It is no secret that the archery industry has had a couple rough years. Box stores, online shopping and many other factors have created a perfect storm. As a result, many pro shops are feeling the pinch. When things change and business gets tough, business owners must figure out new ways to encourage shoppers to darken the door of their business. In today’s tech-savvy world, one way archery shops can keep people engaged is by marketing their business online.
One pro shop that has been successful at growing their business by marketing online is T.A.Z. Archery in Illinois, which is owned by Tim Zimmerman. Zimmerman admits business has been tough over the last few years, but says so far this year business is going extremely well because he is marketing his business online as much as possible.
“The majority of consumers spend a lot of time online, so pro shops need to reach out to customers online,” he explained. “Box stores and online retailers market heavily to consumers online. Pro shops need to do the same thing.”
Mastering Social Media
The low-hanging fruit in the online world is social media. Unfortunately, many archery pro shops and sporting goods retailers still pay very little attention to social media. If you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, start one.
“It is amazing to me that more pro shops don’t use social media to promote their business,” said Zimmerman. “Starting a Facebook page doesn’t cost anything but time. It is a great way to communicate with your customers.”
Zimmerman uses Facebook to let his customers know if he is having a sale, when new products arrive in the store and when to sign up for leagues. “I try to stay in front of my customers as much as possible,” he said. “By regularly posting on social media, when people think about archery, they think about me and my store instead of the box store or shop down the street.”
Instagram is also a platform pro shops should utilize. With its high engagement rate, Instagram is a great platform for interacting with customers and potential customers. Instagram is largely about photo sharing. If you are good at taking pictures, start an Instagram page and start posting pics.
If you’re not good at taking pictures, search for “how to take better pictures with a smartphone” on YouTube, or head on over to the ATA’s website at www.archerytrade.org to check out some articles with tips on taking better photos. In the digital age, it’s becoming ever more important to be able to cut through the noise and communicate with potential customers visually through crisp, well-composed photos.
Don’t Slack Off
It is one thing to start a Facebook page. It is entirely another thing to use it regularly to drive store traffic. Many pro shops get excited when they first start using Facebook, but over time they post less and less. Eventually months go by without posting.
Not posting regularly is like not keeping a clean store front. If someone visits your page and doesn’t see regular activity, it sends a message that you really don’t care. Worse, customers may assume that your shop has closed if they find an inactive Facebook page.
The goal of every pro shop should be to post a few times a week at the very least. When I speak with retailers about why they don’t post on Facebook, many retailers say they simply don’t know what to post.
Engaging Facebook Content
If a customer comes in and buys a new bow, take their picture and post it. If you are having a busy day at the shop, take a picture of the shop full of customers and post it. If it is league night, post it. If your shop got in a new shipment of bows, post a picture of a pile of boxes in the storage room. Post pictures of employees, customers who have had success in the field and anything at the shop that is exciting and noteworthy.
The more you post, the more engagement you’ll get and the more your posts will show up in your customers’ news feeds. (For more on creating content that shows up in news feeds, check out our article on using Facebook more effectively in the Archery University 2017 issue. Can’t find your copy? Visit www.archerybusiness.com and look for our digital archives.)
Be the Local Expert
One reason people visit pro shops regularly is because they want an expert to work on their bow. Don’t be afraid to use Facebook to let the world know what separates your shop from the box store. Post helpful tips, post videos, or do a Facebook live video explaining how important it is to have a bow regularly tuned up or why shooting in a winter league is a good idea. If you come across as knowledgeable and professional, those posts will get shared. That increases the digital footprint of the shop and can increase pro shop foot traffic.
Reach New Markets Through Online Ads
Over the last several years, Zimmerman has been focusing a lot of his marketing efforts on getting kids into archery.
“I have been successful at promoting youth archery on Facebook,” he said. “We offer archery lessons to get kids into the sport, birthday parties and JOAD. Marketing kids’ programs online has worked well for me over the last couple years. I have targeted local Boy Scout and other groups when marketing online.
“One of my goals over the last year was using social media and Google Ads to reach recreational shooters. Before I started marketing recreational archery, I was giving about 30 to 40 lessons a month. Now I am doing about 150 to 200 lessons a month.”
The cool thing about recreational archery is these customers shoot year-round and can really help a business grow.
Target Potential Customers on Groupon
Another online platform Zimmerman has used to reach new customers is Groupon. Groupon is a website that offers discounts on all kinds of things. Many sports enthusiasts use Groupon to get sports lessons for their kids.
“We offer discounted archery lessons on Groupon and have had amazing success with it,” Zimmerman noted. “Groupon is a place where we can reach local people that wouldn’t otherwise enter an archery pro shop.”
Collect Email Addresses
When new customers come into T.A.Z. Archery to shoot, they fill out a form that has a place for them to provide their email address. In most cases, people willingly give their email addresses, which helps Zimmerman grow his email list. He uses that list to send out newsletters.
