Editorial – September 2021

What is Your Business Purpose?
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

cropped-gene-roatan-1.jpgWelcome to the September 2021 Editorial. Every month we start off with a topic to get our industry conversation going again. What is important to us this month? Where is the industry heading now? Monthly editorials used to simulate us into action. Now, with all that is happening in the world, our editorials seem to be calming us down and getting us back on track in this chaotic world. Whether you need stimulation or calming down, it is good to reconnect with your industry once a month and there is no better place than in our Industry Blog. Welcome to September.

I started this editorial last week with the title “What is Your Purpose?” and then I turned it into a full blown article with the title, “Are You True to Your Purpose?”  The article came out well, and will be featured in our September Newsletter, but for now I want to get back on track by asking if you have a reason for being in business.  What is your purpose?

The Dive Industry Foundation is going to publish my new book,  about the process of going into business as a Scuba Retailer.  I’ve done it myself 36 years ago, and I’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs start their own business, while consulting at Costa Mesa Community College, the University of Houston, and now the Dive Industry Foundation.  Even with all of that work and research behind me, it still is a major process to go through when you decide to open your own dive store.  We all feel that if our book can help a future dive store owner successfully plan the opening of a new watersports retail store, it could save them thousands of dollars and significant time, talent and manhours.

There are many questions a prospective retailer has to ask before going into business for themselves.  Besides the obvious questions like, what are you going to sell and who are you going to sell to, you have to know why you are doing this in the first place.  We ask you right up front, What is Your Purpose?   In other words, why are you doing this?  What do you expect to gain by going into business for yourself?  What is your purpose?

In the beginning of every Business Plan is the Executive Summary.  The very first question in the Executive Summary of our business plan format is the topic, The Company Mission.  Your mission statement is the reason you are going into business.  It’s what you are telling the world what your purpose is.  It’s your calling.  It’s your purpose.  It’s your mission.

A Mission Statement should always be written down so the world will know what your purpose is.  That will help them relate to and understand why you are doing the things you do to complete your mission.  If you have investors, sponsors, employees or members, you must be truthful to them and transparent in your communications.  When people give you money because they believe in your purpose,  make sure that every penny you spend is for the successful completion of objectives, that create outcomes, that help you accomplish your mission.  Being truthful to your purpose is all about personal integrity.

If you are already in business, it should be an annual agenda item to go back and read your company mission statement to remind yourself why you are in business.  Then look at the actions you’ve taken, to complete outcomes, that produced results for your company.  Now ask yourself, Was I truthful to my purpose?  Did I tell the truth to my Members, Sponsors and Customers?  Did the company revenue go to accomplishing the written Company Mission Statement?

Your purpose in life is your reason for being.  Fulfilling your purpose in business may be more than you answering your vocational calling.  It may also be your purpose in life.  Period.

 

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Introducing – Retailers Only News

DIA_RETAIL_LOGODive Industry Retailers: Special Edition For Retailers Only. We have so much to say to the Dive Stores in this country and around the world. Call it a passion. Maybe it’s a calling. It definitely is our Industry Mandate. Dive Stores are the heart beat of the Diving Industry. Everyone wants to reach them. No one wants to share them. We are starting a Retail Only News. We will highlight Trade Show Specials, Fall Specials, FAM Trips, and News relevant to Dive Store Retailers. We’ll post Dive Store Surveys and share the results. We will ask for Volunteers to participate in the DIVE LOCAL program that is building strong Regional Dive Communities and we’ll recommend Membership in the Dive Industry Association. Above all, we’ll show you the necessity of collectively working together to increase the communications between the Dive Retail Sector and the Industry. Subscription is by invitation only. Retailers – Look for your invitation this week or email Gene Muchanski at gene@diveindustry.net 

