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Switching to SDI

Do you know the differences in teaching an SDI course versus teaching another agency’s courses? With SDI you might find that we offer a more flexible training schedule as well as the chance to become a more proficient diver from the start. In an SDI course, you’ll learn buoyancy control as well as how to use your computer from the moment you step in the water. We aren’t in a rush to get divers in and out of courses, our goal is create divers who are confident in their skills.

Frontiers of Decompression Research

Did you know that certain foods have been tested and even showed signs of reducing decompression sickness? Did you also know there are an array of exercises you can do to reduce your risk of DCS? And the most stunning thing of all? Your Genetics even play a role!

jelly-fish-differentiation

Stand Out from the Crowd

There are a lot of ways to stand out against the competition these days; and the good news is, it doesn’t mean you have to have the lowest prices. In a business like diving where there’s no shortage of dive retailers, you may often feel yourself stuggling to set yourself apart from others. There are many ways to stand out and we’re giving you some ideas on how to do it.

The AIDA Model of Marketing

Understanding how customers buy, you can tailor your marketing activities to get the best results and get them signing up for courses and dive trips.

buddy-checks

Buddy Checks are for Tech Diving Too

No matter what level of diver you are there’s one thing that stands true for all: buddy checks. The truth of it all the higher level of certification usually the more things can go wrong. It’s important that before every single dive you and your buddy go through a buddy check of each other. We’re giving you some guidelines on what you should be doing before every dive.

SDI/TDI/ERDI Welcomes Mark to HQ

Over the last 10 years SDI/TDI/ERDI has seen tremendous growth throughout the world. Due to our growth outside of the United States, we recently decided to expand the staff working with Paul, by adding Jordan Greene, an experienced member of our staff, and Mark Powell, a long time IT for SDI/TDI/ERDI from the UK.

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.

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.

Why Divers Do Stupid Things

by Mark Powell

Why do divers do stupid things? Well the short answer is because they are stupid. Now I know that the majority of the readers of this article are going to be divers and it’s not usually a good idea to start off by insulting your audience but bear with me. If you look at some of the recent diving incidents that have occurred such as the tragic double fatality of a father and son who died while cave diving on Christmas day, or the diver who refused to analyse his gas an ended up breathing 100% oxygen at 30m or the rebreather diver who jumped in with oxygen, diluent and handsets all turned off then you can see why I might say that. The British Sub Aqua Club publish a summary of diving incidents every year and a brief glance at this will show that dives do a whole range of stupid things. Not only that but they do the same stupid things over and over again. Most of the mistakes made each year are the same as the mistakes made the previous year. The short answer is that divers do not follow their training. It would be very easy to stop the vast majority of diving accidents if we could just force divers to follow their training. If you do what your instructor taught you during your course then you will avoid the vast majority of problems that occur. The thing is that you already know that, I know that, everyone knows that and yet hundreds of divers every day do things that break what they were taught in their training.

Is this because divers are genuinely stupid? or is it because they just act as if they are stupid? I believe that divers do stupid things because they are human and humans make mistakes. However that doesn’t mean that mistakes are inevitable. If we understand why we make mistakes we can potentially avoid them. If we recognise that each and every diver has the potential to make mistakes then maybe we will be a little more careful and a little less complacent.

We all have the potential to do stupid things because we sometimes get complacent, because we rush, because we are not very good at assessing risks, because we are often over optimistic. We do not always call a dive when we should, letting multiple little problems build up until they become a major incident. We trust our own powers of observation and can easily get fooled into trying to solve the wrong problem. Finally we often let other people influence us unduly.

I have tried to bring some of these ideas together and have given a number of talks on this topic at dive shows throughout Europe and the US. The video above was shot at TekDiveUSA (www.tekdiveusa.com) in Florida recently. This conference brought together technical divers from all over the world to discuss exploration, diving medicine and diving safety. As part of the conference I was asked to put together a short film which summarised why divers do stupid things. I hope this film helps explain why there is always a risk that we might do something stupid and hopefully will help you to avoid doing anything stupid in the future.

Tech Diving – Staying Warm for comfort and safety

Diver in Deco

By Mark Powell

The image that many technical divers try to promote is that they are tough, macho divers. The shaved heads and stubble, combined with equipment that would make a Special Forces diver look inadequate, all add to this image. The message is that they can leap tall buildings in a single bound and endure conditions that no mere mortal could withstand. However the truth is a little different. In fact many technical divers spend as much time thinking about how to stay warm during their dives as they do planning the dive itself. The reason for this is that technical dives are more challenging than many recreational dives. They are typically deeper, longer, and colder. The intelligent technical diver recognises this and tries to protect against the cold wherever possible.

