What Does It Mean to Be “The Best” Dive Shop?

According to Google, Mobile searches for “best” have grown over 80% over the past two years. More importantly, there’s been an increase in searches for “the best” product to fit a specific need. For example:

“best face lotion for dry skin,”
“best shoes for standing all day”
“best champagne for mimosas”

What does this mean for you as a dive retailer?
The theory that there can only be one winner is no longer true. Your business might be:

  • the best dive center for kids
  • the best dive boat in Maui
  • the best padi divemaster internship in [location]

Consider where your business excels, or where it would like to grow, and start writing about why you’re “the best dive shop for  ______” on your website and social media. You might ask customers to give a shout out to “the best dive guide in [your location]” when posting an online review and tie it to a reward for staff members who receive the most mentions every month or quarter.

What are consumers’ intentions?
So what are people looking for when they search for “the best”? According to Google, they want to “get the most for my money” and avoid buyer’s regret. Google also noted:

Consumers told us searching “best” helps save time by returning a curated list of fewer options …rankings, ratings, or reviews from consumers and experts. You can see the difference between search for results for gas grill and for best gas grill.

This is another clue for dive centers hoping to gain more customers. On your website and social media, address the concerns of people who may be wary of spending hundreds of dollars on scuba lessons.

  • Invite them to try Discover Scuba® Diving first and apply the cost to the PADI® Open Water Diver course if they like the experience.
  • Include testimonials on your website (or link to Facebook reviews) to reassure visitors they will have fun and learn from safe, professional instructors.
  • Coach staff how to identify a potential customer’s needs or goals and reply with a specific solution (as opposed to giving a canned answer).

Are you the best?
Use Google’s incognito mode and search for “best dive shop near me,” or other best of search. If you don’t show up on the first page of search results, add copy to your website (just a few mentions, don’t go crazy) about “why we’re the best dive shop in [location]” or “why we’re the best dive boat for underwater photographers,” etc.

PADI/GoPro Evolution Video Contest Kicks Off

PADI® is partnering with GoPro to present the three-part Evolution video contest series, which will run through October 2019. Whether it’s a sunken ship in your favorite quarry, an unforgettable turtle encounter or a freedive over a vivid reef, you and your divers have a shot at winning valuable prizes as you show off your video and editing skills. Best of all, the contests are a chance to increase your business by offering specialty courses and camera sales.

The CAPTURE contest, which is open for entries from 15 April – 30 May, asks divers, who are at least 18 years old, to simply capture an amazing underwater experience; the second contest, EDIT, is open 1 July – 15 August and tests your editing skills with a series of clips provided by GoPro; the final contest, CAPTURE/EDIT, opens 16 September – 31 October and requires you put everything together – capturing and editing – into one awesome story.

The three contests are open to everyone – amateurs and pros alike – and, beyond just being fun, offer incredible opportunities to boost your business:

  • Teach underwater photography. While divers can get tips on how to capture and edit amazing underwater footage from GoPro professionals, consider cross promoting the contest with a PADI Digital Underwater Photographer specialty course. Either offer the specialty on request, or schedule a handful of courses throughout the duration of the contest period (essentially, all of 2019). When selling the Digital Underwater Photographer specialty, point out to your divers that they’ll likely be able to shoot footage during the course that they can then enter in the contest!
  • Consider other specialties. Digital Underwater Photographer isn’t the only specialty you can promote – there are a number of great courses that tie in nicely not just with the contest, but with digital underwater photography as well. Peak Performance Buoyancy is an obvious tie-in because peak buoyancy makes underwater photography more rewarding; Fish Identification teaches divers to identify fish and understand fish behavior better; and, the Boat Diver and Wreck Diver specialties can get divers to environments they may not have dived before, for exciting new encounters. What’s more, if your divers take enough of these specialties, they’re on their way to PADI Master Scuba DiverTM.
  • Sell the hardware. Finally, take this opportunity to sell more GoPro cameras and accessories, or if you don’t currently sell GoPro, consider adding them to you inventory. Only videos shot on a GoPro can be entered into the Evolution contest, so what better way of promoting the sale of GoPro cameras and accessories than by featuring them right next to information about the contests!

To help you promote the PADI/GoPro Evolution contest to your divers, there is a full range of marketing collateral and resources on the PADI Pros’ Site. Happy shooting!

