A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush.
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
Dive Industry Professional
I’m sure you’ve heard that little bit of wisdom before. I have many times, and it’s true. When you have a sure thing going, why ignore it to chase after a not-so-sure thing? But we do it all the time in our business. Well, at least before the pandemic hit. Now that the diving and travel industries are returning to being active, Dive Industry Professionals are looking at their customers, the market, and the marketing tools we use to reach the market, a little differently now . So many ways of doing business in the past are not going to work in the new post-pandemic economy.
Welcome to the new era of smart recreational dive businesses. We have so many options to consider now and Entrepreneurs wishing to be successful in the future are listening to business advice that makes sense. Actually, Dollars and Cents. We are tired of being told to pay for clicks. We couldn’t care less how many “likes” we get. Conversions are where it’s at but only if it converts to sales. So who’s buying?
Dive Industry Association is a trade organization that brings Buyers and Sellers together. Our Members have diving related equipment, training, travel and lifestyle products to sell and we are referring them to buyers who need, want and can afford their products. We know of a few tried-and-true methods that work and we want to leave you with some ideas that will work if you give them a chance.
If you are a supplier of diving equipment, training, travel and lifestyle products, we will start with the fact that you are selling the right product, at the right price, in the right market. If you are doing that already, take one step forward and analyze your customers now. Think of your customer base as three different types of customers; Current Customers, Former Customers and Future Customers. For greatest success in a shorter period of time, focus on your current customers. They are the people who have bought from you within the past 12 months. Contact your current customers now and get them to engage with you. It could be a sale, or a new class or a dive trip. Give them a reason to come in and buy from you again.
If contacting your current customers doesn’t fill up your dance card, design a campaign to contact your former customers and do your best to reactivate them into current customers. Former customers are people who have not purchased anything from you in the past 12 months. They know who you are, they have done business with you before, and they are likely to do business with you again. All that’s left to do is ask them.
The last group of customers is the new customer. They have never bought anything from you before. They probably don’t know who you are, don’t know what you sell, and at this point have no reason to do business with you. This is the most expensive and time consuming type of customer to reach. In this post-pandemic recovery period, be very careful about focusing too much on this group. True, new customers are the lifeblood of every business, but we only say that you should be very calculated when planning and budgeting for campaigns to reach this type of customer. Especially if you still have “acres of diamonds” in your backyard.
There is one way to find new customers that have a higher potential to be successful for you. It’s called “Referrals.” Our Association is in the referral business. As I said before, we bring Buyers & Sellers together. We have business relationships with both sides and we actively put programs and opportunities together to benefit the buyers and the sellers. Commerce is what keeps our industry working. Knowing about leads, hot leads and potential buyers is not an exact science, but if you know how and why good business relationships are formed and nurtured, you may be on the right track.
In the past few months, our Association has been reaching out to Dive Equipment Manufacturers, Training Agencies, and Dive Travel Businesses. We let them know how we refer potential buyers to sellers of dive equipment, training and travel products. I am very pleased and encourage by the number of sellers who have listened and taken our advice but I am in total disbelief with the companies who have no idea how a product referral program could help their business. We have been running referral campaigns for both the industry trade and the general public for years now. Here are just two examples.
Our Association participates in FAM Trips for Qualified Dive Travel Specialists. Most of the time they are dive store owners who run group dive travel programs. The FAM Trips are sponsored by Tourism Boards, Dive Resort Destinations or Dive Travel Wholesalers. Having relationships with Dive Retailers across the country, we can offer them a FAM Trip that is interesting and could lead them to a new travel destination they can offer to their customers. After a few FAM Trips we realized that Dive Travel Specialists might need a few products on the trip that would make their travel experience more enjoyable. We also realized there were a number of suppliers that were looking for new accounts to sell to. The idea of offering a SWAG Bag to each Dive Store Participant was born.
We put out a memo to our Membership base that we were participating in a FAM Trip to the new Dive Resort in Belize, Belize Dive Haven, and were looking for gift items our participants could use. We raised over $9,000 in SWAG Bag Gifts that included a travel bag from Roatan Charter, EcoConscious Sunscreen from Stream2Sea, Insect Repellent from Lita’s All Natural, Metal Water Bottle from 4Ocean, Sunglasses & Lanyards from RipTide Scuba, and Custom Mouthpieces from Sea Cure Custom Mouthpieces. The Dive Retailers were delighted to receive such useful samples on their dive trip. It was very unexpected and heavily appreciated.
When we run FAM Trips to resort destinations, it’s not only the 35 Dive Stores Owners we bring with us, but the number of Dive Operators and Resorts we visit on the trip. Two years earlier I participated in a FAM Trip to Saint Lucia that was sponsored by the St Lucia Tourism Authority. On that trip we visited nine Resorts and Dive Operations. When was the last time your Caribbean Sales Rep visited nine resort accounts on one island plus had a week to spend with 35 Dealers from the United States? The possibilities here are endless.
We are running a FAM Trip to Curacao on May 7-11, 2021 and are including a SWAG Gift Bag for each Retail Store Participant. So far we have items from Roatan Charter, Stream2Sea, Lita’s All Natural and DAN. We have sample bags of Sunscreen, Mask Defog and Hand Sanitizer from Stream2Sea – Anti-itch and insect repellent from Lita’s all Natural – and Refillable Water Flasks from DAN. All we need now are ball caps, T-shirts, and sunglasses. But you get the idea. The Retail Travel Buyers are being introduced to new travel products and new vendors and the Suppliers are being introduced to new Dive Store Buyers. It’s a WIN-WIN for everyone. Dive store owners are professional resellers. They are in the business of buying inventory and reselling it. Why would a supplier not want to connect with them? I guarantee you that if I told Las Vegas Casinos that I was bringing 35 Travel Agents who run group trip for gamblers to Las Vegas for a FAM Trip, they would be all over me with incentives to come visit them.
The second kind of referral we run is to introduce dive travelers to destinations they have plans to visit. Our neighbors are going to Cozumel with a group of divers. They asked for referrals to hotels, restaurants and dive operators. What better way to introduce likely buyers to local businesses at their destination? They are visiting your local destination. They will be spending money on vacations. Why not entice them to visit you? Especially if we can refer them to you.
I once received a $200 American Express Travelers Check from the Tourism Bureau of the U.S. Virgin Islands for diving with our local Dive Operators. I thought that was a great idea and of course, I spent it while on the trip. That gave us some ideas about incentives we could introduce to our FAB Trip participants.
Most Resorts offer a $500 discount on future trips booked with them. That help pay for last FAM Trip and gives you an incentive to return. The same idea applies if a Tourism Bureau offers a $200 credit voucher on your next visit to their destination. That gives you a reason to return. You see, in our business, it’s our job to get Dive Travel Buyers to visit a dive destination. It’s the dive destinations job to get the Dive Travel Buyers to return. With a group, of course.
Now I hope you see the logic in working together. Buyers and Sellers are in the same boat. Sometimes all they need is the proper introduction.