When making decisions about marketing your business, it’s not always necessary to go big to get significant or long-lasting results. Little things mean a lot. Websites and email offer even the smallest company on the tightest budget the ability to reach a large audience, and provide information to prospective customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But an even more tangible marketing piece can get your name out into the public arena and spread the word across state lines and international borders in a meaningful way.
Have you considered the lowly T-shirt?
Pat Simpson, the general manager at Gulf Air Center in Gulf Shores, Alabama, has certainly found success with marketing via apparel. “We offer free T-shirts with a certain amount of fuel purchased,” says Simpson. That simple, yet creative decision allows Simpson to broadcast the logo of Jack’s Aces, the pilot and crew hangout at Jack Edwards Airport, across the world.
“We’ve seen them in Europe,” says Simpson. A pilot who had just dropped missionaries off in Cuba even reported seeing a Jack’s Aces T-shirt in Havana. That’s a pretty good bang-for-the-buck on an inexpensive item that’s already been paid for out of the profits of a fuel sale.
As an FBO, Gulf Air provides a wide selection of services. Giving out free T-shirts in exchange for a minimum fuel purchase does double duty by encouraging fuel sales while simultaneously advertising the pilot’s lounge. Could you adapt that to your operation, offering a free T-shirt in exchange for a purchase of a specific number of aircraft rental hours in a block? Perhaps you could include an “I soloed at [your business name here]” T-shirt for flight students. Or an “I learned to fly at [your flight school]—ask me how I did it,” T-shirt to students who pass their practical test.
The lowly T-shirt is a remarkably common article of clothing. It’s one that is worn by people from all walks of life. And to your benefit, it can be used as a walking billboard. Nike does it, professional sports teams do it, colleges specialize in it, and Gulf Air Center has been very successful with it. The recognition of those branding achievements should give you at least a glimpse into the future of your own marketing options, and perhaps a significant boost in market penetration and name recognition.
“Pilots love freebies,” explains Simpson. Yes. Yes, we do. And knowing that allows you to provide them with a walking advertisement for your flight school business, that your customers are proud to wear where ever they go.