By Jon LeSage
Just take a look at the websites of the best known chauffeured transportation companies. Almost inevitably, you'll see logos and links for associations that the operator belongs to: National Limousine Association, state/city associations, National Business Travel Association, Meeting Planners International, and others. This usually works very well for operators - increasing credibility for potential customers visiting the site, and referrals and networking through these organizations.
Here are some of the associations I've seen successful operators become active in:
NLA & state/city associations: Industry associations have grown in membership and are mentioned more in local media coverage - and most importantly are becoming more well known in Washington, D.C., state capitals, and state/city regulating agencies. As laws and regulations governing the industry increase, having strong, active associations is critical. New England Livery Association, Greater California Livery Association, New Jersey Limousine Associations, Limousine Association of Houston, Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association, Great Lakes Limousine Association, and Greater Orlando Limousine Association have expanded and increased their power and presence, and other associations are increasing their size and significance. The National Limousine Association has taken major steps forward and grown substantially in membership size during the past two years. NLA and state/city organizations are also an important networking forum for operators to gain affiliate network/farm-out business.
NBTA & MPI: If you want to increase your corporate clients, think about becoming active with the National Business Travel Association and Meeting Professionals International. Corporate travel managers and meeting planners are two people (and sometimes departments) you need to know in a corporation. They're usually the primary decision makers for airport trips, employee commuting, transportation for meetings and conferences, and other great opportunities for increasing your revenue. Some successful operators have been attending and exhibiting at their conferences, and have become active on their service committees - a great way to build relationships and your company's brand name.
Chambers of commerce: These organizations are usually set up in each of the larger cities in a region. You may be serving a particular county area that has five chambers of commerce, but it might only be worth going to two or three of them for meetings and making contacts. It's a good way to become well known with leaders in your local business community and provide transportation service to doctors, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, building contractors, retail store managers, and other business people trying to get the word out on their companies. It's also a good way to stay on top of the news and trends in your area - what you need to know about, and maybe upcoming problems you have to resolve.
Local business groups: If you have any well-respected local entrepreneur/business groups that hold regular meetings, think about giving it a try. For example, there might be a business networking group that holds breakfast meetings at a nearby restaurant every Wednesday morning at 7:00. The purpose of the group could be exchanging business leads and potential clients with each other, and learning about each other's companies. This has worked out well for operators around the country, just like becoming active at chambers of commerce meetings. Another advantage is that you might need to meet a professional for company services such as an accountant/tax specialist or attorney. Operators usually gain several benefits from being active in local business groups.
"Green" transportation: The chauffeured transportation industry is going through a seismic shift this year - things are definitely changing. Purchasing hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles and adopting green business practices are becoming more important for those providing corporate clients with transportation, and for dealing with increasing government regulations. Limousine Environmental Actions Partners (LEAP), Green Ride Global, and Chicago Climate Exchange are providing operator members with important services, information, and guidance on transitioning into company practices that will meet requirements and expectations in a changing world.
There may very well be other organizations in your market that operators need to join and become active within. Granted, you can already stay very busy running your company, but being active in these types of organizations is a big part of growing your client base, networking relationships, and your knowledge base for future success. And if you have feedback on the subject, please leave your comments.
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