MarketBlog: Yes, Sales Promos Really Work

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Would a $5000 sales promotion make you think twice about exchanging your engine for a premium rebuilt RAM IO-550? If you are nearing TBO and a few weeks of airplane downtime will work out, it just might. For GA manufacturers and service providers of all kinds, sales promotions are the “call to action” that some companies never quite harness. In sales training, this is called “make an irresistible offer and ask for the order.”

While it's a good idea to consistently support your brand with lead-generating advertising, PR, e-blasts and trade shows, if you need to move inventory periodically, what then? Create the irresistible offer and let your advertising ask for the order. Notice all of the special deals available from our advertisers right now? These companies recognize that aircraft owners are consumers too—and pilots respond to special offers just like any other consumer cohort.

Would you be more likely to buy a new Husky from Aviat if it included a guided back-country fishing expedition worth $10,000? Would you trade in your old alternator to get $150 credit toward a PlanePower branded unit built only for GA use?

For the past month, a number of leading GA marketers who advertise consistently in AVweb are running old-fashioned sales promotion solo e-blasts and special offers in AVweb’s Flash or Biz. Their offers are designed to nudge stingy owner-pilots like me with time-limited incentives to buy new equipment—in the form of rebates, discounts and trade-ins.

Having just upgraded my P-210’s alternator (before the rebates, of course), PlanePower’s $150 rebate would have been about a 20 percent discount and the savings would have been enough to fill one of my 45-gallon wing tanks to the tabs with bargain 100LL. Interestingly, Lightspeed, a consistently agile marketer of premium ANR headsets, offers a “bounty” (western style) on Bose headsets—presumably not A20s. But their trade-in program might just switch owners permanently to their brand.

Electronics International is offering discounts up to $1000 on its entire multifunction engine monitoring product line, while Aspen is offering $1000 discounts on Evolution EFIS and ADS-B value packages. Avidyne has offered discounted in/out ADS-B deals when you buy a new IFD-540 system. RAM, which offers high-performance, premium Continental reman TSIO-520, GTSIO-520, IO-520 and TS/IO-550 engines, offers a model-by-model inventory reduction sale, with $2000 to $5000 off for operators who fly a Baron, Bonanza, 206, T-210, 340, 402, 421 or 310. A $5000 nudge would get my attention.

These are all effective short-term tactics—with long-range strategic implications. The idea is to get prospects to make a buy, add some value—and win them over for the long term. The quarter’s top-line sales improve, the brand penetrates deeper into the prospect universe and the inventory on hand shrinks.

What’s not to like?

Lower margins, of course. But these companies are not necessarily “buying” a customer as much as they are building long-term relationships. Most of these companies rely on distributors, with the exception of Avidyne, which sells direct. With dealers or distributors, the manufacturer and the reseller probably share in a little less margin. But with a smart sales promotion, the reseller’s phone rings more often and their website’s check out carts fill up faster. Could airframe manufacturers learn something from this? Absolutely.

Aircraft manufacturers try sales promos occasionally, but it’s hard to find one that is doing anything aggressive at present. Car companies get it and their offers are sometimes so convoluted that it’s difficult to tell whether buyers really save money or get extra value. But the car companies do sell millions of units every year and have deep data resources to tell them how to reach buyers with the right offer.

In GA, with about 1000 non-turbine airframes sold in 2015 (and about the same or less forecast for year’s end in 2016), some models sell in the dozens, not millions, so enhancing the value proposition takes some chess master promotional thinking. Most GA airframe advertising fails to drive sales effectively because there is almost never a call to action, which is the heart of sales promotion. Airframers could at least offer a webinar, a video, a weekend demo experience—anything other than a headline and a beauty shot of their product.

But not all airframers miss the mark. Here’s an example: Stu Horn, CEO of Aviat, has run ads that promote the Husky lifestyle very well. He has also toyed with the idea of offering a special guided back country trout fishing/hiking/camping trip for a group of Husky buyers. These buyers would get the experience of a lifetime, meet other owners and find out just what their airplanes will do in spectacular surroundings. Stu hasn’t decided whether he can pull this off—he’s worried he might be overwhelmed by owners and prospects who want in.

If you’re selling a G36 Bonanza or a Cessna TTX or a Mirage—why not offer something like that? An air safari to the islands of the Caribbean with like-minded owners, with discounted hotels, cars, fuel and pre-planned golf, sailing or related activities? Cirrus has tried to lure high-end buyers (think $20 million net-worth CEOs) with special events branded as the “Cirrus Life.” Can’t find any evidence that this tactic is working, but the idea is to put owners together in places where they can fly in, hang out, and network. Think pancake breakfast for the caviar set. Sales promotion works, no matter your product’s cost or your prospect’s net worth.

If you’re marketing in general aviation, test your irresistible offer, customize it as much as possible to fit your prospect, then ask for the order. Give prospects the extra value and the nudge they need to buy and you just might find that more of them do.

Comments (5)

Marketing, marketing, marketing.

Nearly every consumer-products industry knows the importance of building and maintaining a market. Our local supermarkets entice us with sale items every week. Advertisers push the image of a brand. Fast-food companies give us close-ups of luscious-looking cheeseburgers that make us want to go out and gobble them up.

Cirrus must be doing something right in building and maintaining their market. The GAMA stats show that they've sold more of their pricey planes this year than any other single-engine piston manufacturer.

Posted by: Rollin Olson | November 21, 2016 8:09 AM    Report this comment

Part of Marketing is going where no one has ever been before. In the sixties we marketed outside the box - it worked then.

"Marketing is "The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably." -- The Chartered Institute of Marketing

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 21, 2016 1:43 PM    Report this comment

And sometimes Marketing CREATES prevoiusly-nonexistent customer requirements. Microwave ovens; cell phones; autonomous aircraft... ;-)

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | November 21, 2016 3:58 PM    Report this comment

Marketing of new Cessnas SE prop has downgraded to flogging the "aging" existing fleet to a pulp as beaters. Where is the spirit of Elvinn Schoenberg?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 21, 2016 5:06 PM    Report this comment

Good promotion. "Cessna will donate four new, custom-branded Skyhawk 172 airplanes to college programs early next year, the company announced on Monday. The four airplanes will go to Eastern Kentucky University, Ohio State University, ..."

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 21, 2016 8:32 PM    Report this comment

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