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.
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.