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Flight School Marketing

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December 2016

AMHF 0061 – Our Most Successful Aviation Marketing Clients

We were asked a very insightful question by a prospective customer – what do the most successful aviation marketing clients  for our practice have in common?



Transcript  – Our Most Successful Aviation Marketing Clients

Announcer: You’re listening to Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying, the community for the best sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry. You can’t learn to fly just from a book. You learn from other pilots who know the tools, the skills, and the territory. Your hosts, John and Paula Williams, are your sales and marketing test pilots.

They take the risks for you, and share 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 hangar flying episode number 61, the most successful aviation marketing clients. So I’m Paula Williams.

John Williams: I’m John Williams.

Paula Williams: And we are ABCI and ABCI’s mission is,

John Williams: To help all you ladies and gentleman out there sell more products and services in aviation world.

Paula Williams: Absolutely. We actually had somebody who was a new client ask us recently what are some of the most common traits of your most successful aviation marketing clients.

And I thought you know what, that is important. [LAUGH] And that is something worth talking about. So, that became it’s own topic. So that’s what we’re gonna be talking about today. Who are the people that we get the best results for, and who succeed at marketing and sales with our help and who are our favorite ones to work for, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay, so in response to this, you may have questions, comments, whatever you like. And if you use #avgeekmarketing or if you comment on our blog or anywhere else, I will find your comments and do my best to give you a good reply, right?

John Williams: Well a reply, whether it’s good or not.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Exactly. All right. So, three big ideas in terms of what make our best aviation marketing clients and I would say three things. One, they’re constant learners, two, they are rock stars and three they really like the product and their people.

John Williams: Number four, from previous podcast would be, they are really good and enjoy sales.

Paula Williams: Absolutely, and well nothing goes without saying so that’s absolutely right.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: We’ll add that in as number four. Okay so to start with as constant learners, these are people who consume a lot of information and they adapt based on what they learned. And I can give you some examples like Gene Clow was quoting us some information from the 8020 sales and marketing book that I had to go back and reread because I’d missed some pieces that he found, and was using in his marketing.

And the folks that really sink their teeth into the materials, this is kind of part of the reason that we have what we call our insiders circle where we have a book club, and we have other functions where we share information and learn from each other. So yeah, Gene’s one of our favorites because he is always learning and adapting based on information that he gets from us and elsewhere, as well.

David Santo who’s been a client in various capacities for a number of years and he absolutely insisted that we read the Blue Ocean Strategy and also read Neuromarketing, both of those books we really enjoyed. But it gave us a really good starting place to work on some projects together because it gave us a common vocabulary and some different ideas that we could talk about in context of what we wanted to do.

Jeff Stodola, the connection there is he’s the brother of Mike Stodola, who was part of our GKIC Peak Performers Group. Which is a mastermind group with the GKIC, Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle. Which is a group that we’ve participated with. So, once again, different ideas from different industries and other kinds of things that come together that people are adapting to.

And Shane Ballman with Snapse MX he’s been a part of a lot of different incubator groups and learned a lot from the Silicon Valley kids that he’s hanging out with. And the other really smart folks that are involved with these incubator groups. So there’s lots of ways that people incorporate these new ideas into their business and I think that’s one of the big factors in being successful.

What do you think John?

John Williams: Absolutely.

Paula Williams: Right, okay so they’re constant learners. Second thing is that they are rock stars, right?

John Williams: Yep.

Paula Williams: And what I mean by that is that they’re willing to get out there and stand behind their products and stand behind their ideas.

And they’re willing to be the public face of their company. And what this does is, if nobody is willing to get out there and put their name and their face behind a product, it makes you wonder what’s wrong with it, right?

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: Exactly. So, people don’t trust companies as much as they used to but, they do trust people.

And so being willing to be involved with the NBAA and Aviation Week, and the EAA, and the AOPA Education sessions, being willing to either have your own podcast or be a guest on different podcasts and things like that. Being a guest speaker, a guest writer at different events and other things.

Those things are really important. So a couple of things that come to mind of course Shane Ballman, doing a lot of pitching as part of his investor group and things. He’s kind of the master of the two-minute pitch and has become really, really good at that. David Santo, frequent guest on a lot of different podcasts and things, very good speaker with FSANA and some other aviation groups.

And Larry Hinebaugh has done some promotional videos and other things is willing to be the, the public face of his company which is great. Matt Steward with ACE, it’s applied composite engineering. He was willing and able to jump into a social media panel discussion that we had last year at NBAA and really kind of put a face to the name, and also be the public face of this company which was wonderful.

Pat Lemieux, very active with podcasts with his company C&L Aviation and

Paula Williams: Seven Jet!

John Williams: Yeah.

Paula Williams: And also with some local podcasts in his area. So, kind of a social media and podcasting pioneer in that area. So, being willing to and able to be a rock star just makes it some much easier for us to do marketing for and with you because it gives us somebody to collaborate with, somebody to be the public face of your company and once again to stand behind that and to build credibility for those ideas.

And the third thing, of course, is people who really like their product and their people. One example of this is Special Services Corporation. Their pilots stay with the company for an average of ten plus years. And how unusual is that in the charter industry, John?

John Williams: It’s exceptional.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Most of them don’t, right?

John Williams: No, they don’t.

Paula Williams: Right, they have a pretty high turnover because, pilots go from company to company. Special Services, I think part of the way that they do that is by really trying very hard, and I know the gold stream who does a lot of their work puts a lot of effort into scheduling their pilots so that everybody gets time off.

Everybody gets what’s important to them, as far as their family events and other things, and really bends over backwards for his own people, which in turn, makes it so that their customers have the same pilot every time or one of several pilots. But still, people that are known and trusted to the company and to the clients.

And that network is just about unheard of in the revolving door of charter pilots, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay. Another one is Flight Schedule Pro. When we talk about their blog, we talked about ways that they could write about their products and services and other kinds of things.

