The Business of Throwing People from Planes

 

I was coerced into going skydiving while I was spending a weekend in Queenstown quite recently, and though the jumping out of a plane thing was a pleasure, the branding of modern skydiving companies is somehow even more impressive.

Consider all the hurdles a company like the one I used needs to jump (no pun intended) in order to reach a potential customer and turn them into a paying, proselytizing, repeat client.

There’s the whole chance that you might die thing, for instance. Many people consider skydiving a risk not worth taking. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to die, why not peacefully in your sleep? Or having sex with someone much more attractive than you? Or, I don’t know, doing anything except slamming into the ground at terminal velocity?

This biggy goes along with other stigmas – like the fear of heights and fear of flying – to create one super-fear, capable of scaring most sane people away without even starting the pitch.

There are also many expenses that go along with running a safe and secure skydiving operation that must be accounted for. How do you justify charging a premium on throwing people out of a plane? How do you make a solid enough profit to distinguish yourself from all the other throwing-people-out-of-planes businesses out there (especially in Queenstown, the high-risk activity capital of the world)?

Here’s what they do.

Most skydiving companies EMBRACE the fear. They’ve created an entire industry around being a badass. They’re comfortable saying ‘this isn’t for everyone…only for people who aren’t pansies.’

This posturing and reposition of the ‘death problem’ has had a huge impact on the industry, and allowed these companies to make their clients sign any number of forms waving their rights to sue and emerge from the experience in full, working order, all in the name of being hardcore.

So that’s how they got the fear thing under control, but how about the money? Doesn’t it cost a ridiculous amount to hire experienced people, fly them around all day, pack and repack parachutes (GOOD parachutes, hopefully), etc?

Yes it does, and they’ve handled this little quandary by offering up personalized memorabilia from your few hours of being a badass.

You know those photos you can buy after riding a particularly startling roller coaster? You know, the ones they snap right as you’re at the most uncomfortable part of the ride? Yeah, they have those for skydiving, except they’re a bit more intense than that.

Essentially, you can order a set of photos and/or a video DVD of your skydiving experience before you head out to the airstrip to go up and jump out. If you do so, another person will jump with you, and this person will be loaded up with whatever camera/camcorder materials they need to capture your adventure, from your initial briefing, to getting suited up, to landing.

They then take this footage and slap it into some templates they’ve got set up, and voila, instant multimedia package.

The packages they sell are the real money makers, because although a premium jump costs upward of $400 and getting a DVD only costs $180, thy skydiving itself comes with a whole lot of overhead that needs to be handled, and I would imagine that their income from that is almost nothing. The $180, on the other hand, is almost pure profit, with a chunk taken out to pay the photographer/videographer for their time, but the rest is automated. The video uploads automatically, the DVD is all set up an ready to go (with a whole lot of stock-footage and advertisement filler), and all they have to do is hand it to you to make their money.

So here’s the question: is there something negative about your industry that you can flip around and turn into a positive? Further, is there any service that you can offer to your clients/customers that would supplement your current offerings, but bring in a whole lot more profit?

16 comments

  1. Love that you took a look at what was commonly seen as a negative in life in general and turned into a selling point. Well, not that you did it, but that you picked up on it.

    Any business looking to distinguish themselves (ie. any business) does have to find a benefit they offer that is different than what the competition offers. So what if what separates them from any other business in their field is exactly what you don’t want from competitors, but altered, refocused, shot through a different perspective and relaunched as a benefit?

  2. Love that you took a look at what was commonly seen as a negative in life in general and turned into a selling point. Well, not that you did it, but that you picked up on it.

    Any business looking to distinguish themselves (ie. any business) does have to find a benefit they offer that is different than what the competition offers. So what if what separates them from any other business in their field is exactly what you don’t want from competitors, but altered, refocused, shot through a different perspective and relaunched as a benefit?

  3. This is a great example of turning a negative into a positive. I’m an avid ultramarathon runner, and we do the same thing there. In fact, my favorite 100 mile race has the motto “A glimpse of heaven, a taste of hell.” We love to focus on the pain, for some sick reason.