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Editorial – August 1, 2021

Just In Time Marketing. by Gene Muchanski, Editor Dive Industry Professional Welcome to the August Editorial. This month’s blog editorial came to me in the middle of the night.  I was tossing and turning over a very unprofessional policy decision that one event director had made a few days ago.  A number of exhibitors took issue with the director because he was prohibiting them from advertising or promoting products from a certain, extremely popular and professional company.  This company is not only very popular with the other exhibitors and attendees, it’s environmentally friendly products are in-line with the current pro clean-environment issues of the day.  Because of his email, he lost a number of exhibitors.  He also lost, or will loose a lot of support from the exhibiting community, who doesn’t like being told what they can advertise, promote, or sell in their booths.  Especially when the restrictions are not published in the exhibitor’s contract and someone tells you of their “decision” a week before the show. In today’s fragile economy, there are too many options available to exhibiting companies to settle for this type of treatment.  But this editorial is not about this event director’s decision.  You will be able to read a much longer, in debt story about Your Purpose In Life and Are You True and Honest To Your Beliefs”  sometime in the near future. Let’s get back to Just in Time Marketing.”  The idea for the editorial came from Just in Time Ordering.  In the Retail industry, carrying inventory is very costly.  It also takes a lot of pre-planning to anticipate inventory needs for a certain period of time, based on prior sales and future anticipated needs.  Retailers have to establish high, low and reorder limits so they are never in an out-of-stock situation.  As equipment wholesalers became more sophisticated and computerized, they were able to take on the responsibility of carrying enough finished goods inventory to allow their Dealers to order just what they needed, when they needed it. That was a big relief to small retailers.  They were able to carry a much smaller inventory, and only order merchandise when they needed it.  Unfortunately, that way of ordering is long gone because of the covid pandemic.  The entire supply chain is having raw materials and finished goods shortages, and Retailers have to go back to planning and carrying a sufficient inventory so they always have stock-on-hand when they need it.  The advice for today is to order as soon as you can and stock up while supplies are available. Carrying inventory and marketing have a lot in common.  Both take an immense amount of planning and of course, computer sophistication.  Marketing paves the way for sales and to be successful at it, you have to know the difference between short-term, mid-term and long-term planning.  To me, long term planning is 1 year out.  With a strong business purpose you should be writing down your long-term goals in your Business Plan and your Marketing Plan.  As your projected outcomes get closer to the 6 month mark, your mid-term planning should take over.  With a good long-term and mid-term understanding of what you want to accomplish, your short term marketing becomes your Just In Time Marketing Plan.  But here is the catch.  You can’t activate Just In Time Marketing if you haven’t prepared for it.  Let me explain. Part of long-term planning is developing data on the programs, products, and services you sell.  That’s all a part of Product Management. Secondly, you have to have your customer databases in order.  That’s Customer Management.  Are all of your contacts in your database current?  Are the mailing addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers still valid?  Is your marketing software up-to-date and running smoothly?  When was the last time you sent out a campaign?  What was your bounce rate or return rate?  The big question is, do your current customers still know who you are? Long term planning in the international diving community is required to let all Dive Industry Professionals know what you are doing a year from now.  It gives everyone a chance to put the event on their calendar and consider whether they should participate or not.  If they are going to participate, it gives them ample time to register for the event, book their airfare and hotel and advertise the fact they will be in attendance or exhibiting at the event.  As the event draws closer, they can update their customers and/or vendors of their event plans.  Your Just In Time Marketing can be a quick reminder of the next few months, weeks, or days. If you have done a good job at long-term and mid-term planning, your Just In Time Marketing efforts can be engaged within hours, if not minutes.  Why is this important?  Because when we are faced with a difficult situation like “Are we still exhibiting at a show this weekend?” we can tell the other exhibitors, the prospective attendees and the event sponsors if we are or are not participating and supporting the event, and why.  Your communication ability improves tremendously when you keep your finger on the pulse of your community.  That goes for the supply side and the demand side of your industry sector. The ability to communicate with your community, both Buyers & Sellers, is a very important skill to master, for Marketing Professionals.  That is why we wrote the white paper, “Staying in-synch with the Global Diving Community” published in September 2018.  It appears now that we have to update this white paper and bring it back to our business community.

