DZOs: The Starting Point for Great Marketing

Q: “Where should I be spending my marketing dollars?”

A: Don’t spend it with mass media marketing agencies or on TV, radio and print.

Create an in-house marketing program that uses your happy customers to advertise for you. Convert your customers into loyalists and equip them with the tools to spread word of mouth marketing. It works and at a minimal cost.

Marketing Step 1: Focus on the Experience

Everyone recognizes the importance of service, but few businesses do it well. At no point in history has service been as important as it is now. The reason? Word of mouth marketing (WOM) now has a vehicle.

Before the smartphone, if a person experienced poor service, they would tell seven people… good service… three people. Today, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, TripAdvisor and a myriad of other sites can be tapped to tell the world just how good or bad you are.

Companies delivering poor service or a mediocre product can no longer hide. The word will get out.


Below, I highlight ten critical touch points often missed at many DZs today.

Evaluate Customer Touch Points

– Is your website well-designed? Is it clean? Is it easy to navigate? How is it presented on a tablet and smartphone?  Does your site look professional or created by an up-jumper who has a little bit of website knowledge? (You can see the difference). A big part of a customer’s evaluation is how you look online. The first impression will be made here more than 90% of the time – so be sure it’s a good one. If you look second rate, is a customer as inclined to trust their lives with you?

Everything in our sport is expensive from US$15,000 tandem systems to jet fuel, but the look of your website should not be done on the cheap. It should reflect what it is we offer: the most thrilling adventure in the world.

Below, an example of a well-designed, DZ website  -

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 10.47.17 AM

A Note on Online Bookings: If you are not yet equipped to receive bookings online…you are missing a major  revenue generator. Do not be lulled into the idea that you’re giving better service by having phone time with your customers! This is not scalable as your DZ grows. It’s a new age and you’re giving poor service by not giving your customers the opportunity to book online at a time convenient to them.

Your image is everything. Make sure your brand looks professional. You’re not operating a second tier operation, so look polished and professional. The look of your logo is another area where you are judged so make sure you are judged in the right way and make sure all of your materials (signage around the DZ, letterhead etc) are all displaying it!

 - How does your admin staff answer the phone? Do all answer the phone the same way? Do some have a different tone of voice…(as in not displaying enthusiasm when answering the phone?) Are they courteous or do you have the “manifest bit%h” (an expression I detest) answering the phone?

 Having a specific instruction of how to answer the phone is important. Systems need to be in place for consistency day in and day out. No detail is too small.

 Skydiving is one of the most exciting things to do on the planet. The person who answers the phone needs to reflect this. Positivity should abound, because that’s what we’re selling….a personal challenge, overcoming a fear and conquering. If the person answering the phone sounds tired and overworked, then you’ve got the wrong person answering the phone.

Imagine if you made a reservation to climb Mt. Everest in two weeks. How would you feel? You would talk about your anxieties to all of your friends and think about it every day. How would you hope to be greeted by the expedition team upon arrival? To many of our guests, making a skydive may as well be as extreme as climbing Everest. Our guests drive to the skydive center and their hearts are beating through their chests as they pass the sign at the DZ’s entrance. They walk in excited, nervous and a little scared; what kind of greeting should they receive? The reception given at check-in sets the tone in selling an experience, not just a skydive. As in the example with answering the phone, a conversation should be initiated with staff of what a positive greeting looks like.

Training should be formal and structured. Be sure instructors are all training the same way. Each will have their own styles, but one training class shouldn’t be five minutes versus another instructor’s at 45 minutes. Be sure it’s consistent and professional.


If you offer tandem jumpsuits make sure they are clean and washed often (particularly in the summer). If jumpsuits are badly stained, in need of repair or smell, make this a priority. Remember your customers are paying top-dollar for a great experience. The great experience you’re offering is not just the jump itself, but everything that revolves around the jump. Jumpsuits shouldn’t be a mishmash of hand-me-downs from jumpers over the years. Jumpsuits should be branded and have a matching theme for all suits available.

Think about your culture – are your staff adding to your culture (environment) or are they taking away from the culture. Are they great to be around or are they negative? Skydiving should be presented to the public in only one way: positive. If staff members cannot put on a positive face all of the time, then they need not be working for you.


Every DZO knows who they should keep around and who they need to let go. Don’t be held hostage by holding onto staff because they are needed to do tandems despite having a terrible attitude. NEVER let your staff hold you hostage. The cost of keeping them around may end up being greater than the cost of not having them at all.

Note on Admin Staff: Admin staff will feel burnout from working long hours and working with so many people who are on edge all of the time. If your staff aren’t jumpers…be sure to send them on a tandem every once in a while so their spirits are up. A happy and energized crew will give good service.

- More than 80% of the DZ’s I visit don’t communicate well with students, especially during delays. When a low cloud ceiling parks itself above the DZ, it’s obvious to everyone what is happening…except your students. Be sure to gather all of your students and tell them what is happening. Be proactive, bring an iPad to show current weather trends / radar. Even if you don’t know the answers to weather questions, it’s really not about the weather at all – it’s about showing that you care about your customers and making them feel that they’ve not been forgotten. Tandem students often feel ignored during delays, so be sure to keep communications high with reports every hour.

I can always tell how a company feels about its customers based on the condition of the bathrooms. A DZ bathroom is probably the busiest, most frequented part of your operation. What human likes using a dirty bathroom? Be sure yours are ultra-clean, all of the time.

Great business is based on building relationships. If your operation is so busy that an instructor doesn’t have the time to sign the certificate and hand it to their students, then you’re too busy or short on instructors.

If your students feel like a number versus an individual, then you will not have a raving fan of your operation. Everyone desires  to feel special, so make sure each of your customers feel just that.

Another key point is the sales opportunity created after the skydive. A relationship has been built between the instructor and student and there is no better way to sell additional products than at this moment. The timid student that arrived is now on top of the world and is more willing to spend at this moment than at any other time. Capitalize by ensuing the closing occurs in the gear store and your instructors are gentle salespeople.


Great marketing is more than just advertising. Great marketing transforms your customers into loyalists who happily broadcast the greatness of your company to the world. Be sure your guests leave blown away by the experience!


Read My Latest Submission on

The Daily Deal Dilemma: 

Dynamite Marketing or Industry Destruction?



  • Disappointed with your current numbers?
  • Wishing to have a bigger year in 2014?
  • Wanting an objective look at your operation to identify your weaknesses?
  • Desiring to be more efficient?
  • Wanting a happier culture amongst your staff?
  • Needing help with customer service training within all departments?
  • In need of a new website?

James La Barrie is now booking dates for the spring season to visit your DZ to help you get to the next level. Contact me for more information by e-mailing me!

About James

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and changing a company's service culture. Originally from the Caribbean island of Antigua, James melds his approach of marketing and delivering elite service together as one. James has injected his 'service marketing' approach throughout his career to transform companies from good to great.