Unless a pilot is going for a joyride and landing back at the same airport, he’ll need supplies and support at his destination, such as car rental agencies or rental property close to the airport. Sclair says he often sees a few dozen aircraft owners sharing access to a private runway at popular destinations, so real estate marketing is another opportunity. “Some tourism groups are doing targeted marketing, but I don’t think it’s real sophisticated. They’re just trying to reach out to anyone who might go to Florida,” he adds.
Sclair also suggests the possibility of training programs that show how to use airplanes in your business to be more productive and efficient. “My father-in-law works at a large auto dealership in Grand Forks, N.D., which is owned by someone who has 60 to 70 dealerships throughout the Midwest. The owner flies to all of the dealers regularly, hitting three to five a day, then returning home at night.” A car doesn’t provide the coverage and speed of an airplane, and depending on the business, regular on-the-ground managerial oversight can prove highly effective.
Reaching for the Clouds
As for how to reach private pilots, a familiarity with electronics doesn’t necessarily translate into a desire for electronic contact. “More than half of our membership, which numbers 415,000, does receive our weekly electronic newsletter, but for a sizable minority, our sole means of contact with them is through our magazine,” says Dancy. Adds Sclair, “While pilots have a good early adoption rate of technology in general, there’s an undercurrent of privacy, and many would be turned off by something like an e-mail blast.”
Whatever messaging you adopt, Dancy and Sclair suggest avoiding words like “amateur,” “hobbyist” or “stunt pilot”—anything that suggests they’re not serious about their training. “Your pitch, whether direct mail or otherwise, would unquestionably fall flat as soon as the phrase ‘amateur pilot’ left your lips,” says Dancy. “They may fly for enjoyment, but maintaining their skills and safety are extremely important to pilots. Anything that makes light of their abilities will irritate them.”