Jason Barnes was not really interested in that. He was most interested in articles that would serve his customers and helped them sell their services. His customers are flight schools and flying clubs and universities and other kinds of folks. So he put the emphasis on his customers in terms of the way that he wants his blog to be run.

So a lot of the materials that we’re putting out, a lot of the effort that he expends is not in selling products. It’s taking care of his folks, right?

John Williams: And what a deal.

Paula Williams: What a deal, absolutely. Last one, Centrex Construction. They help their customers publicize their buildings and get tenants.

They did some joint press releases. They did a lot of meetings at the last convention. They were attending with their customers to introduce them around to people in the aviation industry that they may not know already and really make those connections that are good for everyone. So once again it shows that they really, really like their product, they really, really like their people and they’re really willing to go the extra mile for them, right?

John Williams: You bet.

Paula Williams: All right, so big ideas?

John Williams: There they are.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] This is a podcast John.

John Williams: Yeah, well I don’t like reading slides.

Paula Williams: Fine, the three big ideas. One, people who are constant learners. Two, people who are rock stars. And three, people who really like their product and their people, right?

John Williams: Yup. So go sell more stuff.

Paula Williams: America needs the business.

John Williams: That’s [INAUDIBLE] one of the best sales guys ever.

Paula Williams: Exactly. So subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, [INAUDIBLE], or Google Play. Do leave us a rating. Let us know what you’d like to see more or less of.

We look forward to seeing you next week.

John Williams: See you next time, ciao.


Announcer: Thanks for joining us for Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying. The best place to learn what really works in sales and marketing in the aviation industry. Remember to subscribe on iTunes and leave a rating.


January 2016

  • Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying Podcast Episode 15

AMHF 0015 – When to Not Bother with Marketing – working Smarter rather than HARDER!

Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying Episode 15 - working smarter rather than harder!As Perry Marshall explains in 80/20 Sales and Marketing, sometimes the answer is NOT about working harder, and adding MORE things to your to-do list.

Sometimes it’s about things to take OFF the list.

Most of the aviation professionals we know work pretty dang hard.

And unless something pretty dramatic happens, this week isn’t going to have any more hours in it than last week, and this year isn’t going to have any more hours in it than last year!

So, it becomes an exercise in deciding how to work SMARTER, rather than HARDER.

For our part, ABCI has decided to completely eliminate a fairly substantial component of our business.  We’ll tell you all about what it is, and what we’re doing instead, in this week’s episode.

Transcript – When NOT to Bother with Marketing

Announcer 00:00:00 [MUSIC]

You are listening to Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying. The community for the best sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry. You can’t learn to fly just from a book. You learn from other pilots who know the tools, the skills, and the territory. Your hosts, John and Paula Williams: , are your sales and marketing test pilots.

They take the risks for you and share strategies, relevant examples, hacks and how to’s. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes so you won’t miss a thing.

Paula Williams: 00:00:46 Welcome to Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying episode 15. When not to bother with marketing. Now we’ve been working with several books about sales, marketing, business topics and so on.

Some of our favorites are The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and the 80/20 Sales and Marketing book by Perry Marshall. Now, one of the key points in both of those books is that most of us are doing too much work. Not that we need to work harder to get better results.

It’s that we need to figure out what we should be concentrating on and what we should be focusing our efforts on, right?

John Williams: 00:01:25 Which means working smarter.

Paula Williams: 00:01:27 [LAUGH] Working smarter rather than harder, exactly. So what can we eliminate? What can we automate? What can we delegate, and what do we just have to do ourselves?

And ideally those will be the things that get the maximum bang for the buck, right?

John Williams: 00:01:43 Absolutely.

Paula Williams: 00:01:44 Okay. So with that said ABCI has decided that we are no longer going to be providing marketing consulting services to flight schools.

John Williams: 00:01:54 How about that?

Paula Williams: 00:01:58 [LAUGH] As of February 1st of 2016 that will be true, and all of the flight schools that we have been working with we have talked with them already.

They already know how this is gonna work and they are thrilled.

John Williams: 00:02:09 Actually they are quite surprised.

Paula Williams: 00:02:12 [LAUGH] Which is great, so. It’s good news all the way around. Less work for us to do, and we’re gonna get better results for them, and we’ll tell you all about how that works and what’s gonna happen with that.

But first, I’m Paula Williams: .

John Williams: 00:02:26 And I’m John Williams.

Paula Williams: 00:02:27 And we are ABCI, and ABCI’s mission is.

John Williams: 00:02:30 To help all you folks out there sell more products and services in the aviation world.

Paula Williams: 00:02:35 Absolutely. So we belong to a whole bunch of associations and groups, and use information that we get from a lot of different places including a lot of marketing automation, software groups, user groups, project management.

John’s got an MBA from the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and lots of other places. We use a lot of Sandler training methods, we use a lot of GKIC marketing techniques if you’re familiar with Dan Kennedy and Bill Glaser, those are the kinds of things that you’re going to hear from us.

Put together and applied to the world of aviation, right?

John Williams: 00:03:17 Of course.

Paula Williams: 00:03:18 Okay, so first we’ll talk about a couple of housekeeping things. If you’re new to the podcast, we had just finished up a series of four podcast episodes about advertising and prospecting, and we’re going to start next week a set of four episodes about phase two which is building credibility and closing sales.

And then following that we’re gonna do another set of four episodes about repeat sales, recaptures, referrals, testimonials, and other kinds of things. So there’s a great way to remember this that somebody just told me the other day, and I told her I was gonna steal it because this is great.

Phase one is reach, phase two is revenue, phase three is repeat, and the vast majority of marketing companies, I would say spend about 90% of their time and effort and your money on phase one, which is reach. And what’s wrong with that John?

John Williams: 00:04:17 Well that’s all nice, but if you got all these imminent prospects calling you and communicating with you, you have to build credibility, show that you really know what you’re doing, and best of all, you need to close sales.

