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Your daily marketing checklistYour daily marketing checklist

Success is in the details

You've read the books, checked the web, maybe even attended a seminar or two. You think you've put together a pretty fair marketing program for your flight school; you have a website you’re satisfied with, and you’ve even started advertising in social media. Your Facebook page has a few dozen friends or followers, and you think maybe it's time to kick back a little and watch the business flood through the door.

After a few weeks, you may notice the business that comes is less deluge and more trickle. A new student or two has signed up, but most of your new contacts turn out to be tire-kickers. Some take your introductory flight, tell you how great it was, then walk out the door never to be seen again. You start realizing how much it costs to get a warm body to call or come by. Depending on your advertising strategy, that cost can vary from a few dollars to many hundreds for each prospective student/customer. Prospects are like gold nuggets—hard to find and valuable. You must maximize your conversion rate; that is, to be successful you must convert as many of those tire-kickers into customers as possible. Many will convert if you give them a reason. Here are a few marketing basics to help get those Hobbs meters turning.

Do everything possible to gather names and contact information on everybody who comes to your school or requests additional information. Your website and social media should make this relatively simple, and a sign-in guestbook will keep track of visitors to your facility. These names, phone numbers, and email addresses must go into a database (even a paper list will do when you get started). These are your nuggets. Mine them. Call them the next day and ask them if they have any questions. Mail them all a postcard monthly announcing a special event or a discount on a first flight. Create an email list with similar monthly specials.

Marketing is a daily activity. Don't just push a few buttons and step back, waiting for the phone to ring. Plans that go on autopilot will soon either stall or crash. Marketing is work, and good marketing can pay handsome dividends. The best marketers do a few things every day and just make them part of their normal routine.

  1. Answer all emails on the same day they arrive. Check your email at least three times a day. Respond to each one with a personalized message (canned responses will get you nowhere). Remember A-B-C: Always Be Closing. Put a special offer at the bottom of every email you send. Ask for the business.
  2. Return all phone calls within two hours, especially if the calls are from prospects. You must contact them immediately for maximum effect. Prospective customers can grow stale after a short time, so get 'em while they're hot.
  3. Post to Facebook and/or Twitter every day. Write about a student milestone, a profile of an instructor or customer, or even your recent fishing trip to Baja. Social media is just that—social. Keep it light and fun. Don't oversell.
  4. Update your website with news and photos. Talk about a recent fly-out or other event, or link to your Facebook page for the freshest content. Bots will rank your website according to how frequently it gets updated and how many new views it gets.
  5. Run an analysis of your Facebook, Google, or other social media advertising. All social and search sites offer a sophisticated analysis tool that helps you track where your visitors are coming from and how long they're seeing your messaging. Expand on content that seems to cause visitors to linger. These tools are a great way to fine-tune your messages.
  6. Test, test, test. One of the big advantages of social network advertising is its ability to let you test headlines, offers, and other content to see what clicks best with your target audience. The analysis tools will show you how many responses you got for each variable message. You'll be amazed at how much better some content “pulls.” Doing this testing takes only minutes a day.
  7. Thank every customer on his or her way out. Marketing isn't just about bringing in new customers; it's also keeping current ones coming back for more. Even a friendly, “hi, howzitgoin'” from the boss can mean a lot. A common complaint from students is that they feel like a number, that nobody appreciates them. They're spending big bucks with you. Make sure they know you value their business and their friendship.
  8. Monitor your crew's customer service habits and make sure everybody is following your guidelines. Flight instructors are your front line, and they can make or break your business. Train them to do service right, and make sure they get the training and guidance they need to do their best.
  9. Call prospects on the phone at least twice a year. This may mean calling one or two every day. A call from the boss helps prospective customers realize that you really do want their business, and you genuinely want to help them achieve their dream of becoming a pilot. It also puts you as the face of your business, not an instructor or receptionist/dispatcher.
  10. Manage by walking around. Don't hang out in your office any more than necessary. Get out, meet your customers, engage in conversation, be friendly and approachable. Let them know that if they have any questions or suggestions, to come to you. Their thoughts are valuable.

Remember, the goal of marketing and advertising is not to get customers; it's to get prospective customers to contact you for more information. The sales function takes over from there. Make your marketing and sales as effective as possible by sticking with some tried-and-true rules of the road. Pay attention to the details. Plan your work and work your plan, but remember to have fun doing it. After all, you're in the fun business, and how you approach your work can make all the difference.

William Woodbury is a certificated flight instructor and freelance writer in Southern California. 

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