What’s Better Than Marketing for Flight Schools?
As a marketing consultant, this was a difficult idea for me to get my head around. In fact, we’d been approached three different times by three different people before it really sunk in for me.
But, I’m finally convinced and we’re making some major changes to the way we handle marketing for flight schools, particularly those that cater to career-minded students.
This was particularly hard for me, because flight schools are very near and dear to my heart and our history. My husband John introduced me to aviation and flying. I loved it so much that I decided to get my private pilot rating, and we decided to buy our first airplane, November 6208 Charlie, a Cessna 172; and entered into an lease-back agreement with a flight school where Charlie would be used as a training aircraft.
Of course, like all aviation people, we spent a lot of time at the flight school and getting to know the owners and the business. I was a marketing exec for a Fortune 50 finance company at the time, so I was really interested in the marketing side of the business.
They were getting most of their customers with one marketing activity – the radio remote. Basically, the way this works is that the radio station comes and parks their vehicles and their big inflatable animals in the parking lot, and broadcasts from the school, saying things like:
“Come on down to the airport – we’re here today learning to fly. One of our celebrity DJs is going to be broadcasting live from a discovery flight with one of the instructors here, and you can go on your own discovery flight for just $149. We’re also having free hamburgers and hot dogs. So if you’ve ever thought about flying, get your butt down here . . . “
Of course, this would attract a lot of fans of the station, some of whom were casually interested in learning to fly, or just in a cheap discovery flight or a free meal!
They would get thirty or forty new leads from the event, and quite a few of those would enroll as students, some would be frustrated because they couldn’t schedule the airplane or the instructor at the time they wanted. A few of those students would continue to solo, and a few of those would continue to get their private rating.
Since marketing was my profession, I was appalled at how inefficient this was. It sets up this feast or famine cycle of too many or too few leads for a really healthy business.
So, of course, I started consulting for them, and helping them get a more qualified stream of leads by using SEO, social media, downloadable career guides, webinars and other things that would attract a deliberate stream of more serious and qualified prospective students.
And that worked well for several years, but I was also finding that flight schools have such thin margins and such resistance to these methods that it was much easier for my company, ABCI, to get other types of aviation clients like MROs and software and doctors and lawyers. Many flight school owners felt that our services were too expensive, especially when fuel costs were high and margins were thin.
So, to bring the story full circle.
To really oversimplify, marketing is simply the practice of matching supply and demand. If there’s a way to tap into the demand directly, then all of these other marketing activities become unnecessary.
Thus, if we can make the connections between airlines that need trained pilots, flight schools, and aspiring future pilots; then many problems are solved.
I’d mentioned we were approached by three different people at three different times with ideas about how to make this work. Most recently and most persuasively, by a group of people that helped us start the company Airline Pilot Gateway.
Airline captains, including David Santo and Fred Mattfeld, are helping us make the connections with airlines. The airlines themselves are marketing for prospective students. And flight schools can simply participate in this network to train as many students for which they have capacity.
This works best for flight schools that have a great, reliable training program; and access to housing and the other resources students need. But then the emphasis shifts to providing the best services, rather than the effort and costs associated with attracting and keeping students.
ABCI helps aviation companies, including flight schools, sell more of their products and services. For more information, visit our website at http://www.AviationBusinessConsultants.com For more information about the Airline Pilot Gateway, see Captain David Santo’s presentation at the FSANA convention on Thursday at 4:00 pm, or visit http://www.AirlinePilotGateway.com