I made a decision 10 years ago that I would no longer market to brides. Unlike many limousine companies such as Signature Livery of New Orleans, Music Express, and Westfield Limousine in Westfield, N.J., which don’t even accept any wedding bookings, I would take what landed in my lap. Every limousine company in town showed up to bridal shows, cutting rates, vying for prime display positions, and handing out expensive brochures and business cards — all for a couple of bookings. All the money and time invested in being at the show ended up being a break-even with just a handful of orders from “one-timer” clients. But times have changed and now every single job matters in this economy. Networking with the community is a key to survival. So, back into the pool I go.
SETTING YOURSELF APART
We all provide a luxury ride for the wedding and we all have basically the same price. So, how can you win the war without being the lower price? The best advice I have is to take pride in your company, your vehicles, and your chauffeurs. If you can’t find pride in those three areas, you probably should not pursue this market which is basically a one-time shot to get it right on the most special day of your client’s life. Provide many options and services to set yourself apart and appear to be a complete wedding professional. Rich Rottier of Cedar Mill Limousine in Crown Point, Ind., applies giant handmade bows on the door handles of the cars. These bows are color-coordinated with the wedding colors.
Distinguishing your service
- Offer choice of business suit or tuxedo uniform for your chauffeur
- Display photos of some of your chauffeurs in uniform — look is important.
- Offer to color coordinate napkins to colors of the wedding
- Provide the traditional red carpet
- Make the bride feel comfortable and confident in your service
- Place “Just Married” signs on the car upon request
- Provide a “window pencil” for guests to write on windows
- Provide complimentary champagne if legal)
- Create a “signature touch” such as colorful bows on door handles
Networking in the bridal scene can dig up a gold mine of contacts, hook-ups, referrals, and new business. The scene is primarily comprised of rental halls, photographers/videographers, formal wear, florists, caterers, event planners, invitation printers, deejay services, and transportation services.
All of these businesses can interact with each other on all types of events. The more contacts you have, the more likely you are to be called upon to participate. Remember to refer business back to those who send you business.
Where to network:
Rental hall managers
Church facility managers
Online bridal networks:
ADVERTISING TO BRIDES
There are many ways to reach brides, such as through bridal shows, publications, Internet sites devoted to wedding plans, and of course, networking and word of mouth referrals. A referral lead is almost always a sure sale.
For the bride just getting started, all limousine companies look the same. Some have an idea of what they want, others need advice. Advertising is the key to making them call upon you.
Wade Randolph of Riverside Limousines in Baton Rouge, La., hired a sales rep about one year ago who focuses on the bridal market by attending shows and visiting local tuxedo shops and bridal stores. A relationship with a formalwear store can put you well ahead of the game.
If you can develop a relationship with a tux shop that will accept deposits on your behalf, it can eliminate running-around time for the busy bride and groom and create the image of association between you and the tux shop. Methods of getting your name in front of prospective brides and grooms include becoming a member of local bridal associations, advertising in special newspaper inserts for brides, and working bridal shows.
Places to Advertise
- Bridal shows
- Local bridal publications
- Internet sites
- Tuxedo shops
- Bridal stores
- Bridal associations
- Church facility coordinators
HOW TO GET NOTICED AT BRIDAL SHOWS
This is the best place to find brides and get one-on-one time with them. Having a charismatic person to reach out and grab a prospective bride is your key to landing sales, Randolph says.
Randolph recognized the need to have a personality that can reel in the prospect as she walks by the booth and in those few minutes convince her why you are the right company for her. If you don’t have the personality or desire to do this, hire someone such as a reservationist, a senior chauffeur, or professional sales rep to do this for you.
Here is the best tip I can offer you: Giveaways! People love giveaways! The show producers like it as it adds value to the show. And let’s face it, what bride would not want a free limo? For every single hour of the show, conduct your own drawing. Have people who stop by your booth complete an entry form. That entry form should contain their names, wedding date, e-mail address, street address, and the location of the wedding. This information alone is priceless. You can e-mail them specials and add them to your master e-mail list forever for special mass mailings such as newsletters. In other words, you might make them a customer a year or two from now if they don’t charter a limousine for the wedding. Each hour, take the winning name to the emcee of the event to have him announce your winner to your booth. Your company name will be mentioned every hour on the hour. The truth is only about 30% of all gift certificates issued are ever redeemed, so don’t think you are giving away the house.
Show Your Limo and Your Bus
Make sure that you have at least one vehicle on display or available to preview on the property. Most people will want to see your vehicles. People love to sit in limousines, so if you can place one on display that people can get in and out of, that provides a visual effect of what they can expect. Don’t forget to bring that party bus to the event as well, as most couples have bachelor and bachelorette parties. This is an opportunity for an additional booking.
Dress it up
Make sure you dress your vehicle up inside and out. Hand wash and wax the car before a display. Use plenty of tire shine such as Armor All. On the interior, fill ice wells with clear marbles to simulate ice and place an assortment of beverages on top of the “ice.”
Fill champagne flutes with shredded gold Mylar to simulate champagne.
Color coordinate napkins to the color of the carpet of the car using two napkins folded together to add dramatic color. Place a silver platter on the seat with two champagne flutes, a bottle of champagne in the middle, and a “Just Married” sign on the car to create the image of the bride’s special day in THIS car. Remember, you have to look better than any other limo service at the show to earn the sale.
Tips for bridal shows
- Have someone with “big personality” work the booth
- Use giveaways such as “Two Hours of Free Service” to get more mentions
- Have the emcee/deejay announce your drawings every hour
- Collect bride/groom data including e-mail address from drawing entry forms
- Display a dressed-up, immaculately clean vehicle