Paula Williams: 00:04:32 Absolutely, and then you need to get repeat business, which is really where the money is made in the aviation industry. So, a lot of companies think that they need more leads when they’re really just not making great use of the leads that are coming in. Most of the time these sales take a lot longer then they do in retail or any other part of the world and other advertising and marketing companies don’t realize that.

So they’ll just tell you advertise more, advertise more, advertise more, and you can run out of money before you run out of runway, right?

John Williams: 00:05:03 Exactly.

Paula Williams: 00:05:05 [LAUGH] So that’s why we do things the way we do. We call it long cycle marketing, and once again phase one reach, phase two revenue, phase three repeat.

So that’s what’s going on. If you do need to do more advertising and outreach, if you need to focus on prospecting then you might want to listen to episode 11, which was advertising and prospecting, episode 12, which is calls to action, episode 13, six digital prospecting methods, and episode 14 for traditional prospecting methods.

So, those are all out there for you. Enjoy, help yourself, and focus on the pieces that are the most helpful for you. Okay, so, next week we’re gonna start our four part series on phase two, building credibility and closing. Next week starting with episode 16, and then after that we’ll do our four part series on phase three.

So, join the marketing master class. I cannot advise this strongly enough, and it’s not just that we’d love to have you in the program. It is that if I were in the aviation industry trying to sell something, it would be so much easier with the help and assistance of the people in this group.

We have got the coolest group of people that I have seen in a very long time this year. We have got a lot of activity going on with people helping each other. So in addition to the materials and the information that you get from the marketing master class.

You also get this network of people who is really going out of their way to help each other, and I just wanted to mention a few of the things that happened just in the last week with some of the people in the group, and now these are people who are aviation writers.

We’ve got Software companies. We have got flight schools. We have got everything from soup to nuts in the aviation industry, but I’m just gonna tell you first names. You guys know who you are if you’re one of these people, but things that happened just in the last week.

Bert interviewed Shane for one of our member highlight articles. Jeff skewered a bad advertisement that happened to be one of mine, which actually was a wonderful thing. Sometimes it’s great to know what is not working and why. Jeff helped Burt to find people with a very particular set of skills if we want to quote the movie, quote Liam Neesan, right?

John Williams: 00:07:31 Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: 00:07:32 Gene helped Jerry work on a sales strategy for a very specific type of prospect. Sometimes that’s exactly what’s missing, is you can’t step into the shoes of your prospect unless you happen to do that everyday, and you don’t know the exact words to use. You don’t know the exact techniques that are gonna resonate, but if there is somebody in the group that is in that category, they can really provide some invaluable help.

Norm and Shane started brain storming ideas on how to work together. Shane helped us find a headphone jack. Katherine shared some really fantastic tips for calls to action from some design materials that she ran across, and Brian shared a six month campaign that he’s been using with really great results.

So, if you don’t want to do everything from scratch, and you really are interested in doing less work with better results, the best way to do it is to see what other people are doing and see ways to adapt it instead of reinventing the wheel for heaven’s sake, right?

John Williams: 00:08:32 And all those people save two were from different companies helping each other.

Paula Williams: 00:08:38 Exactly, so very important and I just can’t stress enough, that this is the biggest bargain and the biggest secret in the aviation industry. If you sell anything or market anything you really owe it to yourself to check out the class.

You can join at any time. You can drop out at any time so there’s no obligation. There’s really no reason not to check it out. Okay. So, three things have happened, to get back to our story about why we are not doing marketing for flight schools. The first, we’re gonna talk about why we started marketing for flight schools in the first place.

We’re going to talk about an idea that we had with some cohorts or colleagues about a thing we call the Aviation Better Business Bureau, and we’re going to talk about a third conversation that we had with a completely different group of people where we made some connections with airlines and manufacturers.

John Williams: 00:09:33 The Aviation Better Business Bureau is nothing more than an idea right now. It needs to happen, but its time isn’t yet.

Paula Williams: 00:09:41 Exactly. Okay, it all started with November 6208 Charlie, which is my favorite airplane on the planet.

John Williams: 00:09:48 And your airplane. It should be your favorite.

Paula Williams: 00:09:51 [LAUGH] Exactly. It is a Cessna Skyhawk with the glass panel, the Garmin, the whole toy box and everything else. We flew it home from the factory and so on. I was not a pilot at the time, and actually this is the airplane that I learned to fly in, and got my license.

I took the check ride in Charlie, so I have lots of warm fuzzy feelings for Charlie. So, Charlie and I [LAUGH] spent a lot of time at a flight school strangely enough. We did a lease back arrangement with a flight school, so we were working with the flight school owners, and ended up doing a lot of conversations and things with them.

And we got to know their situation and their problems pretty well. Since we were on a lease back situation of course, we had an interest in making sure that Charlie was flying as much as possible, and that the flight school was getting as many students as they could get to keep their roster full and their schedule full, and making sure things went well.

And in the process we learned a lot about how flight schools do marketing. And at the time I was doing marketing for a financial institution, and started thinking about how we could help this flight school by using some more modern techniques for marketing their service. At the time they were doing a thing that we call a radio remote to advertise their services, which really is a very expensive and inefficient way of marketing if you have a limited capacity.

If you know how a radio remote works you can skip forward five minutes. If not [LAUGH] this is the basics. You make a deal with a radio station. You pay them a lot of money. They show up on a Saturday morning with their trucks and their inflatable animals, and all of their sound equipment and everything else, and they set up and broadcast their show from the flight school, and so then they’re doing interviews with people and they’re talking with folks and doing all of these things.

And telling people come on down, have a hamburger, take a discovery flight, we’re having a great time here, and so on. And that attracts people from the neighborhood. And from the city who have an interest in in flight training, and some of them just have an interest in the radio station and some of them just have an interest in free food, [LAUGH] but one way or another they get a lot of people in the door and some of them become students.

A lot of them do discovery flights at cost or near cost and things like that so its quite a project on the part of the flight school. And in the process they end up signing up let’s say 20 students for a successful-

John Williams: 00:12:46 Can’t get that much.

