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Make Your Pro Shop ‘Recession-Proof’—Part 2

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These days, archery consumers spend their hard-earned dollars where the excitement is—where the positive energy is infectious and enthusiasm is high. If your store isn’t performing as well as you’d like, it may be time to consider some the following energizing, excitement-building updates:

9. Provide Some Professional Training

Your sales and service staff need to be trained regularly in order to adopt fresh operating strategies and cutting-edge sales techniques. Also, when it comes to service work, such as bow tuning, they need to know how to handle always-changing modern equipment. It seems that new breakthroughs in bow tuning are revealed every few months; knowing what these are and how to perform them is paramount to your continued success. Provide anything less than exemplary service and your savvy customers will soon question your expertise—or seek services elsewhere.

There is no better way to stay up-to-date on staff training than to attend technical pre-show seminars taught by industry leaders at the annual ATA Show. If one or two of your staff members are attending the show to help make purchases, be sure to require them to rise a bit earlier and attend these information-packed free seminars. The archery- and bowhunting-specific classes on customer service or bow-tuning are a cost-efficient way to keep your staff performing at up-to-date levels.

10. Scrutinize Your Store Hours

Gone are the days when archery and bowhunting was a mere hobby or pastime. As you likely know, most of your serious customers today consider bowhunting a virtual year-round lifestyle. With that said, many of those serious customers will fit their stops at your store within their daily routines. This means you have to be open when they can stop, or risk losing them. If it takes hiring and training more employees to be open additional days or longer on specific days, you need to consider it. Doing what it takes to offer your customers the store hours they need will pay big dividends.

What are the best hours to keep? There are many opinions on how to determine the most-profitable, most-convenient hours. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula to smart store hours, a good start is conducting some in-store research. Assemble and distribute simple surveys to a wide range of customers and see which options are most popular. Offering store hours that are more-convenient for your customers (and allow you to keep your focus and sanity)—goes a long way toward maximizing your shop’s profitability.

11. Increase Your Distribution Channels

Distribution channels are the mediums from which you sell merchandise and services. Of course, your services can only be sold through physical channels where both you and the customer are present. You can increase service options by renting booths at local and regional consumer events in addition to your in-store service.

To move more merchandise, you can also sell in an online store. Studies show online sales of just about everything continue to climb steadily; if you aren’t selling online through a website (see sidebar: Create Your Own Website) and/or eBay, it may be time to start. Your sales can increase substantially by making your merchandise and services readily available through supplementary distribution channels. Better yet, the costs involved with offering more channels can be surprisingly affordable. Often, a relatively small fee is required to rent a booth at a consumer event, and those who look hard can find reasonable rates for help in building a website. When you carefully consider the return on investment (ROI), increasing your channels can be a relatively low-risk way to increased profitability.

12. Utilize E-mail Blast Newsletters

You can easily gather e-mail addresses from customers by offering to place them on your e-list for updates, sale announcements, and special offers. Once you compile a sizable list, send out bi-weekly or monthly e-mails to all of those contacts. Customers value these e-mails, because it is often the most-convenient way for them to stay informed about such information. E-mails eliminate the costly expenditures involved with conducting direct mailings—and are a great way to stay connected with customers.

13. Use Free Social Networking Sites

Has Facebook taken the archery marketing world by storm? Not really, but it is a very effective free advertising medium that businesses can use to keep customers informed. Repetition is the best way to pull customers into your store, and Facebook has made it a snap to repetitively reach your customers. You might also consider a Twitter account as a free social networking medium.

Once you set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, be sure to let your customers know—so they can “like” or “follow” your business and stay informed through your regular updates. I firmly believe that Facebook and Twitter pages lead to more face-to-face interactions, which in turn develops into more relationships and more sales. Social networking connects business owners with their customers.

I recommend posting exciting new updates often. A good goal would be to reach customers with updates at least twice per week. The more your customers see your updates, the more informed they are, which results in them trickling through the door. A simple post stating “A new bow has arrived!” may be all it takes to pull a customer into your store to consider a new purchase. Again, these nifty, low-cost networking tools keep your shop connected with loyal customers.

14. Add An Indoor Shooting Range

When it comes to increasing customer traffic, the best way in my opinion is to offer a 3-D and spot indoor shooting range. The winter months that used to be dead will find your business booming when you offer a shooting range where customers can seek relief from the weather while maintaining their off-season shooting accuracy.

This may require adding on to your existing store or moving to a new location, but it is an avenue that should be considered if you want to be an up-to-date retailer. Even if customers are fully equipped, they will still pay to come and shoot. Keep your shooting fees competitive and consider offering a discount when customers pay in full for an entire year or league. Incentives like this can help you “set the hook” on lots of new customers.

15. Use Advanced Tuning Gadgets

There are a ton of neat gadgets that enable retail stores to professionally and precisely tune customer bows. A fine example is the Spot-Hogg Hooter Shooter, which shoots a bow without flaw—allowing a bow mechanic to professionally decipher between problems with the customer and the bow itself. If the shooting machine corrects the problem, you know the customer is using flawed form. If not, you will likely be keyed in to what part of the bow (or its accessories) needs immediate attention.

Advanced products that help you tune a bow will provide credibility that draws people in. If for no other reason, the sheer presence of such advanced tuning tools will earn you some respect; be sure you and your staff know how to use these tools properly!

16. Appearance Matters

The attire worn by you and your employees should mesh with the appearance of your store. Uniforms should be fresh and new in order to complement your store in a tasteful manner. Obviously, a suit and tie have no place in archery stores; two good choices are shirts displaying your shop logo—or “pro staff” models from your main product lines.

Polo shirts are a great option because they portray professionalism while avoiding over-formal dressing. Whatever you pick, be sure it is clean and new to harmonize with your store appearance.

17. Offer Help From A Pro

Typically, new or ambitious archers are willing to do everything they can to improve their shooting accuracy. Once you have a shooting range, you can also offer shooting lessons—detailing the ins and outs of good shooting form, proper follow-through, and even how to kill target panic.

Just as people pay for music lessons, many will jump at the chance to plunk down a few dollars to shoot better. One caveat to instructors: A prerequisite to offering lessons is possessing extreme patience. You absolutely cannot show anger or frustration—which can quickly destroy your pupil’s chances of realizing the accuracy he or she is working hard to achieve. Also, be quick with compliments following even the smallest of improvements—while avoiding negative criticisms. If this approach simply is not you, consider hiring a professional shooting coach two or three times a year to teach organized shooting classes at your shop. However, it is best to give these lessons yourself due to the flexibility you can offer customers; truly profitable lesson programs are typically all about convenience.

Once customers are hooked, offer incentives to continue their lessons. Give them a punch card that offers them half off after every sixth paid shooting lesson. Incentives like this are exceptionally valuable to customers. When you offer shooting lessons, customers recognize your ability to offer solutions to all of their shooting and bowhunting needs.

Be An Up-To-Date Retailer!

There is no reason to be living in the Stone Age if your goal is ensuring the longevity of your archery retail store. To achieve the most-consistent success and reach yearly goals, you need to do everything you can to keep “splashing the excitement” throughout your store. Remember, archery customers spend their dollars where the excitement is; employing some of the aforementioned tactics will ensure your shop remains “top of mind” with customers looking for the gear and service they want and need.

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