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The tides are changing in our sport. They say competition makes you better and if that’s the case, DZs are on a path to become a lot better because the competition has never been fiercer. Gone are the days when DZ marketing involved owning a 1-800-SKY-DIVE phone number, renewing an ad in the Yellow Pages and handing out huge bumper stickers with the DZ phone number on it. It’s a new era with third-party companies dominating the game of search engine optimization and daily deal sites offering “can’t miss” deals every couple of days.
If general forms of mass-media advertising do not work (and they seldom do) then what options are you as a DZO left with? The answer: Don’t just offer a great skydive. Offer a great experience. Sound a little mystical? It’s not. As a marketing consultant, I’m approached by many people looking for that quick marketing scheme to inject customers and money into an operation. It doesn’t exist.
The answer to great marketing is shifting from advertising and focusing on every point of interaction customers have with the operation and making it great. Every touch point—starting with website experience, phone interaction, greeting at manifest, training, nonverbal communication, presentation and professionalism of the instructor, cleanliness of the bathrooms, and shaking hands and saying goodbye should be an orchestrated movement. Marketing tools such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, TripAdvisor, Yelp and dozens more are engines that spread word-of-mouth. Leveraging these tools is only effective if customers are thrilled with their experience.
Paradigm Shift in Thinking
The mindset of how to approach marketing is this: No longer can DZOs look at their businesses as skydiving companies. There must a paradigm shift in thought. Skydiving is what we do, but it’s not who we are. The correct way of thinking is to become customer-service companies that happen to offer skydiving. Paying attention to the overall customer experience as opposed to exclusively overseeing the procedures of safe skydiving will allow word-of-mouth to spread—especially if we ask our thrilled customers to spread the word for us. Ever been passionate about a company? There’s a pretty good chance that what makes the company great is not so much the product or service, but rather how the product, service or people make us feel. As consumers, we want to receive value on the money we spend. Value is not representative of a cheap price but rather the ratio between money spent and experience gained.
A New Model for Marketing
Word-of-mouth, or the unpaid testimonial, has always been the most powerful form of marketing. Prior to the launch of the iPhone in 2008, word-of-mouth was limited in how it traveled. Today, it can dictate success or bring a firestorm of unwanted attention.
The framework for most marketing plans traditionally begins at step four , external marketing—as in, throw money into an advertising campaign to increase brand awareness, but actually see little return on investment. Becoming a customer-service company first centers around amazing the customer, who in turn falls in love with the company and will happily become the marketing mouthpiece for the organization. The skill now lies in providing the amazed customer with the tools to allow the message to spread. This approach changes the idea of having someone handle the marketing for a drop zone into having an army of marketers out in the community pushing your experience.
Implementation of amazing the customer requires full buy-in from all DZ staff. The challenge in the execution lies in delivering excellent service consistently. Simply announcing that employees should “give better service” is flawed, especially if DZ personnel are continuously running on empty through long hours, hot days and seldom receiving a thank you for their efforts. Moving into the future, DZOs must be more aware of company culture and who they let into the culture to ensure that the work environment is a happy, positive place which lays the foundation for the consistent delivery of great service.
Am I sounding crazy? DZOs focusing on culture? I can hear it now … “This is skydiving, not a corporation!”
Similar to corporations, skydiving centers are multi-million dollar operations that center around the happiest, most thrilling activity in the world—the culture should match the activity. Embracing a coach’s mentality of praising publicly, punishing privately, showing appreciation, publishing core values and hiring passionate people is the backbone of great marketing. What I’m describing here is not a marketing scheme or a feel-good piece, but a shift in thinking that transforms a company from the inside out. This approach is being embraced by small-, medium- and corporate-size businesses around the country and the world. Companies like Costco, Enterprise, Southwest and Zappos all embrace this model .
Advances in technology have opened opportunities for exposure in ways never seen before. The exciting aspect of this is the cost compared to mass-media advertising—literally pennies on the dollar, but with far greater impact. Focusing on every point of interaction associated with the customer experience forces a company to become better and a leader in the marketplace or even in the industry. Great change can’t happen without the passionate people that represent our drop zones everyday while interfacing with our customers. A great culture is required to support the passion and to see our businesses grow exponentially.
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