The holidays, from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year’s Day, present the perfect opportunity for chauffeured transportation operators to increase business through effective marketing. Not only are the holidays a good time to offer special packages and tours, but they are also an opportune time to thank customers with gifts that will make your company stand out. What’s more, the holiday season provides opportunities to thank your employees for all of their hard work during the past year.
Linda Bishop, owner of Style’ n Comfort Limousine in Santa Rosa, CA, says she shops all year to find the right gifts to give clients and employees. “My employees are usually the first ones to get my promotional items, whatever that is,” she explains. “We’ve done refrigerator magnets, mugs, flashlights and even sewing kits. I then give these to my clients as gifts. I try to do small things that they can take with them so our name will stay with them.”
Of course, an operator can’t give a gift to every client in the company’s database, so Bishop suggests giving gifts according to the type of client and the amount of business the client provides. “We go through our computer and see how long someone has been with us and who we really want to thank, but everyone in our database who has been with us for at least a year gets a thank-you card,” says Bishop. “We then break it up into categories to see who has spent the most money. Some get a card with a little trinket such as a refrigerator magnet. Then our top 10 largest corporate accounts get gift baskets and a $50 gift certificate called “Comfort Bucks,” which they can then use themselves or give to their clients.”
When shopping for her biggest clients, Bishop looks for innovative gifts that clients might not otherwise receive. “Because we’re in wine country, I don’t give them wine,” Bishop says. “So we give them things like coffee, tea and coffee-related accessories.”
Brian Waugh, owner of Embassy Limousine Service Inc. in Tampa, FL, also goes through his database to decide which clients will get gifts. “We send out custom holiday cards to all of our corporate clients and to most of our other customers, but we can’t do everybody in our database,” he notes. Waugh also chooses to send his best customers baskets filled with fruit, coffee and small promotional items with his company’s name, such as mugs, mouse pads, pens and calendars. He uses a local vendor that handles everything for him.
Waugh, like Bishop, also plans early for holiday gifts. “I usually start planning in September and shop around for the best price, and then send them out the last week of November,” he says. “We do a lot of Christmas parties and charity events for the holiday season, so people will be utilizing our limousine service for their functions. We want them to remember our name.”
Besides using gifts as a way to thank customers and get them to remember your name, operators can also seize the opportunity to make some extra money with holiday tours and special packages. Both Waugh and Bishop agree the holidays are a great time for increasing revenue this way.
“We have holiday light tours which start the second week of December and go until people begin to take their lights down,” says Bishop. “We work with the local newspaper to create a list of addresses to see. Sometimes whole blocks put on displays, so we definitely know where to go. Then we do advertising on the radio, usually along with a local restaurant that will also be included in the tour.”
Bishop turns her holiday tours into full packages including hot chocolate, dinner at the restaurant, and then dessert. “We have four different tours that we offer for this, depending on what people want and what they want to pay,” she says.
Bishop has found that she has been much more successful charging a flat rate for such holiday packages during this time, rather than charging an hourly rate for the same thing. “People like packages,” says Bishop. “We could give them an hourly rate and they would say, ‘No way!’ But give them a package which usually costs more than the hourly rate and people want it.”
Waugh also offers holiday light tours and packages and says his company does extremely well during this time of year. “We started this about four years ago and have raised a lot of business even during the weekdays, right up until the 4th or 5th of January,” he says. “We do a lot of advertising on the radio and by mailing out postcards about our tours. Families really love it.”
Waugh goes all out by decorating the vehicles and filling them with Christmas cookies, egg nog, fruit, holiday music and holiday videos. “We go on a three-hour tour and hit all the major spots with planned routes for the drivers,” he says. “It’s a great way to get families together for the holidays, and most people usually wouldn’t do something like that.”
As important as it is to recognize customers with cards, gifts and special packages, it is equally as important to recognize employees during the holidays for their hard work throughout the year.
Bishop, who has eight full-time employees, a detailer and two office staff members, says she always recognizes all of her employees during the holiday season. “I’ve been giving gifts and having holiday dinners for my employees forever,” says Bishop. “I give them gift certificates and then have a holiday dinner for the entire company, usually between Thanksgiving and the first week of December.” She agrees that thanking employees is just as important as thanking clients.
Waugh also recognizes his six office employees and 25 chauffeurs during the holidays by giving gifts and throwing a holiday party.
Last year, we gave our employees gifts from Brookstone’s and spent about $25 per employee,” he says. “On top of that we get together with the local association and plan a Christmas party for all the local owners and their chauffeurs and employees, which is usually done the first or second week of December.”
If done appropriately, the holidays can be the perfect time to increase revenue through additonal packages and tours, as well recognize those employees and customers who have helped build your business. “We like to thank our people and our customers,” says Bishop. “And you’ve got to keep your name out there all year-round.”