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Member Highlight – Shane Ballman, Synapse MX Aircraft Maintenance Software

Shane Ballman – Synapse MX

More revenue per customerShane BallmanOne of the benefits for our Aviation Marketing Insider Circle is the opportunity to network with aviation professionals. Our Facebook Group Facilitator, Bert Botta, is interviewing one member a week to help us get to know one another better, make better referrals to each other, and generally learn more about the smartest people in the industry.

Want to be featured?

  1. Become a member of the Master Class!
  2. Arrange a time for your interview!

We’re looking forward to learning more about smart aviation professionals!

Interview by Bert Botta

BERT: I caught Shane for this interview when he was out on the west coast, working with companies to help them with their maintenance issues while at the same building his maintenance business, Synapse MX.

He’s been on the road for quite a while and won’t be back home to his wife and son until March. Needless to say, he misses his family.

If you were to target a customer for you or your organization, how would I spot that ideal customer?

We serve small to mid-size aircraft operators. We look specifically to serve companies who are growing and who realize their current processes of getting work done, whether it’s planning or tracking their maintenance, is holding them back. Things like using Excel workarounds, paper and pen, or even using a whiteboard to track open MELs (minimum equipment lists) on the aircraft, etc.

We’re also helping operators who have gotten on the wrong side of their local regulatory organizations and need to improve their business processes to help them satisfy what their POIs (Principal Operations Inspector) and PMIs (Principle Maintenance Inspector) want to see.

The ideal customer is someone who’s looking to differentiate themselves from the rest of the companies and get a competitive advantage from what is only a cost center today. In fact, there are ways to turn that cost center into something that can help you build your revenue.


You can use your maintenance compliance information to sell the aircraft. For instance, I want to charter someone’s airplane and, as part of the charter process, they can show that the airplane is super “healthy.” I can see a high-level summary of some kind that proves the work was done, so why would I go somewhere else where I don’t know what the maintenance record is?


There’s lots of other interesting ways to leverage this information if you can track it in real time.


BERT: Are you going to be working with small maintenance organizations like FBO”s, etc.


SHANE: We’re definitely open to doing that. We can do fleets that come to the FBO’s repair station, floating Part 135 fleets that are staged wherever, and even with smaller Part 121 operators who are looking for great growth.


BERT: What about places like NetJets, Flexjets, charter operators, etc.?


SHANE: We could certainly help operators who operate under Part 91 rules. The challenge for us is that a lot of those private operators who have a large number of airplanes like NetJets, for instance, have the ability & resources to build their own software.


How would you best describe your company’s approach, products and services, and value propositions?


SHANE: We exist to help companies run a better maintenance operation, and we do that with 3 things that we bring to the table. Number one is our deep industry experience. The second is a servant’s heart. And the third is a desire to build long term relationships over short term sales.


I solved problems in the Part 121 world through targeted use of technology, and my career has really been focused around using tech to make things better for people.


There’s a great German expression that goes like this; “A problem shared is a problem halved.” That’s the kind of things that partners do, right? Let me take some of that load off of you so you can do a better job.


For instance, at AirTran there was legacy software that took lots of mouse clicks to do pretty common tasks like generate a maintenance due report every shift. If you’re doing the same thing every time and you’re just looking to see what the recent totals are, then why do you have to continually go pull that information? Why can’t the system push it out to you? “Hey, something’s changed, you need to take a look at this.”


Or what about AOG (aircraft on ground) events? Today that’s a flurry of emails, phone calls, text messages, faxes, etc. How awesome would it be if the mechanic on the ground signed off on the airworthiness of the aircraft and dispatch was immediately pinged that the aircraft was available for revenue again. No faxes, no using the phone to take a picture of the log page to email it, none of that.


That’s just two of many examples of things that, if you ever thought about the user experience, the human factors element of all this, there are so many ways to improve how people interact with software to really make them better at your job.


And it’s not a gigantic sweeping change all at once. Rather, it’s these small incremental steps that, over time, add up to be these massive productivity improvements and serious competitive advantages.


How would you describe your value proposition?


SHANE: We are “frustration-free” aircraft maintenance software. You’re not going to beat your head on the table trying to figure out what’s going on with the health of your fleet.


BERT: How are you different from some of the bigger aviation companies the airlines and NetJets use? We used to have continual maintenance feedback between the aircraft and the maintenance base. Is that something that you would improve upon or is that something that is already in place for companies?


SHANE: Are you talking about direct communication with the aircraft like an ACARS message?


BERT: Yes.


SHANE: Yep, we definitely can do that. We don’t do that today only because the customers that we’re targeting right now don’t utilize ACARS.

One of the things we are doing is integrating with flight dispatch systems. We’re automatically keeping track of the hours for an aircraft so you’re not having to go in and manually calculate the next maintenance due dates. None of this “This aircraft had 9 cycles today in 12 hours, so let’s go update the Excel spreadsheet to show when the next phase check is due.”


There are certainly other companies that do that today, but we’re different in that we’re using modern concepts like push notifications on phones, to tell the folks that, “Hey, schedule change – this aircraft is now coming in tonight at 1850Z.”


In that message we can also relay useful data like “These 5 maintenance tasks are dropping dead within 50 hours so you should go ahead and do them now,” so you don’t have to route that aircraft in later to do this maintenance and potentially interrupt your revenue.


