Potential customers are out there. The quest for a flight school business owner is to find them, connect with them, and get them to visit your facility personally. That may appear to be easier said than done, but the truth is the exact opposite. Fortunately, everybody eats—including you and your potential customers.
Consider this case in point. Last week I was eating lunch in a sushi restaurant downtown. Joining me was another CFI who hangs around at the local airport, which is less than four miles from the restaurant. It's convenient for CFIs, counter staff, mechanics, and administrators from the airport to run down and grab a bite. The food is good and the atmosphere is decidedly non-aviation oriented, which allows us to enjoy a short vacation from the airport environment during a break in our schedules.
On this particular day the waitress overheard my buddy and me talking and interrupted to ask if we were pilots. We admitted we were and added that we both fly out of the local airport. This news got the waitress very excited. She brightened and become quite enthusiastic as she told us how much she wants to learn to fly. She explained that she's been saving her tips so she can afford lessons. Then she started peppering us with questions about where she can go for lessons, what it might cost, how long will it take, what type of airplane will she be able to fly, and so on.
This is not a hypothetical example I invented for the purpose of writing this story. It actually happened. The conversation took place in October and the waitress really had no idea where she might be able to go, or who she might call so that she might learn to fly.
If you mentally switch places with the waitress, that sense of not knowing where to go or who to call is not so surprising.
Just as my friend and I would have no idea who to call to buy the right kind of rice, or tuna, or wasabi to stock the restaurant with, the restaurant staff has no idea who to call to ask about flight lessons. This simple reality is a concept so foreign and unbelievable to some airport business owners that they rarely take action to correct the problem.
Everybody eats, including CFIs with a two-hour hole in the middle of their day, the waitress who wants to learn to fly, and thousands of others who will pass through the restaurant over the course of a year. All are potential customers. Yet only the CFIs sitting quietly gnawing on spicy tuna rolls knew that a flight school business is so nearby.
Consider this: Could your flight school business establish a relationship with local restaurants that would give you greater visibility and name recognition in the area? Might your company advertise on their menus, or offer an intro flight to select staff members in order to get them excited about flying? Would you entertain knocking $10 off the cost of an intro flight for new customers who find out about your business through rack cards the restaurant offers its diners?
There are myriad opportunities to reach out beyond the boundaries of the airport to attract new customers, motivated customers who are already hoping to avail themselves of your services—if they only knew who to call or where to visit. Perhaps it's time to go to lunch and talk about the possibilities.