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The post-information age in which we live has brought to life an educated and very savvy consumer. Whether shopping for quality, features, or value, consumers today are discerning and demanding. An abundance of information means your flight training prospect expects a good experience at a good price.

A great way to entice this smart shopper to your school is through a deal or promotion. Without question, the most prevalent deal in flight training is the introductory or demonstration flight. Most schools either take a loss or break even on the intro flight as a way to get people in the door. Then they go to work trying to convert the prospect. Although getting a potential student up in an airplane is unquestionably a good way to get them excited about flying, there are drawbacks to the deal. They are often offered at a loss, they take up valuable instructor time, and you’re counting on your instructors to do the selling.

If the intro flight deal isn’t working as well as you’d like, or if you’d simply like to try something new at your school, consider a new or different promotion. A look across the industry seems to indicate a few different options.

Daily deal: We’ve covered the plusses and minuses of the daily deal before, but suffice to say that if the deal is well structured and created with care, it can work well. Of course, the opposite is true. You could end up losing your shirt and having to take hundreds of tire kickers for joyrides.

Marketing discount: A few schools are trying what could broadly be called a marketing discount, whereby someone receives a deal for liking the school’s Facebook page or signing up for the school’s newsletter.

Alpine Flight Training at the Eagle County Regional Airport in Colorado is offering $50 to students who like its Facebook page, and FlyAccelerated is offering 10 percent off if someone subscribes to the school’s newsletter. Alpine’s Loren French said the Facebook deal isn’t setting any records, but that it “is effective enough to make us want to keep doing it. It does provide some benefit, and once it was setup it didn’t require much effort to manage.” French considers the deal another way to get people in the door, just like his charity flights, Young Eagles work, and inclusion in community coupon books. To him, the intro flight is the ultimate goal. “Make that intro flight happen for more people and make sure the intro flight is a good experience.”

Contests: A great way both to energize prospective students and get current students flying more is with a contest. These can be simple or complex, short term or long term, and fun or serious. AOPA Flight Training Excellence Award Winner Rochester Aviation in Rochester, N.H., ran a contest last summer that got students flying to more airports, and built a sense of community at the school.

Airwolf Aviation in Greenville, S.C., is now running a learn-to-fly contest with a first-place prize of the full cost of a pilot certificate. In a smart move to build a local coalition and help defray the cost, the contest is jointly sponsored by the school, the Upstate Business Journal, the Greenville Downtown Airport, and the Greenville Jet Center.

Whatever the method, the object is to be innovative and fresh with your promotions. Airwolf’s learn to fly contest has received interest from numerous regional media outlets, thanks to its partnerships. And Rochester Aviation’s contest is partly why it won the award.

Be it a contest, a daily deal, or a creative promotion, make the deal interesting, and ideally, easy to operate.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

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

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