There’s a lot of secrets hidden in your data, too – what’s the best vendor to use to overhaul this engine core based on their previous ability to turn that part and get it back to us? Who’s the best on-call maintenance team at KDVL based on previous history of estimating and then hitting the target for repair time for an aircraft? Are you not reaching your TBO (time between overhaul) on aircraft components if they were serviced by a certain repair station?


These are all things that you can certainly figure out today, by manually crunching a lot of data… but why should you have to?


And another thing that nobody else is doing in the industry today is automatic communications.


When you’re using Facebook or Linkedin, you have all these little status updates of so and so; you share this little funny picture, they shared a comment about their week, etc.


Your maintenance software can tell you what’s going on in a very similar way – if you wanted to see it. Let’s say you’re a DOM (Director of Maintenance) with four hangars across 3 states. How useful would it be to see “Mike Smith just opened the maintenance visit on N12345 (KDVL),” “Tim Johnson just completed the ELT check on N27631 (KPDK),” and “Gear swing task added to maintenance visit on N8746G.”


BERT: So the system knows the status of these things, why doesn’t it tell people?


SHANE: That’s exactly it. We’re able to push those things out to the people who care about them. Imagine this: you’re grilling in the backyard, your phone dings, and you find out that airplane was just returned to service and here’s the breakdown of how long it took, the notes that were entered, etc.


You didn’t have to call anyone to find that out. You don’t have to go dig out the laptop, wait for it to boot up, connect through a VPN connection, log in to the company’s portal, all that sort of thing. And you definitely didn’t burn your dinner while trying to juggle both things.


The info is secure, it’s real time, and you can quickly figure out what’s going on without disrupting dinner with your family.


BERT: You mentioned a buzzword that rang with me. What do you mean by a servant’s heart? I know what that means to me but please explain. How can that set you apart from any other maintenance business?


SHANE: So AirTran was acquired by Southwest a few years ago, and I stayed with Southwest while all the tools we had built were transitioned over. The concept of a servant’s heart is one of the core tenants in how Southwest conducts business that stuck with me after I left to start SynapseMX.


They really do go above and beyond to take care of their customers as people. You’re not a piggy bank. You’re not a short term gain. They care about building a real relationship, not just for this immediate transaction. They have drawings from customer’s children decorating their corporate offices. Letters from raving fans. They hold aircraft for people who are desperate to get to that wedding, or a funeral, or home for R&R after serving our country.


I think there’s an incredible amount of value in treating someone like a fellow human being. In fact, there have been some folks that I’ve talked to recently that are looking for maintenance software and they would be great for my business, since we all have to make money to stay in business and I’d love to have the revenue.


But we would not have been a good fit today for these people.


I actually told them “You’d be better served by my competitor’s product. That fits better with what you need.”


BERT: It fits better because they aren’t able to receive or appreciate that kind of servant’s heart relationship?


SHANE: No, because their business needs are such that we just don’t have the software capability today. I don’t want to sell them just to get the sale and then let them down afterwards because we misrepresented what we can deliver.


I have to say, “I’d love to help you but we’re not there yet and I don’t want to hurt your business.”


At the end of the day, this is a small industry and it’s all about the relationships. As the saying goes, “It takes a lifetime to build a relationship and 20 minutes to wreck it.”


What might prospects say to trigger me to refer them to you?


How about, “Let me run a report and export it so we can look at that” Or, “Every time the maintenance manuals are updated I have to go update the Excel sheets.” Or, “I can trade stocks on my phone, why do I have to use this clunky software to manage my maintenance?”


“There has to be a better way to do this.”


BERT: “You mean you would eliminate the need for people to use their computers because of your push notifications? Is that what will happen?”


SHANE: It’s not so much about the push notifications, it’s the overall concept that software should make it easier for you to do things. You shouldn’t have to fight to get information that you need to do your job. Give me the information I need to do my job and get out of the way.


We actually have this driving philosophy of “Don’t make me think.” If I have to read something and then figure out what it means, what’s the screen trying to tell me… then that’s a problem.”


BERT: I used to think the same thing when I was flying glass cockpit for NetJets. With certain displays I had to sit there and look at it and try to decipher what it was trying to tell me rather than me being able to look at it and know immediately the information I needed to make a decision.


Different manufacturers had varying levels of success – some were much better at displaying information intuitively than others. They made it much easier to read and interpret information at a glance than the others did.


That was especially important for a guy like me who had flown steam gauges, round analog dial instruments all his flying life. That was a big transition for me, at age 60 plus, so it had to be easy.


What’s your marketing process once you receive a referral?


SHANE: Since we’re in a very relationship driven industry, I approach people like I would prefer to be approached. I ask them, “What problems do you need solved? How can I make your life easier?” Not “Let me tell you about your business.” So we reach out in a variety of channels.


As a very high-touch industry, I don’t want to come across as some high pressure, used car salesman. We ping folks in email, we try to have conversations with them via direct mail, phone calls, we’ll even do face to face meetings.


I’ve even flown somewhere and talk to them as part of that relationship building process. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not interested in getting the short term sale at the expense of long term damage to the relationship.


I’m a firm believer that if you treat human beings like they have their own hopes and fears then you can help them achieve the first or address the second. What keeps you up at night? If we help people with those kind of issues, then they win and we win.


Even if it’s not a sale today like some of the prospects mentioned earlier, in 18 months they might go somewhere else and say, “You know, I know this guy Shane…”


How did you get where you are in your professional life?


SHANE: I was born in Baltimore and raised in Florida. My dad worked for AT&T, so we moved around a bit, flying to a lot of different places, doing business. And that’s where I got the flying bug.


