Marketing your ATO - How, Why, Where?
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
As specialists in aviation marketing, particularly for flight schools and ATOs, we've gathered an encyclopaedia of knowledge on the flight training industry and how to approach your marketing strategy.
There are a range of business sizes, types and training offerings scattered throughout the flight training ecosystem. Academies and schools range from local flying clubs and modular ATO's, all the way through to integrated flight schools and specialist training providers that provide a standalone part of the flight training journey.
And yet, regardless of stature, cadet population or reputation, the same questions are always asked of the Colossal team from many different flight schools...
How much should I budget?
Where do I even start with marketing?
Why should I even do marketing?
There are usually a myriad other questions, but these are the most common, and thankfully the easiest to answer!
1. How much should I budget for marketing?
This is an important question and it isn't unique to aviation. Most smaller flight schools, aviation consultancies or small airlines don't have large marketing budgets - if any budget at all. Marketing is seldom the first thing you think of, and is usually the last piece of the puzzle (and often most overlooked).
The long short of it is something you probably wouldn't expect us to say, but honestly, if you're just starting out, the answer is £0.
The real answer isn't measured in money, but time. The real value of your marketing budget can be set out in how much time you want to commit to it, and that is where we, Colossal Motion, come in. Not everyone has the time and we offer cost-effective management plans for your social media, content, website and marketing collateral.
At this point it's important to understand what we mean when we say 'marketing'. Some treat marketing as an overarching term that covers advertising, social media campaigns, PR, design, websites and more. We do not think of it like this. Marketing, as in the art of promotion, is not the same as advertising or PR, and instead looks at the culture, brand and service offering of your business and how to make this appeal to your demographics.
Now, the reason we create this distinction is because marketing value is measured in time, while advertising and PR is valued in monetary gain. You can employ a marketing strategy for no monetary cost, all it takes is a bit of time.
Managing your social media, making website content changes, setting up open days, creating internal documents and collateral - these are all things that you, or someone in your team can or could do. Again, it's just a matter of time, not budget.
The irony is that if you don't have the time that means you're busy, and contrary to resting on your laurels it's important to identify that if you're too busy to commit to any marketing at all it means you're on the cusp of growth. This would be the ideal time to ensure your marketing strategy and implementation is on point, and we here at Colossal have the expertise and skills to push your marketing game to the next level and facilitate that growth.
2. Where do I even start with marketing?
This is always a close second to asking about marketing budget. For those that aren't marketing savvy the idea of doing your own marketing, let alone asking someone else to do it, is daunting beyond belief.
What am I trying to say? What's my brands voice? How do I get the message out there? Should I have every social media account? What content should I be putting out? How will marketing actually help my business? - The list of questions makes it hard to start before you've even thought about starting. The good thing is we're here, and we have all of the answers you seek.
There are three main elements you need to think about when it comes to starting your marketing efforts. Each is just as important as the other, but actioned in isolation they fall short of their collective power when utilised together:
Brand - This is everything. Your logo, colour scheme and fonts form the basis of your brand and need to remain consistent in everything you do. Brand is important for portraying your business as professional, trustworthy and reliable. Inconsistent branding often leads to disjointed sales, unprofessional public opinion and decreased engagement online.
We've taken a variety of aviation businesses and flight schools through complete brand set-ups and full scale rebrands, rolling out new logos, colour schemes, typography, layouts and graphical styles to entire organisations in a seamless and smooth branding service.
Website - This is your encyclopaedia/repository/source of all knowledge to do with your flight school. It should be easy to navigate, clean, contain all of the information a student would want and need, and can act as a platform for you to put out larger updates such as news, blogs and press releases.
Aside from having a modern design it needs to work, and work well. A common mistake most businesses make, aviation or not, is that they withhold information thinking they don't want to give away too much in one go. This is NOT proactive or efficient. In this day and age the easier it is to access information in one go, the better return you'll get from those that are genuinely interested. Remember who your target audience is - they are technologically capable, far more so than any other generation, so your website has to really hit the mark.
Social Media - This can often be the trickiest and most time consuming, but the golden rule here is that content is king. For ATOs the biggest and best piece of content you can put out is the success of your students and cadets, whether it be something small like a PPL skills test pass, or something huge like a graduate securing their first airline job. This is gold dust and will build your social following immensely, as well as build your reputation for great training and successful graduates.
Remember, success breeds success, and the more you shout about it the more you'll get, both form your own cadets and new enquiries wanting to train with you. Social media plays a very large part with your aviators, and in particular Instagram, where thousands of individuals blog and post their way through their flight training and often continue on into their professional aviation lives.
Colossal Motion offer all of these services and more, and we've managed the growth and success of many ATO social media platforms and websites. Of course, the other thing to remember is that brand is key to all of this and maintaining your branding across every digital window is key to ensuring you maximise your marketing success.
Start with your brand, even if its something simple but clean, and get website and social media accounts aligned. Make sure your website is up to spec, modern and informative, and ensure your social media croutons breed yours and your students success as much as possible.
3. Why should I even do marketing?
This question is very common, but thankfully is the easiest one to answer.
Basically, if you don't need to do it, don't do it. There is no point in us trying to convince you that you should be marketing if you don't need to do it. That being said how do you know you don't need it?
As mentioned earlier in this article, if you're busy and don't have time for marketing then that means you're on the cusp of growth. Investing in marketing now will ensure you capture that growth and lay the foundation for future growth. Some are happy to be busy and maintain their workload without adding more, but if you're truly looking to expand your training offering then marketing, whether you do it yourself or through a specialist like Colossal Motion, is key to your success.
There are also schools that will be at the opposite end of the spectrum. Those that aren't busy and desperately need marketing to push their messages, brand and training offerings out into the world. You are the perfect proponent for doing your own marketing, and we at Colossal are always on hand to offer free advice to those that need it.
Regardless of where you're at or how busy you are one thing remains consistent. You still need students or cadets to keep you busy, and the best way to do this is with a well executed marketing strategy built around the three easiest components to marketing success - brand, website and social media.
You may be busy now, but things can change quickly. Your competitors can quickly overtake you with a marketing strategy all of their own, leaving you to play second fiddle. It's not always a question of doing what works well, because nowadays what works today probably won't work next year, or the year after. We're adept at staying ahead of the curve, having worked with aviation business and flight schools for many years, on multiple continents, of all sizes. We keep you ahead of the curve and ahead of the competition.
Marketing within your own constraints
To finish off we'd like to also say a bit about marketing within your own constraints. A little can go a long way, if managed correctly. Remember your own constraints as a business, and apply this to how you could potentially run your own marketing. We exist to remove those constraints and offer insights and advice in a way that allows you the freedom to do what you love.
We also offer free advice, and in many situations a free consultation session for any ATO's, aviation businesses or other flight schools that are at odds with what to do with their marketing.
You can get in touch with our Creative Director, Kieron, directly - firstname.lastname@example.org - all you need to say is you read this article and you'd like to book a free consultation. Kieron works with some of the largest flight schools around the world, on three continents, as well as previously working with Amazon, Eurosport and SEGA in previous marketing and business roles.