Naval reserve fighter pilot, airline pilot, and aviation marketing copywriting sharpshooter Jeff Stodola talks with Paula Williams about murder boards, test flights, and what’s necessary for a great advertisement.
Transcript – Advertising Test Flights with Jeff Stodola
Narrator: You’re listening to aviation marketing Hangar Flying, the community for the best sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry. Your hosts, John and Paula Williams, are your sales and marketing test pilots. They take the risks for you, ensure strategies, relevant examples, hacks, and how-tos. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes, so you won’t miss a thing.
Paula Williams: Welcome to aviation marketing Hanger Flying episode number 25.
Jeff was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and caught the aviation bug early in life. He went to Purdue University as an Aviation Professional Pilot major while going through Navy ROTC. After graduation and Navy commissioning, he progressed through Navy flight school flying the T-34C Turbo Mentor, and the T-45A Goshawk where he learned how to land on aircraft carriers and earned his wings of gold in May 2006. He moved up to Washington State to fly the EA-6B Prowler. After 4 years flying the Prowler and a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, he transitioned to the EA-18G Growler, and completed his Naval service as an Instructor Pilot in the Growler. Since finishing active duty in June 2015, Jeff has continued flying as a reservist in the Navy, founded his business Angels 6 Aviation, and started flying with a major US airline. Angels 6 Aviation is committed to helping aviation companies improve their business through marketing, writing, and consulting, and is pleased to partner with ABCI to meet those goals. Most importantly, Jeff is supported by his loving wife, Jodi, and has 2 wonderful children, Tyler and Anneliese.
Paula Williams: So, one of the really interesting things that happened last year is that we met a lot of really interesting people. And one of the really interesting people that we met, was Jeff Stodola. And Jeff, we’re really glad to have you on the podcast today.
And we’re glad that you’re taking the time to talk with us. I know you got a really busy schedule right now.
Jeff Stodola: It’s great to be here. Thanks a lot for having me.
Paula Williams: You’re very welcome. So last August, you were in the military, and you ran across ABCI.
Do you want to tell us how that came about, and what happened there?
Jeff Stodola: Yeah, last year was a busy, and crazy year for me. So I got out of the Navy after being a naval aviator for a little over a decade. And I’m lucky enough to still be in the Navy Reserves.
And I was also lucky enough, last year, to get picked up by a major airline, who I’m now flying for. That’s all some back story. The kind of amazing coincidence is that my brother is, and has been, a marketing professional at a very highly regarded company, GKIC, that most of you have probably heard of.
And so he was able to meet you, I think a year or two ago. And then he got me interested in marketing a few years ago. And shortly before I was able to talk with you, he said, hey, I’m in marketing, you’re in aviation. And I know this company, ABCI who’s in aviation marketing.
So I think we can make this work. And we went from there.
Paula Williams: Fantastic, I know, we’ve been actually in GKOC’s peak performers group. And we have to say, Mike Stodola has been an inspiration to us for a really long time. And so, when we heard that he has a brother, that’s in aviation, we’re, this is so cool.
Jeff Stodola: [LAUGH]
Paula Williams: [LAUGH] So it was a really amazing coincidence. Some of those really strange things that happen. So, we didn’t really, at that time, have any plans for working together. But one thing that I offered you, is one thing that we have as a standing offer. And that is, if you’d like to write an article for us, we’ll pay you a little bit for the article, not a heck of a lot.
Paula Williams: But just as things work out, and to see if we have any kind of synergy. And you wrote a fantastic article for us in August of last year, that we published on our blog, that got, actually, quite a bit of good attention. And a lot of people mentioned it, as something that was really interesting to them.
And that was based on the History Channel’s Alone, tv show, reality show?
Jeff Stodola: Yes, yeah, I was just watching that show, and one day it kind of hit me that, hey, the show that’s focusing on people making it out in the wild we can really make some parallels here.
So, kind of for fun, I sat down, and wrote up the article, and sent it off to you guys just to see if you like it. See what you thought. And as luck would have it, you were looking for an article that kind of fill the gap for you, I think.
Paula Williams: Mm-hm.
Jeff Stodola: And put it on your website. So that was an exciting time for me. That was my first official published article, since I’ve been in college I think.
Paula Williams: Wow, yeah a lot of us get into writing, and then get out of it.
Jeff Stodola: Yeah.
