Vitalize Your Scuba Business

Does the scuba diving industry lack vitality?

Recently, an advertising agency hired to advise the scuba diving industry said: “The inward focus is highly evident, not only in the industry’s lack of innovation and its stunted growth, but in its ability to attract significant mainstream newcomers to the sport. The diving industry exists to satisfy the needs of the consumer. And only when the industry realizes this will it move forward and prosper… it has lost its appeal and its vitality.”

Well, many of you will disagree with that, I’m sure, but let us suppose for a moment that this is an accurate assessment. What does a business have to do to not fall into that trap? Or, better yet: What to do to get out of it if you are already in it?

This is really a question you have to answer for yourself, nobody knows your business like you do.

Things to consider:

1. You alone cannot change your entire industry;
2. If you are a dive shop, most of your market is local, not worldwide;
3. If you are a resort, most of your market is worldwide, but you operate locally;
4. You want your own business to prosper, regardless of the industry.

So, how do you avoid the inward “navel gazing?”

Answer: Do a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, as they apply to your industry, your market and especially your own business. Lock yourself and your partners into a Boardroom with lots of coffee, juice, and sandwiches and analyze: your Strengths; your Opportunities; your Weaknesses, and figure out answers to those weaknesses; and Threats to your business, and answers to those threats.

You should do a SWOT analysis at least annually, or more frequently if your industry is changing quickly.

Find out what your customers want.

Faith Popcorn in her book, “The Popcorn Report”, identifies Ten Trends (Cocooning, Fantasy Adventure, Small Indulgences, Ergonomics, Cashing Out, Down-Aging, Staying Alive, The Vigilante Consumer, 99 Lives, and Save Our Society). She states, that any idea or product that satisfies one trend in a major way, and at least three others in at least a minor way, are most likely winners. May I suggest that scuba diving satisfies the need for Fantasy Adventure in a big way, and Small Indulgences, Cocooning (insulation and aviodance), Down-Aging (we feel and act younger than our chronological years), and Save Our Society (marine conservation, etc) in a smaller way. If you haven’t yet read the book, may I recommend it.

While on the subject of books, an excellent down-to-earth, practical book on entrepreneurship is Dan Kennedy’s “The Ultimate, No BS, No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take No Prisoners, and Make Tons of Money Business Success Book”. (Unfortunately out of print, you may find it at your local library or secondhand book store.) Though every chapter is valuable, of particular interest is the one about How to Build Your Own Mini-Conglomerate – in other words, form strategic alliances with complementary businesses, to expand your own business. You are probably already working with a travel agent, for example, and arranging vacation diving tours. Why not join up with a publisher, and publish a How-To book all about diving and underwater photography, complete with beautiful, full color pictures of places you have been. In return you could offer lessons, discounts on equipment for your strategic partners, maybe share admin staff or office space, or a lease on a copier, or trade services; whatever.

What about new customers? Find people that already enjoy water sports, ie. windsurfers, etc. and suggest that they add diving to their list of pursuits. How to reach them? Where they already live, and by using traditional means as well as the internet – local newspapers, direct mail, list brokers, a referral program, a Special Offer Learn to Dive 2 Free Lessons, Get your Card, or similar. If you use direct mail, perhaps get one or several of your strategic partners to chip in – they can advertise too, in your mailer, and reduce your cost. Its a Win-Win.

What about lessons to be learned from the Ski Industry? Beginners’ slopes, warm comfy chalets, apres-ski parties, attentive instructors, Skiing-for-Kids, and more. What about a Singles Night – a Meet-New-People concept? Can these be applied to your situation? And, what do skiers do in the summer? Could they be potential new clients, perhaps?

Fact remains, though, that in stagnant industries, price chopping is regrettably the norm. Look at what happened to the courier business who saw their fee of $20 for an overnight envelope drop to $10 – exactly half. That had a huge impact on their profitability, and the industry had to make changes and adapt in order to keep their market share. Or the Post Office, who provided shabby service and lengthy delivery times, until the overnight courier people came along and ate their lunch. One really needs to reduce costs and settle for smaller margins, which in turn means doing higher volumes to remain viable, and sell the value-added services to improve those profits.