Professional Level eNewsletter


Huge Webinar Turnout Sets the Tone for VIP

International Training has completely reworked and updated its cylinder Visual Inspection Program (VIP). Because of this major update, many issues have developed, and questions are being asked. Questions like:

  • What are the changes in the new program?
  • I’m currently a SDI/TDI VIP Instructor. Am I eligible to continue teaching or do I need to take the new instructor course?
  • Is the program fully compliant with CGA, NFPA, OSHA and HSE?
  • Is there an eLearning version?
  • What about insurance?
  • What are the Diver and Instructor prerequisites?

Last week, International Training sponsored a webinar to update facilities, inspectors, instructors, and instructor trainers on this new program, it’s implementation, and to answer any questions. The turnout was HUGE. A total of 120 attendees were present for the 40 minute presentation, followed by a very engaging 30 minute Q&A session. The webinar was hosted by Senior Vice President Sean Harrison and the program developer, Don Kinney. If you were unable to attend this highly anticipated webinar, you can see the recorded version here.

If you are you interested in taking the VIP Course, check out our upcoming dates and times to get updated or certified:


2015 Updates You Need to Know

2015 Standards and Procedures are posted live on the website!

As New Year begins, we would like to notify members and facilities the most up-to-date 2015 Standards and Procedures for SDI, TDI, and ERDI are now posted live on the website for review. In addition, all of the training updates from 2014 are posted in an easy to access location in your dive leader or facility administrator profile.

To access the 2015 Standards and Procedures after you have logged into the website at, select either your dive leader or facility administrator login level, and go through the following steps:

STEP 1: Select the “tools” tab…

step 1

Step 2: Select “Standards and Procedures” under the Members Tools list to access the live Standards and Procedures.

step 2

You can also select “Click here for training updates” to review over the standards changes implemented throughout 2014.

Not sure if you’re using the most up to date standards? – Take a look at the top right hand section of the page on any SDI, TDI, or ERDI standards listed. It should look like this…

version 15

See the red circled section; 15.0 notes the standards you are viewing were posted in 2015, during the first quarter. If the Standards and Procedures you are currently using list a number other than 15 – please update your teaching materials. They are available to you – for free – online!

The Standards and Procedures are also posted on our recently updated course description pages as well. For more information on how to access these new course pages – please click here.

Using the members section online – There are so many tools available to you – for free – in the Member’s Section of the site. We understand times are changing, and technology seems to quickly speed ahead, without giving us a chance to catch up…

If you ever feel this way or if you are unsure as to what tools are available on the website such as: diver registrations, accessing the live Standards and Procedures, where to find necessary forms to teach, how to utilize eLearning and more – LET US KNOW!

The Training Department actively conducts GoToMeeting or Skype sessions to demonstrate, in real time, how to use the website. You will have the ability to see our screen live as we navigate through the site. If you are interested in this, please send an e-mail to noting you would like to participate in a “web-tour.”

Thank you, and as always, please let us know if there is anything we can do to assist you.

Safe Diving,
SDI, TDI, ERDI Training and Membership Services

5 Tips From 5 Dive Shop Owners About Customer Experience

##We asked five SDI-TDI dive centers what they did that made a difference in keeping up with their customers’ needs and expectations. Reading through them all, the answer was pretty easy – it is about keeping the customer satisfied, happy and involved. Long term business isn’t just about the sale, but about the relationships.

We feel the same way.

“Sense of community”
Dive Addicts has tried to increase a “sense of community” through club meetings, socials, dive-a-longs, photo contests, free seminars, and lots of trips. We strive to make diving a lifestyle decision and not just a “once a year on vacation” type of activity. In this day and age of on-line super stores grabbing a substantial amount of equipment sales, we feel it is important for the local dive retailer to establish this personal connection with the local diver in order to survive what will surely become an increasingly more difficult market. When divers feel a connection through personal relationships with their LDS (local dive shop), pricing becomes less and less of an issue and it becomes more and more about where the customer feels comfortable, and how he or she wants to spend their time.

At the end of the day, it’s not about money. It’s about how people spend their time!

