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Published on March 9th, 2015 | by FFL Unleashed0
Prois CEO Pike’s Advice: “Take Female Customers Seriously”
After only eight short years, Prois rules the market as the recognized leader in ultimate-quality clothing designed for, built for, and sold to passionate hunters and shooting sports participants … who just happen to be women. Prois founder and CEO Kirstie Pike offers critical advice on marketing to women: Never underestimate your customer!
FFL Unleashed: With Prois celebrating its eighth anniversary in 2015 … congratulations by the way … what have you learned about selling hunting gear to women that’s totally surprised you?
Pike: Thank you! You know, in the last eight years, I’ve learned there’s not one particular marketing model that works. The women’s hunting market is just 11-12% of the total, so standard mass-reach marketing isn’t always cost effective because what we sell is still only appealing to a fraction of the market. Then, taking technical gear to that small percentage can be even more challenging.
I have learned that selling hunting gear to women is almost an intimate process. You must appeal to her sense of success and pride in the sport. Women want to be listened to, taken seriously, and not plied with pink products. They identify themselves as “hunters” … not “female hunters.”
They want the best gear to provide them with the best performance and comfort. They want to learn about the fabrics, the features, and the designs made just for them. They want to make informed decisions about their purchases of top quality gear.
FFL Unleashed: With 8 years in the rearview mirror, what changes have you seen in the hunting and shooting sport industries’ outreach to women?
Pike: Things really have changed. When we first entered the market, there was a new buzz for female companies and female outdoor celebrities. Companies were trying to reach this market by creating pink, blingy and downsized (but not female specific) products.
I remember being approached by a knife company (no longer in business) wanting Prois to purchase and promote their women’s knife. I asked for the sales pitch as to why this knife was made for women. The answer was, “Well … we made it pink!”
Obviously a no go for us, but that’s where the industry was at.
I’m delighted to see more companies really digging into the physiology and ergonomics of their products, and determining how a product can best fit a woman’s build and strength.
FFL Unleashed: Prois uses the word “technical” in its tag line describing its products. What is your definition of “technical” in this context?
Pike: “Technical” refers to the quality of fabrics and design. Cotton and cheap soft shells offer nothing for thermoregulation and movement. Prois only uses fabrics that provide the most efficient core warming, silence, waterproofing, and windproofing. We are huge proponents of things Mother Nature did right the first time … merino wool and down. When you combine top end fabrics with design features that further improve thermoregulation, cooling and movement, you have the perfect recipe for “technical.”
FFL Unleashed: With women recognized as the fastest growing segment in the hunting and shooting sports markets, do you still encounter resistance from “good ol’ boy” retailers? How do you counter it?”
Pike: Yes!! Oh, man, yes! But we are encountering it much less than before.
There are still retailers who will not, under any circumstance, bring a high end product in for women. Yet, they carry Sitka. Clearly, their consumer base supports a high price point, but they will not consider it for women. It’s funny.
We also encounter dealers who do not really listen to us when we suggest sizing runs. There are some who really believe that every female hunter is a plus size! Yet, our fastest selling sizes are smalls, x-smalls, and mediums, but of course, we have plus sizing, too.
On the flip side, the dealers who “get it” are amazing and know exactly who their female customer is. They are excited to partner with Prois and they sell a lot of our product.
Education is the key with our dealers and customers. Explaining why our systems work, why our fabrics work, and why our clothing is designed as it is speaks volumes. We just continue to work at getting our message and branding out there!
FFL Unleashed: In a couple of lines, Prois has moved into clothing for competitive and recreational shooters. Are there plans for expansion here? How about in women-specific personal defense and concealed carry solutions? Can you give us some hints on the future vision for Prois?
Pike: We have definitely moved to cover shooting sports and safari. We realize the need to expand to not only thoroughly cover the hunting marketing, but the shooting market as well.
We have a number of great products in the works, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you … and I look terribly in penitentiary orange … so I will strive to avoid that! But seriously, stay tuned. You’ll be blown away by what Prois has in store!
FFL Unleashed: A few of the Prois items feature pink accents or just a hint of pink. Where do you come down on this whole “yes pink/never pink” debate on guns and gear for women?
Pike: The pink we have in our line is very minimal, and it’s only in our lifestyle or logowear pieces. You will never see pink on our hunting gear, as we don’t feel there is a place for that. Again, our customers hang their hats on the fact that they are “serious hunters” … not “female hunters.”
A line we often use … “you don’t see men’s companies putting baby blue on their gear to identify it as male.” But that’s not to say there is never a market for pink gear. There is a great market for it, and there are companies out there doing great things with it. It’s just not our strategy.
FFL Unleashed: Finally, tell us about the Prois Award program — past, present, future!
Pike: I love the Prois Award! We started the award four years ago. We really wanted to honor women who were committed and passionate about the sport of hunting, but who were also deeply involved in conservation efforts and community education. We wanted to find amazing women who really see hunting as a way of life and heritage as a way to keep the legacies going.
We have great judges and companies who are thrilled to sponsor. We have had amazing ladies who have won this award and who have become spokeswomen for the sport, the award and the companies who support it.
In short, these ladies are my personal heroes!