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Attract a more diverse customer baseAttract a more diverse customer base

Last year the U.S. Census Bureau said white babies now make up fewer than half of all new births. By 2043 the U.S. population will have shifted to a majority of non-whites. The number of deaths among the white population in America now exceeds births. In other words, ours is a country with a rapidly changing demographic.

The business implications of these facts are obvious. Aviation is an activity where upwards of 90 percent of the participants are white, according to some estimates. As that population shrinks, flight schools will be forced to have a broader and more diverse appeal. This won’t be a natural shift. It must be a fundamental value of the school. There are a few ways to get that started.

  • Engage your employees. It’s no secret that your employees have great ideas. What makes their input even more useful in a conversation about advancing diversity is that many of them are probably younger, which means they’ve lived in a world where diversity is more often the norm than an exception. See what they can contribute by directly asking for their feedback and ideas.
  • Be an example. One of the most effective ways to encourage a more diverse customer base is to project that image through your own workforce. You don’t have to be a social scientist to know that people feel more comfortable with those with whom they can identify. Just as an all-male staff can turn off potential female customers, an all-white staff can turn off minorities.
  • Reach out. Target marketing is the best way to reach any specific group of customers, but it can be particularly effective in increasing diversity. Make local connections with civic and social groups and talk up the airport, learning to fly, and your flight school. It’s the same tactic you would pull at the chamber of commerce. This time do it at a place you know will attract a more diverse customer.
  • Offer something unique. Just as you would for a specific client group, offer a discount to a minority group with a common association. Maybe it’s a particular employer in your town, or a civic or political group. Whatever the means, do it in a legitimate way by offering 10 percent, or making some sort of a package deal. Make it clear you are trying to attract a wider client base.

As the country becomes more of a melting pot than ever before, it’s up to you as the head of the flight school to ensure you’re positioned for the future. Easy math says that an efficient way to do that is by broadening your school’s appeal with all potential customers, not just the type who are there today.

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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