had the time" At the first show (cost for space $100.00) we were asked to to sponsor an event (cost some free samples for prizes).  At that event the hosting department and a dept. what was attending ended up purchasing about $8,000 worth of goods each and at the event sold another $200.  The next gun show we attended we ran into another LE Department and to this day are still dealing with them (currently have a bid in for several hundred items)

After establishing ourselves at the gun shows we started doing some work for other vendors and soon had people being referred to us by other vendors and did the same.  I didn't get rich by any means but helped to keep the doors open and grow the business.

JTT

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Re: Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2015, 07:09:19 PM »
This seems like solid advice to me. I can think of a handful of gear companies that were launched just by their owner/operator taking their own gear to carbine classes as a paying student. It can be easy to forget that a real relationship and a handshake still works when all you hear about is SEO, social media, advertising budgets, branding, etc...

Globe

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Re: Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2015, 04:45:56 PM »
You might have to go to half a dozen gun shows before the gearhead at the local PD stops by your table and when that happens you have to stick your foot in the door and do what ever you can to spread your brand to every officer in the department.  The local EMS might be looking for a new belt, Fire Department might be looking for a pouch for carabiners because the ones they have are falling apart.  However you look at it do not dismiss your local market base you never know who you might run into and what they're willing to spend.

This couldn't be more true. I have a friend who is a firefighter that lives over 500 miles away from me. He's a tall guy with big feet and asked me to make him a "Step-In Bag" for his fire fighting kit. I went to my local EMS/Firefighting company to see their gear to get dimensions off of it to make his bag for him. While I was there, everyone kept asking what I was doing. I told them exactly what I was doing and what my end goal was. They all wanted to see my one-off project after it was completed. I brought if by when I was done. That generated tons of sales. After my friend got his bag, that generated more sales.

(And belt mounted carabiner pouches are a gold mine for someone doing custom sewing!!!)

Shaddox Tactical

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Re: Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2015, 07:15:24 PM »
Absolutely!  I got my start doing the gun shows around here and it really helped get my brand out there and make a lot of contacts.  Gun shows are also good micro market tests where you can see who's buying what and what people are shopping for and which products do better than others in a short period of time.  Sometimes you have to bear in mind that often the average gun show shopper is looking for bargains, but I have found that the fact my gear was hand made by myself overshadowed the cheep price on the import gear being sold across the isle.  That "buy local" really helps sales.  Sometimes shoppers have randomly bought an item off my table even when they didn't know what it was or even needed it or wanted it before they started talking to me. But were so taken by my business and my personality that they wanted to support it.  It's great when they can see and talk to you face to face.

Along that line, local retailers can also be good.  Sometimes it can be tough to get your brand out there where people see it a lot and recognize it.   I started selling at a couple of the local gun shops around my town and in neighboring towns years ago.  The carrot I held out to the retail shops to get my brand out there was for them to sell my products on consignment.  It basically free money for them with no commitment and does not tie up their much needed capital on a brand or product they don't know about yet.  They have the space and the foot traffic of people looking to buy.

Consignment sales can be difficult to do well and you have to be very careful about your consignment agreements and who you do business with.  Expect  one in every ten stores you do business with to try and rip you off.   If or when that happens just stop doing business with them and consider the loss as advertising.  What works well is a percentage split of the retail price that is good for the retailer but not too good.  Then as your brand takes off and they see that your items are making them money negotiate for them to go full retail and sell your products to them outright at a wholesale price that gives them a much better profit margin.  What I have found works good it 25% to 30% on consignment and then full keystone on wholesale.  That way they are supporting local gear makers and still making money and you are getting your gear out into the market.  You just have to make sure your margins support your pricing structure.
Clay- Shaddox Tactical LLC

Kord

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Re: Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2015, 04:20:12 PM »
This is exactly what I wanted to see, tips and stories to help/give ideas to the new and old.

Now for a story, at one gun show a lot of people asked for belts and belt mounted gear (I was delivering a custom belt to a long time customer at the show that day and had it on the table for display) So for the next show I worked my but off and made a bunch of belts and belt mounted mag pouches (usually only make MOLLE mounted gear).  Took it all to the show and only sold one belt  :-[  Very disappointing but because I had established a good relationship with some other vendors I was able to sell them at the end of the show and still make some money. 

Gun show crowds are very fickle you never know what they're going to buy.  I always try to price my goods at just under what I would sell them from from my shop, but still have a little wiggle room for the customer that wants to haggle.


SunriseTacticalGear

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Re: Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2015, 06:39:52 PM »
The biggest bang for my buck has been to donate to the prize table of local shooting shooting competitions that I compete in.
The other shooters are very grateful and give me immediate feedback. There is always a few people that want to share their million dollar idea or have leads to people that need custom gear.
The best part is that my enty fee and associated shooting costs are written off as "promotional" costs.
Get out there and compete and you will soon have more work then you can handle.
Scott

Shaddox Tactical

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Re: Local sales and events (suggestions and stories)
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2015, 11:41:05 AM »
Kord- I know exactly what you mean about the fickle gun show crowd.  It used to drive me crazy when I would sell a bunch of product A and B at a show and very little of product C and D.  So for the next show I would do an extra run of A and B to make sure I had plenty and then end up hardly selling any of them and sell out of C and D.  In the two to three years I regularly worked the local gun show circuit here, I could never figure out any rhyme or reason to the buying pattern.  I would usually just run home after the first day of the show and try to make as many of whatever item was selling the best that I could to have extra for the next day.

Scott- That is a great idea about getting more involved in the local shooting scene and contributing donations to competitions.  Food for thought.  Thanks.
Clay- Shaddox Tactical LLC