Marketing Tools & Tactics

IP Tracking — The Brave New World Of Digital Marketing.

Today, almost every digital device we use has an IP address. What is an IP address? It stands for Internet Protocol Address and it’s what computers and other digital devices use to introduce themselves to each other. Think of it as a door knock that leads to an invitation to come in and enter. Computers, cell phones, cars, even your EZ-Pass tag has an IP address.

The good news for marketers is that once your IP address has connected with another address (i.e. you visit Amazon’s website) you have given permission to speak with one another, which means the party you’re visiting (i.e. Amazon) can then connect with you at a later time and send you information as well. This return information is usually in the form of a “cookie,” which contains encrypted data that remains on your computer or phone until you or some IT person deliberately removes it.

For business, this is a marketing boon, allowing companies to keep track of potential customers interested in their wares and services – all of which is be done automatically via IP tracking.

What information can you get from an IP address?

There are actually two kinds of IP addresses – static and dynamic. Static simply means you are using the same address over and over (i.e. your home computer or your personal smart phone). Dynamic means you are sharing an IP address with a number of customers within your Internet Service Providers (ISP) area. Sometimes public uses computers in a library or in an internet café will share a dynamic address.

Whether static or dynamic, the minute you visit a website the IP address you’re originating from can be captured. The website will keep a record of the time, date and data it collects from your address. A “cookie” will be sent to your computer for future reference.

Limited information is freely available the moment a connection is made. For example, because IP addresses come in batches representing certain global regions, a fair amount of geographical information is immediately known. Cross reference this information with other demographic information available and you can develop a composite profile of the visitor and the particular region they’re living in.

It can get personal… to a point.

If your company utilizes IP tracking software, you can gather quite a lot of pertinent information. The moment someone visits a website, IP tracking software identifies the IP address of the visitor and reports what pages they visited on your site, how long they stayed and whether they filled in any contact or registration forms. The “cookie” sent to their computer, phone or device will begin to track their preferences. The IP tracking software will start to compile data captured from the same IP address as he or she visits other websites, noting preferences such as shopping habits, reading preference and other interests.

Some IP Lead tracking software can collect information from both organic, as well as paid search platforms, such as Google AdWords, providing more customer data, which can assist your company in finding richer, more promising prospects.

All this information provides a detailed dossier of a prospect’s demographic, preferences, purchasing history and even psychographic information. The IP tracking software can also determine email addresses and phone numbers associated with the IP address as well.

Once captured, the information can be used to target online advertising on websites the prospect visits and/or send emails with sales information to prospects who are already predisposed to a particular company’s products or services.

IP tracking and the law.

Each country around the globe has its own privacy laws, which govern the use of personal information gathered over the internet. In the UK for example, there is a Data Protection Act, which regulates what is and is not a breach of privacy. In many countries in Europe, IP addresses can be considered personal data, so care should be taken by anyone doing international business and gathering prospect information over the internet overseas.

In the United States, on the other hand, there is no singular law that regulates the internet, but there are both state laws and federal regulations, which limit the kind of information you can gather on individuals.

On a federal level, the U.S. tends to regulate by sector (i.e. banking, finance, healthcare etc.) It goes without saying that personal health records cannot be gathered on individuals by nature of the HIPAA laws and financial privacy is protected by law in the U.S.

For general marketing purposes, however, the U.S. tends to be fairly liberal, with the exception of California, which has a strong consumer identity protection regulation (please consult https://www.huntonprivacyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2011/04/DDP2015_United States.pdf for specifics.)

As long as consumers visit legitimate websites, the information they pass along via IP Address is pretty much fair game, provided the data is not used to disparage the visiting prospects, or is used to sell illegal or illicit materials to them.

What a marketer cannot and should not do is try to reverse engineer the process by creating phishing schemes to capture personal information. This is the behavior of scammers and illegal businesses. IP tracking, on the other hand, is perfectly legal and very effective marketing and sales tool.

More and more business is conducted on the web.

The Wall Street Journal report in mid 2016 that 51% of purchases are now made online, the tide has obvious turned and consumers have embraced online buying. Just as significant, 90% of business-to-business transactions begin with a web search, making it easier than ever to identify potential prospects.

Given the current attitudes in the U.S. for capturing information and leads over the web, the case for utilizing IP tracking software or service is a smart marketing decision for any legitimate business from Macys to your local pizza parlor. As long as the system is not abused or used to cause harassment of any kind to individuals, the idea of IP tracking seems both prudent and reasonably ethical.

