FBO Marketing: Eleven Tools That Give You An Edge
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.
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.