Get the Most Out of Black Friday

Black Friday has grown in the public imagination over recent years – it is common to see retailers offering huge discounts for their goods on the Friday after Thanksgiving in November.

So how does a small business capitalize on a big event like this?

We wanted to share some key ideas to help you make the most of Black Friday this year.

  • Create a sense of urgency:

The buzz around Black Friday only works because the offers you make are unique. There are lots of excuses for extending the event (Cyber Monday has essentially become a way of offering things throughout the weekend), but be sure to limit yourself – if your customers can get the offer any time, they won’t feel an urgency to buy from you now.

  • Reward loyal customers:

Your marketing efforts are probably going to be most effective at reaching your existing customer base. They’re the ones who have shopped from you before, and they are the ones most likely to recognize the benefits of your offers. PADI’s continuing education courses are best used for this.

  • Don’t just discount – upsell:

Simply reducing the cost of your courses on Black Friday is unlikely to truly benefit your business – you simply give away profit and end up working harder for less. Your best option is to encourage people to buy full price, and get something extra as a reward.

  • “Buy two, get one free”:

This is a classic sales technique that is easily deployed. Your customers choose two items and get a third item free. You need to look carefully at your profit margin on the first two items to ensure that the offer works, however used correctly, this can be a great way to encourage customers to increase their average purchase price.

  • Keep It Simple:

Too many offers can be confusing for you, your staff and your customers. Pick a couple of attention grabbing headlines and use these to encourage consumers to visit your store. Even if they don’t take the offer in the end, you have a chance for them to see all the other products you have available.

So how might these offers look in real life? We’ve put together a few simple ideas that you could use in your store. You can use these as they are, or you could use them as inspiration to then make more individualized offers:

The Upsell:

Target your Rescue Divers from the last two years and offer them a free gift if they register for a Divemaster course with you during Black Friday. They should be required to pay a deposit for the course over the weekend in order to secure the offer. You need to ensure that the price of the course includes enough profit to cover the cost of the gift.

Example promotion: Change your life and become a PADI Pro by completing your PADI Divemaster course with ABC Dive Center – BLACK FRIDAY OFFER! Register for your Divemaster course during Black Friday and receive a PADI towel valued at $35 completely free of charge!

The Buy Two Get One Free:

Target your Advanced Open Water Divers and offer them a free Oxygen Administration course when they register for their EFR and Rescue Diver course. O2 is an easy course to add on, with minimal extra time commitment, and a high perceived value.

Example promotion: Serious Fun! Become a PADI Rescue Diver today! BLACK FRIDAY OFFER! Register for your EFR and Rescue Diver course during Black Friday, and complete your PADI Emergency Oxygen Administrator Specialty free of charge!

The Customer reward / sense of urgency:

Target your Open Water Divers and offer them a reduced price on a Specialty course if they sign up within a certain time-frame:

Example promotion: Thank you from ABC Dive Center – BLACK FRIDAY OFFER! As a thanks to our loyal customers, we are offering a 10% discount on Dry Suit Specialties to everyone who has trained as an Open Water Diver with us in 2018. Limited spaces available – contact the store on Black Friday to book your training now!

Business advice is available to all PADI Dive Center owners – if you’d like ideas and support for promotions during Black Friday, contact your Regional Manager today!

Article written by Emma Hewitt

PADI Retail and Resort Automatic Renewal

PADI Retail and Resort Automatic Renewal begins 5 November 2018. Enrolling in automatic renewal provides you the least expensive annual membership rate available and ensures you receive uninterrupted access to PADI’s member benefits like online certification processing.

Along with reduced membership dues, automatic renewal also provides PADI Retail and Resort Members a chance to win an in-store marketing consultation with a PADI Americas Marketing Executive and $1,000 US in marketing co-op funds.

To enter the Marketing Consultation Contest, please ensure your store or resort is enrolled in automatic renewal and completes the short survey linked below before 5 November 2018. The in-store consultation will include a one-day review of your website, social media, email marketing, online advertising and $1,000 US in marketing co-op funds*.

Complete the following before 5 November 2018 and you will be entered in the Marketing Consultation Contest.

  1. Enroll in 2018 automatic membership renewal
  2. Access and complete this short survey.

15 Top Tips for Re-doing Your Website

According to a recent survey, 70-80 percent of potential customers will check out your website before phoning or visiting your dive shop. Having an attractive, informative, mobile-friendly website is more important than ever; unfortunately, many dive operations haven’t kept up with the times.

