Admired for being both audacious and elegant, freediving is quickly gaining traction. At the Deepblu Expert Spotlight Sessions at DEMA 2016 in Las Vegas, Canadian freediving pioneer François Leduc explained how conventional scuba diving businesses can make the most of its growing popularity.
Leduc hosted a seminar titled Integrating Freediving into Your Scuba Diving Business, where he shared insights gained from successfully maintaining a freediving business in a place where it snows for half of the year—Montreal, Canada.
Organizing his talk around three key themes—sport, exploration and conservation—he provided a number of actionable tips to the dive business owners in attendance. According to Leduc, by combining these three elements into a broad strategy, dive shop owners can foster a tribe culture through regular coaching, training and competitive or other community events.
“The best way to incorporate freediving into your scuba diving business is to create a sense of community among your freediving customers,” Leduc proceeded. “A tribe is group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. All you need to form a tribe is a shared interest and a way to communicate.” Luckily, he pointed out, human beings have never been more connected than now. By taking advantage of these connections, business owners can successfully capitalize on the rapid growth of freediving that is currently taking place worldwide.
Getting Your Feet Wet: Partner Up
According to Leduc, the most important thing for a dive business owner to do to get started is to get trained up, or to hire someone that is trained. From there, a scuba business can consider partnering with a local freediving school, piggybacking on their credibility and brand reputation, or starting up their own independent operations. Partnering with scuba shops and centers is something that Leduc has done extensively, helping them develop and integrate freediving into their programming. The end goal is to turn each and every one of your customers into ambassadors, and to contribute to the development of a strong bond between you and your customers, and among them as well.
Sport: Unleash the Competitive Spirit
François argued that by treating freediving just like any other sport, business owners can emphasize the importance of proper training and education. Obtaining a certification is necessary for freediving safely and offering educational services is the most effective way to attract people to freediving, he said. People are always looking for ways to get in shape and stay in shape and by coaching and training people in the techniques of freediving—for a fee, of course—you can keep them coming back to your business.
Hosting weekly or monthly competitions is a great way to appeal to people’s competitive side and to maintain participation during the offseason. This is especially important for Leduc’s business, ApneaCity, which is located in Montreal where the weather is too cold to dive outside for over half of the year. To get around this, he organizes regular competitions and training sessions that take place in local pools when the weather makes it untenable to dive outdoors. Competitions can be organized locally or in collaboration with national and international certification bodies such as AIDA International or CMAS.
Explore: Every Corner and Facet
According to Leduc, one of the most effective ways to get people involved is to organize events that get community members into open water whenever possible. While pool diving is fun and useful, it can only go so far in stimulating the thirst for exploration shared by most people who get into freediving.
Organizing small events throughout the year will allow customers to form a strong bond with one another around their shared interest: freediving. It’s important to be creative and consistent. These events should be fun and centered around freediving. Leduc listed some examples of events that he’s hosted at Apnea City, including the Freez Dive (a winter dive into frigid lake water), Pirate’s Houseboat (spending a week freediving off a houseboat), and A Night of Apnea (freediving at night). All of these events, Leduc said, helped the members of his community interact with each other, create strong friendships and, most importantly, gave them a reason to keep coming back.
Conservation: Appeal to the Oceanic Feeling
Leduc also spoke of his longtime partnership and friendship with William Winram, the legendary freediver and Deepblu Brand Ambassador. Their friendship led François to contribute to and support The Watermen Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation founded by Winram.
Members of The Watermen Project freedive out of the cage with various species of sharks, tagging them and taking biopsy samples to aid scientists in their research. Since 2011, François has been involved in a number of expeditions with The Watermen Project.
“Promoting ocean conservation is another shared interest that most freedivers can coalesce around,” Leduc pointed out. As freedivers often feel one with the ocean they glide into, they understand better than any other diver the importance of ocean conservation. While diving with sharks is an extreme example, he recommends contributing to ocean conservation in other ways, through organizing events such as beach cleanups in local communities. “Contributing to conservation is not only an ethical thing to do, but it is also good for a business’ brand,” he said. Raising awareness about the conservation of marine life and ocean environments is something that the next generation of freedivers—millennials—are extremely supportive of.
Social Media is Your Friend
Business owners should take advantage of the power of social media for marketing their business and connecting with new and old customers. As mentioned earlier, the formation of a tribe requires not just a shared interest but also a way to communicate. In the modern world, the most effective way to communicate with people is through social media.
When it comes to social media, Leduc advised that it’s usually more effective to focus on one or two social networks as a main channel of communication. It’s better to do one right than to try five and be ineffective, he argued. Taking time to learn the language, researching the best practices and developing a solid strategy for social media can go a long way towards improving effectiveness. “Lastly,” Leduc says, “content is king.” This is where the shared interest part comes in. It’s important for businesses to be sharing relevant and interesting content on a consistent basis to keep the members of their social media community engaged. It gives them a reason to come back to a business’ page and to stay in touch.'
By: Ryan Patrick Jones, Community Editor at Deepblu
About François Leduc
François Leduc is an AIDA International Master Instructor and PADI Advanced Freediver Instructor, as well as an AIDA and CMAS International Judge. He is the cofounder of AIDA Canada and the owner of Apneacity Freediving School.
Recognized for his leadership, strong strategic reasoning and sound analytical skills, François Leduc has worked for nearly 30 years in senior management positions in the Health & Fitness Club industry. In 2015, he decided to dedicate his time and energy to the development of freediving and his school, ApneaCity, while ensuring the development of the sport on a national level as the VP of AIDA Canada.