Paula Williams: 00:12:47 For a successful.

That might be a goal for a successful radio remote, which would provide a return on investment for that marketing activity. The problem with that is even if they did meet their goal and sign up 20 students, they only have four airplanes and six instructors. So with those kind of numbers they’re gonna end up with some people unhappy and some people with this unable to meet their schedule, and things like that.

So they’re gonna have a high attrition rate. More than 50% of the people that start flight training don’t finish. That’s the result, that’s just the statistics from several years ago and I don’t know if it’s improving, but that was a number that I’d read from Prasana materials, but anyway traditional marketing techniques produce feast or famine results.

And you’re dealing with a limited capacity, and you’re dealing with thin margins, so you really don’t have a lot of money to waste on marketing, and also the students want understandable, but impossible guarantees.

John Williams: 00:13:50 Well those that are proceeding in a career direction.

Paula Williams: 00:13:55 Exactly. Now if you wanted to become a doctor and you went to a medical school, I don’t think you would insist that as a result of proceeding through medical school that you would get a job as a doctor.

It just doesn’t work that way. That’s not a guarantee that they can provide, but a lot of students and parents are looking at career options and saying hm, this seems like an awful lot of money without a guarantee. So that’s the sales challenge in a flight school. So we did a lot of different things like started doing inbound marketing, social media, other kinds of things to get a more normalized flow of leads coming into the flight school.

And also qualifying those people so that you’d end up getting people who are more likely to stay and finish the programs, so kinda reducing that amount of churn. We also worked on retention programs and other kinds of things, so it was a lot of work, but there’s a lot working against us in a flight school.

Would you agree?

John Williams: 00:14:51 Yes, their attitude mainly.

Paula Williams: 00:14:55 [LAUGH] It’s just not a great environment for these kinds of cutting edge marketing techniques. So, that’s thing number one. Thing number two was a conversation that we had with an associate of ours who owns property on several airports, and also owns several flight schools.

And he was running into situations. In fact, on one of the properties that he owned there was a flight school that closed its doors and disappeared leaving a whole bunch of students in the lurch, and this was absolutely shocking to him. He ended up having to really brainstorm some solutions to make this work because it was something that happened on his property even though it was not anything that he had any influence over.

And this is not the first or the last flight school that just closed its doors after taking the money of a bunch of students foreign or domestic, and disappearing off the face of the Earth. There was one in Salt Lake City around the same time, and there were a bunch in different places around the United States.

So what happened was that the flight school takes peoples’ money on the pretense that you’re going to begin your program. You’re going to finish your program. You’re going to get at least an opportunity to get a license and proceed with your career.

John Williams: 00:16:24 I don’t think that’s a pretense.

I think it’s a presumption. I think everybody plans that to happen.

Paula Williams: 00:16:28 Exactly, so we can assume that everybody had the best of intentions and still ended up with the same result, but the problem is students and parents want their money to be safe. Flight schools want to be trusted, but the flight schools don’t necessarily have the economies of scale, or they don’t have somebody who’s experienced or knows a lot about the finance situation, and is able to set up an escrow account, which is not a trivial thing to do, right?

John Williams: 00:16:58 Escrow or trust accounts for businesses are difficult from several perspectives. One, most banks themselves don’t even know how to do it. There may be one or two people, and you have to ferret out that person who can actually sit down with you and provide a list of things to do to actually initiate the trust account in the business name.

And then you’ve got to get with an attorney to put together appropriate documents for the student to sign and so forth so that the trust account works as identified, and the money can’t be taken unless it’s used to pay for the student’s education, and if they fail, drop out, then the rest is returned to them.

All that is a lot of process and procedure, and most banks, financial institutions, and others don’t know how that works for non real estate related entities.

Paula Williams: 00:17:58 Exactly. So this is a daunting task for flight schools who are already busy, overworked, underpaid, and understaffed, right? And then the last part is there really isn’t an agency that regulates the business practices of these flight schools.

There are of course the FFA regulates the training, that is the training programs that are delivered and the quality of training, and of course students get their check rides and things like that before they get their ratings and things, but there is nobody that is making them escrow cash or any other kind of thing, and there’s nobody saying whether they’re credit worthy, or whether these people have filed bankruptcy 47 times or anything else.

So these things are all problems that are out there in the world that people have to deal with. The third thing again, first was November 62008 Charlie. The second thing was the conversation about the ABB, which is actually a dinner we had that lasted about four or five hours [LAUGH] while we were talking about these problems and how to resolve them.

And I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten into those fantastic conversations where you solve all the world’s problems, but then have to go home on Monday and face the reality of how are we gonna make this happen? So, nothing really came of that conversation except some really good ideas.

The third thing was, we were approached by a group of people who had an interest in setting up an entity.

John Williams: 00:19:29 You were approached.

Paula Williams: 00:19:30 [LAUGH] By a group of people who had an interest in setting up an entity to solve some specific set of problems.

John Williams: 00:19:38 They actually wanted you to start and run this company.

Paula Williams: 00:19:42 Exactly, because of our position, our situation, and the scales that we had and the relationships that we had. So this idea was based on the fact that there are a lot of pilots who are retiring. Internationally there are a lot of airlines that are going out of business because they’re not able to fill their rosters.

There are a lot of specific requirements for training among different airlines throughout the world, and they are not able to find among flight schools in the US enough seats to get done what they need to get done, and they’re also not able to deal with the bureaucratic problems that we had talked about earlier.

So airlines need what they call avenicio programs where they basically take their candidates, in a lot of cases these national airlines and other folks are required to hire their own citizens preferentially, or even exclusively. And they don’t have enough trained pilots, so they find ideal candidates, and then they want to put them through flight school from first lesson to first officer all the way through the program.

And this is a daunting thing to do if you are a very small airline in a very small country somewhere in the world, and you’re looking at the prospect of working with four or five different flight schools to get the number of pilots that you need.

