Double Your Gun Sales With a Demo Day

Bring customers in with a demo day where they can get hands-on with the products you sell.

Double Your Gun Sales With a Demo Day

With the increases in inflation over the past several years, decreased demand for firearms and ammunition and anticipated (or already occurring, depending on whom you ask) recession, today’s retailer needs to be exploring every option available to increase both the number of customers and the dollars their customers spend per purchase.

Sure, there are additional advertising options, new social media sites and programs, and the oft-utilized “sale” days, but there is another method that can add not only to your sales numbers, but can help you in many other areas of your marketing as well: a demo day.

A demonstration day can be a powerful tool for increasing sales of guns, ammunition, optics and accessories for your business. Such an event can provide customers with a hands-on experience with products, allows them to try out different firearms, products and accessories, and gives them the opportunity to speak with knowledgeable staff, vendors and fellow enthusiasts. This can lead to increased interest or awareness in an area they have not yet explored — for example, a hunter who has never experienced Precision Rifle Shooting or long-range targets — and ultimately, increased sales for your business.


Benefits of a Demonstration Day

A demonstration day can offer several benefits to both the retailer and the customer. Some of these benefits include:

Hands-on experience: Customers can handle and test firearms, ammunition, optics and accessories before making a purchase. We wouldn’t think of purchasing a vehicle without a test-drive, yet thousands of firearms are sold every year to people who may have never actually fired the type or brand of firearm that they are purchasing. A demonstration day with qualified staff can help them make informed decisions about which products best suit their needs, which not only adds to their overall satisfaction with their purchase, but also makes them more likely to buy from you again in the future. 

Expert advice: Retailers and their employees/vendors attending the event can offer expert advice and recommendations based on the customer’s specific requirements or needs. This can be something as basic as the type of firearm, a new or unfamiliar caliber, and any additional accessories or ammunition that may be appropriate. This might be your customers’ only opportunity to spend time learning from experts of the industry (in the case of vendors or pro staff) or even rubbing elbows with somebody famous, if you so choose.

Community building: A demonstration day brings together a rather large group of like-minded individuals, helping to create a sense of community. Everybody wants to “belong.” When you bring together people who might otherwise not have met, they now have several things in common — not the least of which is your business. This can lead to an increased sense of loyalty and repeat business from both old and new customers.

Featuring/awareness for your business: A demonstration day can generate a great deal of buzz and create awareness among potential customers, especially if you market it properly in the days and weeks preceding the event. Putting an ad in the local newspaper, inviting local media to participate, and playing a commercial over the local radio and tv stations are excellent ways to accomplish this. Another great way is to give an incentive to your current customers to bring some new people in by offering additional discounts, raffle prizes, or special promotional items; this can really amplify your paid advertising. This word-of-mouth campaign from already-happy customers can spread quickly, leading to not only increased traffic and sales on the day of your event, but also repeat customers over years.

Competitive advantage: Offering a demonstration day can set a retailer apart from its competitors and provide a unique selling proposition. Where would you rather make a purchase from: a store where you have to be proactively looking and take every step in the buying process yourself, or one that invites you to come and try before you buy, feeds you and your kids lunch, and offers some additional value to you other than the privilege of buying from them?

How to Successfully Plan and Execute a Demonstration Day

Planning and executing a successful demonstration day requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Here are some steps to follow: Set a date: Choose a date that works for your store and your customers. Consider factors such as weather, holidays, and other events that may conflict with your demonstration day. The last thing you want to do is plan and execute a large event at your store only to have attendance suffer because of another event in or out of the gun industry. Choose products: Select the products you want to showcase based on a pre-determined criteria, such as firearms for self defense, ammunition for long-range target shooting, specialty optics, or something else. You should consider the products that are popular among your customer base, but also give thought to those that you might want to promote for other reasons, such as a changing season (outdoor shooting vs. indoor shooting), new models (selling the “new” as well as moving the “old”) or other interesting features, such as a feature in a movie, etc. (The John Wick Movies sold a lot of guns.) Prepare your range: If you have an indoor or outdoor range, prepare it for the event. Make sure the range is clean and safe, and set up targets and other equipment as needed. Change it up from the normal. Don’t have a range? There are thousands of ranges across the country, many of which are available for rent or lease, but just as many that would be happy to co-host an event to get more people to the range.