Both my father and grandfather flew for fun, so I naturally became a third generation private pilot. I still fly in my spare time, which is happening less and less now with a new business.


I went to Embry-Riddle, got a business degree there, and, since I loved aviation, got my foot in the door as a gate agent at a small 737 Classic operation that hubbed in central Florida. I worked my way up through the customer service side of the business and became an assistant station manager.


After that, I moved to AirTran in the dispatch office, routing aircraft for maintenance and interacting with the maintenance folks on the ground. The director of maintenance planning discovered me and moved me into that side of the business where he started out as a maintenance planner, and then moving into a supervisory role there.


When they figured out I knew my way around computers, I found myself managing the entire maintenance system for all of AirTran. So I did what any self-respecting geek does – I built stuff to make it better.


I spent 15 years working for several Part 121 companies and learned a lot in that space and the kind of regulations that need to be addressed.


Large operators like AirTran and Southwest can afford to throw money and people at problems in a brute-force kind of way… and then there’s the smaller companies who can’t afford to do that.


The local POI or PMI don’t really care about that part – that smaller operator still has the same regulatory hurdles to operate within.


That made me think about how to better run a maintenance organization. AirTran was all about staying lean – they had the leanest number of maintenance staff for a major carrier, and they used technology in such a way that they could run an operation without a lot of people.


In the process of building new technology tools for AirTran, other operators would come through to see what we were doing and take a look at the technology I had built. I realized there might be a market for people who want to do smarter maintenance.


When Southwest purchased AirTran, it was a good opportunity for my business partner and I to set the wheels in motion to launch our own company.


We started our aircraft maintenance software company to help the companies who need the most help, the small to mid-sized operators who couldn’t afford to pay $5 million plus price for the big maintenance software packages.


Then we attracted the attention of some Silicon Valley folks who have invested in our vision. In fact, I’m in the bay area right now working with them to build our organization to be able to handle more and diverse customers while still providing exceptional service to people.


BERT: How did you come up with your company name, SynapseMX?


SHANE: Our company, and the name SynapseMX, is born from the fact that a maintenance organization is like the human brain – there’s all these little bits of information flying back and forth: status updates, phone calls, paperwork, etc. In the brain, those nodes that transmit and receive information are called a synapse. And MX is, of course, an industry acronym for maintenance.


So collectively, SynapseMX is like an organizational brain for your maintenance.


BERT: Is there anything else you want to add Shane?


SHANE: Just that I’ve enjoyed talking with you. Thanks so much for asking me to do this. I’m humbled. It’s impressive the number of talented people and the backgrounds in our group.


It’s true with aviation as a whole but our marketing class is such an interesting mix of people.


Thanks again for asking me to do the interview.


BERT: You’re welcome. It was a pleasure for me as well Shane.



10 Ways to Use Your Member Highlight Page

AMMC Member HighlightsOur Facebook Faciitator Bert Botta interviews members of the ABCI Master Class, and we publish those interviews, or Member Highlights, as a way to help our Master Class Members get to know one another better and refer business to one another more appropriately.

But, we’ve found that these interviews have other benefits as well. They are posted on ABCI’s website and social media for additional visibility, and include links to websites and social media, so they can be used to improve search engine optimization (SEO.)

Members are welcome to link to and copy from their highlight pages however they choose – feel free to link, share, and excerpt away!

ABCI has always advocated re-using materials as much as possible, for visibility, branding, and credibility – we all work hard, so we want to make every bit of written content as efficient as possible.

Here are some ideas of places to link to your Highlight Page:

  1. Your “About Us” or “About Me” page of your website.
  2. Your personal LinkedIn profile (as an update)
  3. Your company LinkedIn page (as an update)
  4. Your personal LinkedIn profile (as an update)
  5. Post it to LinkedIn groups of which you’re a member
  6. Post it on your personal Google+ page
  7. Post it on your company Google+ page
  8. Post it on your Twitter account (Use hashtags appropriate to your specialty!)
  9. Post the image on your Instagram account (again, use those hashtags!)
  10. Use your highlight page in a profile or information package.

Note – these tips are equally useful for any article, interview or mention by any third party!

See all of our Member Highlights 

  • Aviation copywriter Kathryn Creedy

Member Highlight, Kathryn Creedy, Aviation Reporter & Copywriter

aviation copywriter Kathryn CreedyKathryn Creedy, Aviation Reporter & Copywriter

One of the biggest benefits for our Aviation Marketing Master Class is the opportunity to network with aviation professionals. Our Facebook Group Facilitator, Bert Botta, is interviewing one member a week to help us get to know one another better, make better referrals to each other, and generally learn more about the smartest people in the industry.

Want to be featured?

  1. Become a member of the Master Class!
  2. Contact Bert Botta and get on his interview schedule!

We’re looking forward to learning more about smart aviation professionals!

If you were to target a customer for you or your company, how would I spot that ideal customer?

I look for companies who want a fresh marketing angle; one that has not been used before.

My type of companies are those who also want to represent business aviation as a thought leader; one that understands the value of business aviation but who does not know how to communicate it except by using the tired old rhetoric that has gotten us nowhere in public understanding.

We have yet to convince anyone – although I’ve written about it enough – that business aviation is the perfect nexus between Wall Street and Main Street — that the more Wall Street buys, the more jobs there are on Main Street.

My ideal customer would be someone who wants to take on that challenge; who wants to use solid travel data to recruit new passengers to business aviation; who wants to become an industry leader.

How would you best describe your company’s approach, products and services, and value propositions?