John Williams: 00:21:12 Not only that, but you need to know enough to get a 141 school and then even after they graduate that, then you need a 142 school to put them through to get their type rating.

Paula Williams: 00:21:23 Exactly, and any other specialized training that they need to meet the regulations in your country.

John Williams: 00:21:28 And most of these schools are full and trying to figure out schedules so that they don’t sit for three months before they get their type rating, and putting that whole thing together to go from soup to nuts in one package is just something that they can’t do.

Paula Williams: 00:21:44 Right. So it takes multiple flight schools to train a crew of pilots, and then there’s also the housing, the bureaucracy, the paperwork, the money, all of those things that need to be managed. So the idea behind the airline pilot gateway is to build a network of airlines, flight schools, and students, and pilots who need different things from each other, and to provide a set of shared services including logistics, financial services, legal services, sales and marketing, and quality assurance to make that whole process a lot less painful for everyone [LAUGH] involved in the process, right?

John Williams: 00:22:24 Yes absolutely.

Paula Williams: 00:22:26 Okay. So it’s not just a marketing problem, but it certainly does take the marketing off the table if this pipe line can provide all of the students that you need all you need to do is create the program that Trains these pilots in the most efficient and safe possible way.

We had talked before about the three elements of successful campaigns. The list, the offer, and the presentation. If you can take two of those three items off the table you don’t have to worry about the list because the network will take care of that list for you. And you don’t have to worry about the presentation, because the network will take care of the presentation for you.

All you have to do is worry about your offer. What programs can you offer, how many students can you manage well, and how can you improve the quality of your programs so that you’re producing the highest quality pilots and you have the best offer that you can produce?

That really takes 80% of the work out of the way, and leaves you with the best results, right?

John Williams: 00:23:41 Absolutely.

Paula Williams: 00:23:42 Okay, so that is why we are not providing marketing services for career minded at least, flight schools, and if you’re a recreational flight school that’s a different scenario.

You’ve got a different market, so we’d be happy to talk with you, and also if you are a flight school and you have personnel that you would like to have in our programs that is just fine, but we are not going to do consulting services for you because there is no need.

If you can bypass an entire set of tasks, then it would not be ethical for us to take your money to do something that there’s a better way to do, right?

John Williams: 00:24:18 And we won’t.

Paula Williams: 00:24:19 Exactly, right. So that is the basics of the Airline Pilot Gateway. If you’re interested in that you can go to AirlinePilotGateway.com and if you’re an airline you can click that button, fill out a little form.

If you are a flight school and you’re interested in being part of the program you can click that button, and let us know a little bit about your program and we;d be happy to let you know more about ours and see if it’s a good fit. And if you’re a student or student pilot, or a pilot that needs a type rating or anything else, you can go ahead and fill out that form and we’d be happy to see if we can plug you in and find ways to make the network work for you.

And speaking of making networks work for you, let’s go back to the aviation marketing master class. If you are listening to this in January we have what we call our buddy pass going on. Basically two members of your organization can join the marketing master class for the price of one, and as long as you remain a member then both of you get copies of everything.

Both of you get log ins. Both of you get invited to all of our events and everything else, and we’re asking that those two be at the same address for obvious reasons, but then you can study together and there’s lots of advantages to that, so that’s a great deal, and we really hope that you’ll take advantage of it.

You can download our tip sheet. We don’t have a new one this week since we just did the announcement of the Airline Pilot Gateway. We don’t have any new marketing material, but we do have our calls to action tip sheet from last week still available if you go to AviationBusinessConsultants.com\CTAS.

C-T-A-S. You can download that tip sheet, which is actually a really good one. It tells you how to track the effectiveness of your ads, and 17 different things that you can do to get people to respond to you. So please do that, and please also subscribe to our podcast again, it’s brand new this is our 15th episode.

So subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, and we would love it if you would leave us a review or leave us a rating, and let us know what you’d like to hear more of, less of, and so on.

John Williams: 00:26:38 And we’ll see you next time.


April 2013

Sales Teamwork – The Trade Show Booth

You can tell when a company has it all together.

You walk by their trade show booth, see something intriguing in their display,  and a friendly person from the booth invites you to play a game or enter a contest.

You play along, and before you know it, you’ve told them where you’re from, what you do for a living, what you love and hate about it, you have found something fascinating about their product that’s actually relevant to your current needs, you’ve entered their contest (and parted with your business card) and you’re looking forward to hearing from them again.

The whole experience is polished, professional, and friendly.  You have the impression that the company is well-run, well-organized, and takes care of its people (and its customers!)

sales team trade show

The “plays” in your trade show booth may not be this complex, but it is worth the time to map them out so your sales team is effective.

Other companies obviously don’t have a clue.

You walk by their booth at a trade show, you can’t tell what the company does or why it’s relevant. The people occupying the booth have their noses buried in their PDAs and tablets, clearly more interested in their Angry Birds score than in potential customers!

The experience is irritating and frustrating. (Especially if you really WANT some information from this company.)

You’re left with the impression that the company doesn’t hire or train good people; and if you became a customer of this company you would also be ignored and disregarded.

It gets worse.

You walk by a booth and are physically blocked from proceeding down the aisle by someone who demands that you stop and watch a product demonstration for a mysterious product. At some point during the exchange he foists a business card upon you and demands one of yours.  There are two or three sales team members that are obviously tag-teaming and stalking passers-by.   The next time you walk down the same aisle you’re accosted by a different team member from the same company.  They don’t ask you a single question but bombard you with facts and figures that are obviously supposed to be impressive.  You still have no clear idea of what their product or service is or why you would care, but find yourself uncomfortably excusing yourself and making your escape.

You’re left with the impression the company is desperate for sales but doesn’t care about customer needs, and their only interest in you as a customer is your checkbook.

How well does your sales team perform at trade shows?