Programmatic Advertising. The 21st Century Marketing Trend, You Never Heard Of

Back in the day, marketers would spend weeks, sometimes months, deciding where to place their ad messages. They had armies of media researchers on the case, giving them statistical data about audiences for specific TV shows or magazines.  When decisions were finally made and it came time to buy, the marketer simply called upon a human in their ad agency’s media department to place an order for a 30 second spot on the evening news or a two-page spread in a news weekly.

Well folks, those days are as gone as dodo birds and piston-engine airliners. Today, many online display and banner ad placements are bid on and purchased in nanoseconds by robots (or to be more quaint about it, by computers) talking to each other. It’s called Programmatic Advertising. And its new to aviation marketing.

The good news? The robots don’t do lunch and the advertisers don’t have to pay for it. The bad news? It’s the fastest growth engine in the marketing game and many advertisers and their marketing agencies know as much about how it works as they do about ADS-B.

How prevalent is programmatic ad buying? According to Ad Week, “In 2015, $14.88 billion worth of U.S. ads, fully 55 percent of digital display ads, were purchased programmatically. In total, 52 percent of all non-search digital ad transactions were programmatic.”

What exactly is programmatic advertising and why should you care?

In case you’ve not been paying attention for the past twenty years, the marketing game has gone from macro to micro-targeting. Today’s target audience comes down to one individual checking out your website, or your competitor’s home page. In the blink of an eye, a program can access that web visitor and break him or her down to age, gender, buying habits, and interest level in your product − even whether the viewer’s desire to purchase is imminent.

If you’re looking for the secret ingredient in this process, it’s called Artificial Intelligence. By nature, it’s the stuff robots are made of. Artificial Intelligence spreads its wide net across the internet, eventually narrowing down users who fit the demographic and psychographic of your target. It’s not looking for lots of people. It’s looking for the right ones.

The program then passes the information on to the marketer’s computers or robots and asks if the marketer wants to bid on placing their display ad in front of the prospect. The marketer’s robot considers what the buying service robot has to provide about the prospect, and decides in a split second to bid or pass on the opportunity. If it’s a bid (and there should be no surprise here), the higher the bid, the better the chance of securing the space. This is called “Real-time bidding” and the whole process happens in less than the time it takes to form a thought.

Forbes has estimated RTB (Real-time bidding) “will accelerate at a rate of 59% compound annual rate through 2016, making it the fastest growing segment in digital advertising.”

Wait a second! People don’t buy from ads at first sight!

It’s true!  Just because you’re interested in a product, that doesn’t mean you’re going to buy it immediately. Still, if you’re part of a certain market segment, your interest level may be heightened and your buying predisposition is certainly greater. Most pilots would love to own a jet, but few can afford one, and those that can are usually not impulse buyers.

Why jump at a prospect if they’re not going to buy right now?

To answer this, let’s go back to Marketing 101 and talk about customer needs. We all need things for a multitude of personal reasons. When you’re in the buying mode, the need becomes more urgent. For example, if you’re looking for a new aviation headset, you’re probably a pilot, so you’re already set apart from the general population. If you’ve checked out a few manufacturers’ websites, compared prices on Sporty’s, Pilot Shop, Aircraft Spruce or even Amazon or EBay − the robots are watching your every move! They’re even watching the number of times you’ve checked these sites in the past. In other words, they’re sizing you up as a potential buyer. The more the algorithm sizes the customer up, the richer the information it passes on. Capturing that user at the moment he or she is on a particular site goes to the highest bidder.

Naturally, for high-ticket items like an aircraft purchase, your ad needs multiple exposures to make a sale. The good news for the advertiser (or the advertiser’s robot, to be precise) is that it is bidding on a prospect that has demonstrated a high interest in the advertiser’s product and is most likely ready to make a purchase.

Think about it. How many times have you opened your browser and found a display ad for a product you’ve been researching on the web? Too often, right? Well, you probably fit the profile a marketer is looking for and one which its marketing robots are on the lookout for.

Are there limitations to programmatic advertising?

While the robots are very good at keeping track of people surfing on their desktops, they have a bit of a problem capturing your every move when you’re using your cell phone. This is because cell phone cookies (little files about your usage left in your computer) are not as uniform or as robust as they are on larger computers. This limitation won’t be around long given the speed at which technology adjusts to marketplace roadblocks.