Hard work. To do what I want to do, for the industry and for the companies for which I hope to work, it will take a lot of hard work. We must develop all the products necessary to create the appropriate narrative for the company and the industry. Those products must be designed to convince the corporate CFO to consider business aviation based on the value of an executive’s time and how much airline services cost in wasted time. I have quantified all those factors.

Business aviation remains a mystery to most travelers and we need to develop products that will not only introduce them to a dynamic industry but will prompt them to pick up the phone. New technology is developing every day to reduce the complexity of business aviation and these products would exploit that.

In addition, the products must be customized to the individual company while addressing a broader audience that enhances the understanding of business aviation. I’ve done this successfully throughout my career on subjects as varied as adoption to business aviation. I’ve written the narratives for Embraer, for example, that cast them not as just another manufacturer but as an innovator that changed the industry. That is part of what I would like to do with business aviation operators.

As for the services, there is only one and that is to ensure that the executive’s time is used as efficiently as possible. The idea is to create all the products necessary to make an individual company stand out from the crowd while keeping an executive’s time on the product limited to interviewing and editing – interviewing to find out what sets a company apart and editing the ultimate written product.

Of course this would also include media and community organizational outreach as well as social media.

The value proposition would be increasing passenger numbers, setting the company apart from competition and in enhancing the understanding of business aviation so that it is considered when travel plans are being made.

What might prospects say to trigger me to refer them to you?

“I am looking for a fresh, new marketing angle.” “I get so frustrated when someone says or writes something that misrepresents business aviation.” “We spend a lot of time poaching each other’s customers.” How do we increase the size of our customer base?”

“I know I should be doing social media but I don’t understand it and don’t have the time to learn it. Nor do I have the time to create all that content.”

Social media should never be a sales tool. Rather it should be an intelligence-gathering tool.

What is your marketing process once you receive a referral?

I generally work with the customer to establish their goals and what sets them apart.

How did you get where you are in your professional life?

I have been in aviation for a very long time – decades. I learned aviation, journalism and public relations at my father’s knee. He was director-North Atlantic PR for Pan American and vice president-PR for the then Air Transport Association. I started out in American’s PR office. I then focused on the regional airline industry, founding Commuter/Regional Airline News, building it to become the bible of the industry.

I also co-founded C/R News International to cover Europe. I’ve been a freelance aviation journalist but I’ve wafted back and forth between journalism and public relations throughout my career including a stint at FAA public affairs in Washington and representing both Embraer and Embraer Executive Jets. I’ve written for the top aviation publications.

I am one of the few reporters with a thorough understanding of both the commercial and business aviation industries. That puts me in the unique position of appreciating what business aviation is all about and what it can do for the harried business traveler now condemned to commercial aviation which is getting worse, not better.

Commercial aviation has no interest in improving its product to ensure the most efficient use of a passenger’s, not an airplane’s, time. The price gap between business and commercial aviation has narrowed considerably yet no one is exploiting this.

In addition, commercial airlines have dropped a lot of service to points with good industrial and economic bases. Innovative business aviation companies have stepped into the void and my dream job would be to help them spread the word that business aviation can be the answer to local travel needs.

My experience in the regional airline industry since the 1980s gives me a unique perspective on how business aviation can help.

In short, I know what needs to be developed and I know how to use it to the advantage of clients and the industry.

Kathryn Creedy
NEW PHONE # 321 405 4395
US-Eastern Time Zone
Kathryn Creedy on Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryncreedy/ Communications Strategies http://www.kathrynbcreedy.com
Twitter: @kcreedy
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kcreedy1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kbcreedy
Blogs: Winging It http://kcreedy.wordpress.com/author/kcreedy/
Beachcombers Chronicles http://beachcomberchronicles.wordpress.com

  • Jeff Stodola Aviation Copywriter - Member Highlight

Member Highlight – Jeff Stodola – Angels 6 Aviation

Jeff Stodola – Angels 6 Aviation

One of the biggest benefits for our Aviation Marketing Master Class is the opportunity to network with aviation professionals. Our Facebook Group Facilitator, Bert Botta, is interviewing one member a week to help us get to know one another better, make better referrals to each other, and generally learn more about the smartest people in the industry.

Want to be featured?

  1. Become a member of the Master Class!
  2. Contact Bert Botta and get on his interview schedule!

We’re looking forward to learning more about smart aviation professionals!

Interview by Bert Botta

Jeff Stodola - aviation copywriterI’m sure Jeff will cringe when he reads this introduction since he’s very modest about his accomplishments.

I particularly enjoyed interviewing him since Navy fighter pilots have been my heroes since I was an enlisted man in a Navy anti-sub squadron.

(Rarely is it that one gets to interview one’s hero, 🙂 thanks for the opportunity Jeff and ABCI!)

I have written many articles about my time in the Navy and one in particular about the impact a Navy pilot had on my life.

The article was originally published a few years ago in Aviation International News.

I would be happy to share that article and others with anyone who might want to read them.

Bert Botta

Questions for Jeff:

  1. If you were to target a customer for you or your company, how would I spot that ideal customer?

The name of my company is Angels 6 Aviation. I intend to develop it into a company that does public speaking and process development where I can take my military experience, safety culture development and improvement, and Naval Aviation network into the marketplace.

A target customer would be either (1) a business that could use my military know-how and language or (2) an organization that wants to hire military people or have them as clients, leveraging my military connections.

