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What Marketing Can Learn From Sales and Vice Versa

“How do you contact people who live way up there in the clouds?” That was how Alex Kvassay reframed a question presented him at this week’s Wichita Aero Club.

The legendary aircraft salesman, now retired but still going strong at age 85, recounted lessons learned in his 30 years of globetrotting sales. And we were taking notes.

Seldom do aviation marketers have the opportunity to hear from salespeople who have achieved at such a high level. With clients that included the captains and the kings. The famous – Onassis, Cisneros, Hussein. And the infamous – Bin Laden, Castro, Ojukwu.

The Hungarian native speaks five languages and as moderator and former colleague Al Higdon noted, “He will tell you, he speaks English the bestest.”  Kvassay worked for both Bill Lear and Olive Ann Beech, racking up total sales that may still be a record.

Knowing Your Audience

And how did he do it? He assured the crowd, “You don’t just walk into the office and say, ‘I want to sell you an airplane.’” It involves finding those with the means, the need and the desire. But even when you identify that individual, Kvassay said, you aren’t home-free. “You still may have problems with his board of directors or his wife.”

He talked about the differences between sales stateside and overseas. Here, he said, you have to be well versed in taxes, cost of operations and the business side of aircraft ownership. In dealing with an international client, he never brought up the cost of operation. “That would have been an insult.” Looking at Higdon he added, “I always tore up all those beautiful brochures you created for us. Our customers couldn’t care less.” Higdon deadpanned, “Now I know where our brochures went.”

Going the Distance

Anecdote after anecdote reinforced Kvassay’s unspoken secret. He made sales because he made contact. In person. Even if he didn’t always know where he was headed. In the case of Biafra (now reintegrated into Nigeria), “First, I had to find a map to find out the hell where it was.”

He also learned to read people. Knowing one prime minister would want a plane bigger than neighboring prime ministers. Appealing to egos. Telling one general from Manila that he wanted a Learjet not a Citation: “It climbs like a homesick angel and makes a lot of noise on takeoff so everyone will know the general’s in the air.”

And Kvassay asked for help. “Where can I sell an airplane?” he’d ask. And when he got a suggestion, off he’d fly. Whether that was to Casa Blanca or Santo Domingo.

As a marketer listening to this sales warrior, it pleased me every time he acknowledged the times he didn’t find the customer. When the customer found him. “Learjet was well known all over,” he said.

That’s marketing for you.

Professional Pilot has been running a monthly column called “Alex Remembers” for two years – and has a number in the queue says owner/publisher Murray Smith. Don’t miss reading Kvassay in his own words.

Singapore Airshow Delivers Big

Blair Aerosports Rebel 300. Photo credit: Tony Blair

Asia’s largest aerospace show didn’t disappoint. Record visitors. Record deals. The biennial Singapore Airshow, Feb. 14-19, pulled in 145,000 attendees from 128 countries.

It definitely followed through on its marketing promise of a “Big Show, Big Opportunities.” Boeing’s landmark, largest-ever commercial order came from Indonesia’s Lion Air. Its order for Boeing 737 aircraft rang up at $22+ billion. Let’s put that in perspective. Total signed deals made during the last Singapore Airshow in 2010 brought in less that half that: $10 billion.

Growing Stronger Every Day

While aviation’s rebounding worldwide, the Asia-Pacific is the site of its strongest growth. Attendees weren’t just tire-kickers – but power-hitters. Sultans and prime ministers. Heads of defense and captains of industry.

Building Capacity

First-time exhibitors included BBA Aviation and Dallas Airmotive, which also celebrated the opening of its Singapore regional turbine center. FlightSafety International did some celebrating in the region, as well, hosting a highly successful public grand opening of its Hong Kong Learning Center on February 14.

Air force aerial displays from Singapore, Malaysia, United States and Australia demonstrated the power and possibilities of man and machine. Blair Aerosports of Australia made history by putting on the show’s first stunt aerobatic performance. Actor Jackie Chan’s splashy red and yellow Embraer Legacy 650 drew added interest to the static display.

We have to wonder what’s in store for the next show in 2014. Something tells us, it will be big.

Mobile Marketing Guidelines Streamline On-the-Go Advertising

Mobile marketers rejoice: Industry leaders have finalized guidelines to make on-the-go advertising more streamlined for advertisers, online networks and agencies alike.

