Consider this. NCIS was the most watched show on television in 2012. With an average of more than 21 million weekly viewers, Gibbs, Ziva, Tony, Abby, McGee, and the rest of the cast have become household names with recognizable faces from coast to coast and beyond. This is pertinent to the owner and operator of a flight school business because the success of shows like NCIS depends on networking, a tool that is available to you and your business as well.
Imagine for a moment that NCIS had the same writers, the same producers, the same directors, actors and sets. But instead of distributing the show via a nationwide network they simply showed each episode on a large screen in the parking lot of the production facility. With the same high-quality production standards it would almost certainly be a hit. But it would be a hit on a much smaller scale. The audience would include hundreds of fans instead of millions. And the revenue the show generates would dry up to a trickle.
The lesson is obvious: Putting your product or service in front of more people is better. The more familiar they are with your work, the more likely it is they will become customers. In NCIS’s case, the customer watches the program and the advertising that accompanies it. In your case, they enroll as flight students, rent aircraft, and purchase supplies appropriate for pilots and passengers.
If you apply that same lesson of networking to your flight school business, you can increase name recognition and sales by simply presenting yourself, your business, and your services to others—enthusiastically, and on a regular basis. The good news is this; there is no need for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of production facilities, broadcast towers, satellite uplinks, or delivery systems. All you need is a warm smile, a firm handshake, and a room full of people. Thankfully, those opportunities abound right there in your town. They’re ready and waiting for you to get involved.
The Chamber of Commerce is almost always a largely incestuous group dedicated to maximizing the benefits of their member’s businesses by giving them opportunities to network and market their products and services to each other. By joining your local chamber and participating in its events, you can personally introduce business professionals to the benefits of general aviation to their businesses, and their lives.
Rotary International, the Kiwanis Club, the Freemasons, the local Moose Lodge, and even the YMCA also provide opportunities for you and your sales team to get out into the community and meet people face to face. This matters because a major component of the resistance to beginning flight training is the prospective student’s sense of being in foreign territory when they come to the airport. By taking advantage of the opportunity to pique their interest while in surroundings that are familiar and comfortable for them, and providing them with a contact they know and trust, they can come to the airport with a sense of confidence and curiosity—both of which are desirable qualities in prospective students as well as in bringing existing pilots to your facility.
Networking doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can pay huge dividends to you and your business. Just get out there and start telling your story to people who live and work locally, but rarely if ever come to the airport. You’ll be expanding your customer base, and you just might end up having a good time doing it, too.