Trust and Relationships: Two Keys to Keeping Customers

The author depends on two local archery shops, and it’s not because of product selection or low prices.

keeping customers

In a world in which you can order just about anything online and have it delivered to your door, often with free shipping, you might wonder why anyone shops in person anymore. I, too, prefer to shop online — with one very important exception: archery gear.

Truth be told, I have bought certain archery items online; bowsights come to mind right away. The reason is I can buy the exact bowsight I desire, and mounting it is simple.

Just about everything else for archery, however, requires the insight and expertise of a trained pro shop employee. And because I have no desire to set up a basement bow shop, I’ve become a regular customer at two local archery shops.

Allow me to describe them in more detail. Perhaps I’ll mention something that means a lot to me that you might not have thought about as it relates to your own archery shop or your customers.

keeping customers
Proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Schaffer Performance Archery

Burnsville, Minnesota

Owned by John Schaffer, the pro shop that bears his name looks like nothing special from the outside. In fact, John’s shop is one of a few tenants that share the same building. Think “business strip mall” and you’ve got the picture.

When you step through the front door, however, it’s like opening the gate of Willy Wonka’s factory. John’s shop has enough room for a handful of shooters in the standard (paper target) range, and several more in his Technohunt video range. Several head-and-shoulder mounts grace the high walls bordering the range, and a massive bulletin board shows off pics of animals taken by Schaffer Performance Archery customers and staff.

keeping customers
New bows line the walls at Schaffer Archery, while consignment bows hang from the ceiling.

The bow presses and work stations sit near the center of the retail space; bows from Hoyt, Mathews, Mission and PSE line the walls. Used consignment bows hang from the ceiling near the work stations and cash register.

As for selection of accessories, be it sights, arrow rests or stabilizers, John doesn’t stock a ton of gear. (Click here to read a previous Archery Business article with insight from Schaffer on how stocking more of fewer products can boost profits.) Instead, he and his staff actively promote what they use on the shooting line and in the field. They aren’t afraid to say “I use this product and here’s why.” Very simply, if you’re looking for B.S. and product/marketing spin, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you want honest opinions on what gear works, welcome to Schaffer’s.

keeping customers
Owner John Schaffer working on a customer’s new bow.

John Schaffer is a wizard when it comes to setting up bows, and the same is true for his dedicated staff. Everyone that I’ve dealt with on his team (I’ve been going there for nearly 20 years) is soft spoken and knowledgeable. The drive to John’s shop is 1.25 hours from my home, and trust me when I say I pass by several archery establishments on my way to Schaffer’s, but I never have to worry if “so and so” (good or bad) will be working. My trip is never wasted because they can always help me. Always.

Another aspect that I appreciate about John and his team is they make you feel important. True story: It’s been more than a decade since my wife, Jodi, stepped through their door to have her vintage Mathews Q2 fitted with new string and cables. To this day when I visit Schaffer’s, someone on John’s team asks, “How’s Jodi and the kids?” One word describes this level of customer interest and care: Incredible.

keeping customers
John Schaffer helping a customer get the peep sight location just right.

I’ve spent a lot of money at Schaffer Performance Archery through the decades, and you know what? When I hand over my credit card it doesn’t hurt, not in the least. I know that my money is helping support their archery shop, helping support their families. It’s a pleasure doing business with them.

Cabin Fever Owner Jeff Byrne

Cabin Fever Sporting Goods

Victoria, Minnesota

Although I’ve been visiting Cabin Fever for decades, my previous visits had to do with satisfying my passion for fishing. Only recently did I give them a chance to earn my business when it comes to archery. And earn it they did.

Cabin Fever is owned by Jeff Byrne, whom I’ve known for a long time. Jeff is a good family man and a solid citizen (i.e. involved with the local school’s archery programs, etc.). Always positive, Jeff is friendly to everyone who walks through his doors, and this is especially true of the kids. My two sons have always enjoyed stopping at Cabin Fever and talking to Jeff; he’s quick to ask them, “How’s fishin’?” and he actually listens to their reply.