To be the first type of company, (with the sales team that is professional, polished and friendly) you need  to spend time planning your trade show “plays”  and training your sales staff.  Each team member needs to be comfortable and relaxed with what to say and how to work together.  Then they can easily build rapport with show participants, and they know better than to expect too much of a trade show encounter.  This is a team that has a well-planned and practiced sales choreography. Each team member understands the objectives and their role in achieving them.

The challenge in the Aviation Industry

In the aviation industry in particular, it’s common for companies not to have a dedicated trade show staff.   They either hire professional trade show personnel who may not have much product knowledge; or more commonly, draft subject matter experts and other company personnel that may not have any formal sales training.  Companies can have very successful trade show experiences using either option, but these circumstances require advance planning and training to help these salespeople work effectively as a team.

Company execs and sales managers often assume that “everybody knows” how to interact with prospective customers at a trade show, and that “it’s all common sense.”  It’s also common to assume that everyone knows how to talk to civilians and demonstrate the product or explain the service to its best advantage without using jargon, and that everyone knows how to assemble the booth correctly and how and when to use each piece of marketing documentation effectively. We’ve found that to be an unrealistic expectation.

Keys to a Successful Sales Choreography in a Trade Show Booth

  1. Have a reasonable (but valuable) objective for a trade show encounter. Selling a $10,000 product from a trade show booth is unlikely.  Acquiring a pile of un-annotated business cards from dubiously qualified prospects is unlikely to be worth the time and money involved with follow up.   Acquiring contact information from qualified leads that you have had a meaningful conversation with  is a very reasonable (and worthwhile) objective!
  2. Make sure every team member understands his role.  Someone who believes that “he who gets the biggest stack of business cards wins” has no place on your sales team.
  3. Ensure you have enough people in the booth to engage with visitors and take the time to listen.  As Steven Covey wrote in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “With people, slow is fast and fast is slow.”  He followed up with another book with an instructive title – The Speed of Trust. Salespeople get a bad reputation from trying to rush relationships too quickly, or push people into taking actions they’re not ready to take yet.  Remember, your objective is to establish relationships, not just acquire their money (or even just their contact information) as quickly as possible.   You make the eventual sale more difficult if they leave your booth feeling uncomfortable or rushed.   Instead, they should feel appreciated, comfortable with your company, and energized by the possibility of working with a partner.
  4. Don’t be afraid of small talk.   Assuming you’ve selected a trade show with a good percentage of qualified prospects, every relationship you build is worthwhile. Teach your sales team to use FORM if they get stuck for a topic. (FORM – Family, Occupation, Recreation, Mission.)  You may find out that someone is related to someone you know, or coaches their kid’s soccer team.  That bit of information (and the patience and rapport it took to get to that point) is worth more in the long run than any facts you can pour on booth visitors about your product’s features.
  5. Have a clear  “Call to Action.”  What do you want qualified prospects to do, know, and feel as a result of having visited your booth?
    Do you want them to buy a small related product (like a book or information kit on the topic?)  Have a great display of merchandise and a good point of sale system set up.
    Do you want them to set an appointment for a 30-minute consultation?  Have your appointment book and reminder slips ready.
    Do you want them to enter a contest for a free gift? Ensure you have some mechanism for ensuring the leads are qualified  (i.e. state that only Directors of Maintenance are eligible to enter, or the gift is something that only Directors of Maintenance would have a use for.)
  6. Brainstorm eventualities. What if someone has a question you can’t answer?  What if someone wants to buy the product right away?  What if there are too many people for you to handle effectively during rush periods? What if there are too few attendees during “slow” parts of the show? What if a competitor is obviously collecting intelligence?  What if a dissatisfied customer shows up and noisily voices his opinion?  What if someone who is obviously not an appropriate prospect wants to monopolize your time?    Brainstorm the possibilities and be prepared to protect your investment in booth rent and travel cost.
  7. Create scripts.   Everyone is resistant to scripts, until they are eyeball-to-eyeball with a prospect and find themselves tongue-tied.  Take the time to write out good opening lines, and change the wording as you discover what works and what turns people off.   Pass these outlines along to newer people in your organization.
  8. Practice!  Teams spend hours perfecting plays. It’s worth walking through the “plays” with your sales team prior to the trade show.  Spend some time playing “prospect” and “booth guy” and go over it until you’re comfortable.  Walking through the entire process is very helpful – you may find that it’s most effective to have a multi-person “routine” where the first team member makes contact and introduces them to a second team member who is more knowledgeable about the topic but not as outgoing in personality.   A third team member can be processing contest entries once you’ve started a conversation and generated interest.  A great team supports each other and plays off the strengths of each member of the team.
  9. Have a “dress rehearsal” with sales and marketing.  Using all of the documentation and display items in a practice session to point out inconsistencies in your message.  Adjust the printed or displayed information to clarify the message and make things easier for your sales team.

Now that you’re prepared, get a good night’s sleep, have a good breakfast, wear comfortable shoes and smile.  Your sales team has got it all together!

June 2012

Random Act of Marketing #12 – Trying to Trick Google

Black Hat SEO

Many Search Engine Optimization companies use “black hat” tactics that could waste your money and even harm your reputation!

We all want more prospective customers to see our website, and we all want to rank better on Google and the other search engines.

People tend to forget that search engines have a lot invested in the integrity of search results they present to people. To be the search engine of choice, they have to be the one that provides the best results – not a bunch of sites that use the same keywords over and over again in irrelevant ways, or that have several copies of the same recycled articles, or that are full of fake or irrelevant links.

We get spam every week from people who claim to have “cracked the Search Engine Code” or can “get you to #1 on Google.”  You can usually tell who the shysters are because they never claim to actually improve the quality of your site, they just promise to get you a better position.

Many people try crazy things like these:

  • Embedding  the name of the latest popular musician or movie title in their site metadata.
  • Creating fake pages on their websites that contain only their intended search terms.
  • Using “article spinners” or other technology that creates and publishes many similar copies of a single article.
  • Paying money to some company in the Philippines or India to have people list your site on hundreds or thousands of sites, most of which are merely lists of links or “link farms.”

