In Conversation with… Chris Dolnack
Updated: Jun 2
This month Gun Trade World speaks to Chris Dolnack, senior vice-president and CMO of the NSSF National Shooting Sports Foundation – the firearm industry trade association - to find out his challenges and objectives for 2020.
Q: How long have you worked for NSSF?
A. I first joined NSSF in 1988, leaving in 1991 to join Smith & Wesson and then Colt. I returned to NSSF in late 1999.
Q. How is Coronavirus currently impacting business in the US?
A. COVID-19 has impacted every business in the US. While the firearm industry is fortunate to be declared an essential business by the federal government, not all states and locales are permitting the sale of firearms and shooting accessories. The supply chain for imported products has been strained,and there are temporary shortages in many product categories, such as certain calibres of ammunition. Our industry is both resilient and patriotic and many of these impacted industry businesses have converted their manufacturing production to making Personal Protective Equipment, ventilators and hospital equipment, demonstrating that gun owners care and are contributing to protecting and saving lives.
Q. What are your biggest marketing challenges in 2020?
A. I think our biggest marketing challenge this year is to keep consumers – hunters and sport shooters – engaged, enthused and participating despite the fact that many indoor shooting ranges and public outdoor shooting ranges are closed out of social distancing concerns. In just six months the US has gone from historic levels of employment to a suddenly increasing high unemployment rate. So, I think that while many consumers who are out of work are more focused on keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table rather than buying a new firearm or optic, hunting and target shooting are good recreational outlets that can be enjoyed while respecting social distancing guidelines.
Q. What are your key business objectives for 2020?
A. NSSF is dedicated to helping our industry, its members and their families survive this insidious virus and to emerge from the other side of this dark tunnel positioned for growth. We have a COVID-19 resource centre on our website to keep the industry informed of changes on a daily basis. Our government relations team did an amazing job, literally working around the clock to have firearm businesses declared essential and permitted to stay open in 45 out of 50 states.
Our team worked closely with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which regulates our industry, to provide guidance for licensed retailers to conduct business in a manner that protects both employees and customers. Our member services team has focused on providing the industry with guidance and tools that will allow manufacturers, distributors and retailers to continue to operate in a sustainable manner. And our events team is hard at work on plans for the 2021 SHOT Show in January that features our expansion to the new Caesars Forum, located right next door to the Sands Expo & Convention Center.
Q. What marketing changes have you made to ensure future growth?
A. We’ve launched three new initiatives recently: National Shooting Sports Month in August every year that is a celebration of the shooting sports with more than 2,000 events in the US; the +ONE Movement that encourages hunters and shooters to introduce one or more people to hunting or shooting; and Gun Owners Care, that highlights the positive things that people in the industry and our customers do each and every day to improve the quality of life for others in the their communities.
Q. Where do you see marketing in five years’ time?
A. Increasingly consumers don’t want to be sold to, they want to feel connected, so I see a continuing trend toward relationship marketing and adding value to the lives of customers. That value isn’t just the quality of the product or service that is received for the price paid, it’s how the customer feels about that product or service and what the company that provides it stands for and how they add value to the customer experience. And if you add value, the customer will allow you to share in that value.