Online marketing for sailing schools
We work a lot in the private education sector, and many of our clients happen to be international language schools, dotted around the globe. In many ways, sailing schools experience very similar digital marketing challenges as our language school clients.
It's only an economic theory, but language schools and sailing schools in some ways get very close to the perfect competition paradigm. You both offer ubiquitous, internationally recognised qualifications, making the courses which lead to the certifications appear to be interchangeable.
In English schools, the Cambridge IELTS exam attests to an internationally accepted standard of English. In the yachting world, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) provides a suite of qualifications which attest to an internationally understood level of seamanship, regardless of the quality of the sailing school.
Both sectors also have itinerant instructors who could work for a host of different schools, further playing to the perfect competition model. This has the effect of driving down course fees. In a capital intensive industry such as sailing, with the high costs of school boats, safety equipment, mooring and maintenance, it's vital to try and differentiate as much as possible in order to maintain acceptable levels of profitability.
The challenge to differentiate your school
This all makes it very difficult to set yourself apart as a training organisation. Even if you have genuine unique selling points, such as the best fleet of boats, truly inspirational teachers and the most conveniently located premises, it can still be hard for busy, time-poor potential clients to stay around on your website for long enough to understand your discernible differences.
Online marketing for sailing schools - 5 quick tips
Here are just 5 ways that your sailing school can harness the power of online (digital) marketing to stay ahead of the fleet. We have many more tips and tricks up our sleeves.
Conduct an SEO audit to really understand how you position online. Use the findings to understand which keywords your potential sailing clients are using when they are searching online. It could be that some of the most popular search terms are eluding you. Once you have a clear picture of where you stand, how you rank, and who your competitors really are, you can start to take the appropriate actions to find your natural position online. In so doing, you begin to respond more precisely to actual demand. As a natural progression, your ability to adapt to that demand becomes your point of differentiation.
What are you actually selling?
It's not just a course with a certificate. Sailing is an aspirational, luxury pastime which is resource intensive - your clients need time, money and other people to do it. The lifestyle is a key part of the mix, so never miss an opportunity to celebrate not only what sailing is, but also what it represents. Use rich imagery, video, audio and other media to bring what you do to life.
Put yourself in your clients' (non-marking) shoes
Sailing can feel quite cliquey from the outside. Once you're in, you're fine, but try and remember how newcomers to the sport might feel. What are their apprehensions? What do they need to know to feel safe? The more you can speak to clients' implied needs, the more you'll stand out as a sailing school of discernable quality.
Don't just throw money at Google to stay ahead
Remember that you might not need to pay exorbitant amounts of money to Google Adwords every month just to be the top ad for "sailing schools uk". We're all a bit trigger happy when searching online and sometimes it's good to let the competition take the hit financially on paid search. Instead, seek out the more discerning online customers, and play to their more sophisticated requirements (we can show you how). If you choose to use Google Adwords, set clear profit and return-on-investment targets and be honest about whether it's working.
Remember that online marketing is just marketing online
So often, sailing schools think of "online marketing" as being something very different from "plain old marketing". If you think online marketing is just about getting more followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, then you're potentially missing a trick. Marketing is all about meeting customer needs profitably. No need to change that perspective when it comes to online marketing. Use your digital insights as market research to understand your sailing course participants' needs and respond accordingly.
A bit about the Disquiet Dogs
Disquiet Dog's MD, Richard, windsurfed competitively at university and became an RYA windsurfing instructor at the age of 19, working predominantly on the west coast of Scotland through squalls, snow and midges. Now a little later on in life, he is currently working towards RYA Day Skipper and goes paddleboarding when it's not winter.
Mar (apart from her name meaning "Ocean" in Spanish) is on the water most weekends off the coast of Denia, Spain. Lety, Virginia, and Ricardo were born in the Canaries - the departure point of the ARC and many a cross-Atlantic voyage. Dan is a big boat fan and has been sailing around the Solent and Isle of Wight for longer than some of us have been alive. Just saying. Oh, and Emma, when she's not film directing for us, is an internationally renowned freediving instructor, which is technically not sailing, but comes in handy when you've lost your anchor. You can see what we all look like here.