If you’ve been reading any of our materials, you know that ABCI strongly advocates against ANY random acts of marketing,but after an insightful conversation sharing conversations we’ve both had with larger aviation companies, we thought we’d share these three particularly destructive and dangerous situations:

Marketing Mistake  #1 – “I’ve run several expensive, full-page ads in a glossy magazine, and now I’m out of money but I’m afraid to stop!”

Many new companies are particularly susceptible to advertising salespeople who encourage them to “make a big entrance” and “get their name out there” with a big advertising spread in a glossy magazine, which is probably more advertising than the new company has planned to sustain over the long haul.

Aviation magazines


Then the salesman calls back when the contract is almost up, and says “You HAVE to keep running full page ads. If you don’t, people will assume that business is not good, and they won’t buy from you because they think your company is having trouble.”

Our client mentioned to us “the time I pay the most attention to ads in magazines is when they start running, and when they stop running.”

Of course, the ad salesmen wasn’t being actually dishonest in either case, but this destructive half-truth has driven more than one company into the ground.

Magazine ads aren’t inherently bad, every channel has its strengths and weaknesses.  Since aviation has a notoriously long sales cycle, new companies may never get the chance to find out their natural sales cycle is 15 months, when they run out of money after six months.  It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time it takes to cut through the clutter, find the appropriate decision-maker, answer all of their questions, build trust, and wait for budget cycles or approvals.

What to do instead:

Evaluate each advertising venue carefully. If you decide that a magazine has an excellent demographic fit and great credibility with your intended decision-makers, by all means, place an ad.

You should consider the following when purchasing a magazine ad.

  • Buy an ad you can afford for the long haul.  Run a smaller ad for a year or eighteen months. You don’t want to stop advertising once you’ve started building credibility!
  • Design an ad with a clear, trackable, low-risk “call to action.”  Tell readers exactly what you want them to do, and be sure it is something you’ll be able to track. “Download a free ebook,” or direct visitors to a special landing page for a video; or ask readers to  “Schedule a demo or consultation. Mention this ad for a free gift.”
  • Understand that an ad is just the beginning of a successful marketing campaign. Have a follow up program in place before the ad runs. Be sure your staff is aware of the ad, and has a clear outline of how to maximize the chances of a sale from each response. Sales incentives for customer service staff are always a good idea!

Marketing Mistake #2 – “We have always spent a ton of money on our trade show booth and parties, and now we’re afraid to cut back.”

A variation on the same theme of the “expensive addiction” is the overly-lavish trade show appearance. The aviation industry is a small town and gossip is one of the favorite pastimes.

trade show

Overheard at an aviation convention about a major aviation company:

“Last year they had a 40 x 40 booth, and their party was the hit of the convention. This year they’re in a 20 x 20 and they’re giving away cheap plastic pens. I wonder what happened?”

Trade shows can be incredibly expensive. There’s booth rent, furniture, displays, giveaway items, entertaining, travel for your team, and on and on. Even electricity and wi-fi can be shockingly expensive. And all of these expenses tend to rise each year.

And customers, fans and onlookers seem to expect companies to have the same presence each year, regardless of return on investment, or they assume that you’re not doing well. And that gossip can hurt sales.   Some companies spend a lot more than they really should just to “keep up appearances.”

What you should do instead:

  • If you decide not to appear at a show that you’ve done in the past, write a statement or social media post explaining why.  “We’ve decided to devote the time and budget from Show X to see more of our clients personally.   We’ll be visiting the West Coast in November, contact us for an appointment.”
  • Plan trade show appearances very carefully. If trade shows are part of your marketing strategy, it’s better to do fewer  shows, but to spend more time and money on advance marketing and a creative and effective follow-up program for the leads you acquire.
  • There’s nothing wrong with not having a booth or display.  Make appointments to visit existing clients and your top 10 prospects – meet them for breakfast, lunch or coffee.
  • If you’re new to a particular trade show, make your first appearance modest. You can always go bigger next year when you’ve observed the demographics and “personality” of a show first-hand. It makes the best impression to improve incrementally each year. Provide slightly nicer giveaways, a slightly more lavish gift for your drawing, each year.

Marketing Mistake #3 – “We gave away samples of our product, and people don’t seem to see the value.”

A public and painful example of this:

ipad stands

Busted! Surface tablets used as iPad stands during CNN election coverage.

A person at CNN familiar with the company’s operations said that anchors are not required to use any particular hardware and usually bring their own devices. The Surface tablets were not part of a product placement deal, and were in place to give anchors access to CNN’s “magic wall” that helps display much of the channel’s coverage. Microsoft owns the company that makes the “magic wall,” which can be controlled through Internet Explorer.

Microsoft has already had a bit of trouble with the branding of its surface tablet. The company signed a deal with the NFL to put Surface tablets on the sidelines of games, but had to coach announcers to stop referring to them as iPads.


While a trial period or even a sample might be a good way to educate customers and build trust, but giving a core product away for free can’t help but devalue the product in the eyes of prospects.

Novice salespeople often use free product improperly. When you offer something for free, your prospect will probably take it. But they probably won’t devote the time or effort to really evaluating it as a viable solution.   They will just as likely be given to a non-decisionmaking colleague, or take it home for their kids.

What to do instead:

  • Give away free coffee or candy. Give away information or accessories. Offer free training with your product.  Don’t be a cheapskate, but don’t give away the most valuable core benefit of your product.
  • If you do provide a trial period or some other risk-reversal, obtain a commitment in return.  “Use it for thirty days.  Try all of the functions, attend a new-member training session, call our support line and file a ticket for assistance. If we’re not able to make it right within thirty days, we will provide a full refund.

Other Marketing Mistakes?

We’ve all made them!

But one of the great things about ABCI clients and members is that we learn from one another – share your favorite mistake (and its solution) in the comments below. ..