In addition to attracting new customers, a modern website can help retailers track the effectiveness of their online ad spend. Using a Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics and other tools, business owners can track which marketing efforts are driving sales and which are a waste of money.

Whether you need to update an outdated site or your free Wix/Weebly site no longer meets your needs, use the tips below to ensure your next website is the best it can be. In addition to the 15 top tips, there are three bonus ideas based upon evaluations of more than 50 dive center websites.

Evaluate Your Current Site Using a Website Grader
Not every website needs to be redesigned from scratch. Use a website grader such as Woorank to see what’s working on your existing page and what needs to be improved.

You’ll also be able to review backlinks (other sites that link to your webpage). If a prominent website such as a local TV station, newspaper or other large publication links to your Open Water page, you don’t want to lose that traffic because the URL changes and doesn’t redirect.

Check Your Search Engine Ranking
Open an incognito window in Google Chrome (this ensures your search history isn’t factored into the search results) and Google popular scuba-related searches such as:

scuba diving gear
scuba diving lessons
dive shop
PADI open water
scuba certification
scuba diving certification
padi elearning

Take note of where your current site ranks for individual keywords and where you’d like to rank higher. You’ll use this information when writing copy for your new site.

Establish Goals
Every business website should be designed around its core profit centers. For one dive center, that might be charters, for another it might be gear, or their IDC program. Also, jot down any new areas where you hope to grow (exotic travel, kids programs, etc.) to ensure there’s a home for these topics on your new site.

To prevent your new site from looking like a garage sale, create 3-5 sub-categories such as Equipment, Instruction and Travel. Give each sub-topic prominent placement on your homepage using a graphic so visitors looking for information on that topic can quickly navigate to what they need. In the example below, Project AWARE presents visitors with three images – each a portal to a different section of their website.

A recent study found 75% of website visitors form judgments about a business based on its web site and 94% of a user’s first impression is design-related.

In other words, even if dive equipment is your core business, don’t cover the homepage in pictures of dive gear. This is overwhelming to the eye and may confuse and intimidate new divers. Instead, use one attractive image on the homepage to act as a gateway to more information.

Who Are Your VIPs?
When deciding what content to put on your homepage, also consider who your core customers are and what they’re looking for. Here are a few ideas:

– People looking to get certified
– Travelers interested in booking boat dives
– Potential IDC candidates
– Certified divers who want to refresh or improve their skills
– Cruise ship guests
– Divers who need gear advice
– Parents interested in an summer activity for their kids

Size Up the Competition
Explore a handful of competitor websites. In addition to evaluating other dive operators, choose at least one non-scuba website. The non-scuba competitor might be a cycling store, a ski/snowboard shop or a yoga studio.

– Write down 2-3 things each website does well.
– Note 2-3 things the website does poorly (tip: check out their sites on a mobile device).
– Ask yourself, “if a competing dive center started running my business tomorrow, what would they change?”

Choose a Design That Promotes Your Profit Centers
After defining your goals, key customers, and what parts of your existing website you’d like to update, you’re ready to choose a design. Use the profit centers you’ve identified to narrow down the options. For example, a dive resort that caters to island guests and cruise ship passengers should choose a design that allows them to adequately address the needs of both website visitors.

A local dive center that wants to promote local diving and showcase activities should reserve space for both of those elements.

The site design should also be able to utilize Google Analytics and Facebook pixel code. If you’re not sure, do a quick Google search or ask your web designer.

Finally, responsive design (where the website content adjusts to the size of the user’s screen), is an absolute must. Design with mobile views in mind because there’s a greater than 50% chance your site will be viewed on a mobile device.

Customers should be able to easily navigate on a phone, tablet or desktop device. A mobile-friendly design also helps your business stay competitive; Google penalizes slow-loading, non-responsive pages with a low search ranking.

Compose Key Messages
According to a 2018 article in Inc, 70-80 of customers visit a small businesses’ website before contacting or visiting the store, so it’s critical your website 1) ranks highly in search 2) acts a 24/7 sales person.