Paula Williams: But it was really well written. And the thing that I liked about it was, that it said somethings so well, that we hadn’t been able to communicate as well as you did. And that is, most people who are in marketing feel like they are in it all by themselves.
And they’re out alone in the world against their competitors. And they have to come up with all of the ideas. They have to survive on their own. And I think you did a really nice job of expressing that in a way that we hadn’t been able to as articulately.
So I’m glad that you wrote that.
Jeff Stodola: Thanks I appreciate that. And the thing that I find fascinating about that is, you get a lot of people who are great at marketing.
Paula Williams: Mm-hm.
Jeff Stodola: And you get a lot of people who are great at their business.
Paula Williams: Yes.
Jeff Stodola: And its rare to have those two paths cross.
Paula Williams: Mm-hm.
Jeff Stodola: And so being able to bring those two things together, I think, is the trick that a lot of people, and or businesses, really don’t even really realize. They don’t realize that their great at aviation, but know nothing about marketing.
Or, great at marketing, but don’t know how to apply it to a specific business, or a specific sector within that business.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, right, and then another thing that you did fairly shortly after that is we published our aviation social media guide. And it had some typos in it.
Jeff Stodola: [LAUGH]
Paula Williams: And we realize that you have got really sharp eyes which is fantastic. In fact, I think you sent me an e-mail out of the blue that just said, did you know? [LAUGH]
Jeff Stodola: [LAUGH]
Paula Williams: That you may want to fix some of these things. And that’s when I kinda got the idea that this is a really valuable service.
There are a lot of people that know what they should do, they know marketing, they know their business, even if they know all of that, having a third party look at your stuff, if you’ve looked at it 47,000 times, and you think it’s fine, that’s because you’ve looked at it 47,000 times.
Jeff Stodola: Exactly.
Paula Williams: Right, exactly, so you can pick up on a lot of things that other people don’t notice. And I don’t know if part of that comes from your aviation background, or from flying fighter jets, or if there’s a parallel there?
Jeff Stodola: [LAUGH] Yeah, I have no idea where that comes from any given person.
But I honestly think that’s a little bit universal. And the phrase I always use is, don’t lose the forest for the trees. And I think everybody does that, I do that. I used to be a schedule writer, where we would do a 50, 60 flights a day, plus simulators, and all that.
And I would get done with my schedule. And I’d been working on it 12 hours a day. And I was proud of it, and then I’d pass it on to someone to review it. And in about 12 seconds they would just tear it apart. [LAUGH] And that was always so frustrating for me.
But I think that’s a good example, that whatever you’re doing, if you’ve been working on it a while, it’s probably one, really good because you’ve been working on it a while. But two, you just need a fresh set of eyes. And if those eyes can know, what the end goal is, and have that background, it’s all the more helpful, even if it can’t, it’s still probably going to be helpful.
Paula Williams: Right, right. Another thing that I thought of after having that experience with you, is one of the things that I had done with GPIC, that I thought was incredibly helpful, was a thing they called their hot seats. And I was on the hot seat probably two or three years ago, with Dan Kennedy, and one not too long ago with Dave D.
I don’t think I’ve ever done with Mike Stodola. But, Basically, you present your idea and they tear it to shreds. And its a horrifying experience being up in front of a room of people.
Jeff Stodola: [LAUGH] Sounds like it.
Paula Williams: But it is incredibly valuable. And both times, it really changed the direction of what we were doing in a really productive kind of a way, and nothing else that I have done as a business person has had such a dramatic effect.
So quickly, so, doing something like a virtual hot seat was an idea that I thought that you and I could work together really well on, given your background, and what I saw as a need in the industry.
Jeff Stodola: Yeah, and I remember when we first talked about it the general business term is hot seat or something of that form.
And in the Navy, we used the term murder board.
Paula Williams: Right.
Jeff Stodola: [LAUGH] I remember as I talking about that. And I always hated that name, murder board. Because well it sounds as terrible as it feels when you’re going through it. But it’s always, though it’s dreadful going into it.
And it’s terrible to go through, it’s such a beneficial experience that I didn’t want to call something that had such a negative connotation.
Paula Williams: Right, exactly. Doing it in public I think is where the pain comes in. [LAUGH]
Jeff Stodola: Sure, absolutely.
Paula Williams: We do them in public in, well, sort of in public, in our private group, for our master class members where we do it for the master class.
