Ok, this isn't really a Technical question, or comment, but it didn't fit in any of the other categories, either. I'm still rather new here, and I've been reading through all the old posts just out of general curiousity. I'm a pretty good observer, and a problem solver, meaning I can usually put two and two together to make four. Many times I'll read something, or see something, and I'll get an idea for something totally different. This is one of those times, and I'm really interested in some feedback, plus I expect someone will tell me if this isn't anything new.
Here's what I'm thinking; what about a Martin Owner's Group? A WHAT? What if Martin established an enthusiast's group comprised of Martin owner's, would-be owner's, and other interested parties, with the purpose of consolidating it's customer base, and leveraging that customer base to attract, and then keep new customers?
Someone else said it best, but I don't remember who; "The archery buisness these days is about selling tackle. It isn't about servicing archer's." Now that's a crying shame, and it's a very narrow-minded, short-term buisness model!
A new shooter is free to walk into any store, or pro shop, and be overwhelmed by a huge array of makes and models of new bows, and related equipment. They've seen quite a few colorful ads in the magazines, maybe a commercial or two on tv, they have the SURELY knowledgable suggestions of friends and family...they may even know just what they want....even if they don't know what they really need.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have an expert archer, maybe even pro shooter. This person has owned many bows, probably tried just about every brand, and has years of experience tweaking and fine-tuning what the factory sells. He likely also has a few engrained opinions based on personal experience. This person knows exactly what he needs, but everything he wants may not be available, or he may not know that it is, so he sticks with what he knows, and makes do.
Either way you go, or at any point in-between, the truth is there is a mass of potential customers roaming around in the dark, so to speak, looking for a product to meet a need. And there are several manufacturers of archery equipment making such a vast array of bows in all sizes, colors, and at prices, that just about everyone can find something that will work for them...if they could just find it! What we DO NOT have is an archery tackle manufacturer that is willing to reach out and make a direct, personal connection with it's customers, meet their needs, anticipate future needs, and provide solutions BEFORE that customer is back in the market for a new model. What we do not have is a manufacturer who is educating it's customers, informing them, EXCITING them; creating a strong brand loyalty, and then giving the customer the tools to back it up. What I'm talking about here is a CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE!
Right now speed is king...speed sells. All bows made today are FAST compared to those made less than a decade ago. If you've got the fastest bow, you're going to sell a ton of them, regardless of your products reliability, it's shootability, the value of your product's warrantee, or the knowledge and skill of your customer service department. But bow speed is limited by a theoretical "wall" that we are now approaching at Mach 9...there just isn't that much room left for improvement! So, in the near future, when speed is a much less as critical selling point, what then?
Soon, those currently "lesser priorities" will become what distinguishes one brand from another. And while some companies will likely maintain the status quo for quite some time, with cheap, non-durable finishes, ill-fitting parts, and bow-tech that might not have been quite ready for the market...the company that establishes itself FIRST, no longer as being the fastest, but as being the BEST...with the highest quality product, the most knowledgable, helpful, and friendly employees, and the best overall CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE...that company will have everyone else playing catch-up! And once you're in the lead, it's much easier to stay in front...especially if you have a good head-start!
Here's one way Martin can sprint to the front while nobody is looking, and put some distance between itself and all the "also-rans". Martin creates, then offers voluntary membership to an official, factory sponsored group collective comprised of Martin product owners. Each new bow, and every other new Martin product should have a membership signup card included, or even better, a prominent, highly visible informational flyer with a link to the company home page, where they can sign up, or find out more.
This group...let's call it the "Martin Pride", after an older model bow, out of pride for owning the Martin brand, and also because a pride descibes a family unit of big cats, the long-time Martin brand identifier...and that is what we're trying to do, create a "family". The members of this group are provided special perks by the company. They get a Martin newsletter every month in their inbox that tells them all the exciting news related to the company, and the sport. They get free stickers, and patches. They get the new model year catalogs a month or more before they are made available to the general public. They get to place their orders in advance, and get their orders filled first. They are eligible for factory sponsored shooting clinics. They get to attend special Martin "member only" shoots, with pros and instructors in attendance. They get to come to the factory and try out the new equipment, as well as try out pre-production models, and offer direct customer input while the equipment is still in development. Maybe they get to sign up for a chance at receiving a new product that they can test out for a few weeks, then offer a testimonial, and suggestions for other potential customers. This creates that important CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. It makes a customer feel like they are more than just a potential sale, but part of something, part of a family...makes them feel like they have a say, that their opinions are important, that THEY are important!
Martin, in turn gets valuable, direct input from the very people who buy it's products. They acquire something very rare, and priceless....a crystal ball with a direct view to their customer's future wants and needs! They create an unbreakable brand loyalty. They get to build excitement for their products, and then directly market their product to customers that are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to buy it! They get to educate their customers about their products, not just give them a quick sales pitch. They get to directly SHOW the customer how their product meets a need...how their customer is important, and how the company will be there now, and in the future to take care of them.
Now here's the important part: These excited, loyal, educated customers move about freely within all areas of the archery world. They meet and interact with all manner of other archery enthusiasts from all walks of life. And they are armed with the knowledge and the tools to defend their brand choice, demonstrate how it is a superior product, explain how Martin is not just a company, but a family, AND educate other's as to why they should become a part of that family!
For this to work, Martin is going to have to step up it's game. It's not enough to SAY their bows are the fastest, or the most accurate, or the BEST. They actually have to BUILD them that way...if they talk the talk, they MUST walk the walk!
What about increased costs? Negligible. It is no more expensive to make a quality product that is correct when it leaves the factory, than it is to make a sub-par product that must be continually serviced with warranty claims, customer complaints, and lost buisness.
To summarize, Martin is a good company, with a long history. There is an opportunity here to to move from the middle of the pack, and set itself up as THE go-to company in the archery universe. By building a quality, durable, desirable product...a product that it's customer's not only want, but helped design...and then not just offering it among a slew of similar products, but presenting it and the company that made it as the singular, best solution to meet the customers current, and future needs...Martin can transform itself into the busiest, fastest growing, most profitable, customer-oriented company to ever string a bow!
Ok, that's a rough idea of what I was thinking. If you read it all, I thank you, and appreciate your patience, and attention. Now, what do you think? Is this idea worthy of further development? What suggestions do you have that could improve the Martin Customer Experience, and help drive this company to a leadership position among it's competitors? There was a thread started about what you would like to see for future product improvements, but what would you like to see the company improve about itself? What could Martin do to better meet your needs, improve your perception of the company, and remain your number one choice for archery tackle?

Thank you again.

Sledge