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Editorial – August 2021

Just In Time Marketing. by Gene Muchanski, Editor Dive Industry Professional Welcome to the August Editorial. This month’s blog editorial came to me in the middle of the night.  I was tossing and turning over a very unprofessional policy decision that one event director had made a few days ago.  A number of exhibitors took issue with the director because he was prohibiting them from advertising or promoting products from a certain, extremely popular and professional company.  This company is not only very popular with the other exhibitors and attendees, it’s environmentally friendly products are in-line with the current pro clean-environment issues of the day.  Because of his email, he lost a number of exhibitors.  He also lost, or will loose a lot of support from the exhibiting community, who doesn’t like being told what they can advertise, promote, or sell in their booths.  Especially when the restrictions are not published in the exhibitor’s contract and someone tells you of their “decision” a week before the show.  In today’s fragile economy, there are too many options available to exhibiting companies to settle for this type of treatment.  But this editorial is not about this event director’s decision.  You will be able to read a much longer, in debt story about Your Purpose In Life and Are You True and Honest To Your Beliefs”  sometime in the near future. Let’s get back to Just in Time Marketing.”  The idea for the editorial came from Just in Time Ordering.  In the Retail industry, carrying inventory is very costly.  It also takes a lot of pre-planning to anticipate inventory needs for a certain period of time, based on prior sales and future anticipated needs.  Retailers have to establish high, low and reorder limits so they are never in an out-of-stock situation.  As equipment wholesalers became more sophisticated and computerized, they were able to take on the responsibility of carrying enough finished goods inventory to allow their Dealers to order just what they needed, when they needed it. That was a big relief to small retailers.  They were able to carry a much smaller inventory, and only order merchandise when they needed it.  Unfortunately, that way of ordering is long gone because of the covid pandemic.  The entire supply chain is having raw materials and finished goods shortages, and Retailers have to go back to planning and carrying a sufficient inventory so they always have stock-on-hand when they need it.  The advice for today is to order as soon as you can and stock up while supplies are available. Carrying inventory and marketing have a lot in common.  Both take an immense amount of planning and of course, computer sophistication.  Marketing paves the way for sales and to be successful at it, you have to know the difference between short-term, mid-term and long-term planning.  To me, long term planning is 1 year out.  With a strong business purpose you should be writing down your long-term goals in your Business Plan and your Marketing Plan.  As your projected outcomes get closer to the 6 month mark, your mid-term planning should take over.  With a good long-term and mid-term understanding of what you want to accomplish, your short term marketing becomes your Just In Time Marketing Plan.  But here is the catch.  You can’t activate Just In Time Marketing if you haven’t prepared for it.  Let me explain. Part of long-term planning is developing data on the programs, products, and services you sell.  That’s all a part of Product Management.  Secondly, you have to have your customer databases in order.  That’s Customer Management.  Are all of your contacts in your database current?  Are the mailing addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers still valid?  Is your marketing software up-to-date and running smoothly?  When was the last time you sent out a campaign?  What was your bounce rate or return rate?  The big question is, do your current customers still know who you are? Long term planning in the international diving community is required to let all Dive Industry Professionals know what you are doing a year from now.  It gives everyone a chance to put the event on their calendar and consider whether they should participate or not.  If they are going to participate, it gives them ample time to register for the event, book their airfare and hotel and advertise the fact they will be in attendance or exhibiting at the event.  As the event draws closer, they can update their customers and/or vendors of their event plans.  Your Just In Time Marketing can be a quick reminder of the next few months, weeks, or days. If you have done a good job at long-term and mid-term planning, your Just In Time Marketing efforts can be engaged within hours, if not minutes.  Why is this important?  Because when we are faced with a difficult situation like “Are we still exhibiting at a show this weekend?” we can tell the other exhibitors, the prospective attendees and the event sponsors if we are or are not participating and supporting the event, and why.  Your communication ability improves tremendously when you keep your finger on the pulse of your community.  That goes for the supply side and the demand side of your industry sector. The ability to communicate with your community, both Buyers & Sellers, is a very important skill to master, for Marketing Professionals.  That is why we wrote the white paper, “Staying in-synch with the Global Diving Community” published in September 2019.  It appears now that we have to update this white paper and bring it back to our business community.

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Editorial – July 2021

Selling Diving Is Getting More Professional .
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the July Editorial. Half of the year is gone. Soon the industry is going to try to put this year behind us and start preparing for next year. That was the way it was in the past. The past before the pandemic. The past before the digital revolution. The past when Baby Boomers ruled the world. Let me tell you about a NEW way.

Those of you who have been in the industry for some time, may agree with me. This is a rough outline and is obviously, one man’s opinion. In the past, there was a certain, unwritten seasonality curve to the recreational diving industry. January through March was the pre-season consumer show circuit. Divers, both consumers and Industry Trade Professionals attended or exhibited at the major Regional Dive Shows; Boston Sea Rovers, Beneath the Sea, Our World-Underwater, Sea Space and Scuba Show. April and May was the time our Dive Stores stocked up with inventory and scheduled their classes. The recreational diving season began on Memorial Day and went through Labor Day. That’s when the kids (and Teachers) were out of school, and that’s the period we called “Summer.” Even though the kids were back in school in September, the month was still good for the diving business. In California, the first week of October was the beginning of Lobster Season ad after that, the industry went into hibernation until the following year. Sure, there were regional differences based on the local weather but basically, this was the rhythm of recreational diving industry.

