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Written by John Kinsella
It’s a damp and dreary morning, the traffic is horrendous and it’s backing up for a long way. Perfect. Clutching a handful of flyers promoting a two-for-the-price-of-one Discover Scuba® Diving (DSD®) experience, we move carefully between the rows of cars, making eye contact with the bored looking drivers. Most roll down their windows, curious no doubt about our colorful one-piece wet suits. We smile, hand them a flyer and give them a brief explanation: Forget about all the traffic, now’s the time to learn to dive. By the time we made it in to the dive shop at nine, the phone was hopping off the hook. It was the single most-effective promotion we had ever run.
For years, we made a point of finding out why new divers came in to the shop. Before the advent of high-end dive management software such as EVE, we kept a simple spreadsheet with the diver’s name and a couple of words describing how they heard about us and why they signed up. We tallied this up every month and, with only this one exception, every month the dominant reason was referrals. Running around in rush-hour traffic in wet suits, it appears, is the exception that proves the rule.
That was 30 years ago, and I doubt we’d get away with it today. So that leaves referrals squarely at the top of the list. And, to drive the point firmly home, during a recent Open Water Diver course, every single one of eight new divers was there because a friend or colleague had personally recommended the course. This is a great example of Word Of Mouth Marketing (or WOMM) at its best.
The importance of advocates – those people responsible for word-of-mouth marketing and referrals – for your business crosses all borders. PADI® Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) recently published a white paper titled, “Analysis of the UK Diving Industry.” This report summarizes the key findings of a comprehensive survey of PADI Dive Centers across the UK. It also offers advice, based on those findings, to help dive centers boost their business.
In the Marketing to New Divers section, the white paper points out that new divers are the lifeblood of your business. They are not just current customers, but future customers as well. It goes on to identify two pools of new divers: DSDs and potential trade.
For DSDs, the advice is to:
- Use the Discover Scuba Diving Participant Guide and system correctly.
- Include structured time during the experience to explain the benefits of full training and how to complete this.
- Give participants an incentive to sign up immediately.
- Make sure participants know that they can complete the skills from Confined Water Dive One during their DSD – they have already started the process.
- Incentivize your staff. The white paper notes that “Passionate PADI Professionals will convert students to the sport – be sure to support them and reward them for success.” If you can’t rely on staff to recommend your Open Water Diver course, and if you don’t help them do so and make it worth their while, you’re missing a cornerstone of new business development.
For potential trade (new business), the white paper advises to:
- Use the PADI logo.
- Make sure to use the dive center’s Facebook page effectively.
- Be innovative – reach out to your local community.
- Use your students – word of mouth is still the best way to attract new divers.
The white paper notes that “Personal recommendations are powerful recruitment tools.” Incentivize former students by offering them rewards for bringing you new trade. Examples include a free gift for each student they recruit; discount on their next course; or a discount on the course they persuade a friend to join.
Make sure to use tried and tested methods of creating advocates for your business and reap the rewards.