Having fun at the old watering hole, AND build your brand

I’d like to propose something totally radical to you today: take down the calendar on your shop wall and circle four days next month when you will invite customers to go diving with you. No courses, no pressure, just for fun.

Now I can think of a thousand excuses NOT to do it. And I’m sure you can come up with a few dozen of your own. Most of mine flutter around the triumvirate of procrastination: no time, no interest, no point.

But there are three excellent reasons to get on with it and make these events happen.

Let’s start with the simplest one: It promotes local diving. Now we all know that local diving off Key Largo is a little more generally appealing than diving a local quarry in the mid-west, but both have something to offer your customers: entries in their logbooks and more experience under their belt. Both of those things are good for business.

In a recent survey sent out to more than 20,000 divers we asked about diving in 2009 and more than two thirds of the folks who responded told us that the focus this year would be on local diving… something within one to three hours drive time. That means your customers could be onside with any local dive initiatives you offer them.

The second good reason is this. The best thing that divers can say about you and your staff is that you dive. Promoting diving just for the sheer fun of it sends out the right message to your customers and that message will get around. Like it or not, you and your staff, SDI, TDI or ERDI dive leaders, have some level of celebrity in the local dive community.  Going out and diving with local divers at local dive spots and making it a fun, enjoyable time will generate tons of good will and get you unbeatable word of mouth publicity.

The third good reason is that promoting diving will help to build YOUR brand. Forget about SDI, TDI or any of the other agencies… the success of your business depends on YOUR brand. Give your customers the benefit of your enthusiasm, experience and professionalism and they’ll be more likely to call you up or visit your store for their next purchase of equipment, training, travel or gear repairs.

Remember, your customers have no objective measure of quality between agency A and agencies B and C ,or between your dive store and dive stores X, Y and Z. Diving with you and your staff is the experience that informs them about “who’s the best” and they make subjective evaluations based on that experience. Going the extra mile to make local diving fun underpins YOUR brand and builds your store’s reputation.

If local diving features accessible wrecks and wonderful underwater flora and fauna, recruiting customers to join your “Local Diving Promo Days” is going to be easier than if your local watering hole is a flooded aggregate quarry with a few tadpoles and sunfish. But underwater games and “skills challenges” can make diving the most basic pond fun.

Organize buoyancy courses: things like a shot line with a few clothes pins at regular intervals that have to be collected and then replaced in the correct order… all of course without holding the line.

Run underwater orienteering races: a complex multi-leg course where teams start with the bearing for the first leg and collect bearings for the others as they go.

Put together treasure hunts, underwater pumpkin carving, run underwater map-making “classes.” Have underwater photography “contests.” If you dive in a quarry where subjects for pictures are limited, bend the contest rules to include categories for that work with what’s available.

Put in a little work making local diving fun, and the dividends will be more active divers calling your shop “home base.” Your brand will grow and so will your business.

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