Your flight school may not be as exotic as, say, a purveyor of handmade wooden toys or a store that sells tools for left-handed people. But flight training is a specialized industry. Marketing strategies that would work well for a coffee shop or another small business might not fly (sorry) for your flight school.
Some of the advice in this blog from Dan Shewan for the online advertising specialist WordStream could be easily adapted to a flight school. Consider the commandment to “know your target” inside out. You may think that your target market is “people who want to fly.” But is there more? Does that include people looking to fly for a career, or those who have wanted to fly since they were kids, or people who want to tackle a challenging new hobby? Only you can determine that, and figure out how to reach those people.
Another commandment: “Solve your customers’ problems.” You may believe that a potential student pilot doesn’t have any problems (other than paying for the training). But as we see in Jim Pitman’s Flight Training Spotlight on Bountiful Aviation in this issue, a few simple questions before an introductory flight may reveal something, such as the desire to shorten a three-hour trip for business meetings. That’s where you come in.
Finally, there’s this: “Listen to your customers—really listen.” “Even the best-laid niche marketing plan is doomed to fail unless you’re committed to genuinely listening to your customers.” The article says you don’t have to ask customers what they think—they’ll tell you, on social media. “Social media is simply unbeatable for instantaneous feedback on your product or service and how well you’re doing at keeping your customers happy.” The article notes that monitoring online mentions of your business is time-consuming—but it’s also a heckuva lot less work than mitigating the damage of a negative review, or trying to convince new customers that you really do care when your previous actions say otherwise.
“Word of mouth marketing is incredibly powerful—when things are going well,” the article says. “In niche marketing, you need to listen carefully to what people are saying, and act immediately to rectify your mistakes.”