As part of our post-COVID-19 rebuilding of the diving industry, I was looking for that magic silver bullet which could change the direction of the diving industry for the better. Staying at home during the COVID-19 lock-down helped me see that the solution to our lack of industry growth has been right in front of us all this time. Scuba diving is a social recreation. It’s in our DNA – always dive with a buddy.
When our recreation got underway in the early 1960’s there were two types of certifications. Diver and Instructor. That’s all we needed to get our recreation off the ground and to tell you the truth, that’s all we need today as we rebuild our industry. OK, I admit that we have a little wiggle room here. But follow me. We became divers because we loved the water and wanted to experience something new, exciting, or different. We liked it so much that we wanted to teach our family and friends how to do it so we could share our experiences with others. I became a diver when I was 15 years old and started teaching my friends how to dive right away. Why? Because I needed and wanted someone to dive with and there weren’t that many divers around back then. Within a very short period of time I had a bunch of friends to go diving with. Of course, as the industry matured and I became old enough to be an Instructor, I enrolled in an Instructor Certification Course and set out to expand my inner circle of fellow divers.
Fast-forward 52 years later, after a long, successful career in the business of diving. I realize that a market for our recreation is created, maintained and grown by teaching people how to dive, selling them dive equipment, taking them diving and keeping them active. What we have to realize now is that we MUST follow through with this concept in order for our industry to survive, rebuild and grow. We can no longer create new divers and then abandon them. It’s not the quantity that’s important anymore, it’s the quality. Quality is forged by a bond between an experienced scuba diver and a new diver. Creating numbers for numbers sake will not work in this post COVID-19 scenario.
As world economies begin rebuilding after the pandemic, cruise ships will suffer if they continue to focus on the numbers of passengers without paying attention to the impact these travelers are having on the ports-of-call they visit. Travel writers are already blogging about Islands that are demanding less visitors, less environmental impact, less health risks but more spending per visitor. They want quality visitors who will support their fragile economies, not drain it of its resources. I believe the airlines will follow a similar path in terms of quality versus quantity. Scuba Diving as a recreation would be wise to follow a similar approach.
Progressive Dive Industry Professionals are seeing that it is in their best interest to focus on teaching less people to dive, but teaching people who have a stronger desire to purchase their equipment, go diving and stay active in the recreation. I think it is very important that diving instructors spend the necessary time to create a relationship with their students and help mentor them as active divers. By learning how to create and maintain a professional relationships with their student, they will be able to maintain and protect the market they have created. Creating a market for diving by certifying new divers is only good for you if you follow through. Creating more divers and abandoning them to businesses that sell to the market you developed is a receipt for disaster. These businesses have not developed a relationship with these new divers and will never care for them the way you do (or did).
Building customer relationships is the most important ingredient in business. Creating a market and maintaining it properly will make the market grow. When you don’t build a relationship with your students and you don’t protect your customer contact database, you are taking yourself out of the profit picture and handling over your customers to your competitors. Who are your competitors? You would be very surprised to learn what we have discovered.
Dive Industry Association is teaching a course on the importance of building customer relationships. It’s all about the acquisition, maintenance and recapture of your current customers, former customers and future customers. The online, private course is $150. It covers nine chapters of starting, growing and succeeding in your business. The chapter on growth customers alone will make this course worthwhile to you in the new millennium.
Don’t let your competitors steal the market you created. Take control of your customers, your business and your destiny. If you want to succeed in this post-COVID-19 environment, you need to change the way you look at the business of diving.