Brave New Marketing Worlds.

Programmatic Advertising is here to stay. Big marketers were early adaptors, but it seems the word is spreading to all marketers. The reasoning is simple. If the target prospect is a fertile find, the chances of turning a marketing message into a sale are greater. If more marketing messages create sales, your return on investment goes way up. That’s a win-win for everyone except those humans who used to be media buyers. Brave new world? Certainly, but we humans have a tendency to adapt.

Even in the Age When Marketing is Dominated by Big Data… Creativity Still Wins the Day.

In the marketing world, you can be timid as a lamb or as courageous as a lion. You can do what everyone else is doing or you can muster up some chutzpah and establish a new and dynamic marketing direction– rather than following, you can lead the way by tapping into your Creative Courage.

What is Creative Courage? It’s the willingness to risk going outside the accept norm and put yourself out front and exposed. In many ways, Creative Courage is like asking someone on a date. There is always the risk of being rejected, but if you never ask, you will probably never go on a date.

Creative Courage doesn’t end the moment someone says yes to your invitation. Now you must start thinking about how you’re going to present yourself – what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to talk about, where you’re going to go. In other words, you’re working out your first impression. If you make a good one, it could be a lasting one. Welcome to Advertising 101.

If you’re boorish on your first date, you’ll make an impression, but not for the right reasons. Worse yet, if you’re ordinary and boring, you’ll be quickly dismissed and easily forgotten. If, however, you make a positive and unforgettable impression, you’ll not only be remembered, you’ll get a second date. That is Creative Courage and it is what separates the suitors from the losers, the market leaders from the market followers.

But wait… why not rely on Big Data to help make the right impression?

It’s true, the world of marketing is enamored with Big Data these days and in Big Data terms you’re no longer going on an ordinary date with your target audience, you’re going on a date that was made via an online computer dating service.

You have reams of information about possible partners – all you have to do is plug in the data and the outcome of your perfect date match is ensured by the comforting cradle of crunched numbers. Or is it?

Sydney Finklestein in a 2013 piece for the BBC entitled, “What would Big Data think of Einstein?” reminds us that “Big Data should not be confused with Big Ideas.” Mr. Finklestein goes on to explain that it is from Big Ideas, not Big Data, that we achieve breakthroughs. He points out that in a world driven by Big Data, Einstein’s theory of relativity would have been dismissed because it would not have been supported by the data of his time. In other words Einstein’s big idea was too big for the data of his time.

A recent Fast Company article states that “…managers mistakenly think that insights will “reveal themselves” in the oodles of data that pours out of their computers. They believe that simply gathering more data will help create focus out of chaos… They forget to ask a very simple question, “What is the crucial problem that we solve for our client?”

According to Fast Company, you actually need very little data to figure out why your customer needs you. Likewise, all the data that suggests that you and your date should be compatible goes out the window if the date doesn’t find you appealing and interesting. Or to put it another way, they decide to look elsewhere for what they need.

A Big Idea could come out of Big Data but Big Data cannot create a Big Idea.

Fast Company states that while inside organizations. “1% demonstrate their prowess with data-driven analytics, the remaining 99% feel out of the loop and unable to contribute. Unfortunately, the most creative people are in this bigger pool—the dreamers, storytellers, and myth-makers who say the things that others cannot, or will not, say.”

In other words it’s the people with Creative Courage, like Albert Einstein, who change the world, not the data geeks who keep track of things as they already are.

Long term relationships. Not one night stands.

Now that we’ve established that Big Ideas come from Creative Courage and not necessarily from Big Data, how do you know you have a Big Idea? Here are a few Big idea traits to look for. Big ideas are simple and easy to understand, they include your brand’s unique selling proposition (USP) and they’re adaptable across different mediums and tactics. Don’t let their simplicity fool you, they don’t come easily. The only thing about them you can be absolutely certain of is they’re worth every ounce of blood sweat and effort you put into them because they yield great rewards. How can you spot a Big idea? Legendary ad man David Ogilvy has a simple formula.  He suggests you ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
  2. Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
  3. Is it unique?
  4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
  5. Could it be used for 30 years?

30 years! While nothing seems to last more than 30 seconds in the new age of digital advertising buttressed by Big data and ever changing trends, the one thing that can pass the test of time is the Big Idea! Why? Because even in today’s conversation-driven, pull, rather than push world of instantaneous digital marketing, the advertiser still has to start the conversation – still has to woo the target audience, still has to establish who they are and still get noticed. Nothing does all that better than a Big Idea.

