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One tool, many purposesOne tool, many purposes

When it comes to staying in touch with your current customers, reaching out to prospective students and renters, and keeping everyone engaged in the community, no tool is more versatile, more efficient, or more effective than email marketing. Using it to its best potential is easy if you follow five basic strategies.

1. Have a goal
Most important to the process is to have a goal and stick to it. That doesn’t mean never revising the goal, but it does mean you give the newsletter time to mature and meet expectations. The goal should be specific to your school and your school’s needs, but there seem to be a few common themes.

Sean White, a marketing professional with Montgomery Aviation and Eagle Flyers in Zionsville, Ind., said the newsletter in informational in nature. He includes flight school procedures, student achievements, and new or interesting things that are happening at the airport. The idea is to keep everyone informed and “keep the flight school in front of people.” White also regularly includes events like seminars in the newsletter, which he says is the primary method of getting attendees.

A less obvious benefit of newsletters is their ability to help provide web presence for the school. Faith Drewry, the co-owner of the FL Aviation Center in Tallahassee, Fla., said increasing the school’s Google search results has been a core goal of the newsletter since it was first launched. Because Google’s so-called organic search results (as opposed to paid advertising) are based partly on new content on a particular site, the newsletter gave the school a way to regularly refresh the website, pushing it up the search result list. And it worked. Drewry said they are now the first results for most flight training-related searches for Tallahassee.

2. Keep it regular
Readers must have an expectation of frequency to become comfortable with a newsletter. If your school is sending an email in a newsletter format with regular sections, it’s critical that the email goes out on a regular schedule, be it once a month, once a week, or something in between. That’s not to say additional updates can’t happen between issues, but don’t skip the primary issue.

If you use email in a more free-form style, such as Aviation Adventures in Virginia, be mindful of not spamming your list too often. Owner and frequent emailer Bob Hepp says that he will send a simple email for student achievements, school news, or anything else that comes up. People on the list expect this regular communication, and therefore don’t unsubscribe, he says. However, if he or a CFI hits the list two or three times in quick succession, he will get one or two unsubscribe requests, usually from someone who has moved out of the area. Setting a frequency and sticking to it will ensure you are meeting an expectation and keeping your email open rate high.

3. Segment your list for sales
If you use a third-party vendor such as Constant Contact, segmenting your email list is easy. You could use this feature to only reach instrument-rated pilots or only those who are checked out in a certain airplane. White uses it as a sales tool. The school goes to many community events. At an event they may offer a free discovery flight where entry is done through giving the school an email address. After the event, the school will email everyone from that segment of the list and offer them a discounted intro flight, free Cessna Pilot Center kit, or some other promotional tool.

4. Make it your own
“I think your web presence is a reflection of your business,” Drewry says. She has spent many hours making sure the newsletter and website reflect her school’s brand, which is not coincidentally positioned in the top left of the email. When FL Aviation Center opened a year ago Drewry said they knew they had to offer something other schools in the area didn’t. So they developed a mission statement that sets them apart and drives everything they do. Customers started to catch on, but she continues to remind both them and her employees (who also get the newsletter) of the school’s brand and mission.

Montgomery Aviation and Eagle Flyers newsletter is also unique. Because it serves both the flight school and associated FBO it has the ability to expose the students to the larger aviation community. There’s a list of airplanes for sale, and news items often include events that go beyond the scope of flight training. White has also worked to personalize the newsletter and bring it into the larger look and feel of the business.

5. Make it easy
The bottom line is that if it becomes too difficult to manage, you’ll likely stop producing the newsletter. So make it easy on yourself and either use a third-party vendor like Drewry and White have, or use your internal email management system, as Hepp has done. The process will still take time, but especially with a vendor such as Constant Contact and many of the others, you don’t need to know code or how to use complex analytics software, and it will automatically ensure you are following email laws.

This means there’s no excuse not to put out high quality, engaging email campaign on a regular basis.

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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