One of the main concerns of any technical diver is warmth, both from a comfort and a safety point of view. In general the deeper we go the colder it gets. A few years ago I was teaching an Advanced Trimix course in Turkey and between the surface and 80m there was a difference in temperature of 10 degrees. This meant that while we might have been comfortable on the surface you would get very cold at depth. Gloves intended to keep my hands warm at depth were uncomfortably warm during the decompression. A more common problem is that technical dives tend to be much longer than recreational dives and will usually involve long decompression stops. Even if there is no difference in temperature during the ascent it is common to get colder during the decompression. I don’t normally get too cold during the main part of the dive due to choosing the right undersuit, swimming around and the fact that my mind is occupied, but during decompression it is much more common for me to feel the cold. During long decompression stops you are not swimming around or moving to any great extent and your mind is not as occupied. It is during these long periods of mental and physical inactivity that I often feel the cold.

In addition to the comfort aspect of getting cold there are a number of very real safety issues involved. The cold can slow down your reaction speed and thought processes which, when combined with Narcosis can affect how quickly and effectively you react to problems. Cold hands can also quickly lose dexterity which can make it difficult to effectively handle equipment, operate computers, switch to decompression gas, etc.

Most importantly there is strong evidence that getting cold towards the end of a dive can increase the risk of decompression illness. During the early parts of the dive the diver is fairly warm and blood flows to all parts of the body. Nitrogen and Helium are carried by the blood flow to the whole body and the level of the inert gases dissolved in the body increases. Towards the end of the dive, during the ascent and decompression stops, the inert gas is normally carried by the blood back from all parts of the body to the lungs. However when we get cold one of the body’s reactions is to restrict blood blow to the extremities and concentrate it in the main core of the body in an effort to conserve heat. When the skin temperature starts to drop the body will reduce the circulation in your limbs, this is known as vasoconstriction. This has the effect of reducing the amount of blood flowing to the heavily inert gas-laden tissues in the extremities which in turn reduces the level at which Nitrogen and Helium off-gas from these extremities. In effect, being cold has slowed down the release of inert gas from these tissues. As a result the speed of off-gassing is slower than predicted and the excess Nitrogen and Helium in these tissues can cause decompression illness. Recent research has shown that this can cause a significant increase in the risk of decompression illness.

Due to the risk of decompression illness, suit floods and leaks are much more important to a technical diver. I know many sport divers whose suits regularly leak and for them it is merely an inconvenience however for a technical diver it can be a much more serious problem. Similarly a flooded suit can be cold, uncomfortable, inconvenient and irritating on a recreational dive but on a long decompression dive it can also be very dangerous. As the diver gets cold their decompression become less efficient. This means that at the very time they want to get out of the water they need to stay longer to make up for the inefficient decompression. Here it is a balancing act between the dangers of hypothermia and decompression sickness.

It is a combination of the comfort and the safety that makes technical divers so concerned about the particular design of undersuit they use. There are a range of undersuits that use different materials to keep the diver warm. In addition to keeping the body warm it is vital to keep your hands warm. As we have seen cold hands can cause problems with dexterity making it much more difficult to carry out certain tasks. For this reason a technical diver will also think long and hard about their choice of gloves for long cold dives. One option is to simply wear thicker gloves. The extra thickness helps provide better insulation for the fingers although the thickness of the gloves also results in reduced dexterity. The same problems apply with 3 finger mitts. These mitts have one compartment for the thumb, one for the index finger and a third compartment which contains the remaining three fingers. Having the three fingers together helps to keep them warm although the thumb and index finger get just as cold as in standard gloves. In addition having the three fingers together significantly reduced dexterity for some tasks and can make some standard hand signals difficult if not impossible. Again there is a trade off between warmth and dexterity. By getting cold we can lose dexterity but many of the gloves designed to keep our hands warm have the side effect of reducing our dexterity anyway!

Another option is dry gloves. These are gloves that are fully sealed against the drysuit and allow no water into the glove. In some designs the glove is linked directly to the airspace of the drysuit. This removes any problems with equalising the two air spaces but has the risk that a punctured glove can cause a complete suit flood. Other designs have a standard seal on the dry suit so that the dry gloves are a separate air space. In this case some mechanism is required to allow equalisation of the air space in the gloves so that the diver doesn’t get uncomfortable squeeze on their hands on the way down or excessive expansion of air in the gloves on the ascent.

The typical image of a technical diver is some macho tough guy however, as we have seen, the reality is that technical divers are more concerned about keeping warm and comfortable than most other divers because the consequences of getting cold can be far more serious on a decompression dive than on a recreational no-stop dive.

by Mark Powell