Invite vendors: This is KEY. Reach out to vendors who supply the products you want to showcase. Ask them to participate in the event well ahead of time so they can have it in their schedule, allowing them to provide products for customers to test and try out. Make sure you roll out the red carpet for them, as well. Feed them lunch and/or dinner, and offer them a discount on any products you sell at your store — at least equal to what you would give your employees. Promote the event: If you want your demo day to be as successful as it can, you’ll want to pull out all the stops when promoting it to everyone that is a target customer in your area. Lists of gun owners can be purchased or rented to send mailers to, and the aforementioned local media channel promotions and participation should be considered to be the minimum. A great example of this was a large event I attended in Phoenix, Arizona, put on by Sig Sauer. They sent a mailer, an email, and a text message to anyone that had purchased a Sig firearm in the last five years and blasted advertisements all over the local media. There was also a charge per day to attend the event — something that is rare, but in this case it was wildly successful. Use social media, email and other channels to promote the event. Create a flyer or poster that showcases the products you’re offering and the benefits of attending the event.

Showcase new products: If you have new products that are recently launched or are launching soon, consider showcasing them during the demonstration day. This can generate buzz and excitement among customers as well as create a sense of anticipation and demand for the new products before they are even available.

Partner with other businesses and local organizations: Consider partnering with other local organizations such as shooting clubs, law enforcement agencies, or hunting groups and other businesses in the area to promote the event. This can both help you reach a wider audience and attract new customers. For example, maybe you use a local restaurant to bring in food for your vendors and staff and partner with them to give every customer a $10 gift card for their restaurant. If these businesses do offer something additional of value to your event, make sure to let them also share in any marketing and contact lists that come out of it.

Hire staff: Make sure you have enough staff on hand to manage the event. Consider hiring additional staff if necessary or asking existing staff to work extra hours during the event. Also, now is a great time to take advantage of bringing in pro staffers — either ones that you’ve recruited for your own business or those that work with your existing vendors, or consider utilizing a company like Mossy Oak, which has more than 800 pro staff members across the country that are constantly looking for events just like yours to work at — for free — to fulfill their contractual obligations to their sponsors.


Tips for Maximizing Impact

To maximize the impact of your demonstration day, consider offering some value-adds to the program, such as training sessions on firearms safety, proper use, maintenance, or techniques. This can attract customers who are new to firearms and those who may want to improve their skills. Consider offering discounts or special promotions for products showcased during the event. This can incentivize customers to make a purchase and helps to create a sense of urgency to buy today. Offer refreshments such as water, coffee and snacks (at a minimum) to customers. This creates a welcoming atmosphere and encourages customers to stay longer. Yes, you might get some folks there for the free lunch, but that’s just part of the cost of doing business. Finally, create a sense of community. Encourage customers to share their experiences on social media while they are at the event. Facilitate situations where potential purchasers can talk to both experts and each other. This creates a sense of community, broadens your reach on the ever-important “share of voice” in your market, and builds loyalty.

Follow up: One of the most important things a demo event does is give you an opportunity to add to your marketing and email list. Make sure you have a method to obtain contact information for your new customers — address, phone number and email — so that after the event you can follow up with customers who attended the demonstration day. Send them a thank-you email and ask for feedback on the event. Offer them an incentive to participate in a survey about the event, like a coupon for 10% off their next purchase at the store. This can help you identify areas for improvement and ensure that future events are even more successful as well as gain you yet another opportunity to sell them something.

A demonstration day can be a highly effective tool for increasing sales of guns, ammunition, optics and accessories for a retail store. By providing customers with a hands-on experience, expert advice, and a sense of community, a demonstration day can generate buzz, create awareness, and lead to increased sales and loyalty. With careful planning and attention to detail, retailers can maximize the impact of their demonstration day and reap the benefits for years to come.


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