Belle of the Ball. Or Wallflower?

Perhaps it’s time for a real example of how a Big Idea can change everything. Insurance advertising used to be pretty ho-hum. Nothing sexy. Nothing outrageous. Nothing noteworthy. Then came Geico.

Geico had a dilemma, they wanted people to sign up, file claims, and do most of their business online instead of going to a brick and mortar office. They had to make it seem easy, especially at a time when not as many people used computers as they do today. Research (that’s where you used to get Big Data in the Jurassic Age) told Geico there was significant resistance to this notion, but Geico knew this was the future and it would streamline its business.

They could have delivered their message in any number of traditional ways. They chose instead to do it using Creative Courage. The result was the Caveman campaign.  “So easy a caveman can do it” was conceived with wit, humor and panache. The cavemen in the commercial didn’t like it much, but the rest of us laughed.

Big ideas are as simple as cavemen.

Instead of being another wallflower at the dance, Geico became the belle at the ball. People couldn’t get enough of their cavemen. They talked about it, even anticipated the next caveman spot. Suddenly Geico was seen as an approachable company with a sense of humor and a great message. Geico’s Creative Courage changed the way people thought about insurance, even how they spoke about it. It changed the conversation.

Alflac followed suit with a slapstick duck that quacked the company’s name at every opportunity. The Aflac Duck then begat Allstate’s “Mayhem” campaign which begat the Liberty Mutual “We’re only human” campaign, which led to Progressive’s Flo character and most recently to the off-beat ads from Farmers Insurance. Now every insurance company wants to put humor into their advertising. Ironically, this brings us back to our original point, if all the major insurance companies employ humor – then is insurance advertising becoming formulaic and less effective.

But everything’s different now! Isn’t it?

Today advertisers are armed with statistics like never before. The problem is statistics alone can’t start the conversation with your audience or keep them interested in your message. That takes creativity.

Another fabled ad man, Ed McCabe, once said, “Creativity is often the last remaining legal means you have to gain unfair advantage over the competition.”

If this is true why is so much of the advertising we see so uninspired, so uncreative and so mundane?  The answer is simple. The people involved in it lack Creative Courage.

Does Aviation Marketing have Creative Courage?

Much of aviation advertising looks the same: product, list of features, plane on tarmac and some unimaginative copy. Why? It’s safe, doesn’t stir up controversy (or emotions) and it covers your tail when it flops. If aircraft designers were as conservative, we would never have gotten past the Wright Flyer!

There are, however, some aircraft ads that have stopping power and it is usually because they break out of the formula.  The result is always a noticeable bump in the company’s public awareness and stature.

Cessna took on its critics while others capitulated.

Cessna took on its critics while others capitulated.

After the public relations debacle around use of corporate jets during the 2008 recession, Cessna did not back away. They took a position of leadership in their advertising, reminding their customers that they hadn’t gotten as far as they had by backing off or being apologetic. Cessna wasn’t going to be that way either. They portrayed corporate pilots, jet owners and others in the industry as heroes, visionaries and champions of free enterprise. Cessna was bold at a time when it the conventional wisdom was to keep your head down.

eurocopter3

Use of an atypical visual provides eye-catching stopping power to ads

Eurocopter advertising is another example of an outside-the-box approach. Instead of beauty shots of their helicopters in typical settings, their copters sat atop serving trays or landing on the tip of a ballpoint pen. Certainly not what was expected but it did garner attention and raised awareness for Eurocopter.

There are, of course, many ways to break the mold.  The important thing is that you have the courage to break the mold in a unique and memorable way.

Here are some tips to keep in mind developing an advertising message that is interesting and engaging (and this includes your websites, e-blasts, YouTube videos and blog posts):

