Influencer Marketing: Pros and Cons for Your Firearms Business

Working with local or social-media influencers to drive business to your gun store can be a double-edged sword.

Influencer Marketing: Pros and Cons for Your Firearms Business

I have to laugh when I see all these other industries who think they are so much more advanced and innovative than the shooting sports industry act like influencer marketing is something they created.

I cannot think of another industry (maybe you can) that has used influencer marketing as extensively as ours over the last 60 years. From pro-staffs to staff shooters to shop teams, influencer marketing has been the grassroots marketing mechanism of choice for brands and shops for years. The only thing that has really changed for our industry is the explosion of social media and where those influencers have and grow their messaging.

With that in mind, you may be wondering if your shop needs to be getting involved in the latest iteration of influencer marketing or if it is a good fit for you. Here are some pros and cons to consider as you sort through exactly that.


Pro: Raise Visibility

There is no debate: The right influencers can help you increase the visibility and awareness of your brand. It can also help keep your brand top-of-mind for those people who are already aware of you but may not be among your most frequent customers.

Influencers can help carry your message to your audience and can do so in an organic and authentic way, delivered in a lifestyle schema as opposed to a sales schema. This is a highly effective marketing and communication strategy. This is why we all love influencer marketing right now. The way good influencers talk to their audience breaks through all the static and noise and really gets to the people we want to reach.

When choosing an influencer or influencers, you need to think about if you want to deepen your awareness with your existing clients or broaden your customer base by reaching new people. Ideally, you can do both, but that may mean you need a few influencers.

Think about your customer base. Examine who it is. Then identify the customers in the area that you are not seeing in your shop and who might be able to reach them or carry a message that will resonate with them. That is where you can really widen your customer base and raise visibility with customers who represent net new money into your shop.


Pro: Increase Credibility

We have become a jaded society. When brands or retailers talk about products, customers take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes, it is a big grain.

While influencers often have the same sort of relationship with a brand that a retail shop does, the customer tends to trust these folks and their opinions more. They are opting in to hear what these influencers have to say. They are more likely to take what they say seriously and use that information to create buying habits.

The right mix of influencers, speaking to or on diverse topics, can help craft a complete message of the products and services that your shop offers and establishes your shop as a resource for the customer through the influencer channel.


Pro: Authenticity

As someone who is evaluating influencers on a near-constant basis, I have found a common theme. The best influencers of any size are authentic. People are looking for voices they can trust. Influencers that look and feel too deliberate, too manicured, and too scripted just do not seem to garner the same audience or respect that more authentic people achieve.

This is another area where the jaded nature of our society comes into play. Customers expect a certain tone or message from a brand or a shop, and to some extent, that message is discounted. From their influencers, though, there is a trust in the message that is more likely to create an opportunity with the audience.

Your shop can benefit from this authenticity by extension when you choose the right, respected influencers.

For all the positive influencers offer, there are some potential pitfalls as well.


Con: “Be Mindful of the Company You Keep”

Most of us heard some version of this from our parents as we were growing up. When I look around at the influencer landscape, trying to find the right fit for my brand, I am also looking for those folks to which I would never want to be connected.

Chasing big social or audience numbers sometimes leads brands to partnering with an influencer that is higher on the risk/reward scale than I am personally willing to go.

We live in an age of shock value. Reasoned, level-headed content does not create the same response that outrageous, controversial or downright reckless content does. You are connected to your influencers for better and for worse. All the good things they do can be wiped out if they are also prone to activities that can cast themselves and those associated with them in a negative light.

It is a balancing act. Your risk tolerance is probably different than mine, or maybe you do not know what your risk tolerance is. One thing is for sure: Before you start working influencers, you need to figure out what it is.


Con: Collaboration

The biggest mistake I see made when working with influencers is a total lack of collaboration. Brands or shops like the idea of influencer marketing because they think they are not going to have to do anything, that they can just leave it with the influencer.

You can do this. That does not mean you should.

Effective influencer marketing requires constant collaboration, and that requires a significant amount of time. This starts before your first agreement is signed. It takes time to research. It takes time to establish a plan of what you want from your influencer. It takes time to establish deliverables that both sides can agree on. Then, once you come to an agreement, supporting that agreement requires time as well.

This gets easier if you are specific and upfront about what your expectations are right from the beginning. Being hands-off and letting the influencer decide their own path, then deciding you are not happy with how it is going and trying to change things after a way of working together has already been established, is a really good way to run into significant issues.

Put in your time, establish a plan for collaboration, set a regular meeting schedule, and stick to it. Transparency, communication and collaboration is almost never a bad thing.


Con: Hard to Quantify

Most marketing is tough to quantify, and influencer marketing is no different. Setting expectations can be difficult for marketing activities, so doing so early in the process is critical to making sure all parties understand a program.

This ties in closely with collaboration and establishing deliverables. You and your influencers need to agree on what the goal of the partnership is and how it will be evaluated. Obviously, you are making an investment and want to see a return. It is also fair for the influencer to have a clear understanding of what is expected and how their performance will be evaluated.

Drawing a straight line from marketing activities to revenue is almost impossible. Working for people who do not understand that is one of the most frustrating things I have ever experienced. Identify what you can monitor, set expectations based on that, and come to an agreement with your influencer that both of you are happy about.


Parting Thoughts

I love the time I spend focused on working with influencers. The ability to be creative and do outside-the-box initiatives really let a brand or shop stand apart from the competition. Get in there and try it. Find those local influencers that can help be ambassadors for your shop. Talk about how you can partner and collaborate so you both can grow.

Influencer marketing is no different than anything else. The best way to learn is to get in there and start doing it, then take what you learn and use that to inform your next step. Hopefully, now that you are armed with some of the biggest pros and cons of influencer marketing, you can make some better decisions right out of the gate.


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