Give Recreational Customers Reasons To Return Often.
Today’s firearm consumers are looking beyond just buying a firearm for hunting or personal protection. These consumers — especially the recreational shooter — are looking for an experience, and it’s imperative for dealers to successfully engage these customers to boost sales and keep them coming back.
The Range at Lake Norman in Cornelius, N.C. — a recent recipient of NSSF’s Five-Star Range status — knows how to create a memorable experience for recreational shooters. As the only women-operated range in the Carolinas, the range specifically caters to and understands the female shooting demographic, which puts them leagues ahead of other ranges that struggle to connect with women.
“Our ratio of customers is 55-percent men to 45-percent women,” said Tricia Sisson, co-owner of The Range at Lake Norman. “When I was putting together the business plan for the range, my husband said, ‘I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of arguments when women go up to their husbands and ask if they want to go shooting today instead of shopping.’”
That’s the concept behind The Range at Lake Norman: creating a recreational facility, as well as an entertainment facility, that will attract customers of all types and backgrounds.
“We’re vying for the same dollars consumers are spending at the movies, at dinner or at bars,” Sisson said. “We strive to create an entertainment experience for the customers.”
The Range at Lake Norman creates an entertainment experience for women
through its monthly Ladies Night, which attracts up to 50 women per event.
“Ease In” New Shooters
One way the range creates an entertainment experience is through its monthly Ladies Night. Each event attracts 30 to 50 women.
“We really cater to first-time shooters at the range, and Ladies Night is no different,” Sisson said. “The women fill out a waiver and watch a safety video first. Then they go out to the lanes with certified instructors and shoot 25 rounds with their choice of firearm.”
The women who attend Ladies Night also take advantage of the range’s simulator system, which lets them “shoot” with an M4, Glock or Smith & Wesson revolver or semiautomatic.
“They can try out different scenarios and compete against each other,” Sisson said. “It’s a great way to introduce first-time shooters to the concept before taking them out to the lanes.”
Ladies Night always ends in the range’s professionally decorated lounge, where the women enjoy appetizers and time to mingle.
“About 70 percent of the women who attend Ladies Night will come back to the range again,” Sisson said. “They sign up for a class, purchase a firearm or bring their family back with them. Ladies Night gives us an opportunity to bring in new customers who have never had this experience.”
In addition to Ladies Night, The Range at Lake Norman offers more than 15 other classes and events that get recreational shooters into the range. While some of those classes are designed for experienced shooters, many are purposely designed to ease first-time shooters and the occasional shooter into the sport.
“In this industry, we need to be mindful that not everyone owns a gun,” Sisson said. “Many people are interested, but they fear the experience. Creating a clean environment that’s comfortable and that’s not alienating or off-putting is so important. You really need to have an environment where everyone is going be comfortable.”
The inviting, upscale environment at The Range at Lake Norman has attracted many local businesses to host corporate parties and events at the facility, which presents yet another opportunity to attract new recreational shooters.
“We host events ranging from bachelorette parties to events for celebrities,” Sisson said. “We have relationships with local caterers and use our lounge to set up a nice spread for the events.”
Initially, many new shooters take advantage of The Range at Lake Norman’s
safety and self-defense classes. Keeping customers entertained and coming
back for more is the goal of the range.
Give Back To The Community
Sisson believes community involvement is also key when it comes to engaging recreational shooters. Last year, The Range at Lake Norman participated in an event called Big Day at the Lake, in which boat owners take children from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America out for a day of swimming, tubing and boating.
“We hosted the Big Lake Shoot Out, which promotes this event,” Sisson said. “Shooters come in to the range and compete against each other to try to win prizes. For example, they donate $10 to enter a target contest. We raffle rifles and other items, with all proceeds going to Big Day at the Lake. It helps us give back the community, and we’re always looking for other ideas to promote the range.”
The Range at Lake Norman also gives back to the community through its monthly raffles, which benefit Angels and Sparrows, a local food pantry.
“We raffle items like rifles, handguns and range memberships,” Sisson said. “The response from customers is always very good. It doesn’t even matter if a customer is interested in the particular item that’s being raffled, because the proceeds benefit charity and they want to get involved.”
“We really cater to first-time shooters at the range, and Ladies Night
is no different,” said Tricia Sisson, co-owner of The Range at Lake Norman.
Always looking for ways to attract and engage new customers, the range had great success last year through offering Groupon and LivingSocial deals geared toward recreational shooters. The LivingSocial deal in particular sold extremely well at The Range at Lake Norman, with almost 2,500 purchased in five days.
(Groupon halted all gun-related deals in late January. LivingSocial has not announced any policy changes.)
“We are new to the area and not on a main drag, so we did the LivingSocial and Groupon deals as a marketing plan to help customers know we are here,” Sisson said. “The deal offered all-day use of a pistol or rifle lane, a firearm rental, 50 rounds of ammo, and eye and ear protection.
“We’ve gotten a tremendous response from the folks who have come in, never shot before and say, ‘You need to walk me through this,’” Sisson said. “That’s really our point of difference. There are other ranges around here that offer those deals, but they aren’t offering a hands-on experience. We really take these customers through the process.”
Sisson knows satisfied customers are far more likely to return to the range and purchase a firearm of their own, which is why she places a heavy emphasis on superior customer service.
“We could not do the things we do without a staff that is highly trained in customer service,” Sisson said. “Customers are just not going to spend their dollars in a facility where they’re not attended to. Customer service is key when catering to recreational shooters.”
Visitors to The Range at Lake Norman’s website are able to use a “shopping cart” to register for and purchase a variety of classes, events and memberships online. Visit www.therangeatlakenorman.com.
By J.K. Autry
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