On the trade side of the Industry, January through March was the pre-season consumer show push. The Sales Reps were out in force in April and May. Retailers were stocked up by the end of May. Retailers and Charter Boat Operators worked the season from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Product Managers were getting samples ready to go during the summer so the Manufacturers could have their Sales Meeting in August. The day after Labor Day, September 5th, was the beginning of the next season for the major manufacturers. The Sales Reps visited their accounts with their new samples and took orders for the following year. Sometimes, the Retail Dealers even had new merchandise for the Holiday Buying Season in December. Once the majors tied up their Dealers’ “open to buy” budget for the next season, the industry started to prepare for its annual Trade Show that was held in January and then later changed to November. After a little rest and relaxation in January and February, the cycle started again. Same stuff – different year.

I believe all that has changed. Here’s why. Number one, the recreational diving industry has matured. In the past 70 years, the industry has grown and matured. The diving equipment has reached a certain level of sophistication and professionalism. Scuba training is fairly standard and well thought out and refined. Dive and Adventure Travel has blossomed and become a primary reason why people take up the recreation to begin with. The next major sales category, yet to take hold in the industry, is the sale of Lifestyle Products. Right now, we are at the “We sell T-Shirts” level, but I seriously believe the retail industry will do what the Boating, Fishing and Surfing Industries have done for years – Capitalize on the sale of Lifestyle Products; swimwear, apparel, jewelry, marine art, etc. Most retail stores that focus on soft goods as opposed to hard goods see a dramatic increase in total revenue and gross profits.

The second reason the business of diving has changed is because of the digitization of text, images and objects. New computer hardware and software has been developed in the past 20 years, making our daily tasks easier, faster and more professional. Our advertising and marketing methods have become so sophisticated that even small business entrepreneurs can successfully operate, manage and analyze their business quickly and easily. Reaching and communicating with our customers has never been as easy and professional as it is today.

The third reason our industry has changed is because our customer base has changed. Boomers no longer rule. We’re old, we’re tired and we don’t dive as much. Of course, when we do, we spend a lot of money doing it. More so than some new divers. But that is not going to last very much longer, I’m sad to say. Still, a new generation is coming into their own. They are educated, employed and spending money on recreation. It’s our job to determine who they are, where they get their purchasing information, where they buy, when they buy, why they buy and how they buy. That should be the goal of every Dive Industry Professional Business today.

A third reason, of course is the covid pandemic and all the changes that have happened because of it. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but the pandemic has changed the way we recreate, travel and allocate our time.

The fourth, and final reason I want to mention (although there are more), is that the business landscape has changed. From my perspective, and I normally follow over 8,000 Dive Industry Professionals, Worldwide, I have personally seen many changes. I have noticed that many Island and Country Tourism Bureaus have laid off their Marketing Representatives and temporarily closed their offices. Tourism Bureaus, collectively have done a very poor job of communicating with their former customers during the pandemic. As the pandemic situation improves I am pretty confident they will hire new people, rent new office space and make an attempt to get their old clients back. Talk about reinventing the wheel. The Resort Destinations have had a very difficult time with lack of support from tourist revenue or from their own governments. Some have closed down, some are waiting to reopen, and a few are back in business. The Industry’s Dive Travel Wholesalers, for the most part, have been working their butts off during the pandemic. Dealing with airline and resort cancellations and refunds have been a nightmare for them. Servicing their account base of Retail Dive Travel Specialists has become a full time job and more. It is difficult to know how many Retail Dive Stores we lost during the pandemic. We know it’s a lot, but we will not know for sure until we ask and get answers back.

Can we agree that the business landscape has changed? So, what is the industry doing about it? For the most part, nothing. As pandemic restrictions are lifted, many Dive Industry Professionals will try to go back to the way it was before the crises. I personally don’t think that is wise. Things have changed. We need to change. But how? Before we can answer that question we need to get some information from the International Dive Business Community.

In my next article (blog) I will lay out what the Dive Industry Foundation is doing to redefine the Channels of Distribution that we use in the recreational diving industry to move programs, products and services from Conception to Consumption. The article is called, Stand Up And Be Counted. The Blog will be published on www.diveindustry.org It is all about four major surveys being conducted by the non-profit Foundation. Hitting the streets this month are four Industry-Wide Surveys for Dive Manufacturers, Manufacturing Sales Reps, Retail Dive Stores and the Dive Travel Industry.

