Types of Firearms Customers Your Business Needs to Know – Part 1

Maximize your sales potential by knowing how to sell to these professionally researched customers.

What motivates Americans to buy firearms? According to new research from Southwick Associates, there is no single answer. American gun owners are spread from coast to coast with motivations as varying as the beaches, mountains, rivers and deserts in between. Age, marital status, ethnicity, education and personal experiences all play a role in a decision to buy a firearm—but how do those factors align with your customers?

By better understanding why customers make a purchase, Southwick Associates’ market research can help businesses improve their product mix, marketing efforts and customer interactions to drive more sales.

That study, now available in a comprehensive 120-page report, describes the full purchase journey of a customer and delivers five distinct customer types that your company should know well. This week and next, we will be releasing select insights on those customer types to improve the health of the firearms industry.

“This report defines the segments based on their motivations to purchase their most recent firearm,” says Southwick Associates Vice President Nancy Bacon. “It also goes further by providing an understanding of their purchase journey, which gives us an idea of how different segments progress from awareness all the way to post-purchase satisfaction.

Do You Know the Average Joe?

Although nearly 20 million firearms were purchased in America last year, averaging those buyers out into a single profile leaves a void in marketing plans. However, if American gun owners were averaged into a single person, that buyer would be a 46-year-old white male making $75,000 per year.

Needless to say, building a sales strategy around that homogenous profile is not the most efficient way to grow your customer base. Numbers of female, Hispanic, and African American buyers are on the rise and their experiences and demands are creating a changing marketplace.

“Everybody’s motivation for purchasing a firearm is a little different,” says Bacon. “When you have somebody purchasing to build their skills—versus somebody who’s purchasing to go hunting or because they have crime in their area—your marketing is going to be completely different for each one of them.”

Instead of using a metaphorical shotgun approach, it’s important to recognize five more distinct customers detailed by Southwick Associates. Those buyers are split into both recreational and protection segments. Let’s crack open the case below.

The Skills Builder

Shooting’s built-in students, Skills Builders are one of the youngest segments purchasing firearms today. These savvy shooting sport enthusiasts are driven by a desire to become expert target shooter, but also love socializing on the range and learning about the best and newest gear on the market. Skills Builders are also one of the least effective groups to target with advertisements focused on self-defense and protection.

“These people want to build their skills and enjoy target shooting,” adds Bacon. “Skills Builders describe themselves as dependable, outdoors-oriented and protective people. But the demographics of precisely who they are and where they live might surprise you.”

What drives Skills Builders to buy? From awareness to post-purchase, their journey as a customer looks dramatically different than that of other segments. These intense researchers go to great lengths to learn about potential purchases before they buy. 94% of them investigate buys beforehand; and it’s during the research phase where marketing efforts can be best focused.

Innovation in the marketplace is a key factor in driving purchase decisions for this group. But what are the best ways to reach them? The top social media platforms and research methods for Skills Builders are detailed in the complete report.

The Family Guardian

Who is the Family Guardian? You might have guessed that this segment is highly protective; but did you know that many Family Guardians would choose to purchase a different firearm if they could rewind the clock? These buyers are generally in a hurry to purchase and less concerned about securing the best deal possible.

This largest segment of firearm consumers is deeply concerned about crime, social unrest and the political climate—so much so that a significant portion of their purchase journey is guided by the news. In addition to these three factors, Family Guardians are heavily driven by four other primary motivations. Family Guardians are customers that look to firearms for a sense of security, confidence, and empowerment, with very different goals than a recreational shooter like the Skills Builders.

“This person is really trying to make sure that they can protect themselves and their family,” adds Bacon. “They’re one of three profiles driven to purchase for protection. They may have had a dangerous personal experience driving that decision. They’re also heavily encouraged to go purchase by family and friends. And they don’t buy as often, so when they do, it’s important to make them count.”

How often do Family Guardians go to the range? How likely are they to be converted into more regular customers like recreational shooters? What underserved demographics in this segment diverge from the traditional average Joe? These answers and more are available in the complete report.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

Next week, we will release Part 2 of this series on customer segments in the firearms industry. Be on the lookout for three more customer types that your business should get to know to drive sales figures today.

For more information on this new resource, visit Southwick Associates or contact Nancy Bacon