If you or your web designer are using any of these techniques, stop.  Now.  Seriously.

Having your site dropped by a search engine is no joke. These are companies that reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, and there is no appeal.

Google gets 66.2% of all search traffic, and they are the most public about their intentions, standards and efforts to upgrade their software and algorithms to maintain their grip on the market.

Their number one tip for websites that want to rank well:

Give visitors the information they’re looking for

Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.

-Google Webmaster Tools

Conveniently, high-quality content is ABCI’s specialty.  We work with aviation and related fields, we write what we know, and we spend the time necessary to write high-quality, well-researched articles.

The advantage of high-quality content is not just that search engines like it. In fact, that’s just a by-product.

There is really no point in getting more traffic to your website unless the content prospective customers find when they get there is clear, compelling, and relevant.

We write articles for your intended audience – customers, prospective customers, stakeholders, and industry publications and thought leaders.  And they’re a lot more particular than the search engines!

Of course we do provide search engine optimization, but we use only “Google-approved” methods – including selecting the correct keywords to begin with!

One of the most common errors that people make is using keywords they assume everyone is using to look for their particular product or service. A tiny change in syntax can make a huge difference in the results you get. For example, when we first started working with Taylor Greenwood Photography, his site had been optimized for “Airplane Photography.”  As it turned out, “Jet Photography” was a much better search term since it was the one everyone was using. His traffic more than tripled in a month.

You’ll find Taylor’s site, usually somewhere in the top five results, if you search for “jet photography” on Google.

Go ahead and look it up!

We’ll wait.

Now that you’re back, we urge you to consider the keywords you use for search engine optimization very carefully.  Optimizing for your company name is nice, but not a good tactic for finding new customers who aren’t familiar with your company. You need to rank well for the words your prospective customers would use.  Not sure what to choose?   ABCI uses a method that defines the keywords you should consider. Then we rank them based on these three criteria: (in order of importance)

  1. Relevance
  2. Popularity
  3. Competition.

The ideal search keywords are those that are very relevant to your business, that are very popular (they get typed into the search engines very often by people looking for things) and have low competition. That’s the classic “supply and demand” scenario- content  that everyone is looking for but that few sites are providing.

This process often helps fine-tune your market research and find opportunities for your business as well!

Search Engine Optimization is included with all of our marketing consulting packages.   Want to learn more?  Download our free ebook, or write or call us today at 480-225-4233.

May 2012

PR, Publicity, Marketing and Sales for Flight Schools

Discussion at the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) Confrerence in Las Vegas, with Dan McElhattan III of Brand and Paula Williams of ABCI, moderated by Katie Pribyl of GAMA

January 2012

How to Fail in Marketing

Somebody needs to tell him that this just isn’t going to work.

I was shredding old papers from last year, and had a revelation.

We have an extensive questionnaire that prospective clients complete as part of our Marketing Flight Plan Service, in which we offer a consultation, an SEO analysis, a 31-point website usability checklist, and a competitive analysis.  For the past eight months, we’ve required this before we accept anyone as a new client.

Why do we make it harder for people to work with us?

Because we want to be sure we’re working with the right people!

Of course there are other very good reasons. It gives s an excellent starting point to talk about a consulting or coaching relationship, get off on the right foot, understand our prospective client’s priorities and objectives, what’s already been tried and to what effect, what resources we have to work with, and so on.

We used to offer this service for free. We have since began to charge a nominal fee ($270) for it.

Why do we charge for this service?

Because we found that we were spending a lot of time working with prospective clients that didn’t have a chance for success.

The investment was a signal, to them and to us, that we expect them to put some thought and effort into it.  And to let them know that they could expect valuable information in exchange for their energy and money.

Some examples of things that we saw on these questionnaires, were from before we charged for the service.

  • Last year’s expenditure for all marketing activities – $0  or “?”
  • Budget for next year for all marketing activities  – $0 or  “?”
  • Expectation (From a flight school)  -To double business volume in one year, while spending less time dealing with students and their problems.
  • Expectation – “To outsource all marketing and customer service so my business will run without all these interruptions from customers.”  (Most people research marketing solutions because they want more customers. )
  • Question – “What is the one thing that should I study or implement to bring in customers?”  (Answer- many things.)
  • Question – “What one book will tell me everything I need to know to be able to sell every time?” (If you find this, let me know!)
  • Competitive advantage – “My product sells itself.”  (Okay, so why did you just complete a 10-page questionnaire to ask for help selling it?)

So, how do you fail in marketing?  By working with people who are unwilling to invest time, energy or money in their own businesses and their own customers.   The world has always been full of them, and as long as they are out there, my spam folder will be full of offers promising people  “the easy button”  or “a turnkey solution” or “the magic bullet.”

If you try one of those, let me know how it works out for you!

September 2011

Press Release – AeroStar provides answers and solutions to students seeking advanced flight training.

“The career path for aviation students has changed,” indicated Deidra Toye, the Admissions Director at Aerostar. “Aspiring airline captains used to work for years as flight instructors or charter services to build up time. Airlines worldwide are looking for qualified pilots with type ratings. With this new approach, you might as well get paid while you build time in type.”

August 2011

Marketing Strategy – Be a Control Freak

Being dependent on any one thing, especially if that thing is not completely controlled by you, puts your business at risk.

June 2011

Podcast Episode 12 – Marketing Starts When the Plane Hits the Ramp – An Interview with “B-Rad” Elliott

Listen here – Podcast Episode 12 – Marketing Starts When the Plane Hits the Ramp

Or see us on BlogTalkRadio or iTunes

Brad “B-Rad” Elliott of Showalter Flying Service, Orlando (ORL) is our guest this week.