Refer to your keyword research to identify the words or phrases where you’d like to rank at the top of Google search. Use keywords words in:

– Page titles and descriptions
– The page URL (ex. divecenter.com/learn-to-scuba-dive-your-city)
– As headlines

When a customer lands on your website, it should be 100% clear your dive operation is the #1 choice for dive equipment, instruction, charters, etc. Here are a few examples of key messages:

Small class sizes and all-inclusive pricing
Dive with the best! 5 Star ratings on Facebook, TripAdvisor and Yelp
The island’s most eco-friendly dive resort

Don’t Overbuild
There’s no way to fit all your knowledge and expertise into one website. Furthermore, the vast majority of visitors will only spend about 15 seconds scanning each page.

Make sure important info stands out by:

  • Using bullet points
  • Put key messages in bold
  • Using images or or sub-headers to break up long sections of text
    (long = 100 words or more).
  • Keep paragraphs short (2-3 sentences)
  • Avoid using industry jargon such as “confined water, knowledge development and acronyms DSD, RSTC, etc.)
  • Put important info “above the fold” in other words: don’t assume people will scroll down.

With websites, less is more. A flashy video can slow page load time and you should never assume a visitor will watch the whole thing.

That said, it’s a good idea to incorporate a few videos on your website. While only 25 percent of website visitors will read the majority of a webpage, 80 percent will watch a one-minute video in its entirety. Embed course promo videos from PADI’s YouTube channel, or create your own. In either case, make sure your webpage includes text with the same information the video provides, not everyone will watch the video, and if they do they might not have their sound on.

Make Contact Info and Hours Easy to Find
According to a study reported in Inc, 44 percent of visitors leave a website if they can’t find basic contact info such as an email address or phone number. The top right corner of the homepage is typically where a phone number should go. In the same corner, include a link to your Contact page.

The Contact Us page should include your store hours, all contact info and an embedded Google map. Your contact page is also a good place for social media icons and links if you don’t already have them in the website header or footer.

Connect and Be Compelling
Prevent website visits from being one-and-done by inviting visitors to start a relationship with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and be the first to know about trips and special offers – in addition to linking to your Facebook/Instagram/YouTube account(s).  If you don’t connect with new visitors, it’s like they were never there.

Compel website visitors to take the next step. Tell them what you want them to do and include a large, bold text link or a CTA (call to action) button.

– Schedule a free, no-obligation equipment consultation [CONTACT US]
– Small class sizes for personal attention, Reserve your spot! [SEND BOOKING INQUIRY]
– Download our guide to the top 10 local dives [GET THE GUIDE]
– What’s on your dive travel bucket list? [LET US KNOW]

Don’t Expect Website Visitors to Call for Answers
After working hard to optimize your website, you can easily lose a customer by not including key information such as how much your class cost or when classes are offered.

The age of customers picking up the phone to get this information is over. In a Sep 2018 Google article on best practices, Google shared the following findings:

More than half of smartphone users purchased from a company other than the one they’d originally intended to use because the information provided by another brand was more useful

If you’re concerned about stating the price of the course because the “guy down the road” offers it cheaper, educate customers why your course is worth the extra cost. Maybe you have smaller classes sizes, include rental gear, have a on-site pool, etc. Also consider whether the bottom-dollar customer is one you want in the first place.

Use Images of Smiling Divers
In addition to showing underwater images of your local environment, help customers visualize the fun they’re going to have and the underwater life they’ll see. Use some of your most liked images from social media, or visit the Toolbox section of the PADI Pros site to download images and videos. Quality images of divers having fun help new customers understand one of the main reasons people fall in love with diving: the people!

Create an About Us Page That Turns Visitors into Friends

The About Us page is the second most-visited page by new customers and it should leave no doubt in the customer’s mind that you are THE dive shop they should work with.

  • Include links to reviews on Facebook, TripAdvisor, and/or Yelp
  • Showcase smiling photos of your staff, list their certifications and experience  
  • Talk about why you LOVE running a dive shop
  • Share a few details about your hobbies, alma mater, pets, anything to help a website visitor relate to you as a person.
  • Reassure nervous new divers that their scuba class will be safe and fun.
  • Include testimonials if you don’t have them elsewhere.

Find the Right Web Designer
Identify some websites you like and scroll to the bottom of the page. You may find a link to the person or company who built the site.

As part of the vetting process, ensure you’ll have access to update the site whenever you want. Also find out about after-hours support and what happens if the person who built the site gets hit by a bus.