You may have already seen three of the four surveys in the Dive Industry Association’s Weekly Dive News last Tuesday. If not, see them now at Weekly Dive News

Our Mission at the Dive Industry Association is to use the results of the surveys conducted by the Dive Industry Foundation and redefine the Channels of Distribution for the sectors that sell Diving Equipment, Training, Travel and Lifestyle Products. With an established channel of distribution for each sector, our Mission will change to bringing Buyers & Sellers together for mutual benefit. As more buyers and sellers do business, it is a matter of professional marketing to grow the size of the recreational diving market and grow the industry.

As a Dive Industry Professional, isn’t that what you want too?

For more information, contact:
Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Foundation
gene@diveindustry.org

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Editorial – June 2021

Reinventing The Diving Industry.
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
Dive Industry Professional

I almost called this editorial, It Is What It Is. But I remembered what former President Bill Clinton once said; “It all depends on what your definition of is, is.” Meaning that the post-pandemic recovery of our recreation is going to be different than it was before, even though we don’t know exactly what it is going to be like. So I guess we’ll just have to reinvent the way we do business and make it up as we go. Hence the title, Reinventing the diving industry.

So here we are, 70 years later, reinventing the recreation of scuba diving and its related water sports. Many things have changed since the beginning of our recreation and we have learned a lot in the past 70 years. Those of us still working in the industry know many things that worked in the past and many things that did not. Hopefully we won’t make the same mistakes twice. In most professional careers, the first time we do it for love, the second time we do it for money. But I have a Hybrid solution – This time, let’s do it for both!

To me, the business of diving is all about three things. The products we sell, the people we sell to, and the means we use to make an exchange possible. Two of the three concepts have not changed in hundreds of years. One is constantly changing and that will take some training and education on our part to make it work for us in the new century.

The International Diving Community is made up of Buyers and Sellers. People who buy stuff are Divers and the people who sell stuff are business people. We call them Dive Industry Professionals. Buyers and sellers meet at a market place to make an exchange that benefits both of them. The more that buyers know about the sellers and their products, the more informed they are as consumers. The more that sellers know about their potential customers, the better they are at meeting their needs. The right product, for the right person, at the right price.

The business of diving in the international diving community is mainly about the sales of diving equipment, training programs, dive travel, and lifestyle products. As we move into the post-pandemic recovery, it is so important that we create and sell quality products at a reasonable price that meets the needs of our customers. A person only becomes a customer of ours if they have a need for our product, a desire to acquire it, and the financial ability to purchase it.

The concept that is forever changing in our society is the means we use to bring our customers and our products together. We use the word Marketing, to describe the process of moving products from Concepcion to Consumption. The marketing tools we have available to us in the 21st century has never been better, thanks to the digitization of words, objects, and images. If any of the three mentioned concepts (Products – Customers – Marketing) need to be reinvented to rebuild our industry, it’s this one.

So as we venture off into the post-pandemic recovery, let’s stay close to our knitting and become Masters of Three Disciplines. Product Management – Customer Management – Marketing Management.

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Editorial – May 2021

Is the tide ready to come back In?
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
Dive Industry Professional

They say the tide cannot start to come back in until it has stopped going out. I guess that also applies to the economic development of the recreational diving industry. Problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are still hurting our dive businesses and the negative aftermath is still going to be with us for at least another year. Let’s look at what has happened to our industry.

The first quarter of 2020 was a good one for most of us. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters of 2020 were a disaster. So was the 1st quarter of 2021. Things started to improve in the 2nd quarter of this year and I believe they will be better than last year as time moves on. I don’t foresee a speedy recovery for our industry and things will definitely not return to the way they were before the pandemic. Here’s why I believe that.

In 2019, the manufacturing sector was purchasing raw materials and creating inventory at capacity. There were approximately 1,400 – 1,500 retail stores with ongoing educational and travel programs, and they had sufficient inventory. Two years later, the industry is suffering from the negative momentum of decreased sales and business closures. We are talking to manufacturers today who are either low on inventory or out of stock on key product lines. It’s going to take time to bring their inventory levels up to meet any kind of increase in demand. We believe that a number of dive stores have gone out of business and many of the marginal ones have painfully low stock levels. I am afraid that too many stores spent their limited resources paying their overhead in the past two years instead of replenishing their inventory. Since many stores cut out their travel programs and cut back or cut out their training programs, replenishing their inventory was not a high priority with them last year. If demand for classes and travel return this year, in any amount, replenishing inventory will be the number one priority for stores that want to stay in business.

