Now that we’ve taken a closer look at the basics for how Groupon can work for flight schools, I want to drill down into the details of how you might structure your deal with them. I also want to share results that other schools have achieved using Groupon to market their school.
Let’s start by talking about the structure of your deal with Groupon, and how you can best make it work for you. As I mentioned in the previous article, Groupon typically seeks to offer the buying public something like 50 percent off the retail value of the item for the special. From that new price, they’re looking for 30 percent to 50 percent for their efforts. Net-net, an introductory flight that you now offer for $100, will be worth about $35 to you.
It’s important to look at Groupon as a way to barter your current offering (flight training) for the marketing of your business to people who may never have heard of it before. If you look at this service as a way to make money on each individual intro flight, you’ll likely be disappointed. Your Groupon offering is a true loss-leader.
So with all of these thoughts in mind, how can you make this deal work well for you?
Let’s take a look at one of the schools I found in my research that seemed to do well in structuring their deal with Groupon: Air Ventures Flight School, which is based at Dekalb-Peachtree (PDK) in Atlanta. There are a few things they did that I really like.
They capped the total deals available to the public. This kept the total number of deals offered on their terms and manageable. If your ability to offer this loss-leader product is outstripped by the demand for it, you could end up with a negative situation. One school that offered a Groupon deal in the Northeast sold more than 2,500 deals through Groupon. They had one year to fulfill them. I don’t know if that amount was too much for them, but it seems like a lot from where I sit.
They set up a “Gemini” program. I really liked this. You are paired with another “student” in a Cessna 172 and flown to an airport about 20 to 30 minutes away. At that airport, Groupon purchasers swap seats so both can try their hand at flying. It seems like the total net time is the airplane is about an hour. So, there’s more time in the airplane for the prospective student, and the flight school effectively doubles its loss-leader revenue. Win-win.
They included ground school training. Doing this not only increases the overall retail value of the package, it potentially brings more meaning to the flight portion of the deal. If it’s cleverly done, it can also be a way to begin the selling process by showing the prospective students how professional your school is and how nice your instructors are. They really need to see these features of your school, and not just have an airplane ride.
There’s one final step you must be prepared to take when you embark on a Groupon deal...
Follow up. Don’t make the mistake of simply expecting that those who purchase a deal through Groupon and take a flight with you will start right away if they’re interested. Some will do this. However, you must be ready to follow up with some of them a number of times before they come back and start. For most of you, this is a departure from how you normally do it. Don’t overlook this process: You’re leaving money on the table if you do. My recommendation is to follow up by telephone with them three times in the first 30 days after their flight with you. You will get some that will start immediately as a result of the Groupon deal, but a good number will need some attention and process from you before they begin their training with you.
Here are some links to flight schools that have embarked on a Groupon deal, and the actual results that they achieved.