Lastly, ask if they can set up your Google Analytics/Tags and install a Facebook Pixel. These essential tools require installing small snippets of code.

Test Drive Your New Site
Because your website is likely the consumer’s first encounter with your business, make sure it makes a good first impression. Invite friends, customer spouses, grandparents, etc. to evaluate your new site, in person if possible.

Ask them to first look at your site for no more than 15 seconds. What is their first impression of your business? Next, ask them to accomplish an important task like finding out how to get certified, or reserving space on your boat. Watch their mouse movements, and most importantly keep an open mind when they give you feedback.

Website Boosters:
The ideas below will help your new website rise above the competition:

A Dedicated eLearning page
Explain how eLearning saves time and also what the additional costs are. An eLearning page is also a good place to link to the medical form and eLearning student login.

A blog can help your business establish authority in a variety of areas and crush the competition in online search. It’s important that your blog be included under your domain (ex. yourdiveshop.com/blog or blog.yourdivehop.com).

Testimonial Page
Testimonials establish trust and breakdown skepticism for website visitors who are unsure about taking the next step. They’re also a way to put some of your best customers in the spotlight. Be sure you get permission and include a photo.

PADI Business Academy at 2018 DEMA Show: Google Ads Made Easy

Google’s advertising platform is getting a facelift and PADI’s Marketing Executives will be at the 2018 DEMA Show to help you discover Google’s newest advertising tools. This program, titled Google Ads Made Easy, will discuss the new changes and best practices for using this advertising platform. Stay ahead of curve by learning how to properly plan, prepare and implement Google AdWords, Display Ads and Video Ad campaigns, complemented with live demonstrations and workshops.

Sign up before 25 October 2018 and save $25 US off enrollment.

Google Ads Made Easy
Pavilion 4, Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino
Saturday, 17 November 2018
7:30 am – 12:00 pm

Register Now!

For more information, please contact Kyle Ingram or Claudia Sherry at PBA@padi.com

PADI® Women’s Dive Day 2018 Events to Remember

By Tara Bradley Connell

With PADI®Women’s Dive Day 2018 earning a media reach of over 236 million viewers worldwide, this is one event that not only increases awareness but also inspires more and more divers each year. From hosting an underwater treasure hunt to offering new diver specials for women, there are countless ways for dive operators and instructors to get in on the action – and gain new business along the way.

This year, the social media channels exploded with #padiwomensdiveday events from all over the world. For a look at this year’s activities, check out the PADI Women’s Dive Day 2018 Facebook photo album. Want more? Here are some locations that helped make this year even more special.

Here’s a look at some locations that helped make this year extra special.

  • Nassau, Bahamas

In the Bahamas, the Perry Institute for Marine Science collaborated with Stuart’s Cove to teach the PADI Reef Rescue Diver Specialty course. After a study on covered coral education, conservation, recovery processes and coral nurseries practices, the ladies enjoyed two dives where they learned how to maintain the nurseries. They also got to plant coral with personalized tags so they can monitor future growth.

  • Grand Cayman
  • Photo: Drew McArthur
    Photo: Drew McArthur

This year was all about breaking world records. To celebrate PADI Women’s Dive Day, a group at Dive Tech broke the world record for the longest underwater female human chain with 84 women in the water. The group also raised more than $3,000 US to support breast cancer research

  • Grenada

Sandals Grenada and Sandals Foundation celebrated Women’s Dive Day by focusing on controlling the lionfish population. The event kicked off at Sandals Grenada with a lionfish eradication dive to help protect the reef and threatened marine life. Post-dive, the group met at Grand Anse Beach with the Sandals Foundation, Grenada Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Environment, and the Grenada Chapter of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network  where they enjoyed a lionfish luncheon, lionfish cooking demonstrations, music, and exhibits – all set beachside.

Photo by Alicia Ward
Photo by Alicia Ward
  • Kauai, Hawaii, USA:

The calm, clear waters of Kauai made for the perfect spot for freedivers. As a way to build the female diving community on the island, the weekend included an all-girls freediving class. After their three-day course, some participants achieved more than two-minute static breath holds and depths of 21 metres/70 feet. Bonus: an impromptu visit from a pod of dolphins.

