Marketing for Dive Centres

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In these troubled economic times, there is a sad reality about the state of the recreational diving industry. We forecast that in 2009-10:

  • Between 10% and 20% of all dive centres will fail and/or close
  • Around 30% of dive centres will either break even or lose money
  • Only about 40% of dive centres will make a small profit
  • Only a small number (10%) will do well, grow or expand

Every dive centre owner wants to be a sucess. You want your dive centre to be profitable enough to cover your lifestyle, your expectations, and your future. And you want your dive centre to have a good value when you come to retire or move on to another activity.

So what makes the difference between the sucessful dive centres and the also-rans? The simple answer is often the quality of their marketing. While some managers are chasing around after every piece of business, the sucessful companies often appear to be doing 'nothing special', and in the end, are achieving more business with less effort. They have a marketing plan which guides how they operate, how they promote, how they spend and how they make money. It may not be written down, it may not pass a marketing exam or corporate audit, but by at least having thought about and rationalised six main areas of a marketing plan; these companies are able to maintain or grow their market while others activity centres struggle.

The well marketed dive centres are easy to spot - they have clear messages on all their marketing and advertising materials. They use simple phrases and concepts. They get their message across professionally but firmly, and they give a general air of being well organised and knowledgeable about their diving.

Six Questions that Sucessful Diving Centres can Answer

The six principles that dive centres need to include in their marketing plan are:

  • A clear vision of who their customers are, and what these customers are looking for.
  • A focus on what products or services they want to sell to these customers.
  • A good understanding of why people will buy from them.
  • Knowing and planning when to make offers, when to sell at full price.
  • Understanding where you are, the local diving, people, culture (your 'local market') and also making sure that where you operate (your dive centre) gives the right service impression to that market.
  • Knowing how to create a set of 'brand values' which you deliver through your staff and promote through your publicity.

This set of six marketing questions was concieved by Rudyard Kipling :"I Keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who."

Tips and Tricks to get more out of your Market

This website has been put together to help dive centre managers use a series of tried and tested 'marketing' tips and tricks. Some of these may show a quick return, but many of these (such as web marketing) are only likely to show results over the medium or long term. Sometimes it is possible to use some of the tricks in isolation, but often you will find that they work better together.

All dive centres and small businesses are constrained by two resources .. one is money and the other is management time. We would all prefer to be out in the water, exploring a new wreck or reef, than sitting down, coming up with a business plan which at first may only seem to tell you what you already know. It is therefore important to recognise beforehand how much effort you will need to invest to undertake certain tasks. Advanced tricks such as database marketing can be very effective, but also require a fair amount of time to get the best out of them.

So how can you use this site ? If you are new to the ideas of marketing, then you can follow a step by step approach to build your own marketing plan. The first step is to use some of the worksheets to define who your customers are, analyse which are your main services and then where you get your business from. Try to complete a revenue or profit breakdown to see just what is working, and what is not. Then sit down, and decide where you want to be in the future. To get more business are you going to grow an existing channel (e.g. walk-in, internet, referral), or grow an existing sector (eg courses, try-dives, snorkelling or qualified divers). Finally see if any of the traditional marketing strategies will work for you and set yourself some goals to achieve them.

Then work out some promotional plans in relation to the channel or sector you have chosen, then try some of the marketing tricks and hints to get more out of your marketing time and money.