  1. How would you best describe your company’s approach, products and services, and value propositions?

My unique approach would be to merge the best practices that I’ve acquired in General Aviation, (GA) the military and my soon-to-be knowledge of commercial aviation to help a business from these unique standpoints in order to leverage those best practices.

The military focuses almost 100% of its efforts on effectiveness whereas business or GA might focus more on efficiency.

In addition, Naval Aviation has a very active safety program. I think a lot of businesses take the safety factor for granted. If they meet the minimum standards, like complying with OSHA and other regulations, they’re satisfied but they don’t have an active focus on safety within their company.

By melding some of my Navy experience with what businesses are already doing, I could help to effect change within their culture.

  1. What might prospects say to trigger me to refer to you or your company?

Anyone that is looking to the military side of their business, whether they’re looking for military pilots as a customer or as a potential employee or someone who’s looking to get business from the military.

This could be FBO’s, (Fixed Base Operators) or any service organization that has some military aspect to their business.

I can supply know-how information and also liaison connections across the Navy to help my clients.

  1. What is your marketing process once your prospect receives a referral?

I’m looking to provide great support to great aviation companies. My best and most individual tool is to show them an example of what I’m capable of regarding a product that is tailored to their needs.

I will give them an example of that product. If they’re receptive, that’s awesome and they’re probably the type of company that I can work with. If not, we’ll have to figure out something else to make it work.

A prime example is ABCI. I talked with them a while ago and I knew I wanted to get involved but I wasn’t sure how so we discussed a number of things.

A couple of months went by and nothing happened so I wrote an article and sent it off to them. I said, “Here’s this, what do you think?”

Paula and John were very receptive, and we’ve really been able to grow from there. That’s my ideal platform for marketing. Let me have a seat at the table, and I’ll show you how I can become an asset for you and your company.

  1. How did you get where you are in your professional life?

Background. As a kid I was interested in aviation. I started flying in high school, went on to get my private license and then applied for a ROTC scholarship. I won that and then went to Purdue on that scholarship.

There I studied aviation technology. When I left Purdue, I went to Navy flight school, where I graduated from primary to advanced and flew the T-45A Goshawk.

Then I checked out in the EA-6B Prowler; that took me up to Whidbey Island, WA. I flew the Prowler out of Whidbey for 3 years, and did a combat deployment tour on the USS Nimitz to Afghanistan in the Prowler.

After leaving the Prowler I transitioned to the EA-18G Growler (from Prowler to Growler!) where I trained as a flight instructor. I instructed in the Growler for 3 and half years until June, 2015 when I left the Navy after a total of 10 years.

I then switched to the reserves, still flying the Growler. I was recently hired at a major air carrier and will soon start training as a First Officer, date and equipment yet to be determined.

I got involved with ABCI through my brother Mike. Every time Mike would mention ABCI and marketing, I envisioned doing something with both aviation and marketing.

Soon after I met ABCI I contracted with them to write an article. I’m also soon going to be spearheading the “Test Flight” program, where we will submit our favorite article, ad or piece of content and then watch as it’s torn apart, er, critiqued in the forum. Kind of a “hot seat” for our material.

I’m interested in everything aviation. That’s been my focus since day one. I welcome the opportunity to talk about anything and all to do with aviation; general, military, and soon to be commercial.

This is what I’m going to devote the rest of my life to focusing on and doing.

How to Contact Jeff:

Email – Jeffrey.stodola@gmail.com
Phone – 765-404-2762
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Angels6aviation/
Linked-In- my profile is up under my name Jeffrey Stodola


Member Highlight – Bryan Pilcher, AeroStar Training Services

One of the biggest benefits for our Aviation Marketing Master Class is the opportunity to network with aviation professionals. Our Facebook Group Facilitator, Bert Botta, is interviewing one member a week to help us get to know one another better, make better referrals to each other, and generally learn more about the smartest people in the industry.

Want to be featured?

  1. Become a member of the Master Class!
  2. Contact Bert Botta and get on his interview schedule!

We’re looking forward to learning more about smart aviation professionals!

This interview is with Bryan Pilcher, Aviation Marketing Professional

1. How would I spot your ideal customer for you or your company?

Bryan Pilcher Aviation Marketing ProfessionalI’m the marketing director for AeroStar so it would be anyone in the airline industry who has a connection with a training center. Any airline without their own training centers, who would send their pilots to us for training.

In addition, we work directly with pilots who desire to get their ATP, Jet Transition, 737 or A320 Type Rating. We work with 141 schools & the Aviation Universities as well.

Our potential customer could be at trade shows, or it could be the regional airlines, or some of the overseas airlines. Our “low hanging fruit” is really overseas airlines operating 737 or A320’s without their own training centers.

2. How would I best describe you, or your company’s unique benefits, approach, products, services, and value proposition?

We’re a FAA part 142 & EASA Certified Training Center with locations in Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Las Vegas. We provide training for Type Ratings in the B737, 737 NG, 737 Classic, and Airbus A320.

We provide the ATP and CTP (course training program – syllabus) courses. We offer unique value, and our benefits are the student gets an ATP much faster than at other schools, and on their own schedule, in some cases as fast as 8 days.

We offer a unique flexibility to accommodate the students schedule, state of the art training technologies, the cost is lower than our competitors, and our instructors are Airline Captains which typically have more experience than the competition. Our foreign students can get a W1 visa for their training. We also take VA benefits and a lot of schools don’t.

We utilize brand new 20 million dollar, Level D, Full Flight Simulators. We have iPad training apps that the students can take home with them to use, prior to training so they arrive prepared. We’re part of a new exclusive FMS training program, and we have a FMS simulator also.