  • San Diego, California, USA:

The California coastline provided the backdrop for divers celebrating with Ocean Enterprises in La Jolla Shores, San Diego. The day’s itinerary was packed with diving, snorkeling, sand castle making, and an underwater photo booth with props to showcase all of the day’s events.

  • Quintana Roo, Mexico:

Finding some Zen mixed with diving was the ambiance found at Takata Experience in Majahual, Quintana Roo. With a focus on conservation, mindfulness and fun, the list of events included a relaxing yoga session, fresh ceviche, a coastal ecosystems talk, food, music and a beach cleanup.

Thank you to all who took part in this year’s celebration to inspire new divers and build a stronger, more active dive community.

Mark your calendars. Next year’s PADI Women’s Dive Day is scheduled for Saturday, 20 July 2019.

How to Use PADI Referral Marketing Materials

 Written by Megan Denny

Referral Candy, an international marketing firm that specializes in word-of-mouth marketing reports, “Marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones.”

McKinsey and Company, a renowned worldwide consulting firm, found, “old-fashioned kitchen table recommendations and their online equivalents remain so important. After all, a person with 300 friends on Facebook may happily ignore the advice of 290 of them. It’s the small, close-knit network of trusted friends that has the real influence.”

If you’re tired of spending time and money on marketing and advertising efforts with a low return, try referral marketing. Visit the PADI Pros’ Site to download free marketing collateral and launch your campaign.

Here’s a few ideas for using PADI referral marketing materials:

Around the Store

  • Put a stack of postcards by the register
  • Insert a postcard in each student Crew Pak
  • Hang a poster in the classroom
  • Tape up a flyer in the dressing room and bathroom
  • Drop a postcard into each student’s certification card envelope

When promoting your program, create a sense of urgency. Customers are the most likely to refer someone within the first week or two after being certified. After 30 days, that likelihood drops off dramatically. Consider stamping the postcards and flyers with a date and the words “valid for 30 days.” You can also reach out to recently-certified customers, and customers who are very active with your business.

In Google or Facebook Ads

Both Facebook Ads and Google’s AdWords allow you to upload a spreadsheet of customer email addresses and target ads to people who are already familiar with your business. Use the PADI web banners to quickly create clickable ads.

By email

Create a web page that explains your referral program and how customers can refer friends. Compose an email to your customers with a link to this webpage and include ideas on who they might refer. For example: “Do you know someone who loves to spend time in the water? A co-worker who loves to travel? A family member who enjoys outdoor photography? Change someone’s life by inviting them to try scuba diving!”

On Your Website and Social Media

Create a link to your referral program webpage from your homepage, include it in your email signature, and post about it regularly on social media (at least every 2-3 weeks). You can use the PADI referral program images on Facebook, Instagram, etc., or showcase some of your favorite divers who are lifelong friends.

Via a Customer Service Survey

Sending a customer service survey to your customers can be a goldmine of information and ideas. Read this article for more information and question ideas. When building the survey include a question along the lines of, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend, family member or co-worker?” and put it towards the end of the survey. Make the answer choices, “very likely, somewhat likely, unlikely.”

If using Survey Monkey (free for up to 10 questions), you can automatically direct low scores to a blank text field where they can answer “How can we improve?” Positive answers can be directed to a page of information about your referral program.


New Tools to Supercharge Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Written by Megan Denny

Advertising trends come and go, but word-of-mouth marketing remains the most effective way for a business to gain new customers. A study by McKinsey and Company, a renowned worldwide consulting firm, found that “word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50 percent of all purchasing decisions. Its influence is greatest when consumers are buying a product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive – factors that tend to make people conduct more research, seek more opinions, and deliberate longer than they otherwise would.”

It makes sense when you think about it. Most people value the opinion of a friend or family over an ad on television or an irrelevant ad in their social media feed. Some new PADI® marketing tools make it easy to boost customer referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.

Word-of-Mouth versus Paid Advertising

The McKinsey and Company study also found, “Word of mouth can prompt a consumer to consider a brand or product in a way that incremental advertising spending simply cannot.”

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh told Forbes, “We take most of the money that we could have spent on paid advertising and instead put it back into the customer experience. Then we let the customers be our marketing. Historically, our number one growth driver has been from repeat customers and word of mouth.”

Another reason to invest in word-of-mouth marketing? Friends who dive together, keep diving. You don’t have to be a PADI Pro for long to see lifetime friendships, and even long-term romantic relationships, form between divers.