I believe we are at the crossroads of a very complex year. By this time in May, the industry should be gearing up for a successful season, based on the planning that normally takes place six months before the new season. Manufacturers normally place orders with their OEM’s for their products based on dealer orders they receive in the fall. That didn’t happen last year. This year, retail inventory levels are down, many fill in orders are on back order, new classes have just started for a small percentage of the dive stores, and travel programs are either on hold or are getting cancelled due to COVID-19 fears. I just had a FAM Trip to Curacao cancelled last week.

We’ve spoken to a number of Sales Reps recently and not all of them are on the road yet. It’s very expensive for Reps to make one-on-one sales calls, and the orders they are getting is not sufficient to cover their costs. Of course, there are exceptions and the State of Florida may be that exception. However, let’s be honest about our projections. Florida accounts for about 17% of the dive stores in the U.S. I would estimate that we account for over 25% of the sales revenue for the industry. Florida is currently open for business. Some of the small to medium dive stores are doing OK, but not everyone.

Now for the bad news. The 2021 Hurricane Season starts June 1 and runs through November 30. Researchers at Colorado State University have named 17 storms for this year, eight of which are expected to become hurricanes. We are praying for a mild Atlantic Hurricane Season but preparing for an above-average Atlantic Hurricane Season. I fear that a bad Florida Dive Season this year will have a very negative impact on our plans for a 2022 industry recovery.

With all of that harsh reality talk behind us now, let’s come up with a recovery plan, that starts with salvaging this year’s season, and not put all of our eggs into the “2022 is going to be a great year” basket. We need input from the Dive Equipment Sales Reps who are on the road. We need to have an open dialog with the dive stores that are still in business. We need status reports from equipment manufacturers, training agencies and travel businesses. A few things we will be looking at this month are the numbers of initial certifications compared to last year; this year’s sales revenue compared to last year; the number of dive stores that are still in business, and the dollar value of existing inventories. A major bit of information we need is the number of Dive Industry Professionals who are going, not going, or undecided about going to DEMA Show this November. We need to know how many equipment and travel buyers will be attending the show in spite of possible bad weather, unpredictable travel arrangements, possible prolonged covid restrictions and an ever-declining or non-existent open-to-buy budget they will be dealing with at the time.

With the above data collected from the industry, we can put a sensible plan together to determine where we are as an industry, how bad the pandemic has affected our economic development and what we can do to return to sustainable numbers. This is an all hands on deck request. We will start with our Retail Dive Store Survey and our Manufacturing Sales Rep Survey that are posted to our website. In the weeks to come the Dive Industry Association will create a few more surveys to gage our industry’s current economic situation.

For more information, contact Gene Muchanski at gene@diveindustry.net

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What Dive Stores Say About Dive Travel Wholesalers

DIA - Wholesalers (2)What Dive Stores Say About Their Dive Travel Wholesalers
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

This is a follow-up article to one I wrote on January 26, 2021, entitled “Why it’s Better to Use A Dive Travel Wholesaler for Your Group Bookings.”  Article Link  You can (and should) read the article yourself, but the basic idea of the article was to give Dive Stores, from a wholesalers point of view, solid reasons why they should use Dive Travel Wholesalers when they book their group trips.  We asked six prominent  Dive Travel Wholesalers for their input, and we received some of the best advice in the industry on what a dive store can expect when working with them.

Now that we had input and advice from Professional Dive Travel Wholesalers, we contacted three successful Dive Travel Specialists who used Roatan Charter for their group trip planning.  We asked them why they used Dive Travel Wholesalers and what the benefits were.

We spoke with Jolene Philbrook from Adventure Dive & Photo Center in Maple Grove, MN.  Jolene has seven group trips on the books this year.  Very impressive in these times.  Jolene gave us three major reasons why she books with Debbie Helms at Roatan Charter.

1) One-Stop-Shop for Information:  It doesn’t matter what I’m looking for…best airline pricing, layover hotel info, a foodie resort, top-side adventures…I communicate what I’m looking for and Debbie’s experience with each location’s providers helps me determine the right destination and resort for my travelers’ needs.”

2) Lessen Risk:  Dive shop owners are busy with the ins-and-outs of the business, so I appreciate that Roatan Charter is watching deposit deadlines, drop dates, and all the details needed to help me minimize risk and ensure a successful and profitable booking!”