3. What might prospects say that would trigger me to be able to refer them to you or your company?

“Man, I could definitely advance my career or I could get that interview that I haven’t been able to get if I had a type rating but I don’t know where I can get a type rating in a short amount of time, or for less cost.” Or, I came out of the military and I want to use my VA benefits to get an airline job.

Or, if one of our prospective clients is with an airline that needs to train pilots and they don’t have their own training center. Who offers a solution to outsource our training for the 737 or A320 that is FAA & EASA certified?

Or “Where could I find a fast track program for the type rating that has a FMS trainer available via iPad or PC so I can be knowledgeable on the aircrafts systems by the time I get there?”

4. What is your marketing process once your prospect receives a referral?

If a prospect that was referred calls or emails us I will typically answer any questions they have and share our features/benefits/value proposition. Then, I’ll enroll them or ask for the deal.

If they are not ready to buy, I get their contact info and begin a drip marketing/follow up campaign. It’s usually one email a month and a call after 2 or 3 months to follow up. Also, I am certain to find outwho referred us and proceed accordingly.

5. How did you get where you are in your professional life?

I loved aviation and I started working for flight time in high school. Then I went to Embry-Riddle, got a degree in aviation management and that opened some doors. Then I started flying and made some connections.

My experience in the business world, owning my own business, got me noticed and hired at AeroStar. I recently got 3 articles published in airline training industry magazines. “Some of my writing surprises me. I’ve never been a trained writer; I just figured it out on my own.”

Bryan Pilcher
E: Pilcher817@Yahoo.Com
Ph: (512)221-9959
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bryan.pilcher
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/bryanpilcher

Member Highlight – Bert Botta – Bert Botta Copywriting

One of the biggest benefits for our Aviation Marketing Master Class is the opportunity to network with aviation professionals. Our Facebook Group Facilitator, Bert Botta, is interviewing one member a week to help us get to know one another better, make better referrals to each other, and generally learn more about the smartest people in the industry.

Want to be featured?

  1. Become a member of the Master Class!
  2. Contact Bert Botta and get on his interview schedule!

We’re looking forward to learning more about smart aviation professionals!

This interview is with Bert Botta, Aviation Copywriter.

Member Profile - Bert Botta Aviation Copywriter

How would I spot the ideal customer for Bert Botta?

My ideal customer is someone who needs a copywriter with many years of commercial and corporate aviation experience. Not just as a pilot but someone who knows the language, the habits, the idiosyncrasies, the stresses and challenges that people in our industry encounter on an everyday basis.


They would need someone who has personal, in-depth experience dealing with the personal issues and problems that our industry encounters and has the background to write copy with that in mind and can address the aviation mindset.


They’re looking for someone who has an extensive, professional background as a writer, who also has an already established audience in the aviation community and is recognized as an expert within that industry.

How would you best describe your company’s approach, products and services, and value propositions?


My approach is to engage my aviation community audience in a way that they’re probably not used to. By that, I mean speaking to them in terms that convey a sincerity and professionalism, not just as an aviator, but as a person who has been a licensed professional counselor, involved in enhancing personal interaction, resolving conflict, and building trust in the aviation community.


I was an ALPA (Air Line Pilots) representative as a first officer. As a captain, I was also the ALPA professional safety committee chairman. So I had to address personal problems in a way that enhanced safety in the cockpit and communication as well.


I have experience not just in copywriting and attracting people to a company’s product or service, but I also bring a variety of expertise that is not normally seen in an aviation copywriter.


As a licensed professional counselor I needed to be able to get “inside my clients heads” as well as tap into the emotional part of them and their insecurities.


This makes it possible for me to write to the emotional part of my clients, the part that makes the decision to buy or not buy.


My writing conveys a feeling that “Hey, I think I can trust this guy.” By establishing that trust I’m able to convey a message to the emotional side of my clients that a person without my background would not as easily be able to convey.


What might prospects say to trigger me to refer them to you?


They might say something like,


  • “I don’t know what to do with my website, I don’t know how to speak to my clients or my audience, I need help. I’m overwhelmed, I don’t have time to do my own copywriting. “


  • “I really need someone who I can trust with my customers to come in and take charge, not just to write copy but to help me take my business to another level by engaging my existing clients as well as also attracting new clients.”


  • “Man, I’ve been in business for a long time but I feel like my business is stagnant. I’ve got a good product or service, but I don’t know how to talk to my audience in a way that will inspire them to buy more product or use me for my service.”


  • “I don’t just want to grow my business, I want my customers to be excited about having me work for them and be able to pass that excitement on to others.”


  • “The copy on my website looks like corporate-speak.”
  • “The text on my site looks like it could be on anyone else’s website.”
  • “The text in my marketing materials doesn’t seem authentic, unique or inspiring in any way.”
  • “I need someone who’s got a really great background in aviation who knows what they’re talking about and be able to do that when they write for me. That’s not easy to find in this industry, so if you know someone who has those skills, I could sure use their help.”


  • “I need someone who can take technical jargon and translate it into everyday language so that my customers can understand what I’m talking about and then be able to make a buying decision.”
  • “I need someone who knows this industry and can convey a message accurately and succinctly to my customers while at the same time engaging them and motivating them to take action.”


  • “In addition, this guy has to be unique in aviation in bringing a personal approach to an industry that traditionally focuses on technology and how-to-do information.”


  • “I need someone who can put a personal face on my business, someone who can talk to my customers like I do but I can’t express that in writing.”