I recently stopped at Cabin Fever as a test; could I find an archery shop a little closer to home and save the 1-plus-hour drive to Schaffer Performance Archery? I walked through the doors at Cabin Fever with two dozen Easton FMJs that needed to be cut and have inserts installed. Note: I didn’t buy the arrows at their shop.

I nodded a smile to Jeff on my way to the archery counter. Cabin Fever is a big place, featuring a large area dedicated to fishing tackle, another large area dedicated to hunting clothing and accessories, a well-stocked gun counter, a bait shop with numerous tanks, and a decent-sized archery range. A young man was helping a customer with some bow questions, yet he greeted me with a smile and said, “I’ll be with you in just a moment.” When the other customer said, “Thanks for your help,” a few minutes later and began browsing elsewhere in the store, I introduced myself (no, I didn’t tell him I worked for Archery Business). I said I’d like some work done on some arrows.

keeping customers
Cabin Fever states its prices with simple and effective signage.

“My name is Garrett Prochaska,” he said, shaking my hand. “No problem; I can work on them while you wait. If you haven’t shot these FMJs before, I can tell you from experience that you’re going to love them.” Then, pointing to easy-to-read signage on the archery counter, he said, “The price for cutting them and gluing inserts is shown there. If that seems reasonable to you, I’ll get started now.”

“Looks fair,” I said, and Garrett got to work. As I watched him and we got to know each other, I thought about a story a buddy told me recently. Thomas said he was refused service when he brought arrows to a pro shop to have shafts cut for length and inserts installed. “We only cut arrows if you bought them here,” Thomas mimicked in an arrogant tone. “The guy was a real jerk, too. I’ll never go back to that archery shop, for anything.”

I’ve also heard stories where an archery shop charges a ridiculous price for cutting arrows not purchased with them. Again, unless the archery shop’s goal is to drive away business, it makes more sense to charge a fair price for the work and then treat the customer in a friendly manner. After all, you have no idea how the customer came to possess the one or two dozen arrows he now holds in his hands. Did he buy them online? Probably. Did he receive them as a gift from a friend or family member? Maybe. It doesn’t matter — why not give that customer fantastic service regardless of the circumstances? Do so and the chances increase that they’ll buy their next dozen from you.

keeping customers
Cabin Fever’s Garrett Prochaska cutting and installing inserts on the author’s arrows.

It’s worth noting that Cabin Fever offers free cutting and insert gluing for arrows purchased at their store. This is true for most archery shops I’ve visited through the years.

As Garrett worked on my arrows, he asked about my other gear. “Oh, the Prime Logic is a sweet-shooting bow, and you made a great choice with the Vapor Trail Gen 7 rest. The Spot Hogg Grinder bowsight is outstanding, too. It sounds like you have a great setup for this deer season.”

When I told Garrett I had the bow in my pickup and still needed a peep sight installed, he was quick to offer: “Bring it in, I’d be happy to set the peep for you.” I didn’t confess this to Garrett, but my plan was to drive to Schaffer’s for the peep work after visiting Cabin Fever for my arrow test. However, Garrett had convinced me with his knowledge and great attitude that I’d be in good hands.

Did Cabin Fever charge me a small fee to install the peep sight on a bow I didn’t purchase with them? Of course they did, which is simply good business. I understand that Garrett’s time is valuable, and Garrett understood that he had a chance to win over a future customer if he showed me topnotch work matched with a pleasant/helpful attitude.

Well played, Garrett Prochaska. Well played.

keeping customers
Cabin Fever sells gear for hunters, shooters and anglers.

After paying at the register for my arrow and peep sight work, I walked over to the gun counter, where Cabin Fever Owner Jeff Byrne was helping a gentlemen with a handgun purchase. “Jeff, I just wanted to say you have a winner in Garrett. The young man knows his stuff. I’ll be back many more times in the future for all things archery. Have a good day.”

As the title to this story says, when it comes to keeping customers, it’s all about trust and relationships.