If you have ever taken a sales or marketing course, then the pundits always advise that you must seek feedback from your customers and work tirelessly to act on customer feedback to be successful. Senior level marketers will call this acting on a “consumer insight”. Marketing professionals will hire teams of market researchers to help them uncover these pearls. We asked questions, and here is what we learned…
When Dakota Silencer first entered the Class 3 silencer market in the Dakotas, several things became very clear. While working gun shows throughout the states, we quickly learned three key specific insights. First, 95% of our potential customers did not even know they could legally own a silencer. Secondly, customers were seeking a simpler process to purchase silencers; e-a-s-y and turnkey. Thirdly, customers thought the standard tactical / military silencers on the market were cool looking, but were interested in using these sound suppressors for hunting in the Dakota prairies; decibel reduction, accuracy enhancing and light weight were their key requested features.
The gun owner’s perception that silencers are illegal can only be overcome with time and more education. The American Silencer Association (ASA) is doing an excellent job in educating consumers and politicians on the legalities of silencers and their usage. The fact that Remington bought Advanced Armament Corp. (AAC) has been helpful for consumers as well; opening the newest product catalog from Remington and finding an AAC silencer on the end of their favorite Remington 700 creates a lot of curiosity. Many gun magazines, including the NRA American Rifleman, have featured high profile stories on silencers recently. The most recent Guns & Ammo magazine has a SIG pistol silencer on the cover. The TV show Red Jacket has also helped as Will and his crew often work on and test silenced weapons. As Class 3 dealers sell more silencers, customers tell their friends as well. It takes time, but the word is getting out.
Customers always want the buying process to be as simple as possible; this goes for any purchase and not just firearms. We learn quickly that no one likes to buy a silencer at a gun show and leave empty handed or drive to your store and purchase in person. We started completing 85% of the ATF forms for the customer and putting in a packet to give the customer at the gun shows or send via mail, the customer completes their information and mails it back. Although, for a customer using an NFA Trust, we complete 100% of the paperwork for the customer and only ask that they email or fax us a copy of their NFA Trust. Educating the customer on the process is key as well, remind them the purchase is first, then it is a title transfer, like a truck title. An approved Form 4 is like a title to their silencer. We mail a postcard to the customers with their serial number and ATF number to check their status in the approval process, then put the customer in the driver seat. We have also fine-tuned the process of mailing a silencer once ATF approved, thus allowing us to expand our geographical coverage.
In the Dakota prairies, gun owners like their rifles for hunting and hunting at long ranges. For hunting purposes, our customers demand the best in sound decibel reduction, best in accuracy and light weight. We have found the industry popular quick detach (QD) models can negatively impact accuracy repeatability. Long range shooters never want anything to potentially compromise their accuracy. QD setups are not popular within our geography because they only drive up costs and bring no benefit to the firearms in this environment.
The more we listened to our customers, the more we decided we needed our own silencer design to meet our customers’ specific needs. We approached Liberty Suppressors in Trenton, GA based on their superior’s sound suppression results reported by Silencer Research on their 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm models during industry wide testing. We loved working with Dave and Teresa and the Varminter 1.0 model was created for our target audience. The Varminter 1.0 model was a huge success and exceeded all our estimates; the prairie hunters loved it. The features were what we were looking for, light weight with titanium construction, superior sound suppression and accuracy enhancing. The Liberty design was a monolithic tube, and we felt over time this design created limitations for us and our customers. Many of our customers use magnum rounds. To make a monolithic silencer design magnum rated, we had to extend the length of the silencer (and price). Then we had to carry two models in our inventory. The customers wanted one design they could use on both their magnum and non-magnum rifles without increasing the length or the price, and we liked the idea of only one silencer per caliber to stock that does both. Dave and Teresa at Liberty Suppressors were exploding with growth and the idea of making us a new design was not a good fit at that time.
We purchased the industry standard B&K 2209 sound testing meter to comply with military standards and decided to start testing silencer designs ourselves. Research quickly showed we needed a stack baffle design for our silencers. The stack baffles are always more efficient; shorter silencers can still work extremely well. We also quickly realized we can have the first baffle in the stack heat treated or made from Inconel to handle magnum rounds. We met the Mack Brothers of Sturgis, SD at a gun show in Rapid City, SD and the new silencer design idea quickly started evolving. The Mack Brothers are a large firearms manufacture that make firearms for other well-known companies. They had been actively researching designs for silencers as well and between the two of us, we created the design now called the Varminter 2.0. This silencer met all our customer’s requirements and has been a huge success. The Varminter 2.0 in .223 & .308 accounts for about 95% of our total sales and is by far the best selling rifle silencer in the Dakotas. As hunting has become more popular and more states allowing it, the Varminter 2.0 is being stocked and sold by many Class 3 dealers across the country. Even non-hunters love the highest level of db suppression and titanium construction light weight. YouTube Reviews of The Varminter 2.0.
We learned to listen to our customers and deliver on their requirements and expectations. We have continued to grow based on these simple principles and are now one of the largest Class 3 dealers in the nation. Dakota Silencer has locations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana coming soon.