Why Students Choose Your Flight Program (Part 1)

When prospective students are evaluating your flight training program they likely follow the same decision making process they would use when purchasing any other goods or services. Sure, the timeline may be longer and the stakes may be higher but the underlying motivators remain the same. Why and how people buy is a highly talked about topic and this article does a good job of explaining four areas central to why we buy things: goals, plans, challenges, and timelines or GPCT. Let’s explore how you can understand GPCT for your prospective students and their goals, plans, challenges, and timelines when evaluating flight training programs.

Ask yourself, “why do people enter my flight training program?” Most likely students enroll to become pilots. Whether they are looking to become a pilot simply for their own personal gain or for a future career in aviation, the end goal is typically the same. But as you know not all pilot licenses are created equal. The requirements for operating as a weekend warrior versus obtaining a commercial license are vastly different. Therefore, you need to clearly understand what your prospective students’ true end goal is and clearly position your flight training program to help them meet this goal. For example if you are a smaller FBO flight training program, you may be more focused on recreational pilots looking to obtain their license for personal reasons. If that is the case, you will need to tailor your marketing to appeal more to the hobbyist and aviation enthusiast, not the career pilot.

Anyone with a goal needs a plan to help them meet their goal. For those looking to obtain a pilot’s license, aviation training will certainly be part of their plan. But how do you insert your program into that plan over your competition? You can achieve this through your recruitment and marketing efforts. For example, get out in front of young students early to influence their perception of a career in aviation. Further, marketing to today’s prospective students through online channels may help get your program noticed. These outbound efforts will promote your program as a viable solution in helping targeted students complete their plan of becoming a pilot.

Many challenges arise as students go through flight training. After all, the student pilot dropout rate is anywhere from 50-70%, in the U.S., higher than any other nation. Aviation programs can be both demanding and costly resulting in students’ losing site of the end goal. Your flight training program should identify these challenges and be able to help prospective students overcome them en route to their license. If cost is going to be a challenge for some of your students, consider your ability to offer scholarships or other types of monetary funding to help them overcome this. Your students will spend a lot of time in-training with your flight instructors. Make sure you have high-quality educators that will make your program more enjoyable and effective for your students. Being able to clearly articulate challenges students may face and show how your program can help them overcome these challenges, will make you more attractive to your prospective “buyers.”

Timelines are important to prospective students so you need to make sure your program meets the student’s time frame, or you won’t be the right fit. Think about your program and the options for coursework and training that you provide. For example, some prospective students will want to put their full-time efforts into learning flight. Others may only be able to commit to a part-time endeavor. Does your flight training program cater to both audiences or do you prefer to focus on just one? Understanding the GPCT of your prospective students will help you understand why they buy, enabling you to position your program accordingly. In part two of this series, we’ll look at how people buy and what it means for your flight training program.