-Randy Thornton. Dive Addicts, Utah USA

“Customer loyalty – gaining it and maintaining it”##
Success in business is not just about the sales and profit gains. One of the most important gains of good business is gaining your customers loyalty. A loyal customer goes out and sells you and the center and will generate more customers for you. Reef Shepherd’s principle objective has always been to win over the customer first through excellent customer service which has allowed us to continue successfully competing in the market for the last 10 years.

-Santiago Estrada. Reef Shepherd, Colombia


“Empower our customers”##
We make the customer feel like part of the Water Quest Family. In the store we have a hang out area with couches. Many of our regulars come in daily and hang out. In this area most of our dive trips are born, not only by us, but by the customers themselves. Recently, we planned a trip to Utila in just 10 minutes notice for one of my favorite groups. We made reservations and off we will go next week to Utila. You might say it is crazy to cater to customers on a whim, but it is easier to sell a trip that has passion behind it than one that is planned for months ahead.

-Bill Schoeningh. Waterquest, Guatemala


“Be friendly and smile”##
If you really want to build loyal customers then you have to be friendly. Step one in being friendly is to start with a smile. This goes for when the customer enters the shop upon greeting, as well as when you answer the phone. If you smile while talking on the phone then it will come across in your attitude and will be perceived on the other side as “these people are nice and I want to give them my business.”

-Greg Kobrin. New England Dive Center, Connecticut USA


“Get noticed and keep it fun”##
Change the look of things, try walking into the centre and look at it from a customer’s perspective. Make it fun. Keep your centre pumping, have lots of things going on. Customers’ perception is one key to success! While doing this, make sure your staff and yourself are happy, if your customer thinks it is a chore then they will go somewhere else.

-Kel Bradley. St George Underwater, Australia


FREE Webinar – New VIP Program and How You Can Benefit

Thank you for attending our live VIP Webinar Q&A with VIP author Don Kinney and VP of Training Sean Harrison. If you missed it, you can watch the recorded version below. We would like to continue the questions and answers, so please ask away in the comments section at the bottom of this page and we will be sure to answer them.

International Training has completely reworked and updated its cylinder Visual Inspection Program (VIP). Because of this major update many issues have developed, and questions are being asked. International Training is sponsoring a webinar to update facilities and IT’s on this new program, its implementation, and to answer any questions.The webinar will be hosted by Senior Vice President Sean Harrison and the program developer, Don Kinney. Items to be covered include:

  • The changes in the new program
  • The marketing strategy during the initial implementation
  • The reasoning behind the required instructor fee
  • The plans for future IT Training on this new program
  • The plan to handle the 3 year refresh for the Instructors

The goal of the webinar will be to answer these questions and any other questions you may have. Please be sure an ask your questions below and we will do our best to answer them in a timely manner.

Sign up for VIP Course near you here


New Course Descriptions

New Course Descriptions and Live Standards and Procedures Posted Online for Public View

In a day where consumers like to educate themselves online before talking to anyone prior to making decisions on a possible purchase, International Training wanted to ensure that your potential customers felt like they have as many questions answered regarding the courses offered and thus enabling them to make a decision on the spot – regardless of the location or time of day.

As a result, International Training has recently revamped the course descriptions posted on the website to better inform your potential students of available courses and drive them directly to your facility. The course descriptions now include the “who, what, where, why and how” for every mainstream course offered in the SDI/TDI/ERDI curriculum.

Anyone can access the course descriptions by going through the following steps –

get certified

  1. Go to
  2. Select the drop down menu in the top left hand section of the page for SDI, TDI, or ERDI.
  3. Select “Get Certified”

The following page will list the agency specific flow chart with live links included to direct you to a page outlining the details of the selected course. All you have to do is click the course to find out more information…

sdi flowchart


The end of each course description includes links to search for a facility, sign up for eLearning (if available for that course), the current standards and procedures for the course, as well as a list of relevant articles on our blog page.

related articles

The goal for the new course descriptions is to better inform potential students and generate more interest in courses offered at your dive center, while giving them direct access to your store information and even the ability to sign up directly for eLearning courses. If you have any questions about the new course descriptions, or have any ideas on what we can do to improve this section, please feel free to contact your regional representative with your feedback.


What is Marketing?

by Mark Powell:
throwback imageGood marketing is key to the success of any business. Most people would readily agree with this statement but it is surprising how much variation there is in what people think of as “marketing.” Before you read any further I want you to take a few seconds to think about what you understand of this term, “marketing.”