  1. Keep it Simple. Less is better. One clear, compelling message has more impact than a jumble of confusing offers and benefits.
  2. Stopping Power. Make your ad visually strong. You only have a nanosecond to capture your customer’s attention and interest. Miss the chance and the rest is academic.
  3. Good advertising communicates quickly and convincingly. Consumers won’t spend the time trying to figure out a convoluted messaging.
  4. What’s In It For Me? Customers want to know the benefit for them, not what’s important to you. If your headline is about your 25 years in business, who cares?
  5. Frequency Matters. Your ad needs to run frequently to make an impression. Remember the dating analogy – you’re more likely to date someone you’ve interacted with a number of times and have positive feelings for. Research says consumers must see an ad at least three times to make a lasting impression and at least seven times to make a sale.
  6. Size Matters. Two-page ad spreads have more impact than single page ads; single pages are more noticeable than fractional pages. In the digital world, pay attention to how your message fits on screen. Ads should work just as well on smaller mobile screens as well as larger desktop monitors.
  7. Color Matters. This is a no-brainer. When was the last time you deliberately turned off color on your TV and watched in black and white? Probably never! The human eye is attracted to color and it increases the effectiveness of your message.
  8. Be Bold, Be Different. Safe advertising is the riskiest because it wastes money and is ineffective.
  9. Track Results. Today you have more ways to track than ever. Your website is a great way to track results. Make sure it’s included in your messaging, as well as your phone number – double check both are correct.
  10. Budget Realistically. Most advertising fails because it is underfunded. You can’t fly across the Pacific Ocean with half a tank.
  11. Use Humor. Entertainment is the key. It makes your message memorable and likeable. (Remember the cavemen, the Aflac duck, Mr. Mayhem!)
  12. Sex Sells. But it has to be tasteful and appropriate. Like we mentioned earlier, if you’re boorish, you’ll be remembered for the wrong reasons. Be sexy but tasteful, like Victoria Secrets.

One more thing…

Don’t just look at what people are doing in your industry. That’s too myopic. Look at what other industries are doing in their advertising and their market messaging. Steve Jobs was constantly looking at what was trending in design as much as what was trending in computers. It helped him create a cache and a vision for Apple that was unlike that of any other computer company.

There are terrific examples of breakthrough ads in print, TV and on the web.  Find them and learn from them.

Remember if you show up for your date wearing the same blue suit everyone wears (because data shows 99% of men and women prefer blue suits), go to the same restaurant in town everyone else goes to (because data suggests 99% of people prefer Luigi’s) and spend the evening being boring, unimaginative and safe … how do you think the evening will turn out?

As Sydney Finklestein’s article states, “In business, big data doesn’t necessarily drive out creativity; it’s just that its scientific imprimatur makes it very hard to argue going the opposite way… sometimes you need to break the rules to create anything new.”

So be courageous my friends … show your Creative Courage.

Unresponsive Websites Prevent Marketers From Reaching Vy.

Google Wants Responsive Web Design

Google is forcing all digital advertisers to become multimedia conscious

Aviation companies are subject to lots of external forces — weather, traffic, regulations, fuel price increases, pilot shortages, labor disputes etc. Now, they have another issue to deal with – Google. The problem is Google has the power to hurt your aviation business by stifling your online visibility to your target audience. Less visibility means less awareness and less awareness – well, you get the idea.

What’s Google doing that is a concern for aviation companies?

Google announced that they were giving all their advertising clients until April 21st of this year to make their websites and other digital marketing platforms “responsive.”

What are responsive websites? They’re websites designed to look great no matter what device you view them on, from older CRT monitors to the new widescreen LEDs, including iPads, iPhones and Android tablets and smart phones. Websites and other marketing messages based on unresponsive designs only look good on larger desktop screens and when they are viewed on cell-phone-sized screens they either look terrible or they shrink so much they become illegible.

What happens if you’re “unresponsive” to Google’s new regulations?

Google will begin to penalize their clients whose websites are unresponsive by downgrading their SEO rankings on mobile devices. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is a process used to improve how high a website appears in the search results found in Google (as well as Bing and Yahoo). That means a search term that used to put your website at the top of Google’s search rankings may now sink you to a lower altitude on the rankings if your website has an “unresponsive” design.

Remember, Google is first and foremost a search engine.  It is designed to search the web for requested search topics and bring a list of appropriate websites back to you. In the process, advertisers related to your search topic will appear at the top and right hand column of your search results. They appear in a pecking order relative to how much they bid for top position AND by the appropriateness of the content they provide (including if the website is responsive or not).

Naturally, it’s up to the advertiser to make sure his or her messaging is clear and intriguing, but if Google penalizes you for not having the proper responsive programming, your company is going to get a lower position even if you bid higher than a competitor.

That’s because now only the responsive websites will go to the top of the list when a search is done on a mobile device. Furthermore, better designed websites will get preference over poorer designed ones, too, because the better designs will be easier to read, easier to navigate and will create more clicks and dollars for Google.

