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Email is still a great way to attract and keep customersEmail is still a great way to attract and keep customers

Despite a huge influx in additional channels in recent years, email marketing should still be an old standby for flight schools. Not only is it inexpensive and relatively easy to do, it builds community and keeps your school top of mind. And just like people share things today on Facebook, the forward button can be a powerful personal referral tool.

Although Microsoft Word has a few free email marketing templates built in, it’s worth it to pay a few dollars a month to go through Constant Contact or another provider. These companies can make the process painless and more effective. Follow these guidelines and you should see some success with your newsletter.

1. Strike a tone. Keep the messaging in line with your school’s branding. If you have an official color and logo, make sure to incorporate it. If you are known as the fun school in the area, make sure that comes across. Likewise if you’re the serious school that caters to professionals. Whatever your image, make sure it’s consistent.

2. Don’t annoy. Everyone hates to be pestered, be it by phone, mail, or email. There is a sweet spot between too many emails and not enough. What that is depends completely on your school and the content of the messages. Think about your own experiences and ask other people you trust. At what point do you stop reading or unsubscribe? Chances are your students’ experiences are similar.

3. Don’t do hard selling. Email marketing is a great way to get people on the phone and through the door—provided you aren’t constantly bombarding them with offers. Some school news, photos, and other engaging material is enough to keep them thinking about flying and your flight school. But when you do want results, email is also a great way to make an offer. With an offer code you can even track its effectiveness.

4. Don’t be blind. There’s nothing worse than throwing your hard work out the window. Third-party email marketing companies usually offer various metrics with which you can see how effective your messaging is. Open rate, or the percentage of recipients who open and presumably read your message, is the standard measure of success in email marketing. The average for education/training and the hobby industries average around 17 percent, according to email marketing and list manager MailChimp.

5. Draw them in. If your newsletter isn’t getting results, part of the reason could be your subject line. This is the most important mix of words in the entire document. Grab people’s attention without resorting to cheesy tactics. You can even test various ideas from newsletter to newsletter, or in some cases, on the same newsletter to different people.

6. Keep them excited. It’s important to keep things short and quick in email. Although people will occasionally read lengthy stories in an email, more likely they are scanning quickly for what they want. To that end, keep stories brief, use photos, and include a mix of content. Some examples could be facts about the staff, photos of people who soloed or passed a checkride, goings on at the airport, an instructional tip, news about a new airplane or simulator, and a great aviation quote.

7. Have it checked. Behind all the world’s best writers are great editors. Follow their lead and get someone else (or a few someones) to read your newsletter before it’s sent. Grammatical mistakes are unprofessional and sloppy, two words you certainly don’t want associated with your school.

If you don’t currently have an email newsletter it’s time to start one. If you already have one, it’s time to take a fresh look and see if it could be improved. There is plenty of free advice online to help. Building community, keeping students engaged, and communicating out important information in an all-in-one format will save you time and be a lot of fun.

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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