Football coaches prepare a detailed game plan before facing their next opponent. In the NFL, coaches begin their game plan for the next opponent on Sunday night just a few hours after that week?s game has ended. They watch game film of their opponent and plot the strategies that will be effective the following week. Their practices are tailored to the particular opponent, and they implement specific strategies that they believe will work. A solid game plan may be the difference between winning and losing.
Smart limousine operators understand that prom season represents an important opportunity to make money. Maximizing the number of nights your vehicles are rented and the amount of dollars they are rented for is an important part of a winning game plan.
The first step in your plan, to be done in February, is to find the dates, times and locations of the 2002 proms and formal dances in your area. The list should include schools in a fairly wide radius of your location. The potential charters are lucrative enough to extend a company?s normal service area. It is a good idea to make a permanent copy of this list and place the list next to every one of your business phones.
Frequently, students will call limousine companies with little information beyond the name of the school prom that they are attending. By knowing dates, times, and locations, the reservations person is in a better position to sell limousine service quickly.
The next part of your strategy should include some direct mailing to school personnel and/or prom-goers. Matt Loiacono, president of Limousines, Inc. in Upper Marlboro, Md., targets school counselors and advisors with postcards.
?We start in February, and we send out packets of cards to as many schools as we can find,? he says. ?We have a 13-vehicle fleet, and over the years we have developed a very good mailing list.?
Loiacono adds that beyond having a good mailing list, it is important to make an offer on the postcard that will encourage the recipient to call and book a car immediately.
?We developed a $25 discount card with Create-A-Card,? he says. ?We give the prom buyer a flat $25 for a specific time period on the standard package if they bring us the postcard or mention they received the card when they reserve a vehicle. We have gotten an excellent response.?
Most limousine operators who have stretches, SUVs and exotic vehicles in their fleet will experience heavy call volume between March and early June from the teen market. In addition to his direct-mail program, Loiacono has a large display advertisement in the phone book. Consequently, Limousines, Inc. gets two or three times the number of calls than at any other time of the year.
?We sometimes book four couples into a stretch limousine after every one of the eight passengers called our office,? Loiacono says.
Maintaining a professional demeanor and treating each caller with a patient attitude are challenges that good companies meet every day.
?No question about it, it can be very difficult,? Loiacono admits. ?But if a 40-year-old adult wanted to call us a half dozen times to make sure his eight-hour ?as directed? trip was perfect, I am certain anyone would be cordial. What is the difference if the caller is 18 years old??
Generation Y, more than any other group of callers, wants immediate answers and they want to deal with a live person.
?It would really be ridiculous to spend the money for direct mail and the phone book and then not answer the calls,? Loiacono says. ?We are very careful about having enough staff to answer the phone.?
It is critically important to offer the young shopper an opportunity to see the vehicles in person. Bad limousine companies and dishonest operators have been known to practice ?bait and switch? tactics. A Saturday morning open house can be an effective selling tool as well as a reassurance for the young buyers and their parents.
Loiacono says that if he gets them to come to his office and see the car, then he believes they will book on the spot more than 85 percent of the time.
The ?Prom Pledge,? wherein students and adult chaperones and vendors promise to keep the event alcohol-free, is a great program. Safety is certainly an important consideration in this entire market. But some operators extend no alcohol to include no service.
?Our chauffeurs dress immaculately,? Loiacono says. ?We open doors, address everyone formally, and keep the limousines clean and fully stocked. We have probably done over 3,000 proms, and I believe we have ..." For more information on this topic, see the February issue of LCT magazine.