I would imagine that you thought this question would be relatively easy; after all, everyone knows what marketing is, right? In reality, it is one of those terms that everyone recognizes, but finds very hard to define. You can also try asking friends, colleagues, customers and staff the same question and see what responses they give. The answers will probably include some mixture of advertising, selling, customer needs, value, strategy, positioning or promotions.

Part of the reason for the range of answers is that marketing has changed over the years, and many people have definitions that come from different stages in it’s evolution.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, there was not a huge variety or availability of products. Put simply, customers bought the products that were available, and so marketing was associated with selling. We can call this the Marketing=Selling period. Marketing involved selling the products that a company made. As a result, marketing was a sales support function involving advertising the product to the consumer, setting a competitive price and having effective salespeople.

In the 1970’s and early 80’s, a wider proliferation of products, increased technology and competition from countries such as Japan, Taiwan and Korea changed the way customers looked at products. This required a more sophisticated approach to marketing with more focus on effective promotions and market research. During this period, marketing communications developed as a way to better get the message to the customer. Sales techniques became more sophisticated and this led to a phase referred to as the Marketing=Selling+ period.

In the late 1980’s and into the early 90’s, the focus shifted from products that the company was producing to products that the customer wanted to buy. This led to a major shift in the way marketing was viewed, and more market-focused companies, rather than product-focused. Rather than trying to convince the customer they wanted to buy the products that had been developed by the company, marketing was used to help design products that would appeal to customers. We can refer to this as the Marketing=Accepted Philosophy approach.

In the 1990’s and into 2000, this approach was developed further so that marketing influenced not just the product development process, but the whole approach of the company. In this way, marketing became one of the key tools for strategic planning. Companies were driven by the requirements of the market and specifically by meeting the needs of customers. The aim was to develop a superior value proposition for the customer by focusing not just on the product, but also on the service provided to the customer and the image of the company. This is known as the Marketing=Driving Philosophy period.

marketing evolution

So it is no wonder that marketing has many meanings to different people. It has been used to in very different ways; from a slightly more sophisticated way to sell products, to the driving philosophy of a company’s strategy. Your answer to the question, “what is marketing?” asked at the start of this article will give an indication as to which period of marketing you are thinking of.

This history lesson in the development of marketing might be very interesting from an academic point of view, but how is it important to a scuba diving instructor or dive centre owner?

The fact is, the diving industry has gone though a very similar process. At the start of our industry, diving instruction and products were very rare and were desperately sought out by those who wanted to become scuba divers. Scuba diving was new, innovative and exciting. Customers were desperate to buy the product, and so the only marketing required was to make sure the eager customer knew where you were. This is the equivalent of the Marketing=Selling period. As the number of instructors and products increased, and professional agencies developed well structured programs, it became more important to differentiate yourself from other instructors, centres and products. During this phase, the Marketing=Selling+ approach worked well.

As scuba diving became more established, and other adventurous pastimes became more popular, instructors, dive centres and scuba equipment manufacturers had to focus more on identifying and meeting the customer’s needs. More tailored programmes were introduced, as well as a range of equipment to suit different needs. This shows how the industry had moved into the Marketing=Accepted Philosophy period.

Today many divers are also regular mountain bikers, skiers and social activists, as well as family members and business people with time and financial commitments. Providing a service that suits and appeals to these customers is a much bigger challenge than in the past, and one that can only be achieved by adopting a Marketing=Driving Philosophy approach. If your view of marketing is stuck in one of the previous periods, then your business is at risk from the competitor down the street who is offering what the customers really want, presented in a way that appeals to them, and structured in a way that is consistent with their other commitments. On the other hand, if you adopt a Marketing=Driving Philosophy approach you can develop and grow a strong business which matches the requirements of your customers. This approach will also allow you to adapt to their changing demands and to the social, technological and political factors that affect the diving industry.

Mark Powell is a SDI/TDI Instructor Trainer, consultant to the diving industry and the author of Deco For Divers. Prior to becoming employed full time in the diving industry, Mark was a visiting lecturer at the London School of Business and Management after serving in a range of international sales and marketing management roles.