Start a New Diver Referral Program

If you don’t have a new diver referral program currently, here are the basic steps to get started:

1 – Decide on incentives

The most effective referral campaign has a two-way offer: a spiff for the current customer and something for the new diver. Dropbox, Lyft, AirBnB and others have successfully grown their business on two-way referral programs.

Lyft offers a $10 US ride credit (approximately one free trip) for both the referrer and the new customer.

AirBnB has a more costly product (an average night’s stay can range from $90 – $200 US), so their referral deal offers $20 US to the referrer and $40 US to the new customer.

When deciding on your referral incentives, here are a few things to consider:

  • What incentive will truly motivate people? Think of an activity you’re interested in trying: snowboarding, golf, mountain climbing, DSLR photography, etc. What would convince you to invest money on this new activity?
  • Similarly, think of an activity with a significant start-up cost. What would motivate you to actively promote this activity to friends, family and co-workers? What level of incentive would inspire you to not only forward an email, but follow-up with that person and really try to sell them on trying a new experience. Use this gut feeling as part of the decision making process.
  • What is the value of a new customer? Consider the net value from course fees, eLearning payments, charter bookings, gear sales, etc.
  • What can you offer that’s high-value but low cost? Incentives don’t have to be discounts or store credit. You might offer two weekends of free gear rental, a free afternoon boat dive, or a guided shore dive with photos. The important thing is to include the value of your incentive in your marketing materials so people gain an appreciation of what they’re getting for free.

For example:

  • Know someone who might like to explore the underwater world? Share our Friends and Family discount.
  • The person you refer gets free rental gear for the course ($150 US value)
  • You’ll get $50 US store credit towards a gear purchase or a free weekend gear rental ($50 US value).

2 – Make the referral process easy

The key to a successful referral program is a simple referral process. Ideally, the customer should only have to do one thing, such as:

  • Forward this email or link
  • Tag someone in this post who should try scuba
  • Give this postcard to a friend, family member or co-worker
  • Mention this offer when calling the store
  • Bring a friend to the last night of confined water training

If your offer is good enough, the customer will go above and beyond the first step.

3 – Determine how you will track referrals

You’ll need a method to track new customer referrals, who referred them, what follow-up efforts have been made, and which marketing efforts are bringing in the best results (Crew Pak inserts, social media, emails, etc.). You can set up a spreadsheet, but to make sure you don’t miss anyone, put a sticky note with your new student paperwork and/or modify your student learning agreement to ask, “How did you hear about us?”

4 – Teach staff how to promote and use the program

Make sure employees are not only aware of the referral program, but also help them understand how and where it can be used. For example, when store credit is given to a customer for referring friends, make sure staff know to mention this credit while can selling equipment. If a customer is indecisive about buying a computer because of the cost, staff could encourage the customer to refer friends to earn money toward the computer purchase.

  • Get the word out by sending an email or a role-play video to staff.
  • Create a one-page quick reference guide about your referral program benefits and how to log referral activity.
  • Remind staff that referrals are earned and delivering superior customer service is key.

5 – Try a friends and family weekend

If managing an ongoing referral program sounds like too much work, try a friends and family weekend instead. Invite current customers to bring a friend for a free Discover Scuba® Diving (DSD®) experience. If staff resources and pool space allow, offer current customers the chance to try out some new equipment at the same time. Then, give the friends time to play around in the pool together.

Some stores ask Open Water Diver students to bring a friend to the last confined water training session. While the instructor finishes up skills with the student divers, another PADI Pro leads a DSD.

Whether you host a DSD weekend, or have students bring a friend to the last confined water session, it’s important to close the sale that same day. A proven way to motivate people is to offer a one-day-only incentive.

6 – Get the word out

Use online and in-person collateral to share your offers with customers. Visit the Marketing Toolbox section of the PADI Pros’ Site to download flyers, postcards, posters and web banners in various sizes.


PADI Women’s Dive Day Marketing Guide

Check out PADI Women’s Dive Day Event Marketing Guide that includes a timeline for planning and promoting your special event.

Make sure you list your event on the event locator,  so that you get in on the publicity about Women’s Dive Day through PADI’s Facebook/Instagram campaigns, email campaigns, digital remarketing and consumer press releases. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to celebrate diving and welcome new customers into your business.