“I am surprised that more pro shops don’t send out newsletters,” he said. “It is a great way to communicate with my customer base. My newsletter open rate is extremely high because our newsletters offer valuable information, including sales and league information people want to know about.”
Email Newsletters Save Money
John Schaffer of Schaffer Performance Archery in Burnsville, Minn., saves money by sending newsletters through email.
“Before I started sending out emails, I mailed postcards reminding people to sign up for our winter league,” he said. “Now I just send out an email, which saves me a lot of money on printing and postage and lots of time.”
Make Your Newsletter Top Notch
The key to being successful with email newsletters is sending them out only when they are packed with noteworthy information. When a shop receives a new shipment of the latest and greatest bow, send out a newsletter about it. If you are offering a league or having an expert come in to teach a class, let everyone know about it. If an email is packed with relevant information, the open rate will be high. If the information isn’t good, your open rate will be very low.
When sending a newsletter, make sure the headline is catchy. If it says something like, “This 2017 bow is now in stock. Save 10% today,” your email will have a large open rate. If you were to headline an email with, “Come check out our new bows,” it generally won’t go as well. You only get one chance to grab people’s attention.
Positive Online Reviews Are a Must
In the last couple of years, more companies, including national brands and local stores, are focusing on making sure their online reviews are good. Most local businesses live or die on positive customer experiences. Before the internet, these experiences were shared via word of mouth. Now, most people go online to review restaurants, stores and other businesses. When people are considering going to shop somewhere new, they often read online reviews long before they open the door of the store. Making sure people are giving your store a positive review is important.
“Not every customer is going to give you five out of five stars, but now that I use Groupon and Facebook, I get many positive reviews,” Zimmerman said. “There is no question it has helped my pro shop.”
Ask Customers for a Review
One way to increase the number of online reviews your store receives is to ask customers to review your store. If you set up a new bow for a customer and they are pleased, ask them to post a review. If you give a child archery lessons and their mom is super excited about how it went, ask them to post a review. There are many places people can post reviews, such as Google, Yelp and Facebook.
To encourage customers to post reviews, some small businesses offer special incentives, such as one-time discounts, if customers share their experience online. Offering $10 or so off a future purchase can help get your happy customers busy talking — or, in this case, typing.
Related: How to educate your customers
Handling Bad Reviews
No matter how great your shop is, eventually you’re going to have a customer who isn’t happy with the products or service you provide. No one wants a negative review, but how you handle the bad review is going to tell potential customers more about your professionalism than any number of good reviews can.
First, evaluate the negative review fairly. Was there something your shop did or didn’t do that fell short of what a reasonable customer should expect? It’s okay if the answer is yes; we all make mistakes. Once the mistake has been made, the only thing you can do is look at it as a blessing in disguise. Most businesses are easy to work with when everything runs smoothly, but far fewer are willing to go the extra mile when things go south.
If your shop made a mistake and someone leaves a negative review about it online, immediately reach out — most platforms allow you to respond publicly to reviews — and thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention. Apologize and supply contact information so that the customer can get in touch with you, allowing you to resolve the issue.
First, this ensures that you solve a customer’s problem. Second, if you do this as a response to a bad review, people reading over your reviews will see that you’ve responded to the unhappy customer. That sends the message that you care about making things right.
Now, in some instances you will have a bad review left by one of those customers who is impossible to make happy. If that’s the case, you still want to respond — not necessarily for that customer’s benefit, but for the benefit of anyone who may be reading the review. No matter what, you need to remain professional. Apologize for not being able to meet the customer’s needs. You may, depending on the review, want to explain the situation from your perspective, but only if you can maintain a professional tone throughout. Whatever you do, do not insult or belittle the customer. That customer may be a lost cause, but the hundreds — or thousands — of people reading your response are not. You’re talking to them in your response — keep that in mind as you compose your reply.
Finally, make sure you respond to the review within a certain time frame — say, 24 to 72 hours — if at all possible. Monitor sites like Facebook, Yelp and Google so you see new reviews. You can also set up a Google Alert for your shop’s name. Just go to www.google.com/alerts and enter your shop’s name into the search bar. Then click the drop-down menu that says “Show options.” This will allow you to select how often you receive alerts (go with “As It Happens” or “At Most Once A Day”) and what sources the alerts are pulled from. Some other keywords you may want to set up Google Alerts for are your name and common misspellings of your business’ name. Whenever that keyword appears on the web, you’ll get a Google Alert sent to your email so you can keep tabs on your online reputation.
Becoming Their First Choice
In the past, people read the newspaper and visited stores that ran ads in the paper. In the past, people looked up businesses in the phone book. Those days are gone. Now, if you want to reach local consumers, you need to reach them where they spend the most time, and that’s the internet.
Between social media marketing, newsletters and other online opportunities, you can target the right audience and, most importantly, you can do it repeatedly. Marketing is all about sending the right message to the people you want to hear it. With online marketing, you can make sure the right people hear it so when they need something archery related, your pro shop is the first choice.
Featured photo: iStock