The global nonprofit Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) recently released guidelines that standardize a handful of mobile ad sizes that should be widely used and accepted. This will make it easier to create, buy and sell ads for smartphones, feature phones and tablets.

To narrow down the ad sizes, the MMA analyzed billions of global mobile ad impressions and chose those that represented the most frequently used. They then pared down 60-plus sizes to a mere six. I’m grinning. Are you?

Compliance or Bust

As if all this added convenience weren’t enough, we get a stamp, too. Ad networks and publishers have until the end of April 2012 to become compliant. At that point, companies that have opted in will be issued a MMA Universal Mobile Ad Package Compliance stamp to place on their websites and marketing materials.

As if you need to be convinced that this is a good thing for our industry, let me give you more proof. This collaborative effort between the sales and buyer sides of the equation has garnered the support of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Newspaper Association of America.

The Joy of Simplicity

This is a case where less is definitely more. Just as mobile devices provide consumers ease and efficiency, the MMA’s guideline changes greatly simplify the work of mobile advertisers and media planners.


Heli-Expo 2012: Honoring the Past, Focused on the Future

More than 19,000 attended Heli-Expo 2012 at the Dallas Convention Center. For the fourth year in a row, the show featured a record number of exhibitors – 650, up from 625.

Two helicopters. Separated by the length of the Heli-Expo 2012 convention floor. Worlds apart in every way. Except one: Both ignite your imagination, as only a helicopter can.

A Bell OH-13, with its roots in World War II, anchored the south end of the million-square-foot Dallas Convention Center. On the north end, a prototype Bell 525 Relentless represented the latest in just about everything – composite materials, engine design, avionics.

In Dallas, folks navigated to the heritage helicopter display using an app on their smartphones that contained virtually everything they might want to know. Schedule. Maps. Exhibitor list. Area resources. Even a handy access portal to social media. People also used Twitter to keep in touch while pursuing individual agendas and alerting each other to don’t-miss opportunities.

Nothing Stays the Same

On the floor, virtually every booth represented a different aspect of rapid development. Night vision goggles – a novelty just a few years ago, now are becoming a virtual requirement across a growing number of helicopter missions. MD Helicopters’ new NOTAR system does away with the familiar tail rotor. Several booths, including FlightSafety International, testified to the growing importance of simulation-based training. Even financing continually changes, as Richard Santulli’s Milestone Aviation Group showed with its announcement of major leasing agreements.

My colleague Kevin Jenks and I, looking at the show through the perspective of aviation marketing, found a common theme among many exhibitors – from the small entrepreneurial start-ups to the largest global conglomerates. The blistering pace of change leaves them scrambling to keep their marketing on pace and in synch with their products. That’s a challenge for everyone these days, but it’s especially acute in the helicopter industry.

The good news is – most of them know it and are working to catch up. This is an innovative, forward-looking industry. Whether it’s cutting-edge avionics, revolutionary design changes or smarter, more integrated use of online and social media, the helicopter crowd can’t abide any position other than out in front, leading the charge.

*Originally published in the February 16 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.

Make Your Email Marketing Campaigns Better By Making Them Smaller


Highly targeted email helped fill every seat at Bombardier’s last Safety Standdown.

Effective Email Marketing

Email marketing has always seemed to be the redheaded stepchild of the Internet. Its reputation isn’t surprising, given the infuriating amount of spam and phishing schemes we’re subjected to every day. But despite this, email marketing’s benefits make it a vital part of your total marketing budget. Its main strength lies in its role as a permission-based medium. Because email marketing can only to be sent legally to those that opt-in to receive it, you can safely assume that everyone seeing your message already has an interest in your product or service. Coupled with the fact that it’s inexpensive to get started, email marketing can lead to a higher ROI than other marketing channels.

The issue with email marketing has nothing to do with the medium itself. It’s the fact that in most cases it’s done so ineffectively. Too often companies send emails out as an afterthought, with no strategy and without realizing the pitfalls that can derail a campaign. The following tips can turn an otherwise scattershot approach to email marketing into a campaign that produces results.

Target Your Message

When done right, email marketing can be highly targeted. When someone signs up to receive emails from you, you can add questions to your signup form asking what types of information they’re interested in. You can also adjust your message based on demographic information such as age, gender or location. This allows you to increase the relevance of every email received by tailoring the message to the individual, rather than just sending out one blanket email to your entire distribution list. Since studies show that targeted emails outperform bulk emails by a wide margin, you’re doing a disservice not taking advantage of targeting.