The Current State of SEO

by Darren Pace
SEO focusBringing your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy into the New Year means getting familiar with fresh tactics that engage your audience and turn them from interested consumers, into paying customers. In 2015, SEO is about creating a complete experience that draws attention and makes your business stand out from competitors. Keep your focus on these three key areas to turbo-charge your SEO in the coming year.

Content is (Still) King

It’s a mantra that’s been repeated over and over, and it’s not going away in 2015: content is king. Good content reigns supreme when it comes to SEO, and to create the kind of content that brings in customers, you have to know who those customers are. Do research on your target audience. Ask questions like:

  • How old are your prospective customers?
  • What is their average income?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are their wants and needs in relation to the products and services you offer?

Answering these questions gives you the framework for creating content that connects with the people who are most likely to purchase what your business has to offer. It’s not about creating content that you think is interesting, but rather providing blog posts, social media updates and onsite content that caters directly to the persona of your ideal customer.

Knowing where your customers are and what drives them to your website is essential to content delivery. If most of your audience is on Twitter and you’re focusing on Facebook, you’re going to miss out on opportunities. Do research to discover what links and search terms are bringing the highest amounts of traffic to your site and focus your SEO efforts accordingly.

Certain types of content are always popular, and you can use these to get started with your own content creation:

  • Addressing trending topics on social media
  • Discussing current industry news and trends
  • Repurposing old content in new formats
  • Year-end compilations or “best of” lists

The overall key to good content is to focus on quality and relevancy over quantity. Giving consumers a few pieces of well-crafted content is always better than cranking out generic updates to fulfill an imagined quota.

It’s All About User Experience

In today’s interactive Internet landscape, your company is more than just a company. It’s a living, breathing entity with its own personality and a total experience to offer customers from the moment they click through to your website to the moment they decide to make a purchase. Consumers expect that the brands they interact with online will provide an atmosphere that’s consistent from one platform to another. That means you have to focus on offering the same experience across the board from website to blog to social media.

The trick to creating a consistently positive customer experience is making your audience feel like you understand them as individuals. Gone are the days when faceless mass mailings brought in business. Today’s marketing landscape demands engagement through content that directly addresses the needs, wants and concerns of consumers. The atmosphere you provide through your website and social media posts should be friendly, fun and interactive with the goal of making the buying process as easy as possible.

Another essential piece of the puzzle is a solid understanding of what content and which advertising methods perform best on different platforms. The post that drove tons of traffic from your blog would be too long for Facebook, and the Twitter update that created so many conversions likely won’t work the same way on Pinterest. Get familiar with the platforms your customers are using and tailor content accordingly to draw the maximum amount of attention.

Of course, none of this matters if you don’t also offer great customer service. You can do everything right with SEO, but without providing the support your customers need, you’re going to lose out.

More Conversions Mean More Business

Conversion rates are closely tied with content creation. As you develop your 2015 SEO strategy, take a good look at your analytics for all content. Note which posts and updates generated the most interest and kept visitors on your site the longest. Also look at the search terms that people used to find those posts. Armed with this information, you’ll know more about what types of content to create going forward

Part of your strategy for generating conversions should focus on optimizing old posts for keywords, cleaning up calls-to-action and adding relevant links to make those posts work for you. After all, if you already have high-performing content, it makes sense to use that to your advantage. By updating this content to include current high-performing keywords, you can draw fresh traffic and increase your base of potential customers.

Remember that modern search behavior is much different from that in the past. Today’s users are on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones and are using a variety of search terms to find what they want. Specific questions are becoming more common, necessitating a targeted approach if you want to draw relevant traffic that generates conversions.

The content you optimize for conversions should be pertinent to various stages of the buying process. Some will help visitors learn more about your products and services so that they can compare with your competitors and see why your business has the better offering. Other content is useful for spreading brand awareness and connecting with customers through your brand experience. Finally, you should always include content that influences the final purchasing decision with clear information and strong calls-to-action that make customers feel as though your company is the best choice to meet their needs.

With SEO evolving beyond onsite tactics such as putting keywords in title tags and creating a hierarchy of headers, it’s critical that you know where to focus your efforts in the coming year. Knowing and understanding your audience will help you create the experience they’re looking for and show them that your company can meet their needs. Focus on these key areas to improve your online presence and see an increase in return on investment (ROI) throughout 2015.