Not Just For Google AdWords Customers

Google’s responsive website mandate is not limited to those who use Google AdWords. Non-responsive websites will also be affected in Google’s organic (non-paid) results on mobile devices. And while Google has stated that this latest change will limited to mobile devices, don’t be surprised if lacking a responsive website doesn’t negatively impact your SEO ranking on desktop computers in the near future.

Why aviation companies should be concerned:

In case you haven’t noticed, the web is in a constant state of flux and change. What was all the rage yesterday is old news today. The introduction of smart phones back in 2007 caused a paradigm shift in digital marketing.  Seven years into this change the effects are beginning to become seismic.  Here are some of the facts you should know:

  • The number of smart phone users will surpass 2 billion by the end of 2015 and by 2018 half the world’s cell phones will be “smart;” this year alone mobile traffic is up 3.5%
  • Smart phone users are impatient: 74% of them will only wait 5 seconds for a website to load
  • 72% of data users use smart phones when traveling; 64% when dining; 63% in online stores
  • 57% of users do not recommend non-mobile-friendly websites to other users.

All of this is bad news if your website is unresponsive.  The good news is that there are pre-programmed design templates as well as plenty of designers who can update your website and make it responsive to the navigational features and format requirements of mobile devices.

Your Problem is really Google’s Problem. Their solution? You fix it!

For those who wonder how Google makes its money, the answer is simple: advertising. In the world of digital advertising, dollars are generated by the number of clicks an ad message generates. Basically when you advertise on Google and a member of your target audience clicks on the ad’s interactive button, it takes you to an online store where you can purchase the product or service advertised.

The problem for Google is the amount of money advertisers have been willing to pay per click has been declining for the past several years. Part of the reason for the decline in pricing is because of mobile ads.

As more consumers turn to mobile devices for their information, Google clients who don’t adhere to mobile formats do not come across clearly or attractively. Worse yet, because they find the advertising and product information inferior they turn to methods other than Google to find information and buy online.

Google is partially responsible for this situation because in their eagerness to maintain clients, they originally told clients not to worry about creating separate campaigns for mobile. Google users continued to use the same online stores they always had. These stores, however, were not very easy to use on mobile devices. This resulted in fewer transactions and ultimately less revenue for Google.

Google’s current solution to the problem is to make their all clients change their websites to responsive designs. That puts the onus and the cost on the advertisers, not Google.

Why should you have to play it Google’s way?

Regardless of whether there are other ways to buy online, Google still commands the lion share of online searches and is the search portal where most consumers begin information mining. If you’re an advertiser you still want Google to find you that key prospect.

Furthermore, from a logic point of view, why would you not want your website to be the best it can be? Without being ready for mobile, companies risk not reaching their best potential audience.

With mobile trending upward and desktop downward, it is simply a matter of math.

Why Aviation Companies should accommodate Google’s demands now.

Many aviation companies are service companies such as charter airlines, airframe and engine rebuilders, and flight schools. These kinds of businesses rely on customers who are looking for information on the web. The power of Google taps interested customers every second of every day.

Because aviation is a niche business, search engine advertising serves it very well.

Keeping in step with the mobile trends should be a no brainer for aviation much the same way glass cockpits and GPS systems make flying easier and more reliable.

Get some professional help before it is too late.

Regardless of whether Google is making you modernize your digital marketing or not, it’s simply the smart thing to do. There’s lots of help out there to help you make the transition, including professional marketing communications companies like Advertising Marketing Consulting to make the transition to mobile-friendly advertising easier.

Marketing is like flying, the more you stay current, better off you are. 

 

FBO Marketing: Eleven Tools That Give You An Edge

FBO Marketing

In a competitive marketplace, marketing can give the edge to your FBO.

To say that FBOs (Fixed Based Operators) face stiff competition is an understatement. There were more than 3,100 FBOs operating in the U.S. as of 2009, according to a report by the National Air Transportation Association. And in dense urban areas, FBOs face numerous competitors – whether at the same airport or one nearby.

In addition to direct competition, FBOs face a number of other challenges. If you happen to be bordering a state with a lower fuel tax, you may have to reduce profit margins, at least if you want to stay competitive. The same goes for high fees, rents and infrastructure demands set by airport owners, sponsors or management. Then there are through-the-fence operators, not to mention the increasing trend of airports becoming FBOs themselves – putting them in direct competition with their tenant FBOs.

