We don’t have much market data and statistics in the dive industry. And most of the data we have relates to profiling current scuba divers. DEMA has done numerous studies giving us indications on the socio-demographic profile of current divers. You can also ask DEMA for such an analysis to be performed on your database of clients. This helps us understand the past. But if we want to grow this industry, we need to understand non-divers and why they don’t dive.

Where can we get information on non-divers? That’s a million-dollar question. First, let’s understand the importance of targeting non-customers to grow our industry instead of continuing to fight for market shares in a shrinking market.

1. Blue Ocean Team on Non-Customers

To develop the dive industry, we need to identify and reach new markets to bring more customers in. We can’t rely anymore on the baby boomers for which scuba diving was a life-long aspiration. We believe the best tool to get out of this downward slope in the dive industry is the Blue Ocean Strategy framework.

In an article titled “Customers First? How About Non-Customers First?“, the Blue Ocean Team puts the search for non-customers in perspective:

“Making a blue ocean shift is about creating new demand and growing your industry, rather than competing for existing customers. One of the first steps of the blue ocean shift process is to identify the demand that exists beyond your industry. These are your noncustomers; buyers that don’t buy into your industry, product, or service yet.”

The Blue Ocean team goes on to identify three tiers of non-customers (in our case, non-divers):

  1. Tier 1: “Soon-to-be” non-divers.
  2. Tier 2: “Refusing” non-divers.
  3. Tier 3: “Unexplored” non-divers.

How can we grow the dive industry with these three tiers of non-divers?

Tier 1: Soon-to-be Non-Divers

Think dropout rate.

Soon-to-be non-divers have purchased something in the dive industry, most likely a scuba tryout or entry-level diver certification course. And they are about to drop ship.

The main challenge we have with these soon-to-be non-divers is identifying “why.”

What are the “pain points” that make these divers ready to give up on scuba diving?

At one point, they were interested in scuba diving because they went underwater with us. What made them change their mind?

And the next challenge after that is identifying solutions to removing these pain points and providing more value to these people.

Tier 2: Refusing Non-Divers

These non-divers are people who have considered scuba diving and then rejected it.

Once again, we need to find out “why.”

To do so, we would need answers from these people. We need surveys like the ones from SFIA that we will discuss below. By looking at commonalities across responses provided by these people, we can identify the pain points keeping them away from scuba diving although they are interested.

Tier 3: Unexplored Non-Divers

These non-divers are people who have never considered scuba diving as an activity for them. It doesn’t mean that Tier 3 is “everybody else.” Such a grouping would be useless.

Tier 3 non-divers are people who have interests similar to what we can provide in the dive industry (or what we could provide once we’ve redesigned the dive industry). We need to identify clusters of non-divers worth pursuing.

Because these are the non-divers the further away from scuba diving, it means that nobody in the dive industry has spent time courting them. The first company to develop products and services satisfying clusters of unexplored non-divers will have a chance to experience significant growth with customers nobody else is even thinking about.

But how can we identify such clusters?

2. Could we get Non-Diver info from SFIA?

It’s easy to ask for data on non-divers. It’s a lot more challenging to produce it.

We need to randomly survey people around the country to qualify in which Tier they fit and then, obtain info on what can move them. Doing such a survey won’t be cheap if we want the sample to be large enough to provide valuable information by gender, geographic location, age, profession, etc.

To save money and time, instead of doing it on our own, we could hire SFIA (Sports & Fitness Industry Association). They can add questions to the extensive national surveys they already produce with Sports Marketing Surveys USA.

They also publish a scuba diving report. It is handy. However, it gives information, trends, and socio-demographic profile of current scuba divers. It doesn’t help us understand the dropouts and any of the 3 Tiers defined by the Blue Ocean Team.

If we are serious about the ROI on our investments in the dive industry, we need to cough up the money for customized SFIA surveys. Piloting a sailboat blind is not the way to go.

