A steady stream of new students is what keeps a flight school in business. In this economy, with students scarce and money to advertise scarcer, how do you find and attract new students?
LONG BEACH – Flight instructor Rick Sharp hasn’t seen a new student in six months.
Each day he sits in the lobby of the Long Beach Flying Club and Flight Academy, hoping for a prospective customer. But the recession this year has taken its toll on the number of people buying flying lessons, and it has left many instructors grounded.
“See the instructors sitting by the front door?” said owner Candy Robinson. “They’re just waiting for students to walk in. They’re like vultures.”
As the owner of Long Beach Flying Club and Flight Academy since 1980, Robinson has seen her share of economic lulls. This year, the number of new students has dropped by about 50 percent, she said.
Robinson said most of the academy’s students come from well-to-do families in countries like India, South Korea and Mexico.
They get their pilot’s license in the United States, where it’s cheaper, and then head back home. She said local students have been scarce.
While longtime instructors usually have a steady stream of students, times are harder for newer teachers like Sharp, who are working to build their clientele, she added.”This is marketing,” Sharp said, as he sat in chair by the front door.
I would argue that there are better ways to market than to sit by the front door “like a vulture.”
There are students out there – people who are also suffering from the economy, and have access to student loans and are motivated to pursue a new career that will have them ready when the economy recovers.
How do you find these people? Search engines and social media.
Most people that look for something on the Internet use search engines like Google or Yahoo. If your site is one of the first that pops up when they enter “flight instruction salt lake city,” for example, you’re more likely to have the person visit your website, and give you a call if they like what they see.
Another way for these potential students to find out about your flight school is to promote your site through social media. If you have a mechanism that allows students to easily post an article about their first solo or about landing a flying job on their Facebook profile, all their friends and family will know about it. Some of those friends and family may be interested in flight training for themselves or someone they know. This electronic “word of mouth” works the same way as the traditional variety – people are more likely to walk in the door if they heard about your school from a friend or family member.