Your prospective customer dodged the barbed wire, snipers, and Keep Out signs at your airport, and even managed to find your front door. One of your instructors talked to her about flight training and what it takes to become a pilot, and told her about the discounted Discovery Flight your school offers. She thanked the CFI for the info and said she’d think about it and get back to him when the time was right. For the vast majority of flight schools, the story would end there. But not yours. Your school is different. For your school, her courageous visit to your front lobby was just the beginning.
Regardless of how she got there (website, yellow pages, word-of-mouth), your prospect’s first visit gave you the opportunity to become her flight school. Maybe not that day, but someday, when she was ready. To make sure she thought of you when it was time for that first lesson, you put her into your 12-touch marketing program, a low-key/high-return plan that kept your school in focus so that when it was time to start training, you got the call, not Brand X Aviators down the ramp. Here’s what you did:
- You collected her name, phone number, and email address so you could send her one of your periodic discount coupons for special pricing on Discovery Flights, books, or ground schools. You also invited her to your monthly Learn to Fly Night where you have current students talk about what it’s like to learn to fly.
- You waited 24 hours, and then called her to thank her for her visit and asked if there were any other questions she thought of after she left. You did not invite her back or try to sell her anything, but you did remind her to check out your Facebook page.
- After five days, you sent her a personalized email announcing that one of your students soloed for the first time. Your email included a photo of that student and the instructor. Again, you didn’t try to sell her anything, but your message did include your logo and contact information.
- After one month, you began sending her your quarterly drip email newsletter. These were mass, automated messages that included news of your school, student accomplishments, another invitation to Learn to Fly Night, and a special discount coupon. This newsletter opened directly in your prospect’s email client and did not require any click-throughs. You closely followed a strong protocol of email marketing by clearly including a simple one-click “Unsubscribe” option.
- Two months after her visit, you called her by phone and invited her to a special Discovery Saturday, where first flights are just $89. You told her that she could, if she wanted, take the controls during this flight and actually fly the airplane, under the watchful eye of an experienced instructor. You reminded her that you only have these Discovery Saturdays a few times a year, and that you take credit cards. You also asked her if it was OK for you to keep sending her email newsletters. She said it was, and that she enjoyed reading them.
- Each time your school had a party, fly-out, or potluck, you made sure she got a personalized email invitation or phone call. You made sure she didn’t get more than three of these per year.
- On the one-year anniversary of her first visit, you called her on the phone and asked her if she was still interested in flight training. She said yes, and that now was the time to begin training. You booked her first lesson and she became a good customer, solid pilot, and great addition to the aviation community.
This program touched all of your prospective clients twelve times a year, more frequently at the beginning (when the iron is the hottest), less so toward the end. Although studies show that following-up with prospects pays huge dividends, many flight schools have no such program at all—once a prospect walks out the door, they’re gone for good unless they decide on their own accord to come back. But your school is different. You understand that hard sell is bad news, but a carefully-crafted, low-pressure follow-up system that keeps your flight school top-of-mind with your prospects is not only inexpensive (or free) to implement, but is virtually guaranteed to keep those Hobbs meters running more than ever. And that’s what keeps the lights on and the bills paid.