If you stop 10 people on the street in your town’s business district and ask them what the term “marketing” means, you’ll get 10 different answers. Most will include something about advertising in their responses, and many will say things like having an Internet presence, using social media, advertising in the local newspaper/radio/TV, making cold calls to prospects, direct mail, etc. Very few will include things such as the chairs in your lobby, the clothes that you wear, your hours of operation, and the cleanliness of your windows—yet these things and others can have a powerful influence on your business. The truth is, when you’re in business, everything you do is marketing. Everything.
It does you no good to spend thousands of dollars in media and the Web to attract new customers, only to have them face a locked door or a dirty lobby when they get there. In a broad sense, marketing can be defined as the process by which you build a brand—that is, the way your customers and others feel about you; not what they think, but what they feel.
Your marketing efforts should work in unison to attract customers and make them feel a certain way about you and your business. In aviation, it’s critical that you attract at least a fairly upscale customer base and that you reinforce the feelings those customers already have about themselves—feelings of professionalism, competence, reasonable affluence, you get the picture. You accomplish this goal by creating an environment that supports those feelings.
Your advertising should be clean and professionally created, with graphics that display a similarity in print, electronic, and Internet media. Your facility entrance should be attractive and welcoming. The first thing your customers or prospects see when they walk in the door should be a friendly face. Not a face, a friendly face. Your front office, lobby, and bathrooms should be clean, freshly painted, with aviation graphics on the walls. Clutter should be kept to a minimum. A scanner broadcasting controller conversations at low volume in the background is a nice touch. Remember, you’re creating a feeling.
Develop an organized tour of your school, including a short presentation about your training programs, aircraft, and pricing. Many prospects don’t even know all the questions they should be asking, so leaving them feeling like you understand their needs without talking down to them will go a long way toward starting a great relationship. Introduce them around to your staff and other customers, and make sure your team smiles and shakes their hand. Don’t make it too formal, just efficient, friendly, and professional.
Aircraft should always be clean and tidy, inside and out. Think rental cars. Nothing leaves a prospect cold like dirty, unkempt aircraft. Have the prospect sit in the airplane, and talk to the person a little about the instruments and how soon the confusing mass of dials and gauges will make sense once he or she starts training. Explain your training programs and the syllabi you use, and how your school will make the training both efficient and fun.
Walk customers out when they leave, and thank them for coming. Invite them on an introductory flight. Try to get them on the calendar, and have your most personable instructor do the intros.
All of these steps are important parts of your marketing program. Advertising and phone calls may get people in the door, but it’s how you leave them feeling after each visit that will bring them back and keep them training and flying with you. That’s the real job of marketing. Don’t ignore the little things; they can add up to make your school a big winner.