Ruger is an industry leader when it comes to its own social media marketing efforts and supporting those of its dealers. President and Chief Operating Officer, Chris Killoy, shares Ruger’s deep belief in their corporate motto “Arms Makers for Responisible Citizens” and their tag line “Rugged Reliable Firearms.” Social media is simply about spreading the word.
FFL Unleashed: When a first-time gun buyer comes into a store or is trolling online, looking to make that first handgun purchase, what do you want them to know about Ruger to help them make the decision?
Killoy: The most important takeaway for any Ruger potential or existing customer is a combination of our two tag lines. Our corporate motto of “Arms Makers for Responsible Citizens” and our firearms tagline of “Rugged, Reliable Firearms” sum up what you get with the purchase of a Ruger product. You get a firearm made in America, by Americans for responsible citizens. Our products cover the gamut and are ideal for hunters, shooters or folks looking for reliable personal defense firearms. Once you purchase a Ruger firearm, you realize you purchased a rugged product that can meet the demands of any condition, and is reliable enough to be there whenever you need it.
FFL Unleashed: Describe Ruger’s marketing outreach to women who represent the fastest growing market segment particularly for semi-auto pistols. How can dealers take the “next step” to sell Ruger firearms to women and to instill the brand loyalty even more deeply?
Killoy: Reaching the women’s market, or any emerging market, really starts at the core of your business. You need to embrace the market to best service it, not just placate it with ads or promotions. Our new product strategy since 2006 started with listening to our customers. We took Voice of the Customer feedback and then introduced new products the market wanted. We had unprecedented growth, and became the #1 firearms manufacturer through that approach.
We know that to grow into new markets, we need to follow the same, real-life and corporate level approach–solicit feedback, listen, change our culture … then go to market. We are doing that. We reach out to our female customers at shows, retailer events and through our website. We listen to where they are and what they want–supporting organizations like The Well Armed Woman and Shoot Like a Girl–not to sell, but to support the industry and gain a communication avenue with this market. We then change our corporate culture to reflect the changes in the market. Our International Sales Manager and our Advertising Coordinator, two key individuals in the launch and go-to-market implementation of our products, are women. We are hiring female engineers to focus on products that women want. We are changing our culture to be “real” to the market.
For retailers, honestly, we think they should follow the same approach. Don’t look at women or any new market as a chance to sell more product. But rather as a chance to change your business and your culture. Listen to women, create programs they want and then let them run them… get them involved long before you ever think to sell them something!
FFL Unleashed: Ruger has a robust and frequently updated Facebook presence. How can Ruger dealers get involved and use this to their marketing advantage?
Killoy: Social is huge. It is a chance for our customers to be part of the larger discussion. They tell us what they like, what they want and how they feel about our products and brand … all through organic social discussion. Retailers should share our posts, link to our website and social platforms. But they shouldn’t just do it for Ruger; they should do it throughout the industry for all of the major and new or exciting brands.
The hard part is that it starts with becoming more tech savvy. They need a web presence for their storefront and they need social platforms. Those efforts take a new skill set in your retail outlet or more money. Ultimately, it takes significant time. We have a full-time social media guru (again, another female leading our communications charge) and she is updating, posting, sharing and creating almost 24-7.
FFL Unleashed: The LC9s is a leading new product introduction for 2015. How has it been received? Please tell us about the features that set it apart, especially that trigger pull.
Killoy: Yes, you’re spot on. It has been one of our leading products since introduction in the summer of 2014. We essentially took the LC9, a benchmark gun, and challenged our engineering team to make it better. Our lead on that project has headed-up many of our compact/conceal carry pistols … and he took the challenge not as a simple task, but as an opportunity to turn the single-stack, concealed carry market on its ear again. He started by working on the things he new he wanted or wished for originally, but he also listened to our customers. Many reviews described the original as “very good, but not great.” They felt it was a nice step between the LCP and SR9c, but lacked the pure perfection of merging both. We knew that to hit “great” we needed to make it striker-fired and ensure it had a much better trigger. The team nailed both and quite frankly surprised us, the media and the industry at how good it is … we believe that the new LC9s and LC9s Pro (sans the external safety features) are now the standard in 9mm, conceal carry firearms.
FFL Unleashed: On the long gun side of things, the AR-556 is new. What sets this new rifle apart from the crowded market? What do you see as the future of the modern sporting rifle market?
Killoy: Again, if you listen to your customers, product development becomes rather simple … well, combined with a brilliant engineering team! On the AR-556, what we kept hearing from the industry was that the black-gun market was dead … but our retailers and consumers kept saying something slightly different. Cheap guns were out, expensive guns were out and overbuilt, highly discounted guns were out. What they all wanted was a Rugged, Reliable Firearm (there it is again)–meaning, they wanted a quality-made, feature-rich, yet affordable rifle. That just happens to be our sweet spot!
The future of MSRs, and all firearm segments for that matter, is not a broad brush stroke of in or out. It is a fine line of listening to what retailers and consumers want and delivering on it, at a price point that meets their expectations.
Sounds simple, right? It’s a tough challenge that takes the entire Ruger Team of more than 2,000 dedicated American workers to meet–a team of which I am very proud to be part.