If you’re going to open a brick and mortar paintball supplies store, don’t do it without a paintball field. When you research how many stand alone paintball equipment stores there are, you will find very few. On the other hand you will find numerous paintball fields. This is because only players buy paintball gear. The fact is few people buy a paintball gun and then go play. Most people play first (with either borrowed or rented equipment), discover they like the game, and then buy their own gear. While paintball has enjoyed a growing popularity in the last 20 years, it may never be in such demand that your store will have enough traffic to pay its bills every month. A paintball field that allows people to experience the fun and adrenaline of the sport will create the demand you need for a paintball store to stay busy enough to survive and even make money. Whether you partner with a neighboring field or start a commercial field of your own, if you want to sell paintball equipment out of a store front, do it in conjunction with a field.
In the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ starring Kevin Costner the catch phrase “Build it and they will come” became popular. Unfortunately this does not apply to most new businesses. Even if you have the most unique idea and set up in the absolute perfect location, it’s a novice business owner who thinks all he has to do is open his doors for his new venture to kick off with a bang. Many new businesses fail because the owner failed to make a loud enough noise in the beginning with a properly planned and executed marketing plan. In marketing, if you fail to plan, you’re really just planning to fail. While starting a new business is terribly busy with tons of important tasks (setting up corporate structure, opening bank accounts, building layouts/build out, equipment purchases, licensing, etc.), setting up an initial marketing plan is possibly the most crucial. Take your time setting up events to promote your new business months in advance of its opening. Create a marketing plan for an entire year so you can set things up in plenty of time to make each event/idea successful. ‘Winging it’ and marketing by the seat of your pants produces shoddy results, inaccurate stats and wasted money.
Once you have a series of marketing events scheduled on the calendar for several months in advance, keep a definitive log of each one. Write down simple stats of how much the event cost and how many customers/how much money it brings. This will help you determine return on investment so you can decide if you want to repeat the event again in the future. It should go without saying but a good rule to follow is to keep doing events that work and stop doing them when they stop working. Many a business has fallen because they kept paying for months of advertising that wasn’t working and ended up bankrupt. Accurate stats can help you create a marketing plan that’s iron clad; this will allow you to only spending money and time on events you have already had success with and know they work. Unfortunately, not every marketing campaign you plan will pay off; success depends on many factors out of your control (season, climate, current events that change buying habits, etc.). The important thing is to keep trying and keep using the things that worked; if you want to stay busy, don’t ever stop marketing!
When you’re first opening your paintball business, money will be tight so choosing the right marketing events to spend it on will be extremely important. To become the ‘place to go’ in your community, you must make a splash loud enough for people to hear. While internet marketing is helpful, it’s not what will make your shop known in your local area. It’s great if a good web presence can be established early on, but do not spend money on it in the beginning. Choose marketing events and campaigns that get you out into the community as much as possible; charity events, sponsoring a paintball tournament, supporting a local team/sporting events and networking with other entertainment businesses are a great start. Obviously it’s best to choose events that cost the least however keeping good stats will tell you if they were worth promoting and continuing/doing again. If you plan your marketing schedule far enough in advance, you can include their costs in your initial loan from the bank to start your business; this way you will already have the money to run them. Many small businesses fail because they didn’t ask for enough money up front and became overwhelmed with the expenses of running their business long enough for it produce revenue.
Choosing marketing campaigns that gets your name out into the community is the smartest and most cost effective way to get things started. There are other types of marketing and advertising however proceed with caution in your business’s initial stages. Besides posting ads about an upcoming event and perhaps a press release, steer clear of print ads in the newspaper. Avoid brand recognition type advertising as your small business will not (and may never) have the money to fund this and keep it going. Bent pens, coffee mugs with your business logo and refrigerator magnets are all a waste of your money and will never get people to come to your store and buy paintball equipment. For a local field, billboard advertising can be extremely beneficial if in the right location, however these can be very costly and are a giant risk to a struggling new business with a limited budget. This is the same for yellow page advertising. Unless you’re using a very short run to heavily promote a current campaign, avoid television and radio advertising. If done correctly, these can be very effective media for a small business, however generally cost prohibitive for a new start-up.
A full schedule of external marketing campaigns so your community can discover your location and become interested in your store will be imperative in the initial months and first few years of opening. This includes advertising, marketing events, in-store promotions and of course, a strong online presence. The internet is an invaluable tool for every business as not only an important marketing tool but also added revenue. Even if it’s not e-commerce ready, your store must have a website and this should be built months in advance of your opening. In today’s age, your website is your business card and without one, you’ll be invisible to thousands of people who use this media. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are also terrific tools for a paintball store to help spread the word about upcoming promotions and sales. This media is also heavily accessed by the age ranges most commonly interested in paintball. In addition to the marketing advantages, also setting your website up as an internet store is a great way to sell more paintball supplies and raise more revenue for your shop.