3. Aquis Marketing’s Findings

In 2015, Ray Purkis of Aquis Strategic Marketing presented exciting findings from a study he performed to compare non-divers to divers.

A few of his findings are as follow:

  • The word “adventure” may not be the right word to use to get more people to come diving with us. 70% of current divers stated that they “often crave adventure.” Meanwhile, only 36% of the non-divers said so. Furthermore, “adventure” had a greater tendency to convey “high cost and hard.”
  • Similarly, current divers were much more willing to embrace unfamiliar activities.
  • Non-divers were less willing to seek or accept risk.
  • Non-divers had a lower innate drive for exploration.

The overall conclusion is that “people with an underlying ‘non-diver mindset’ may respond differently – or not at all – to messaging that motivates those with underlying ‘diver mindset.'”

For non-divers, there was a negative impact on receptivity to messaging that emphasized adventure, skills, and training.

We’ve already discussed this topic in Strategy: Redefining The Way We Promote and Teach Scuba Diving. We need to stop promoting scuba diving courses and sell scuba diving.

Further research is needed to determine the ‘right message’ to bring a more massive crowd of people to scuba diving. But we can be sure of one thing: The current message (regularly using words like adventure and exploration) is implausible to be the right one to get these non-divers to start scuba diving.

And it goes without saying that if you build your marketing material on your own preferences, you may be off track. If you bought or started a dive center, not only you are a current diver, but you are an addicted current diver. You can’t rely on what motivated you to build your marketing message to non-divers.

4. Crane Report’s Findings

You may have heard some old-timers referring to the Crane Report. I have, almost every time I mentioned the need for research on non-divers. I eventually put my hands on it. It was produced in 1985.

Therefore, we can’t assume the results presented in the Crane Report still apply today. But just for the sake of this discussion, here are some of the findings:

  • The industry should position the world of scuba diving as an extension of the familiar rather than a different & strange universe. For instance, the Crane report suggested positioning the water as “part of the world we live in” rather than “another” world.

This must explain why DEMA changed its positioning statement, in 2011, from “Diving. It’s Like Nothing On Earth” to “Diving. Explore The Rest Of Your World.” It’s much better although the word “explore” is still questionable as we’ve seen in the Ray Purkis study discussed above. And don’t ask me why ‘2011’. It’s as if it took 26 years for DEMA to read the Crane report!

Other findings from the Crane Report:

  • Most consumers felt that men were better suited to deal with the problems of carrying and using what was assumed to be very cumbersome and heavy equipment.
  • Otherwise, scuba diving was perceived as an infrequent and inconvenient activity. This observation brings us back to our discussion on redefining the dive center to make scuba diving more convenient.
  • The Crane report suggested avoiding the term “sport” as a descriptor since it tends to limit the appeal by conjuring up images of hard work and competition.

5. Training Agencies & Non-Divers

We know that some training agencies have done studies on non-divers. They typically keep the findings to themselves.

I had a chance to take a look at one such study produced in 2003. Here are a few of the findings:

  • Scuba diving was not rated highly as being relaxing, by the non-divers surveyed. It’s a problem because, at the same time, these respondents stated that relaxing was one of the main benefits they were looking for in an activity.
  • Scuba diving was strongly skewed toward being a vacation activity. No surprise there. It fits with the current trend toward doing scuba diving training at the dive resort after online learning, bypassing the local dive shop.

6. What’s Next?

Our industry is shrinking while we continue to operate as we’ve always done.

We need to find new markets (a Blue Ocean away from the red ocean of competition) to grow our industry (or our business) significantly. To do so, we will need much more data on what would be of value to non-divers and what are their pain points we need to eliminate. Once we’ve figured that out, we can more easily proceed with a redesign of the dive industry business model.

A Blue Ocean of Non-Divers

Once we find investors interested in shunting the incremental to go for the leap in the dive industry, we’re ready to help.