But that is such a supportive, and warm, and helpful group, that it is not as painful as it probably could be. But I think people get a lot out of those test flights in our master class because we do them, here’s the ad, the original ad and then you do a really great checklist with some suggestions.
And you do it in such a helpful way. And I know you and I, sometimes have differences of opinion about how we look at those things. We say, you know this is good. But this might be better, and we look at things from a very different perspective. So I think that really adds a lot of value for our master class numbers.
Jeff Stodola: Absolutely, and they’re a lot of fun to do. I enjoy every single one I do.
Paula Williams: Mm-hm.
Jeff Stodola: And yeah, it’s an extensive process that we put in place. And the fun thing about it, is just like everything else, it’s always evolving, as we learn more throughout the process, and more about any given company or person.
There’s nothing that’s universal there within any given strategy. And even within that strategy, like you’re saying, what I might like might be completely different than what you might like. And they still might be two great things. And they both might work really well. And so we can just get the information out there, have people try it.
Paula Williams: Exactly [LAUGH].
Jeff Stodola: One of the best things about it is we focus on having it be measurable too.
Paula Williams: Yeah.
Jeff Stodola: So if it doesn’t work, great, you still learn something, just like the light bulb. All right that didn’t work, let’s move on to the next thing that’ll make this light bulb turn on here.
And so if it doesn’t work the first time, not ideal. But it’s certainly not a bad thing cuz you at least learned what didn’t work. And you can move on from there.
Paula Williams: Absolutely. In fact one of the lines that I remember most keenly from my first test flight, was Dan Kennedy telling me, I don’t care what you like, what matters is what works.
Jeff Stodola: Sure.
Paula Williams: Cuz I told them something, I used the, very unwisely used the term well, I don’t like doing this, or that, or the other thing. And he’s just like well it doesn’t matter what you like. I don’t care what you like, what matters is what works.
And I think that’s really what this is about, is getting another opinion of maybe you’re. And we actually have this happen a lot in these test flights, where maybe a company, or a person, or a person’s boss, is stuck on a particular turn of phrase, or a particular format of an ad that may not be effective for them.
So if you can show them another way, that can really open up some possibilities that they never considered because they’re being held back by their own likes.
Jeff Stodola: Exactly. Mm-hm. Right.
Paula Williams: So there are some differences between the test flights that you do for the master class, and the test flights that you do as a paid product, which is a co-branded product with ABCI, and Angel 6 Aviation, which is your company, right?
Jeff Stodola: Correct.
Paula Williams: Mm-hm.
Jeff Stodola: Yeah the ones that we do for the master class, we focus on, one hopefully, it being as helpful as possible to the person who is doing the test light. But then in addition to that, I try to make it worth reading on an entertainment value.
Otherwise, I fully understand everybody’s super busy, and reading a six or seven page thing looking at somebody else’s ad, it might not draw their attention. So I try to keep their attention throughout. And then secondly, I try to make it specific to that person, but also useful to everybody else, so that everyone can learn from it.
Now when we focus on, when we do products for the test flight, it’s just for your company, and your business, and you. So, we’re going to eliminate the fluff unless you specifically ask for it. I’m certainly happy to add that in [LAUGH]. But we’re really going to focus on the process, what works, what we like, what we don’t like, and then our recommendations.
And, we’ll do it in a write-up. But if I say something in that write up, and then it doesn’t make sense, or you need more information. Or you need examples, or anything like that, there can be a little bit of give and take there. And I think that’s a great thing, because it’s so hard to get across something that can be so detailed, and go in so many different directions in one little write-up.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, and I think it’s really important. And another thing that’s really important, is that you, the ones that we do as a paid version, those are confidential. So nobody ever sees those-
Jeff Stodola: Absolutely.
Paula Williams: Except you and I and the customer, right? So, a lot of people, that’s their concern about these, is that they don’t want their work torn apart in public, which is certainly understandable, right?
Jeff Stodola: Yes, I don’t think anybody ever enjoys that.
Paula Williams: True well we do in the master class because we’re sick.
Jeff Stodola: [LAUGH] In a twisted way.
Paula Williams: In a twisted sort of way they’re actually really entertaining. And I also, I think there’s a lot to be said for transparency, showing people here’s what we’re working on, and here’s a better version.