In order to surmount these obstacles, FBOs must build a loyal clientele who will keep coming back, while also fighting to expand their share of new business. As Gene Condreras noted in an article for Professional Pilot, your customers probably aren’t aware of the cards stacked against you. And they don’t care. What matters is how they perceive your business, and how you shape that perception is crucial.

So what can you do? The role of marketing is to help FBOs tell the story that will attract their best customers – the value you offer, the customer service you provide, the amenities that go beyond tie-down and refueling.

There is a wide range of tools FBOs can use to promote themselves, from simple, low-cost tactics to broader integrated programs. Your marketing plan should be tailored to suit the needs of your particular FBO. Here are eleven effective tools to consider when developing your FBO’s marketing strategy.

1. Brand Development and Positioning

It all starts with a deep understanding of your FBO and what it brings to the market. What do you provide that your competitors can’t? What do you do better? How do you want customers to perceive you? The answers to these kinds of questions form the foundation for all of your marketing efforts. Create a brand image and competitive positioning that truly reflects your business, its values and its mission.

2. Public Relations

Public relations (PR) is one of the most cost-effective tools available to any business. PR allows you to quickly spread the word about your business, products and services no matter the size of your budget. Aviation publications and blogs, as well as traditional news outlets, are always on the lookout for an interesting story. Make a point to write and distribute press releases on a regular basis. Topics can include awards you’ve earned, special events being held, promotions and giveaways, renovations and upgrades to your facility, and other news the press may find interesting. A consistent public relations campaign will keep you in the news and many times results in high-profile feature articles.

3. Advertising

While more expensive than other options listed here, advertising can be a powerful tool for increasing brand awareness and generating leads. Look for opportunities to place print ads in trade and local publications that reach your target audience. Be sure to research the publication to make sure it reaches the right audience, and don’t be afraid to negotiate rates. Remember, the key to effective advertising is crafting a creative concept that’s visually powerful and has a compelling sales message.

4. Co-op Marketing Programs

Most fuel vendors offer co-op marketing programs that can increase exposure and even improve facilities while stretching your budget. With co-op marketing, fuel vendors split the cost of advertising and other services when FBOs accrue enough credits from fuel purchases. Ask your vendor what programs they provide to supplement your marketing program.

5. FBO Directories

There are numerous directories serving the aviation industry, like AC-U-KWIK, AOPA or AirNav. Take advantage of these listings to broaden awareness of your FBO. Check your profiles from time to time to ensure they’re accurate and up-to-date.

6. Email Marketing

Email marketing is an affordable and measurable way to keep your name in front of prospects and customers. With email marketing, the key is to build your own list of opt-in subscribers – people who have chosen to receive your email alerts. Third-party email services like iContact make it easy to set up, create and distribute professional email campaigns, as well as track results.

7. Internet Marketing

At a minimum, your FBO needs a website that describes who you are, what services you offer and why you’re a better choice than others in the area. Few prospects will take a business seriously without one. That website should incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) so potential customers can easily find you on top search engines. Pay-per-click advertising can provide additional leads that are easily tracked, if you have the budget and know-how to manage it.

8. Lead Generation Software

Programs offered from TRAQPak and Passur provide FBOs with data to monitor customers’ activities and help improve customer service. Besides providing flight status information, these programs also include tools to track and analyze aircraft visits – both at your FBO and your competition. Many can help you develop a targeted database for direct marketing, either through the mail or email.

9. Social Media

Look at social media as another communications tool. Free and easy to set up, social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube provide additional ways to promote your FBO, and allow you to interact with customers. Social media can build your FBO’s brand, showcase promotions, provide a news outlet, and even act as a customer service hotline.

10. Sales Promotions

Sweepstakes and giveaways can be an excellent way to generate sales and build a prospect list. FBOs have used iPads, motorcycles and even steaks to bring in business. Consider handing out freebies to flight crews the next time they visit – a bottle of wine or handy gadget might mean a 500-gallon fuel purchase on their next flight.

11. Trade Shows

Trade shows are a cornerstone of marketing in the aviation industry. You can interact with industry professionals face-to-face and, if you’ve prepared well enough beforehand, close sales right there at the venue. It takes a sizable upfront investment in time and money, so make sure you have a plan to get the most from each event. Booth design, signage, sales materials and giveaways – not to mention follow-up – all have a tremendous impact on your success.

Need guidance identifying the right marketing tools for your FBO? Call us at 801-820-0020 or click here to use our Contact Us form.

Photo by Global Jet