    I’ve done this in my online jewelry business as well. The jewelry I resell is very expensive stuff, and yet I see competition pricing things at $499.99. Really? That just sounds cheap. People that buy $500 pendants don’t worry about the price. So I’ll mark the same thing $500. It just looks more high-end, and these customers love showing off.

  4. This is a great example of turning a negative into a positive. I’m an avid ultramarathon runner, and we do the same thing there. In fact, my favorite 100 mile race has the motto “A glimpse of heaven, a taste of hell.” We love to focus on the pain, for some sick reason.

    I’ve done this in my online jewelry business as well. The jewelry I resell is very expensive stuff, and yet I see competition pricing things at $499.99. Really? That just sounds cheap. People that buy $500 pendants don’t worry about the price. So I’ll mark the same thing $500. It just looks more high-end, and these customers love showing off.

  5. The shirts that I sell to both make me a profit and to help various charities is more expensive than similar t-shirts sold online. However, the one thing that seperates me from my competitors is that I do give such a large portion of the profit to charity. I didn’t really think of it this way before reading this post, but, I suppose, the customer will be happy with the purchase because he or she was able to help someone less fortunate than themselves while getting a product that they can enjoy. Although unintentional, coupling the donations to charity with the purchase of a shirt has offset the higher price for the tee. Great article, though! Makes me wonder what else I can offer to customers to, not only increase profit, but increase the amount of money going to charity.

  6. The shirts that I sell to both make me a profit and to help various charities is more expensive than similar t-shirts sold online. However, the one thing that seperates me from my competitors is that I do give such a large portion of the profit to charity. I didn’t really think of it this way before reading this post, but, I suppose, the customer will be happy with the purchase because he or she was able to help someone less fortunate than themselves while getting a product that they can enjoy. Although unintentional, coupling the donations to charity with the purchase of a shirt has offset the higher price for the tee. Great article, though! Makes me wonder what else I can offer to customers to, not only increase profit, but increase the amount of money going to charity.

  7. Well, the camera-mans jump slot in the plane will have to be paid for. This camera-man will also have to be paid. There is some bit of editing in to the dvd. Yes, there is stock footage etc, but it will their is still an editor to tidy up the whole movie (there is at my dropzone anyway) He spends almost an hour putting together a short film for one persons skydive.
    You have some very good points in there. Thanks for the read!

  8. Ah, let’s glamorize cheap artery-clogging burgers by exaggerating the small portion sizes in five star restaurants. Yeah, I’m drawing a blank on both those questions that you asked for my “industry”. We already have the saying, “Any publicity is good publicity.” Oh oh here’s a good one, “If you have a great product that you know will help someone, it is your responsibility to get it into their hands.” (Translation: Be a pushy sales person; you’re doing the person a favor by hounding them to buy.)

  9. Ah, let’s glamorize cheap artery-clogging burgers by exaggerating the small portion sizes in five star restaurants. Yeah, I’m drawing a blank on both those questions that you asked for my “industry”. We already have the saying, “Any publicity is good publicity.” Oh oh here’s a good one, “If you have a great product that you know will help someone, it is your responsibility to get it into their hands.” (Translation: Be a pushy sales person; you’re doing the person a favor by hounding them to buy.)

  10. You bring up some great points man. Sometimes the upsell is the best product. Of course people want to buy the DVD package so they can show their friends they went skydiving.

  11. You bring up some great points man. Sometimes the upsell is the best product. Of course people want to buy the DVD package so they can show their friends they went skydiving.

  12. It goes hand in hand of course: if skydiving was advertised as being easy, there would not be so much need to “show off” to your friends that you went skydiving. Factually, most people arrive safely on ground but for these companies, it doesn’t hurt to emphasize the fear that people need to overcome; it’s working pretty well for them.

  13. It goes hand in hand of course: if skydiving was advertised as being easy, there would not be so much need to “show off” to your friends that you went skydiving. Factually, most people arrive safely on ground but for these companies, it doesn’t hurt to emphasize the fear that people need to overcome; it’s working pretty well for them.

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