You know you have to work harder than ever to find customers and reassure them that your aviation company is healthy and that investments in aviation are good business. But your marketing budget is not what it was a year ago, and you may have reduced, eliminated or put off hiring marketing and information technology staff.  How do you find new customers and emerge from the current economic storm healthier than ever?

  1. Embrace The Controversy!
  2. Use Low-Cost, High Credibility Social Media
  3. Use Expert Consultants

Embracing the Controversy

Chief executives from General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co, and Chrysler LLC traveled from Detroit to Washington D.C. in order to appear before a U.S. House Financial Services Committee to plead for $25 billion in federal assistance.

Lawmakers (and the press) blasted the auto execs for flying in separate private jets to Washington.

“Couldn’t you have downgraded to first class or something, or jet-pooled or something to get here?” asked Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from New York.

The press and the public may have equated corporate jet service with excess and waste, but Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft are using the publicity to highlight the business case for their products.

Cessna launched a campaign to take on the controversy directly.

Shame on those who suggest that business aviation is little more than a corporate frivolity. Focusing on facts over hyperbole, it’s glaringly apparent why you fly. Study after study shows companies operating business aircraft outperform competitors that don’t. It’s simply about availing yourself of the tools to do your job. – Cessna Rise Website (

Hawker Beechcraft is cutting costs in other areas, but is also taking the critics head-on.   The ad for the new Beechcraft King Air 350 is headlined –  ‘Sensible enough to impress any Congressional Committee.’

Engaging the controversy is apparently working for them.  At least it’s getting more publicity than they could have paid for.  Radio personality Rush Limbaugh featured the ad on his popular (and controversial) show. Charles Mayer, Hawker Beechcraft’s V.P. of Marketing, says people are surprisingly receptive to the ad.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association have also teamed up to create the No Plane No Gain campaign, which includes studies, videos, advertisements and advocacy tools for aviation companies.

Use Low-Cost, High Credibility Social Media

Social media is the modern, high-tech version of word-of-mouth.

Social media campaigns can include blog entries, articles and press releases.  These types of content are often seen as more credible than the content that’s always on your company’s “traditional” web site for two reasons – first, these blog entries, articles and press releases are current, which is absolutely vital in today’s constantly changing information climate, and 2) the writer is usually identified, and associated with other known entities.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN send more traffic to sites that rank higher based on the criteria they use.  Those criteria generally websites higher when they include a lot of content, use keywords that are relevant to current events and the industry they’re involved in, and have lots of links from other sites.   These links can come from other websites, (like references from your suppliers, customers and other industry partners) from articles published on other websites, from blog entries, from profiles of employees posted on social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, or from social bookmarking sites like Delicious or Reddit.

You can inform more people about your product or service, establish your expertise in your field, and bring more traffic to your website by intelligently using social media like articles and blogs.

Many companies establish a corporate blog as a new version of the corporate newsletter.  They write an editorial calendar, just like they do for a newsletter, to broadcast industry news, announce new products, explain concepts, and communicate successes.   Customers can subscribe to the blog or visit as is convenient for them. Having high-quality, consistently current information is less expensive than producing and mailing a printed newsletter and has a greater potential reach and impact. (And articles can be linked to and from other sites, as we mentioned before.)  Once the blog is set up, it is fairly simple to post text, photos and even video.

Many companies have several representatives that post regularly to the company blog, or start their own blogs on related topics and interlink articles.  They can also link these to their profiles on LinkedIn or Facebook for additional visibility.

Use Freelance Consultants, Experts and Specialists

In uncertain economic times, the last thing you may want to do is add to your existing staff. You may even be functioning with fewer people than before and need to get things done more efficiently.

Using freelance specialists is a cost effective way to get tasks accomplished quickly, by experts that you don’t need on your staff all the time.

You may hire a consultant to design, set up or tweak your web site or blog. You may want an expert to plan a marketing campaign that you can execute with your existing staff.   You may hire someone to write regular articles or content for your blog so that you know that your company will be continually represented  in a professional “voice.”  You may hire a consultant to set up a pay-per-click campaign that targets specific customers and provides instant metrics.   Or you may hire someone to perform search engine optimization (SEO) on your web site so that you get more traffic from the search engines.

It probably doesn’t make sense to have these specialists on your staff permanently, but it may make perfect sense to hire them for particular projects or have them on retainer for ongoing efforts.

Getting an expert will cost more per hour than having someone on your staff perform these tasks, but if you hire the consultant, it will be more cost-effective in the long run. A specialist will take less time to accomplish your objective, won’t divert your task from your critical daily operations, and will generally guarantee satisfaction with the results.

Rising to the Challenge

May You Live In Interesting Times – Kai Lung

An ancient Chinese curse is intended to sound like a blessing.  We certainly do live in interesting times, and probably would prefer that they be not quite so interesting, in quite the same way.  There is no doubt that the aviation industry faces challenges. The economic climate we live in has caused some banks and auto manufacturers to fail and others to go begging.

Aviation has the additional burden of having been painted as luxurious, excessive and unnecessary in popular press.  It will take every bit of innovation, creativity and good, cost effective practices that people responsible for marketing can muster.  But companies that are willing to embrace controversy and technology will find ways to weather the storms that keep the competition in the hangar. As Han Solo said to the crew of the Millennium Falcon when flying into a asteroid field –

“We should be safe – they’d be crazy to follow us here!” – Han Solo

Companies that embrace the challenge and make resourceful use of new technology and outside consultants will emerge even stronger than before.