Skip to content

How to market a small firearms industry company on the cheap

I’m not normal a marketing blogger, but I had a fascinating conversation this morning with Dennis Badurina that I thought would be worth sharing with upstart manufacturers in the shooting sports industry.

If you aren’t familiar with Dennis by name, you might have heard of his company, Dragon Leatherworks, which makes a seven-product line of high quality, customized and affordable holsters, including the Talon photo I filched from his site that you see to the left.

Click around the Dragon Leatherworks site, and you’ll see that almost every product has been reviewed by well-known gun bloggers.

Curious about this, I sent Dennis an email last night, asking him how a one-man shop like his can get so many holsters into the hands of so many well-known gun bloggers. Dragon has been around less than two years, but has received a lot of good PR from people who have opinions that matter to gunnies.

Dennis responded by calling me this morning, a bit puzzled by my question, and then after I clarified myself, he launched into a wonderful explanation of how he’d managed to get his name out there, even without a marketing budget. I apologize to Dennis in advance if I forget any of the nuances of our call, but here is is the best my memory serves me.

When he first started DLW and wanted to market his products, he did so by posting in gun forums, but found that the time he spent on those forums just wasn’t a good return on his investment. He was spending too much time he could have used to build holsters trying to get his name out there, and wasn’t generating the business he’d hoped.

Luckily for Dennis, his brother is one of “my people,” a web designer that understood the drawing power of blogs. He helped Dennis build is site, and started reaching out to bloggers that he thought might have an interest in his products, starting with Jay G. of MArooned.  that led to this review, and then another, and before you know it, Dragon Leatherworks was generating decent web traffic and a profit, based solely on the marketing he’s done by having bloggers try his holsters and post their reviews.

I think the first review I saw of a Dragon holster was the one Brigid posted, and the most recent one was Breda’s. It’s the kind of word-of-mouth advertising that sticks a lot better than paid advertising, and in retrospect, it shocks me that more people have gone the route Dennis has with Dragon Leatherworks.

If you have a product you want to market, and don’t have a substantial marketing budget, get that product into the hands of people who can amplify your message. Having a great product is wonderful, but if people don’t hear about it, how can they buy it?

Dennis did his homework, and asked specific bloggers to review specific products that he thought they would appreciate. For example, he would offer concealable holsters to bloggers who concealed carry, but he made sure that when he was talking to outspoken open carry advocates, that they got his OWB holsters.

Note that Dennis targeted his audience; a broadcast approach to anyone and everyone is going to backfire. You’ll either get tepid reviews from people who weren’t all that jazzed about your kind of product in the first place, or you won’t get anything in  response at all.

While not all gun bloggers are interested in doing reviews, and some might be interested in reviewing only specific kinds of products, I think companies would be amazed at the kind of online buzz they could generate by simply taking the time to learn which gun bloggers are interested in which topics, and offering to send them a product for review.

Your investment? The time it takes to find gun bloggers that are most likely to be excited about your product line, and the shipping costs/product costs involved in sending the item out to bloggers for review.

It may sound simplistic, but it is amazing how few industry companies are missing out on using this variant of the tried-and-true, word-of-mouth approach.

Share and Enjoy:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Fark
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr
  • email
  • Add to favorites
  • NewsVine
  • Technorati

Posted in Uncategorized.

Tagged with , .

2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Oleg Volk says

    It helps greatly that Dennis produces top-notch work. No one wants to endorse a mediocre product, but these holsters make their users proud by association.

  2. Sean D Sorrentino says

    You are right, Bob. It works really well as those of us who are bloggers know other bloggers personally, and can often try out those products. Witness what happened at Luckygunner. I thought that the Kriss Vector was an interesting idea, but once they let me shoot it, I was hooked. Several people really liked the trigger on my XD. I’m sure that Springer Precision will get some business because of that.

    So long as we maintain our trustworthiness, people will buy things that we like and avoid things we don’t. It is especially useful when we try out things that are new and interesting. Who wants to waste $500 on something that looks cool, but is untested? Not me. But if three different bloggers try it out and like it, suddenly it’s possible. I’d like to try out a Trijicon RMR sight, but I’m not going to buy $600 worth of sight, mill my slide, and hope that it works. But if a few of us got a chance to shoot a M&P with one on, they might be surprised at how many people followed suit.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.