Okeechobee Shooting Sports

#LetsGoShooting Month Means Outreach and Reactivation at Okeechobee
By Warren Berg

“Because we studied what we did last year,” Jeff Wait, owner of Okeechobee Shooting Sports (OSS), is optimistic about the new approach he’s taking for 2018’s National Shooting Sports Month. August is the hottest, muggiest month of the year in Okeechobee, Florida, not to mention it’s also peak hurricane season, making attracting shooters to Wait’s nearly 100-acre outdoor range something of a challenge during the #LetsGoShooting month.

“We’re located in a rural area. Ninety-seven percent of our customers drive over an hour to get to us. Most are driving an hour and a half. Only three percent of our business is local, so we’re not a place where they pop in after work. We’re a destination range, so they’ve made a big effort to come here,” he adds.

Shooting Sports Events for Everyone

For last year’s National Shooting Sports Month, Wait tells me they held IDPA, Steel Challenge and First Shots events, as well as some regularly scheduled matches billed as events for the special month. This year Wait says he is going to focus on engaging new shooters and reactivating those who haven’t been shooting in a while. To do that, he is gearing things more toward introductory events with fun shooting contests and prizes.

“Skeet was found to be intimidating to [potentially new shooters], so if we said we have an “Intro to the Clay Shooting Sports,” people who didn’t even think about being a gun owner before, well, that sounded fun to them. We noticed the growth in those sports when we brought people into them and explained why they might also want to shoot IDPA or Steel Challenge or Rimfire Challenge,” he adds.

Celebrity Draw

Wait is also seeking manufacturer support for events that get people to come out and try new products and, if his expansive campground is done in time, will hold an RV show as well. To help draw in new shooters, he’s also recruiting social media personalities who have a large following.

“We’re inviting them here to do meet-and-greets with their fans. Some of them have a million fans or better,” he remarks. In addition to the meet-and-greets, Wait plans on these personalities doing product reviews and demos during National Shooting Sports Month. To him, “It’s a face-to-face event that pulls people into the range who probably wouldn’t have been here, but they’re following one of these personalities from the internet.”

Ambassador Program

Getting word out is a challenge, and the social media personalities are a good work-around to make social media work for Wait.

“Facebook, until recently, has been pretty good, but it has really been ratcheting down what it will let people see,” says Wait, expressing the frustrations of industry members about restrictions on online advertising. So, instead of channels like that, Wait uses weekly emails, but says that for him, “By far the most effective way [to get word out] has been getting current happy customers to reach out to the others.” To that end, he has developed what he calls an “Ambassador Program” that incentivizes and rewards people who bring either new or inactive shooters to the range. “We either give them reduced or free range fees for binging someone else,” says Wait. “We also have a point system, so the more people they bring, the more they can save up those points up for purchasing products, range passes or memberships.”

With the Ambassador Program, the remoteness of OSS actually works in Wait’s favor. He explains that because he’s not just a “pop-in” kind of place, bringing a guest takes time, convincing and planning. Not only have his ambassadors had the conversation about heading to the range with a potential guest long before they actually bring them, they’re telling the guest about OSS on the long drive. Wait estimates that new customers have heard good things about OSS for as much as two hours before coming. “It’s hard to buy that,” he quips.

Is it working for OSS?

“We’re not an indoor air-conditioned range, so we’re trying to talk everyone into coming outside in the worst month of the year,” says Wait. “The surprising thing is that there are still a lot of people who do that. They’re still willing. They like the idea of shooting enough to brave the heat or the rain or the humidity—whatever it is—to still come out and enjoy it.”


Retailers and Ranges—Add Your Events to the National Shooting Sports Month Calendar

National Shooting Sports Month is all about getting people involved in the shooting sports and providing ways to better connect with the ranges and firearms retail stores in their communities. One of the best ways to do that during the month of August is to post your events and promotions here on shootingsportsmonth.org. All events you list there will be cross-positioned on our StepOutside.org and LetsGoShooting.org sites, which are designed specifically for consumer viewing and use. Bonus!—List your events here and we’ll send you a supply of National Shooting Sports hats, T-shirts and other materials to help boost your promotions throughout the month.


About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for American Rifleman and Field & Stream, and has produced award-winning television programs on firearms-related subject matter.

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