  • “I need someone who can write in a friendly tone but simultaneously get to the heart of an issue in a way that makes it not only safe for my clients to hear but is in every day style language.”


  • “This guy has to come across as sincere, authentic and credible while he’s making my customers feel like he’s talking and writing to them as if he had just met them on the street. This kind of communication is hard to find in business conversations.


  • “I haven’t been able to find anybody who has the background and experience to write like this.”


What is your marketing process once you receive a referral?


I prefer following up with a phone call since that’s more personal.
I will also call the person who made the referral and find out more about why they made the referral and why they think I’m the right guy to do the job for their friend.


To me, it’s all about building the relationship, and both relationships are important to me – with people who refer business to me as well as people who are referred. That personal touch and the importance I place on relationships is appreciated by potential clients.


Anything to decrease distance between people is the method that I use. We live in such a disconnected world, one of my talents is being able to close that personal gap. The more personal the communication, the better it is.


Of course that often depends on who I’m talking to. If they’re more of an analytical type then I don’t emphasize the personal as much until I get to know them. Then I can see how far I can go with building the personal side of the relationship.


If I find someone who doesn’t like the personal touch and I feel it’s not a good match, I won’t work with them.


If I’m not able to make personal contact, then obviously I will follow up with an email.


How did you get where you are in your professional life?


I’ve been writing all my life. As I mention on my website, I started devouring what we called “funny books” (comics) as a kid while eating breakfast. I’ve written and self published a book. It’s sold on Amazon and at all the major bookstores.


For most of my flying career I’ve been writing in journals. A few years ago, I realized I had the makings of a book. When I met my wife, I told her that I was a writer and was writing a book. So she asked me, “Where is it?”


So then I had to get busy and finish it. That led me in the direction of realizing that I’m a pretty good writer. But I wasn’t serious about building a writing business until I realized, “Hey, I’ve always loved aviation, been doing it most of my life, I know it really well, and I’m a good writer, so why not combine the two!”


That’s how my Aviation Copywriting business got started.


For some time I chased some “get rich quick” scams. After working hard at trying to be someone I wasn’t, I realized what I’m good at and what I wanted to combine: my love of writing and aviation into one business, Aviation Copywriting.


A couple of years ago, I went to an AWAI (American Writers and Artists) Copywriters Bootcamp in Florida and I won a couple of informal creative writing contests. It was then that I realized, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this; why not pursue it?”


But it took me a few years to get on board with that idea and to do anything with what I learned down in Florida. It wasn’t until I retired from Netjets and had the time and passion to devote to writing that I got serious about my career.


I’ve always had a strange, innovative, and humorous way of looking at and writing about things so copywriting was a perfect match for my style.


I’ve been published in aviation industry magazines, so I have credibility there that I haven’t really built on. Now I’m beginning to realize that I have the background, the credibility and the contacts that I can build on to maximize my copywriting business going forward.


My Aviation Copywriting website: http://www.bottacopywriting.com


Some links below to a few of my articles on the website.


(1) http://botta-copywriting.com/project/mentor-in-a-poopy-suit/


(2) http://botta-copywriting.com/project/an-old-bold-air-carrier


(3) http://botta-copywriting.com/project/soul-power-for-the-aviator/


(4) My book: http://www.fastlanetofaith.com


(5) Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/bertbotta


(6) Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FastLaneToFaith/



Referral Sheet – SSC (Special Services Corporation) – Brad Searls

a charterHow would I spot your ideal customer for SSC?


The ideal customer for SSC fits into different categories. They are aircraft sales companies that need a good aircraft management company to refer their clients to. They are an aircraft charter broker that needs a qualified, reliable charter operator to call on to support their trips. They are small, medium, and large companies who value time savings as essential to their company’s competitive advantage. They are individuals who utilize private aviation for family vacations and shopping trips.


How would I best describe SSC’s unique benefits, approach, products services, and value proposition?


Special Services is a “one-stop” shop for all aviation needs. We can better serve our customer needs through our combined operational and maintenance experience. Specializing in management, charter, maintenance, sales, and parts, our unique benefit is the ability to adapt to each client’s circumstance and need.


What might prospects say to trigger me to know what they need to be referred to SSC?


“Time is a valuable asset to our company”

“We’re not utilizing our aircraft as much as before”

“I’m interested in owning an aircraft but do not have the time for the day-to-day upkeep and responsibilities”

“I’m tired of the airline hassles”

“I want to travel on my schedule”


What is SSC’s marketing process once they receive a referral?


Special Services appreciates all referrals. When they contact us, we will provide a without cost consultation to learn their specific need. We will send them information on our company and services. We will do the evaluation and set up a meeting to give them our recommendations.

Contact Information

Contact Brad Searls or Doug Goldstrom at Special Services Corporation at 866-242-3383, or email dgoldstrom@flyssc.com

Referral Marketing – Cristobal Aircraft Brokerage – Chris Gamble

How would I spot your ideal customer for Cristobal Aircraft Brokerage?

Someone that is frustrated with commercial aviation or is paying too much for their current transportation needs is an ideal client for us.

How would I best describe Cristobal Aircraft Brokerage’s unique benefits, approach, products services, and value proposition?

Since we don’t own or operate our own aircraft, our interest is solely with providing the aircraft that best suits our clients’ needs from an abundant and varied fleet. We also have experience working with the unique needs and urgencies of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles/Hollywood area; as well as anywhere our clients go “on location.”