We talk about:

  • “B-Rad’s” experience with online marketing
  • Social media as an icebreaker for in-person networking or sales.
  • Showing you care about your “family” – customers, employees, former employees, etc.
  • Using social media as a conversation, not a billboard
  • Using different social media tools and strategies for different reasons & results
  • Helpful, engaging content, including Hurricane Tips and Questions of the Month
  • Really good (and really bad) examples of trade show marketing.
  • How great marketing shows your personality and your company’s culture.  It can’t be faked and there is no substitute for having a great team that really cares about customers.   Showalter “hires for attitude and trains for experience” to ensure that the attitude is consistent and shines through in every customer interaction.

The LinkedIn discussion we referenced about the NBAA10 exhibits can be accessed by clicking here (you must be a member of the LinkedIn Women in Corporate Aviation group to access it.) If you’re curious about the OPI nail color My Private Jet, it looks like this:

Find B-Rad Elliott here:

Twitter- @_b_rad

LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/bradrelliott

Find Showalter Flying Service here:




March 2011

Your Secret Weapon: Commitment to Your Marketing Plan

We’ve been discussing Jay Conrad Levinson’s classic Guerrilla Marketing and breaking down Jay’s Sixteen Monumental Secrets of Guerrilla Marketing.

Secret Number Two is this – Your Secret Weapon – Commitment to Your Marketing Plan

We have said many times that a consistent marketing plan is far superior to what we call “random acts of marketing.” Many companies, even large and sophisticated ones;  don’t act very sophisticated, systematic or committed to their marketing messages and methods.

They tend to “try” different marketing methods without giving them a fair test, which would include giving them adequate time to work, and quantifying the results.  In textbook marketing terms, that’s three to six months. In aviation, it’s even longer. We recommend a year.

Making major changes to your marketing messages or methods more frequently than that is a waste of money, and more importantly, a waste of time, energy and enthusiasm.  This kind of churn can leave people and whole companies exasperated and frustrated.

Commit to marketing.

The first step may seem obvious. Many companies have no problem with committing to their products, service, suppliers, vendors, customers, employees, or even to a location. But few realize the necessity and power of being committed to the concept of marketing.

As long as you’re in business, you have a need to find customers. They are like oxygen for your business.

Especially in aviation, it is much more popular to talk about and spend money on research and development, product improvement, and supply chain management than it is to talk about and spend money on sales, marketing, or even customer service.

The hard truth is that it’s impossible to have a successful business while ignoring sales and marketing. Businesses can have a stellar product or service and still have to close their doors because they don’t make enough sales.  (It happens every day!)   On the other hand, businesses can have a mediocre product or service and have fantastic successes if they do a good job of marketing – as evidenced by the “pet rock” or the “snuggly” blanket with sleeves.

We don’t have many “pet rocks” or “snugglies” in aviation, but there are plenty of high-quality products that don’t get the sales they deserve.

Commit to your core marketing messages.

Your company probably has a core marketing message. You can call it a slogan, a tagline, or anything you want to call it. Some famous examples are Nike’s “Just Do It” or JetBlue’s “You Above All.”  These messages do a nice job of explaining what the company’s core benefit is.  Having a core message (or set of messages) that is concise and powerful is a wonderful thing. Yours might not be quite so poetic as Nike’s or Jetblue’s, but hopefully at least as accurate.  Ours is “Marketing for the Aviation Industry.”

Once you have a solid, tested, accurate core message; using it everywhere has several benefits.  It communicates your priorities, values and strategic advantage. People will remember something that they hear several times. Your employees clearly understand the company’s strategic advantage and (hopefully) their place in delivering it.  Your company becomes more credible if its messages are consistent.  Your core message is more believable if it’s repeated.

Use it prominently:

  • In advertising
  • On stationery
  • In your email signature
  • On trade show booth graphics
  • On your website, blog, and social media profiles
  • On internal memos, training materials, employee handbooks and so on

Commit to your marketing methods.

We do recommend devoting some portion of your marketing time and budget to exploring new technologies. Our Marketing Master Class devotes each month to a different topic such as blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook or trade shows so that you can decide if these are a good opportunity for you.  It is essential to keep reinventing your marketing methods to take advantage of new technologies.

Once you find a marketing method that works for you, commit to it for at least three months, preferably a year at a time.

Why? Because it takes several contacts to make a sale.

The National Sales Executive Association statistics show the following:

2% of sales are made on the 1st contact
3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact
5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact
10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
80% of sales are made on the 5th-12th contact

Aviation has a shockingly long sales cycle, and notoriously high trust barriers.   It can take even longer than the NSEA statistics, (which are for all merchandise across industries) especially for big-ticket or complex products.

Of course, not all of these contacts have to be in the same media.  A potential customer might get two postcards, see our ad in Airport Business, download our free ebook, read three printed newsletters and nine emails, and when I ask him “how did you find us?” six months later, he will still say “A colleague referred me.”

And he would be entirely accurate, (not very complete, but accurate) because most sales cycles take several contacts in different media. The truth is he may not consciously remember every contact or weighed its influence on the decision-making process.

Our tiny (but frequent) ad in Airport Business is an example of a long-term marketing commitmentHow can you afford to sustain such a long sales cycle?  It’s much easier if you can use several low-cost media:

  • If you’re going to spend money on print advertising, buy several small ads rather than one large one.
  • Use a calendar of consistent but related promotions. As an example, you might appear at different trade shows and offer different terms, savings or free gifts. But keep your messaging, branding consistent.
  • Postcards mailed monthly or quarterly might be more effective than a complete catalog mailed annually. (You can keep your catalog online, where it can be updated more frequently!)
  • Writing a blog will help you write consistent new material that you can re-use in an emailed or printed newsletter to keep in touch with your customers.
  • Use a regular schedule of follow up with past, present and future customers.


timeline Aviation Marketing Improving Your Sales by Mastering The Art of Follow Up

  • Commit to branding standards – colors, fonts, graphic images that represent your company. These might evolve but don’t change them radically.



Commitment to your marketing plan is a “secret” weapon because few companies realize the power of such commitment.

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