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Go the distanceGo the distance

A basic tenant of sales and marketing is to capture the data of a prospect and follow up with that prospect to try and make the sale. It sounds basic, and it is. But considering that even major consumer companies and manufacturers often fail to follow the practice, maybe a basics approach is a smart one.

Capturing the prospect’s information is the first critical step in the process. That means keeping a series of form cards next to the phone where a customer service representative, CFI, or anyone else involved in sales can gather information. This approach doesn’t entail writing down the name, email, and phone number of every person who calls, it does mean gathering information on those who show interest in flight training.

For example, if someone calls to ask about an introductory flight, full name, phone number, and email, if possible, are basic bits of information that must be obtained. Ditto for people asking about aircraft rental, flight reviews, instrument ratings, and any other training your school offers.

To make sure this works properly, create the cards, make hundreds of copies, train the staff how to use them, and audit their implementation.

Capturing web traffic is also part of the equation. Obviously a “contact us” tab with a web contact form is one way you should do this. Another way is to promote your newsletter as a free resource, asking for people’s contact information in order to send it. The same goes for anything else of value. Offer a presentation on landings, a training syllabus, or 10 percent off the introductory flight in exchange for contact information.

Gathering the information is only half the battle. Now you must do something with it. Every contact should get your electronic newsletter. It’s cheap to send, and serves as a way to show your sense of community and school brand.

Unfortunately, a newsletter isn’t enough. You must also follow up with each prospect in a more personalized way, and this is where technology can help. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a convenient way to make sure you are keeping up with your prospects. If they are five days or five years away from starting, you’ll have a tool that keeps your school top of mind for everyone.

There are a plethora of CRM platforms available, which is good for you. They are inexpensive and there’s a good chance that at least one will work well for your school. Regardless of the platform you choose, most offer some form of sales automation. Simply enter the contact into the database and let the software take care of managing the relationship. Users will get emails reminders, be able to log conversations, and more.

Most CRMs also offer a heavy dose of analytics, enabling the school owner to determine the effectiveness of the sales and marketing activities, and track individual contributors.

Whatever system you choose, make sure to follow up with contacts on a regular basis, and target that follow up to where the prospect is in the process. It’s much more effective to send out an email about the virtues of instrument training to a group of post-private students than it is all prospects, for example.

Make that marketing money count and follow some basic sales practices once you make the initial contact.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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