3) Damage Control:  Debbie has always assisted in any travel “fire.”  Even helping folks that miss their flight by rebooking with the least amount of penalties and lowest cost.  We had a group of 24 people in Palau when the U.S. called all international travelers back to the States in March of 2020.  The last flight back to the U.S. was scheduled to leave in 3 days, which cut our trip 7 nights short.  Debbie secured all new return flights and even helped rebook traveler’s domestic flights (which she hadn’t even initially booked).  She goes above and beyond.  Always.”

“As a group travel retailer, there are many unknows that highlight the risk in this season.  However, using Roatan Charter and enjoying a trusted relationship with Debbie and her team, helps ease concerns and lessen our risk.  Despite COVID19 and the international travel headaches of our day, I’m willing to plunge forward and continue offering group dive travel with Debbie’s attention, experience, and skill in my corner!”

We next contacted Capt. Jerry L. Portwood from the Dive Shack USA in Bullhead City, Arizona.  Captain Jerry laid out many reasons why a Dive Retailer should use Dive Travel Wholesalers instead of trying to do everything themselves.  Jerry was also lavish with his praise of Debbie Helms from Roatan Charter.  “Travel wholesalers, especially Debbie Helms with Roatan Charter, Inc. provide a service that equates to time and money savings for myself and the dive facility.”

“For many years, I booked direct dive trips with the resorts and operators as well as the airlines.  All very time consuming and each had their agenda for boking, deposits, payments and “PENALTIES”.  Often, confusing and often different dates of requirements.  Thus, providing a negative impact on myself in stress and financially, should I miss a required payment date, resulting in said penalties.”

“Time and money are the down falls of trying to do “it all”.  The more time personally spent, takes away from the retail and student ratios and profit margins.  I am cut thinner and thinner trying to do it all.  Then, comes the travel wholesaler.  A one stop, one shop provider of my wants and needs for adventure.  Rather than staying thin, I start to fatten up with less stress, less worries and less time invested in a travel program.  The question is more profit.”

“I call Debbie Helms at Roatan Charter, Inc., give her a few options on the wants and requests of clients, she has a larger and more educated system of working with the resorts and negotiating price, perks or even just a coffee pot in the room.  In a matter of hours typically, I have a quote.  I process the information in a short manner of time and can say yea or nay.  Thus, the travel wholesaler becomes my broker and does a very large percentage of up front foot work.”

“Why Debbie?  I consider her a professional that always goes the extra mile to make it right, even during the tough times as now and the past year.  She has a great personality and finds the answers when needed.  She is available!  Most of all, I consider her “my” friend, a very small circle.”

Curt Wilson & Carly Bradley – Fisheye Scuba, Folsom, CA:  We had to connect and reconnect with Curt & Carly because they were on their way, the next day, to Cozumel, Mexico with 30 of their customers.  Yes, less than 2 months ago.  We spoke with Curt on Friday and he told us that working with Dive Travel Wholesalers had more benefits than trying to do it all yourself.  Curt said that Debbie Helms from Roatan Charter was “easy to work with” and his trip to Cozumel was proof of that.  Two days later, while in Cozumel, Curt sent us a very nice email.

“Hi Gene.  It’s Curt & Carly from Fisheye Scuba in Folsom, CA.  We spoke on Friday about this email.  I’ve done both, booking directly with the resorts and used a “Dive Wholesaler.”  In the beginning I did everything directly with the resorts.  Then, one day I ran across Debbie from Roatan Charter.  Debbie has the same “Group” pricing and at times even better pricing than going direct with the resort.  I found it much easier to work with the wholesaler than with the resorts.  The “wholesaler” already has 99% of any question answered.  If you have ever tried to get an answer quickly directly from the resort, you know it can be taxing.  Therefore, it only makes sense to use them.”

“My question to other retailers would be? Why would you not use one?”

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DIA_TRAVEL_LOGOSo there you have it.  Comments and advice from other Retail Stores that have a successful travel program, to Retail Stores that either don’t have a travel program or  are struggling with their current program.  We hope this article helps you create or improve the dive travel program in your store.

For more information on becoming a Dive Travel Specialist or Group Travel Leader, contact Gene Muchanski at Dive Industry Association.  Phone: 321-914-3778.  email: gene@diveindustry.net 

 

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Editorial – April 2021

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.

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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.

SWAG

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.