International Training is offering a Free Website Audit for our active facilities.

So, what is a Website audit? A website audit is a careful look at your website’s existing online presence in order to make sure that it’s set up to perform well. Our in-house marketing team will examine your website and provide you with a document outlining what needs to be done. We will explain the actions we list and why they are important. This document can be handed off to a development or content team to be implemented easily.

Submit your site for a FREE Website Audit

First Name:

Last Name:



Member #:

Website URL:

List your challenges with your online presence:


A Letter from Brian: Thank You for Your Support

DEMA boothGreetings everyone,

I would like to give everyone my best wishes as we near the end of the year and the upcoming holidays. I would also like to thank everyone for their support with regard to my personal letter to the industry. Though I knew it would most likely cause some discomfort in raising certain issues regarding the state of our industry, I was very humbled and surprised by all the positive feedback that I received via email, phone calls and at DEMA by both, members and non-members alike.

I want to extend a sincere thank you to our members for being there for us, supporting us and being an advocate of the organization. It was fantastic to see so many old friends and new friends at DEMA attending our seminars and participating in our updates. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated, understanding that you are in the field, feeling the heart beat of this industry every day.

Our theme this year is, “Welcome Home”. It is important to us to have the relationship with you that you expect from your training organization; a place to feel welcomed, helpful to your needs and protected. We hope as you worked with us throughout the year… you felt and will continue to feel, at home.

Thank you,
Brian Carney –


Marketing Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning

by Mark Powell:
##One of the most important techniques in marketing is the concept of segmentation, targeting and positioning (STP). These three tools allow businesses to identify their most likely customers and tailor messages to these customers in order to increase their chances of offering the right product to the right customer.

Segmentation is the process of splitting up a huge group of all possible customers into meaningful sub groups. Segmentation is often done on demographic lines such as age, gender, income levels, family size, home address or work address. For example, a business may split its customers into male and female customers or into customers that are in their teens, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 and over 50. Alternatively, a business may distinguish between customers that live within 10 miles of their store and those that live more than 10 miles from the store. In addition to these objective demographic categories, segmentation can also be carried out on a more subjective level, such as life stage, personality or behavioural characteristics. For example, life stages might include single, married with no kids, married with young children, etc. Although there is a correlation with age it is not fixed. For example a married couple in their forties may have no children, one young child or two teenage children. The key point of segmentation is to pick segmentation criteria that are relevant to the product or service you are offering.

Once you have chosen your segmentation criteria, the next step is to select various segmentation groups to target. For example in the video games market, age and gender are commonly used for segmentation. Early targeting strategies focused on males in their teens and early twenties. As a result games were developed that appealed to this target group. However, as the industry developed it was realized that there were other potential target groups. Older customers from both genders were targeted for a completely new genre of games involving brain training and female customers in their 30s and 40s were targeted for games such as the Sims and Farmville. By the use of suitable segmentation criteria, the games industry was able to hugely increase its potential market. It is only by the use of segmentation and targeting that this was possible. If they had tried to offer the same product to all groups they would have failed to expand beyond their initial market, however by realising that there were different segmentation groups the industry could offer a more suitable product to each of those groups.

This third stage is known as positioning. This involves offering a product that suits the target group and communicating with that target group in a suitable manner. In the video game example, positioning started with offering a radically different product to each target group. In other cases the same or very similar products can be positioned very differently by means of packaging and advertising. A good example of this is Diet Coke and Coke Zero. What is the difference between these two products? There are some minor differences in the recipe but ultimately they are almost identical in terms of the actual product. The real difference is that Diet Coke is aimed at women and Coke Zero is aimed at men. As a result, the product packaging for the two is very different and if you have ever seen a Diet Coke advert it is obvious that it is aimed at women while Coke Zero adverts are clearly aimed at younger men. In this way Coke can position their product specifically for the relevant target markets. Trying to come up with an advert that appealed to both men and women would be much less effective overall.

Positioning your scuba diving courses will also depend on your target group. One target group may prefer online training while another may prefer the face to face approach. One group may be attracted by action and adventure while another may be worried about the risks involved. One group may be interested in marine life and the environment while another may be more interested in exploring wrecks. One group may be interested in diving in far flung exotic places, while another maybe more interested in being able to train locally without the need to travel away from home. By coming up with an appropriate set of target groups you can put together a set of offerings that appeal to those target groups.

