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K.I.S.S. the funnel goodbyeK.I.S.S. the funnel goodbye

Everyone knows sales follows a predictable process whereby the consumer goes down the funnel from awareness to interest to desire to action, right? Not anymore.

Recently the Corporate Executive Board found in a survey of 7,000 consumers that only a third of shoppers use the funnel model on a regular basis. The reason is not surprisingly the deluge of information available to consumers. Consumers seem to be unable to find a clear path through the funnel. As a result many have replaced it with a tunnel approach.

The tunnel is just that. It’s where a consumer hones in a specific brand or offering and then goes full-forward. While this might sound like great news for flight schools, especially those without local competition, the larger story is more critical. In a time of rapid marketing, an overload of information, and a bevy of choice, the smart school makes the process easy for the customer.

Between your first contact with a potential student and the final sale, the process should be clear, direct, and simple. Everything from the messaging to the product offering should be uncomplicated. Ads, for example, should make it clear what you’re selling, which is the end-product of learning to fly.

One place where simplicity is key is on the initial phone contact. The most prevalant, and probably the biggest mistake, is to invoke lots of jargon. Imagine you are about to buy a guitar. You’ve had interest in music, but don’t know anything about instruments. You walk into a shop you found in the phone book and the guy behind the counter starts talking about “action” and “bi-amping.” You’ll be completely lost. Now imagine how a prospective student feels when you, an instructor, or the customer service staff talks about Part 61, CFI, and so on. Keep the conversation simple and focused on one thing—getting the prospect to the school to take a flight. There’s nothing like taking your first flight in a small airplane to bring about clarity.

Once the flight is over and it’s time to sell training, here again simplicity rules. Flight training’s traditional pay-by-the-hour model is confusing when there’s no firm answer for how long the training will take. Those few schools that offer a flat rate would argue the model is extremely effective. If you’re not ready to make a major switch like that, work to otherwise simplify the process as much as possible. Bring transparency to the money discussion by talking about the average amount of hours it takes your students to get a certificate and what can improve that.

Finally, because sales in an ongoing process, make sure the training is organized, follows a syllabus, and always enables the student to know where he is in the process and where he is going.

According to the board’s study, the single biggest factor in a consumer’s decision on whether or not to purchase, follow through on a purchase, and recommend it to others was the purchaser’s ability to get “trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently navigate their purchase options.”

Seems simple.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

"Flight Training" Editor
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.

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