Stop Selling Scuba Classes

By John Bentley

Marketing as a dive center, especially in non-resort areas, is no easy feat. This is due in part to the extremely varied demographics that enjoy scuba diving. Scuba diving is adventurous, but also relaxing. It’s simple, but initially challenging. It has elements of other hobbies, but is incredibly its own. So, how do we market to such a variety? There is no magic answer to this question, but there are proven methods for capturing and keeping the interest of specific demographics.

There is one demographic that seems to be more difficult than most for instructors and dive centers to target. We have heard them called “bucket list divers” or “instagram divers”. They typically fall into the Generation Z or millennials category.

The complaints:

  • These divers only take the class to say they did but never dive.
  • These divers don’t buy gear.
  • None of them buy our group travel.
  • They go from the scuba class to skydiving or rock climbing; whatever is next.

We’ve even heard shops say they avoid these customers! However, there is a secret to turning  these students into loyal customers and members of your dive community: Stop selling scuba classes.

There is a common misconception about the adventure-seeker demographic; that they go from hobby to hobby as their hobby. They are not actually hopping from bucket list item to bucket list item. They are looking for something fun to do. These individuals don’t want to be like their peers who proudly list “Netflix” as their primary hobby on their dating app. They want to be a part of something cool. So, why are they only taking a scuba class and not joining on the bigger adventure with diving? Simply put: the industry never adapted to sell to them.

This demographic wants an experience, not a class.

The current problem

The biggest hurdle for this demographic is not the money; bouncing from hobby to hobby is wicked expensive. The problem is how the dive instructor and dive center are presenting the class. A scuba class is not the end; it’s the means to an end. The instructor should focus on making prepared scuba consumers and adventurers. Unfortunately, many instructors and stores only focus on the steps of certifying a diver instead of training the adventurer. Why? Because that’s how their class was.

The solutions

How do we STOP selling scuba classes and START selling adventure?

  1. The brand is your store/you. No more relying on XYZ agency plastered everywhere. When someone asks for a scuba class, tell them about your program, how much fun it is, and what they get to do after.
  2. Switch your digital presence to focus on cool underwater encounters. Flood your social media and website with sharks, dolphins, turtles, and pufferfish. The motto is “Let’s go see cool stuff underwater” not “Get certified”.
  3. Talk about the end goals instead of the certification classes. Is there an upcoming trip they’re going on? Cater the conversation to that location.
  4. Teach realistically. (Lectures are boring and proven less effective as a stand-alone)
    1. Show videos of the sites they should want to see.
    2. Flip the classroom.
    3. Show them how to be an educated consumer.
  5. Make arrangements to photograph or film every class and trip. Capturing your divers’ underwater adventure will organically boost your social media presence with tags and shares and provides extra value to their experience.
  6. Bring value to the adventure. Encourage and facilitate social interactions. Go out to eat, have a beer, and inspire their adventures.

In summary, the adventure-seeker demographic has a perfect place in the dive industry; we just need to advertise and prioritize correctly. You will quickly find that, when approached properly, the adventure seekers will spend more, dive more, and be more loyal than many of the other traditional scuba demographics.

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