As well as product specification and product imagery, positioning can also affect your choice of advertising medium. National TV advertising on a major channel can have a huge reach but is a very expensive and an inefficient method of reaching a specific target group. If your target market lives within 10 miles of your dive centre then local advertising will be much more cost effective than national advertising. If you are targeting new divers, diving magazines or online forums are not the right place to look for those customers. However, if you are targeting experienced divers who are looking to get into technical diving then they are much more appropriate. If you are targeting inexperienced divers who want to gain more experience then your open water students over the last few years are the best starting point.

Segmentation, targeting and positioning is not a magic bullet but if used correctly it can help any business owner identify likely groups of potential customers and help you think about how best to position your offering to those customers.


We are Family

by Jeff Bozanic:
##We all do what we do for the same reasons. We love the ocean. We love being underwater. We love the fish, the coral, the lobsters, the magical life that could be from another planet. We love exploring. And we love sharing our passions with others, opening a door for them to experience the same joys and delights that we do. So why do we fight so much?

Very few of us became dive instructors to become rich. As if that ever happens! Something else drives us. Usually it is a personal addiction… a love of the underwater environment that we cannot satisfy, a love we feel so deeply we have to open the door for others, revealing the same mysteries that motivate us.

We choose different paths to accomplish this, some choose SDI, some opt for PADI, others NAUI, or IANTD, or SSI, or NACD, or any of the other myriad of acronyms that serve the same function – providing opportunity to follow the same dreams. Most of us fell into these pathways by chance, introduced by a mentor or friend, or an instructor randomly stumbled across. But these same agencies also differentiate us from one another. I believe these barriers to be false, harmful, and often hurtful. We don’t need them.

There is nothing wrong with having different educational organizations. Healthy communities grow by having differing characteristics, different manners of competing and approaching life. Difference is good. But a successful community still works together, improving all in the community by laboring together.

We work in a very small industry. We want to succeed, to make a little money while we satisfy our need to spend time appreciating the underwater world with which we are all enthralled. And yet we spend most of our time bickering, fighting amongst each other, trying to steal business and market share from each other. In many ways, we act like a dysfunctional family, siblings fighting with each other. Often family members fight not because they are so very different, but because they are so similar. I believe we are acting the same way.

There is a much larger world out there. A world full of prospective customers… no, a world full of people who have never visited the watery world we inhabit. A world full of souls who have dipped their toes in the water, maybe having gotten certified, but have never spent enough time to become sufficiently skilled and comfortable enough to truly enjoy their experience. Instead, they ski, or paddle, or climb, or cycle, or jump out of perfectly good airplanes. We need those people.

Instead of infighting, we should be working together. We should be supporting each other, helping each other to the best of our abilities. If we grow our community, then we all have more to share. We all win.

How do we accomplish this? It is different for everyone. I do it by offering my experience and knowledge to multiple agencies. My goal is not to promote one group so they succeed at the expense of another. My goal is to improve our community for everyone, making it a better and safer place for all. Not everyone agrees with the way I think or the methods I feel work best, but I do what I can to share ideas and foster an environment in which we all learn, improve, and grow.

Someone else might do it by jointly offering introductory programs with other instructors; a combined effort to attract a broader audience of interested folks who can be shared to improve everyone’s lot.

We need to become more creative… not in developing more ways to steal from each other, but in developing more ways to help each other. Every time you badmouth another instructor, or another dive store or instructional agency, you hurt us all. We need to learn to work together more effectively. That is your challenge. Help us learn to help each other. Help us learn to grow together. Develop new ideas… forge new alliances… tear down old walls and prejudices.

For some, teaching scuba is a short term adventure. A summer spent in the Caribbean, a few years traveling the planet, seeing the best that our oceans have to offer, an adventure in life that provides opportunity to indulge in our obsession. For many of us reaching out to others is a lifelong commitment, a way to justify our existence, to continue living immersed in the waters of life. We need to remember that despite minor differences, at heart we are all the same. We are family. Let’s do our best to make it a functional family. Let’s work together to make our surroundings better for all.