Test Different Options

A worthwhile practice that’s unfortunately underutilized is conducting A/B testing of differing marketing messages to see which has the better response, whether that means a higher open rate, more call-to-action completions or another metric that you define. Simply adjusting your subject line can affect the number of people that open your email, and the only real way to know what works is through testing. In addition, the information you get testing one campaign can be invaluable to future campaigns.

Take Care of Your Lists

Email campaigns live and die by the distribution lists they’re sent to. For your lists to stay healthy, you need to have a strategy to grow them with quality prospects. Having an email signup form on your website is of course mandatory, but there’s many more places you can take advantage of. It’s possible to put your form directly on your Facebook page, post a link to your form via Twitter or put the link in your outgoing email signature. Printed materials can include a QR code that leads to your signup form.  Getting the message out through all of these channels helps ensure that your lists don’t atrophy due to people unsubscribing or changing email addresses.

It’s also vital that you eliminate non-productive email addresses from your lists. Failing to prune bad email addresses wastes money, as most email distribution services charge you whether or not an email is valid. More importantly, it can affect your overall deliverability, as ISPs may block emails that are repeatedly sent to email addresses that don’t exist, or if valid recipients don’t open your emails.

Embrace Mobile

As more people receive email on their smartphones and tablets, it becomes necessary to tailor your emails to those devices. That means a separate design optimized for those smaller screens, rather than just reducing the size of the design you’re using for desktop computers. It also means adjusting content to emphasize clickable phone numbers and links that take the viewer to mobile-optimized sites. This ensures that the user experience is relevant to the device, both while reading the email and beyond.

Preparing for Bigger and Better Singapore Airshow 2012

The theme of this year’s Singapore Airshow – “Big Show, Big Opportunities” – doesn’t overstate its case. Regional growth and pedal-to-the-medal economies make Asia Pacific the place to be. Especially from February 14 to 19. Plan now to make the most of it.

Brush Up on Your Etiquette

If you or some of your team members haven’t been to Singapore before, a quick protocol review might be in order. Here are some tips we’ve found helpful.

• Show respect. Your face is your grace. Interpersonal communication is key.

• Understand that business is more formal there than in most western countries.

• Be careful with any gift-giving. Avoid alcohol for Malaysians, pig products for Muslims, leather for Indians and knives for Chinese.

• Ratchet down a too-aggressive style to accommodate Singaporeans, who prefer a more soft-spoken and calm demeanor.

• Avoid showing the soles of your shoes (a sign of disrespect). That probably means not crossing your legs.

• If handing something to an Indian or Malay, use your right hand. Muslims consider the left hand unclean as in their culture it’s used for personal hygiene.

• Make appointments. Now if possible. And once set, be sure you’re there on time. Punctuality isn’t just a virtue. It’s a measure of respect.

• Allow time for small talk before you get down to business.

• Exchange business cards using both hands with type positioned toward the recipient. When you receive a card from someone, take time to look at it thoughtfully. The way you treat the business card is seen as how you will treat the relationship. Casually or carefully?

• Pause and give thought before answering a question. Responding too quickly shows a lack of respect.

• Avoid touching the other person. A pat on the back or hand on the arm can come across as flirtatious or even as aggressive.

• Allow at least an arm’s length of space between you and the other person.

• Never raise your voice or lose your cool. Anger leads to loss of face.

• It’s never good to point, but in Singapore pointing with your finger is considered especially rude. If you simply must gesture, use your entire hand with your palm up.

• Don’t jaywalk, litter, chew gum, spit or eat on a bus. You can be fined or even arrested.

Most of the global aerospace and defense industry leaders who exhibited at the last airshow in 2010 are returning. New exhibitors include BBA Aviation and Dallas Airmotive, which is celebrating the opening of its Singapore regional turbine center. FlightSafety International is doing some celebrating of its own, too. On February 14, it’s hosting a public grand opening of its Hong Kong Learning Center. To learn more, you can email [email protected] or call 201.528.0168.  

Aside from the lure of spectacular warbird aerobatic performances and the latest-and-greatest commercial/corporate aircraft static displays, an aviation leadership summit and Asia Pacific security conference will address key issues. Nothing surpasses the value of this kind of high-level, face-to-face discussion and problem solving.