So, that is really valuable in one way. But having it be confidential, that really gives us a lot more freedom to be very frank. And it also gives the customer a lot more value, because we’re preserving their brand, integrity, and everything else by not releasing anything other than what is perfect.
So that’s the reason people want these, is to get their ad as perfect as they can get it, and as useful, and functional as they can get it.
Jeff Stodola: Exactly, and a lot of places out there focus on making people happy, telling them what they want to hear, staying within the status quo, so on and so forth.
The nice thing here is that, that’s not our focus at all. And what I mean by that is, our goal is not and won’t ever be to tell you what you want to hear.
Paula Williams: Right.
Jeff Stodola: Our goal will be to give our unbridled opinion and be as straightforward and honest as possible.
And I think that’s the only way that we can really supply a great product here, is let you know what we think. And along with that, if you like it, great. If you don’t, let us know and we’ll try and go a different direction or we’ll realize, hey, maybe it just won’t work.
But I don’t see that being very likely for most people.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, and, it’s interesting, because a lot of people will say, well I can get a second opinion from my brother-in-law. Or I can get a second opinion, from, well in your case you can get a second opinion from your brother [LAUGH] because that’s really useful.
Paula Williams: But the point is that, it’s not a professional thorough checklister, than marketing oriented second opinion from someone that has seen hundreds and hundreds of ads in the aviation industry. And that’s something that they can get with this product, that they can’t get anywhere else that I know of.
I don’t know of any other company that’s doing anything like this.
Jeff Stodola: No I’ve looked around as much as possible to see if there’s anything else out there. And I haven’t found it. And then, like we talked about, if you buy this product, and afterward you don’t think it was worth it.
Paula Williams: Mm-hm.
Jeff Stodola: You’ll get your money back, no questions asked. So we guarantee, I think ABCI guarantees every product. I certainly guarantee everything I’m involved with there. So if you buy this product, and you don’t like anything about it. And you don’t think it was worth what you paid, let us know, and we’ll get your money back.
And then we will figure out a different way to help in the future.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, so, and you may say, well how much money are we talking about? [LAUGH] So one test flight is 499. And you can get a batch of 3 test flights for 999. So if you’re renting a lot of ad’s in aviation magazines you’re paying 10s of thousands of dollars.
And you know here, for less than $500, you can get a really, really thorough evaluation that’s going to make those much more effective. And if you make even one, or two more sales in most cases, you’re going to more than make that money back, right?
Jeff Stodola: Absolutely, and the way I like to talk about this with people is yes it’s an additional cost.
But just like everything else, think of it as an investment. And that’s why we’re able to guarantee it. You invest another $500 in your ad, we help you make it better, hopefully lots better. And basically, we’re guaranteeing we’re going to get you more customers. And we’re going to get the customers you do have to buy your product and service more.
And it’ll make it worth its value hopefully many times over.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, all right, so if you’d like to know more about the method that Jeff uses, and that we use for the touch lights, you can get a tip sheet of seven things that you need to do before you publish your next ad at abci1.com/seventhings, that’s abci, alpha, bravo, Charlie, India 1.com/7, number seven, things.
And that has a tip sheet that Jeff has put together, that will really show some of the really useful things that you include in those test flights, and that people can do on their own as well. So, even if you’re not in the market where you’re publishing those ads in the big publications and things like that.
It is a really good habit to get into, to make sure you are following some of these presets that aren’t used very often in aviation. It’s very likely that your competitors aren’t, right?
Jeff Stodola: Yeah, looking around ads all the time. And most ads are missing, most, if not all of the things that we talked about here.
And then once you include them, you’ll kind of wonder how you ever [LAUGH] had ads without them.
Paula Williams: Right, that’s absolutely true and the neat thing is if your competitors are not running good ads, they’re running very traditional what we call brand oriented ads, as opposed to direct response ads, they really don’t have any way of measuring the response to their ads, so they’re spending a lot of money.
And if you can do it right, you can really blow the doors off of your competitors, because nobody else is doing ads the way that we think they should be done, right?
Jeff Stodola: Absolutely.
Paula Williams: Right, all right, well thank you so much for joining us, Jeff. And we will really look forward to hearing any comments that anyone has to offer, or any questions that you have.
You can respond to the comments on this post on our website, or you can comment on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, anywhere you like, and we will certainly get back with you, right?
Jeff Stodola: Thanks again Paula, I appreciate it.
Paula Williams: All right, have a great afternoon. See you next week!