So, you are doing what you love, you’re running your own gunsmith shop or some other firearms related business and you’re doing pretty good. But you can’t help but wonder what else could be done to bring more customers through your doors. I constantly ask myself what else I can do to stay current, proficient, relevant. What other amenities can I offer without over taxing myself? What are my customers looking for now? What does the future look like? If you ask yourself similar questions or have ever been curious about how to increase your revenue, then keep reading.
Keep Training: Quoting the words of Henry Ford, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Now physically being old is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to guns but having an old mind may prevent you from getting young jobs. Establish some sort of training plan for you and your business, dedicate hours/days each month/year to continuing education. Find a mentor to study under and visit that person often. Sign up for courses and seminars, dedicate time to visiting gun shows and auctions with the intent on learning about the resale market or how firearms are graded. Join organizations dedicated to your profession, like the Gunsmithing Club of America,where you will have access to training video libraries and can sign up for American Gunsmithing Institute courses.
Take Care of Your Employees and Customers: In the words of Richard Branson, “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your business.” If you have employees, your goal is to get them working at their fullest potential to accomplish a common goal. To do this, you will need to support, train, motivate, and encourage them. Some key factors that motivate employees are appreciation or recognition for a job well done, being in the know about company matters, job security, good wages, loyalty from management, and good working conditions, just to name a few.
Look at your employees, are they trained, do you offer them continuing education, do they feel like they are truly part of the team, do they get an “attaboy” for going above and beyond, are corrective actions taken when workers fail to meet standards? Once you have a good employee package in place, look at your customers and customer retention. Are new customers coming into a welcoming environment? Do returning customers feel valued? Look at your shop through the eyes of a first-time visitor, confirm you have desired products on the wall, identify what would turn you from a visitor into a customer, and then make those changes. Consider a customer loyalty program or a members-only discount program for your returning customers. If a customer is willing to return to your business, you can bet they are going to recommend you to a friend.
Put Yourself Out There: If you want to grow, you definitely need to consider a website and social media presence. Keep your website current and easy to navigate, use social media to showcase some work you have done. Encourage customers to follow, like, comment on, and recommend your social media page. Business cards are also great, but you need to be out there putting them in the hands of potential customers. Make yourself known at the local sportsman’s clubs, hunting clubs, ranges, and gun shops. Set up a table at gun shows and shooting related swap meets. Be present (better yet, participate) in local turkey shoots, shooting leagues, and shooting competitions. Go to any turkey shoot (also known as a block shoot, card shoot, or meat shoot in some areas) and ask a shooter who made their barrel. They won’t just say a name, they will actually point to the guy. At a bullseye pistol league, ask a shooter who did their trigger job or mounted their optic. Again, they will usually point to the guy. Bottom line is the gunsmith was there, part of the shooting community, and known by the shooters.
Expand Your Scope of Practice: Many people are buying guns online now and those guns must be sent to a local Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealer, and don’t forget about private party transfers. If you have the ability, room, and customer reach, consider taking consignments. Although these jobs may contain some additional paperwork, your time will usually be well invested and you’re bringing customers into your shop who may, today or as a returning customer, buy a product or service you offer. After people buy a gun, they usually look for ammo and a holster, so, stock ammo and build or purchase a Kydex press and start making custom holsters.
To add leather holster work to your shop menu, consider enrolling in the AGI Leather Holster Making Course which covers everything from designing to building high-quality leather rifle and pistol holsters. Also, optics are becoming more and more popular. There is a right way and a wrong way to mount scopes and reflex sights—if you’re not offering a quality mounting service, you’re missing out on a rapidly growing customer base.
Offer Training: If you have the space, ability, know-how, and certification to teach classes, then do so, if not, partner with a local instructor. New gun owners are seeking information on how to use and care for their new gun, and seasoned shooters are looking for ways to make them a better or faster shooter. Offer classes such as a basic firearms cleaning, firearms safety in the home, introduction to shooting, and concealed carry. Open the classes up to the public to bring more people into your shop, and maybe offer a class discount to anyone who makes a purchase in your shop.
Conduct Appraisals: Death, divorce, bankruptcy, estate planning, liquidation, natural or manmade disaster, insurance litigation, a collector making a purchase, or an average Joe wanting to sale a used gun are just a few reasons someone may need an accurate, trusted, and certified appraisal of a firearm. AGI offers a Certified Firearms Appraiser Course that will provide you the tools, training, and certification need to become a Certified Firearms Appraiser and how to market your services to estates, foundations, and attorneys.
Whenever and however you decide to increase your revenue, good luck to you and thanks for doing your part in this awesome firearms industry.