It's Called "HOSPITALITY"
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Editor's Note: This piece by Dealer Wire Editor Paul Erhardt first appeared in our companion service, The Shooting Wire. It's geared toward shooting facilities, but the suggestions are applicable to nearly any sporting activity or consumer-focused business.
Between The Berms: It's Not Shooting, It's Hospitality
Yesterday I got an email from my friend Paul Dandini letting me know the schedule of the upcoming shooting matches he was organizing.
The email listed the dates of the monthly matches that begin in May and run through September, as well as inviting those so inclined to volunteer as range officers or score keepers.
My first thought on receiving the email was that I needed to enter the dates in my calendar so I'd be reminded of when the matches are and plan accordingly. And my second thought was that I should jump in to help keep score.
Now exactly what does this have to do with hospitality?
Well, I have this theory that running a shooting club, a training facility, or even a match, puts you in the hospitality business. And the way you get customers - in this case shooters - is to treat them like a good restaurant or hotel treats its guests.
No shooter has to go to the range this weekend. They go because they want to, and if you want them to come to your range then you need to make them want that experience over the myriad of other recreational opportunities that are going after their wallet.
So that means making them feel welcome and appreciated. Here are a some things you can do....
Assign A Greeter... Sam Walton was nobody's fool. He understood that making his big box Wal-Mart stores feel friendly and welcoming meant having greeters meet the shoppers the moment they set foot in the store. While Wal-Mart announced back in January that the greeters, who had been part of the Wal-Mart experience since 1980, were being reassigned within the store, that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile for your match.
New shooters will appreciate a friendly face welcoming them and directing them to where they need to park or register for the match. Returning shooters will be reminded why they made the trip back to the range instead of doing something else with their time and money.
Hello, My Name Is... Like a lot of people I recognize faces well before I remember names. If everybody at your match isn't wearing one of those spiffy shooter shirts with their name emblazoned across the back then you probably want to hand out some of those Hello My Name Is stickers so people don't have to go through that awkward conversational phase of never using the other person's actual name. This is also really helpful for the range staff who can address each shooter by his or her name. Feeling a personal connection with the safety officers and match staff makes shooters feel at home.
Offer Good Eats... You've probably heard me say this before but the food Smith & Wesson puts out at their IDPA Indoor Nationals event is alone worth the price of admission. The Saturday night awards banquet features a great catered meal. And they also makes sure that the SOs eat well each day of the match. Obviously you don't have the kind of money that Smith & Wesson puts into their match but you can take steps to make sure your shooters have a decent meal.
If I'm going to spend all day on your range then having a food truck or a Boy Scout troop working a grill is going to make my life a lot better. And that goes for all your shooters. This past Saturday night I got a call from a friend about the match they attended, and I heard all about the great lunch that was offered. I can almost quote you the menu, that's how impressive it was. I'm betting you can cite on demand the matches that had great food and the ones that had rotten food. Now tell me you don't want to go back to the ones with good eats.
Take Lots Of Pictures... Granted this is more for after the match but the value of photos should not be underestimated. Walk around with a camera during a match and see how many people ask you where they can find your pictures. Trust me, it seems like everybody asks. Post your photos on the club's Facebook page and tag as many of the shooters as you can. These photos will remind them of the fun time they had at your match, and they'll help bring more people to your Facebook page where they'll presumably find information about upcoming matches.
Thank You... These two words are the coin of the realm in the hospitality world and their value cannot be overestimated. There is a fairly strong culture of appreciation among competitive shooters where shooters almost without fail thank their range staff after shooting a stage. And the volunteers that run those weekly and monthly matches deserve a tremendous amount of appreciation.
However, thank you goes both ways and match organizers need to thank the shooters that turned out on a sunny day when they could have gone fishing or to the ballpark instead of the range. Restaurants and hotels, at least those not going out of business, never let a guest leave without saying thank you and inviting them to 'come back and see us'. Show me a match that makes their shooters feel appreciated and I'll show you a successful - and probably packed - match. And I'll also bet that that at the end of the day there are plenty of volunteers available to tear down the stages. Amazing what a sincere Thank You will so.
Keep In Touch... If I don't know about your match how am I going to shoot it? How am I going to know you could use some help with scoring? That email I got was an invitation to have fun with some good friends, and even though they all can pretty much out-shoot me there's a good chance I'll show up to one or two of those matches. Part of being a good host is the follow-up, so make sure you let your shooters - your customers - know that you are hosting another get-together and they are invited.
These are just a couple suggestions on how to make your match better. There is most certainly much, much more that goes into being a success in the hospitality industry, but if you start looking at your own range or match as a hospitality business then you're likely to see more and more faces at your range.
Or don't. It's nearly summer and there are plenty of other things to do....
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network