Editorial – October 2022



Creating Your Own Market 
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the October 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  Our focus this month is on one of the most important things a Dive Industry Professional can do.  That would be to create your own market for the products you sell.  If I had to add a second most important thing to do it would be to constantly serve that market.  You see, the purpose of a business is to sell a program, product, or service to customers who want, need, and can afford them.  We’ll call them products from here on and we’ll focus on the needs aspect.  According to what we learned in business school, the needs we have for certain things cannot be created but a market for the products that fulfill those needs can.  Scuba diving and adventure travel fills many needs that people have.  We have discussed this topic to exhaustion at trade shows, dive shows and local bars and beaches, but it may be worth your while to have a round-table discussion with your local peers to identify those needs that can be satiated by what you sell in your community.

The most important way for you to generate a market to sell to, is to create your own.  There is an old saying I learned from a former General Manager at Mares.  “Focus on filling your own parking lot first, before you think about stealing customers from your competitors parking lot.”   That nugget of wisdom has always rung true for me, in my experience.  When you are new in business, you want to establish a reputation of doing things a certain way.  You want to become known for your expertise or what we call your unique selling proposition (USP).  It’s what makes you better than your competition.  So, you venture into your local community and look for people who believe you would be better than someone else, at doing what you do.  From there you can start to build your circle of influence and your current customer base.

The five most important things you can do to create and maintain your market is to:  1) Always be prospecting for new students.  2) Teach people to dive.  3) Sell them their scuba equipment.  4) Take them diving.  5) Keep them active in the recreation.  I can’t emphasize enough, the importance of prospecting for new students.  Even while you are teaching your current scuba class and bringing them through the process of becoming certified divers, someone must be filling the pipeline of new students.  While you are focusing on the current scuba class, someone must be thinking about the next scuba class. 

In our industry, the next step toward building your own market, starting with non-divers, is to teach them to dive.  Once you have signed them up for class, you have created a market for the sale of diving equipment and dive travel.  If you don’t follow through with teaching them about scuba equipment and selling your students the necessary equipment, someone else will.  This, in my opinion, is going to be the key talking point in the post-pandemic era.  The secret here is to be the first to get your prospective student’s contact information, enroll them in a scuba class, build a relationship of trust, teach them a quality scuba program that includes teaching them about the equipment they will be using as a diver, and set the stage for a long and successful lifetime of scuba diving and adventure dive travel.  Any gaps in these steps may cause you to lose the market you created.

I learned an important lesson in the early days of my career in the diving industry.  As we saw the industry being built, the certification agencies were coming onboard and defining what was important to them.  They built their own business models based on the strengths of their unique selling propositions.  Some agencies focused on being exclusive, some on quality educational programs, some on making certification easier to obtain, and some on selling only to retail dive stores.  It was easy to see the distinction of their concepts as they created their own corporate cultures in the early days.  It is interesting to see that in the past sixty years, some agencies are still using their original business models, some have changed (and changed frequently), and some have either been sold, acquired or gone out of business.  In today’s market there are over fifty (50) certification agencies, and their lines of distinction are less pronounced.  However, each agency has its own distinct corporate culture and its own operational guidelines, even if their business model is the same or similar to their competitors.   It’s now up to the individual Dive Industry Professional to choose the certification agency that fits their business model, corporate culture, and their desire to create and kept their local market.

Developing your own local market is all about your ability to prospect for new customers.  On average, businesses lose up to 25% of their market every year due to attrition.  Just like universities.  That means you always have to be prospecting for new customers.  Always.  The best method, and least expensive, is a direct referral from a current customer.  If you have done your job properly with your last scuba class, you would have certified them to dive and sold them their diving equipment so they could go diving with you.  You would have taken them diving and gotten them so excited about scuba diving that they are willing to stay active in the recreation.  All you have to do now is ask them to refer you to their friends so they can all go diving together.  That’s how customer bases are built.

Now if you have a strong referral program going you may not have to worry about people in your local community going on-line to seek out a local dive store other than yours and they certainly won’t be interested in other certification agencies other than the one you teach for.  When it comes to buying their diving equipment, history tells us that new customers listen to the advice of their friends and family when it comes to buying their gear.  And when divers think about booking a dive trip to St Somewhere, they are most likely going to go with the people their friends recommend.  Be that person who people recommend.

If getting referrals is important to you, then where you get your referrals from should also be a very important aspect of the mix.  If a referral comes to you from a current customer, the prospect probably is aware of your education, experience, and reputation.  They probably have formed some type of expectation of your services and how they will be treated.  If the referral came from some place else, it probably is coming with the expectations instilled by the referrer.  Will you be able to fulfill or exceed their expectations or will you be at odds with the prospect.  That’s something to think about.

So many of these questions and dilemmas can be answered and dealt with if you have a firm understanding of your business model, corporate culture, and business purpose.  Before you even start prospecting for new customers, make sure you and your staff have agreed on a purpose, vision, mission, focus and goals for your business.  With that, growth plans and opportunities seem to just fall into place.

For more information on creating your own market, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net or call me at 321-914-3778.

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About Gene Muchanski

Executive Director at Dive Industry Association. Board Member at Dive Industry Foundation. Marketing Consultant to the Diving Industry. I have been a certified Scuba Diver since I was 15 years old and have been a passionate waterman for as long as I can remember.
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