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Editorial – March 2021

Do Your Customers Still Remember You?
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
Dive Industry Professional

The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us but thankfully, people are starting to travel again.  I’m participating in a FAM Trip to Curacao in May and I’m all excited about getting back in the water.   Ask Debbie Helms, at Roatan Charter about the Curacao FAM Trip.  We are in the process of contacting Qualified Travel Buyers from our database of current Dive Stores and the ones that we kept in touch with during the pandemic will be the first ones on our list to contact.  What about the others? Well, they didn’t keep in touch with us and I have no idea if they are still in business.  Out of sight – Out of mind.  Maybe even Out of Business!  One of our Members has a FAM Trip going to the Maldives in September.  We’ll do our best to contact active Dive Travel Buyers, but the same situation applies.  Which ones are open for business?  Which ones are booking trips again?  It’s time to focus on the dive businesses that have stayed active during the pandemic and have kept in touch with their customers along the way.  When you are advertising a FAM Trip to the Maldives that is so spectacular, you want to make sure you are offering it to the best of the best Dive Travel Specialists.  Contact Mark Potter at www.massdiving.com for information about the Maldives FAM Trip.

The same concept applies for Dive Resorts and Liveaboards.  Which ones are we booking and which ones are we doing FAM Trips for?  You got it.  The ones we’ve kept in contact with all along and have kept in contact with us.  Now, I don’t want to sound harsh or vindictive.  It’s human nature to do business with people that you know.  People you like.  And people you have a good working relationship with.  When you are in the business of bringing Buyers and Sellers together, you owe it to both parties to hook up the best buyers to the best sellers.  That’s the business we are in.

As you are easing back into the recreational dive business, we have some pointers that we’ve picked up from our Members.   Let’s look at the sellers of Dive Equipment, Training and Travel.

Dive Equipment Manufacturers:  Above all, know your vendors.  Do you see any changes in their selling approach?  Do they still adhere to the traditional “Channels of Distribution?” i.e. Manufacturer – Sales Rep – Retailer – Customer.  Do they still support you or are they thinking about by-passing you and going directly to the final consumer?  If they are still your supply channel partner, do they have sufficient inventory and adequate service and training?  It’s time to renew your relationship with them and get your inventory up to speed.

Training Agency:  How many Training Agencies are you paying dues to?  It’s not about offering every certification from all 50+ Training Agencies anymore.  It’s about offering your customers the best program that’s out there and cutting back on your expenses and marketing efforts.  You can’t be all things to all people anymore.   You have  to choose what is best for you, your business and your customers.  Look at your certification history and your training programs.  Who do you need to do business with and who can you cut?  Offer the best training that suites your needs and the needs of your customers and promote that.

Travel:  Do you have a travel program?  Remember that travel is a top motivator for people to learn to dive and buy their gear.  As I said, my FAM Trip is 60 days away but I already sent our regulators in for service.  I need two new full wetsuits and two wetsuit shorties.  (I think I’ll try the new Hendersons).  I need two new video lights and I think I’ll get a new hand held light for night dives.  Would I have done that if I didn’t have a dive trip planned?  Of course not.  This trip is going to cost me more in new gear than in the FAM Trip costs.

If you are a Qualified Dive Travel Specialist, do you have a history and a good working relationship with any Dive Resorts or Liveaboards?  Are you using a Dive Travel Wholesaler?  Do you participate in FAM Trips to experience new Dive Resorts and Liveaboards or do you go back to the same old place, over and over again?  Have you tied in your Equipment Sales and Specialty Training to your Dive Trips?   

During the pandemic, have you kept in touch with your Dive Travel Wholesaler?  How about your favorite Dive Resorts and Liveaboards?  Have you contacted the Tourism Bureau for your favorite Islands or Dive Destinations?  We always ask our Dive Operators if they let any of their staff go during the pandemic and what changes they might have made to their operation.  We also like to know how “back to normal” they are.  As you are planning your dive trips, please remember that resorts may have made changes to their resort, restaurant, and dive operation.  Check it out before you plan another dive trip there.  And if I haven’t said it enough, Use a Dive Travel Wholesaler.  We have a list of them at www.diveindustrynews.net/dive-directory/ 

Post Pandemic Reconstruction:  Dive Industry Association is here to help you get back in the game.  We are recreating Local Diving Communities across the globe.  We are putting the pieces back together to strengthen our Industry’s “Channels of Distribution.”    We are bringing Buyers & Sellers together to help each other meet their needs.  And most of all, we are keeping in touch with Dive Industry Professionals to help get them back into the water again and get them back into operating their business again.

For the average diver it’s all about learning to dive, buying their gear, going diving and staying active.  Can you help them with that?

Contact Gene Muchanski at gene@diveindustry.net for more information on the Dive Industry Association.  www.diveindustry.net 

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