What might prospects say to trigger me to know they need to be referred to Cristobal Aircraft Brokerage?

Someone with unique travel needs, especially someone that is based out of or travels to the West Coast, who is frustrated with their current options should talk with us. We can find a creative, cost-effective solution that will get them (and their stuff!) where they need to go and save time and money.

How should I refer a client to Cristobal Aircraft Brokerage?

If they would like to talk with someone right away, have them call Chris Gamble at  1-800-408-0455. If they’re just exploring options at this point, they can go to my blog. www.TheCharterGuy.com and get a sense for what we do and how we do business.


Contact Information:

Chris Gamble at  1-800-408-0455.




Referral Marketing – Dallas Jet International – Brad Harris

How would I spot an ideal customer for Dallas Jet International?

Anyone buying or selling a business aircraft would benefit from talking with us.

How would I best describe Dallas Jet International’s unique benefits, approach, products services, and value proposition?

Our unrelenting focus is on the buying and selling of business aircraft in an international marketplace. The purchase or sale of an aircraft requires the utmost in deliberation and risk management. While we are often labeled brokers, our clients call us trusted consultants, as we only accept compensation from clients who hire us exclusively, thus eliminating any potential for conflict of interest.

Our clients include affluent individuals, entrepreneurs, large corporations, first-time aircraft buyers, fractional aircraft share owners, aircraft charter clients, aviation department executives, chief pilots, aircraft management companies, charter companies

Our knowledge of the aviation system, aircraft systems and equipment, and day-to-day market conditions is unparalleled. Our combined experience of 100 years in corporate aviation speaks for itself. Join Dallas Jet International as we move into the aviation future and raise the bar in aircraft transaction consultation and aircraft brokerage. We invite you to look through our website and see what we have to offer you.

What might prospects say to trigger me to know that they need to be referred to Dallas Jet International?

Someone who is considering a purchase or sale, or someone who is frustrated with their current business air transportation situation would benefit from talking with us. Besides acquisitions and sales, we also provide aircraft maintenance and management and crewing solutions as well.

How should I refer a client to Dallas Jet International?

If they would like to talk with someone right away, have them call Brad at 817-328-2900 or Shawn at (214) 766-3915.   We have three offices in the Dallas Ft. Worth area that they’re welcome to visit. (See DallasJet.com for details.    If someone is just exploring opportunities at this stage, have them download our ebook – Anatomy of an Aircraft Sale at www.AircraftSalesInsights.com/FreeBook and have a look at our blog, Aircraft Sales Insights.


Referral Marketing Example – Hernando County Airport – Kimberly Poppke

How would I spot your ideal customer for Hernando County Airport? Exiles from colder regions do enjoy saying goodbye to the cost and hassle of de-icing…!

Strategically located in North Tampa Bay, Hernando County Airport is a sound choice for aviation business people seeking to economically expand and/or establish a presence in the aviation-strong state of Florida. Near freeways, an international airport, a deep sea port and major attractions, logistics are smooth. Manufacturers or links in OEM supply chains can thrive with low costs, choice of multi-acre airside sites, a pool of Right-To-Work talent and a pleasant suburban lifestyle.

Anyone doing business or flying in the Tampa Bay area should know about us, because we are a convenient option for business aviation in the area; and we NEVER charge a landing fee. Our airport designation is (BKV). Exclusively General Aviation, operators and passengers avoid the air and ground congestion common to metro airports.  With two long concrete runways, 7000 and 5000 feet, we can accommodate nearly any size aircraft.

Target Businesses/Categories:

Aviation OEM, MRO, Commercial Flight School, Part 147 Aviation Maintenance Tech. (AMT)/A&P Prep School, Air Cargo, Part 91 and 135 Operators, Aircraft Completions, Commercial to Cargo or Private conversions

How would I best describe Hernando County Airport’s unique benefits, approach, products services, and value proposition?

A sprawling 2400 acres, Hernando County Airport boasts a number of amenities preferred in a home airport such as a new air traffic control tower, on-site fire station, full-service FBO, Certified Cessna Service Center and more. Need to hold a meeting? Seat up to 20 at the beautiful Airport Administration center. A supportive and business-friendly administration enjoys sourcing incentives and helping facilitate growth.

We’re located on the central Gulf coast of Florida, between Tampa, Orlando and Ocala.

What might prospects say to trigger me to know that they need to be referred to Hernando County Airport?

An expressed desire to reduce overhead. Indications that they are outgrowing their present facility and have no options at their home airport. (Many airports, particularly in metro areas, have very limited land available – no expansion possible) Dissatisfaction at the lack of interest/support of present airport administration/landlord.

Dissatisfaction with union issues and costs. Difficulty finding employees/high wages. Tired of cold weather. Increased number of Florida or Southeastern US customers to access.

*I’m also particularly interested in whether recent large Airbus and Boeing buys will result in downstream supply chain business growth which we can help with.

How should I refer a client to Hernando County Airport?

You can send them to our website at www.flyhernando.com; or have them call me, Kimberly Poppke, at (352) 754-4061 and I’ll make sure they’re taken care of.  For FBO services, call (Jennifer Torraco) at American Aviation,  (352) 796-5173 and tell them Kimberly sent you.

Referral Marketing

This month we’re shining the spotlight on ABCI’s clients and MasterClass members as we talk about great referral marketing techniques. It’s not too late to get in on the fun!

Join the Aviation Marketing MasterClass in 2012 and receive a free DIY Marketing Toolkit on the topic of your choice. (12 to choose from, a $129 value!)


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