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Marketing during a pandemic

What you can do right now

As we head into June, I hope this finds your flight school with open doors and smiling customers. As you emerge from shutdown, you’ve got a lot to handle. But marketing should not be lost amid those other concerns.

Marketing strategies aimed at the likes of Starbucks, Amazon, and even your neighborhood grocery store may not work for a flight school. Still, there are suggestions that you can model to your business that will help keep you in your customers’ thoughts as they come back into the sunlight.

An article from BOSS Magazine offers several good pointers, particularly if you think of how you can scale these suggestions to your business. Let’s examine these from the point of view of the flight training industry.

  1. Do what you do best. Before the shutdown, were you branching out into different types of training or trying to be all things to all pilots? Maybe now is a chance to streamline to offer your very best products and services.
  2. Don’t be afraid of overcommunicating. “Your customer base is a captive audience during this time, so don’t worry too much about overcommunicating.” Truer words may never have been written. Hopefully you have been posting updates on Facebook and other social media platforms and sending out emails to your clients to let them know you’re around and can’t wait to see them again. BOSS recommends using all platforms available to let customers know about the latest updates, and to “set expectations now to avoid frustrations later.” If that means you won’t be conducting dual flight instruction just yet, explain that and say why.
  3. Be vulnerable. “Sharing a little bit of your business’ personal story can help with stability and brand management. How has the pandemic hurt your business? How has it shown you the very best of humanity?” I don’t know of anybody in the aviation industry who would willingly admit to being “vulnerable.” Still, maybe you can explain that it may be tough to schedule airplanes right now because the COVID-19 has backed up your maintenance schedule, or you can share inspirational stories of pilots helping out others during the pandemic (we’ve run several on AOPA.org, including this one and this one). Sharing these inspirational stories especially helps your primary student pilots understand the cool things they can do when they get their tickets, and it will help to keep them motivated.
  4. Deploy your ambassadors. “Consider mobilizing a volunteer team of social media brand ambassadors.” Now that sounds fussy and fancy, but what it means is simply this: Find some customers who know their way around social media and let them talk about your business. They can give testimonials or direct friends and followers your way. If you do want to get fancy, you can assign them branded posts or supply branded photos and graphics to go with their posts. If you really want to get fancy, give them a hat or shirt with your flight school logo as a perk for participating.
Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.

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