From the intense and invigorating atmosphere of the exhibit hall floor, to the priceless expertise and insight found behind conference room doors, everyone who attended the International Show took something of value home with them. There were countless opportunities for networking, education, and promotion found in the three days spent in Las Vegas. Attendees who made the most of their time surely brought home much more than they planned for, but it’s the steps taken after that point that make all the difference.
Building Your Own Affiliate Network at the Show
One unique opportunity provided at every industry event from local association meetings to State association meetings is the one-on-one, face-to-face networking. The International LCT show is considered by most in the industry as the Grand-Daddy of peer-to-peer networking.
With plenty of social networking time structured into the overall conference, attendees have ample opportunity to build a Nationwide or even Worldwide affiliate database. Between the First Timer Breakfast, Women’s Entrepreneur Brunch, show floor lunches and parties such as the Krystal Coach sponsored party at Club Tao to the various suite parties, all you have to do is show up and start collecting business cards. Of course it is always helpful to hand out as many cards as you can to those you meet to build incoming farm work.
Once you collect the cards, how you handle them can make all the difference in the world. Tossed into a drawer, they will become useless. The most efficient utilization is to insert them into a Rolodex specifically for affiliates in your own “private network”. Instead of filing them alphabetically, file them be geographic territory served. When you need someone in Chicago, you will have a contact there. Of course if you take the time when receiving the card to note any specializations, types of vehicles and rates, you are even further ahead of the game in farming work out. If you have livery software, you can enter the data into your software program instead.
To make sure your new contacts reciprocate by sending you new business, you should send a follow-up letter thanking them for the time spent together at the show. If there is an event or activity specific to the time you met, include the details of it in your letter to help refresh the memory of the encounter. Include in your letter what area you serve, how to get in touch with you, including your personal cell phone number to add that personal touch. Also include the type of vehicles you operate or have access to and remind the person to call you for any needs in your area. Send another business card with your letter as well as a brochure.
Using the Internet to Build Your Business
With the advent of the Internet, building your business around the globe has never been easier. Through the presence of your own website with key search words related to the city you serve, you are bound to have a fair amount of viewers driven to your website. A well designed and presented website is crucial. Remember, in general, you have two seconds to make a first impression on most people through your website or printed materials.
In addition to consumers coming to your website, a number of “virtual limousine companies” have recently emerged who are also looking for you. Virtual limousine companies have no vehicles. Instead, they rely on a network of operators around the World who service for the orders they take. A recent Google search for “limousine rental” produced search results such as:
·Limos.com · ·Limousines.com · ·Limopros.com · ·LimoFind.com · ·USALimos.com · ·USLimodirectory.com · ·Limousinedirectory.com · ·Partypop.com
Of course this is just a handful of the many choices available to consumers of our service. In addition to these businesses which serve as “call centers” of the industry, there are highly respected networks such as Savoya, Urbanride, Limolink and NLARide who also steer Internet savvy shoppers to you.
Joining the Networks
Many of the industry’s leading networks had booths at the International LCT Show. This offered operators a chance to spend face-to-face time with networks executives as well as helping the networks increase their number of affiliates and expand their service areas. At the same time, this allowed many new companies the opportunity to review various affiliate and franchise opportunities offered by Boston Coach, Carey International, CorporateCarOnline, NetworkLimo and Worldwide Limousine. Other networks such as Music Express and Empire/CLS Worldwide hosted parties and held meetings with affiliates during the show.
Being a part of any network increases your opportunity for new business. Joining as many networks as possible provides an even greater opportunity. The I-LCT show provided ample opportunity for companies to determine whether they were a good fit for each other and form new business relationships.
Another method of building your business is through Internet Forums. The forums offer communications between limousine owners, operators and chauffeurs. Sites such as Limos.com, Chauffeursblog.com and LCT’s own forum offer tips, referrals, advice and answers on a peer-to-peer basis. The forums help build friendships as well as answering questions relative to the industry. At Limos.com, a section devoted purely to mechanical issues is frequently addressed by LCT’s own Dr. Limo, Bryan Baker. Marketing advice is freely dispensed by LCT Contributing Editor, Jim Luff. The International LCT show provided a room for Limos.com forum regulars to meet for an hour and spend time bonding in person. Luff and Baker were able to meet with many of the people they communicate with on a daily basis. The forum attendees also had an opportunity to meet with LCT’s Managing Editor, Jon LeSage and Assistant Editor, Camella Lobo. Meetings such as this help guide LCT into addressing issues of interest to readers. LCT’s own forum is currently being relaunched in a new format and Luff and Baker will be addressing and facilitating questions on a daily basis.
Reciprocal Web Links
Jodi Rudick of AdVisors Marketing Group shared with audience members a unique way to increase the exposure of your website to local Internet shoppers and surfers through the use of a link on other local or national websites which direct visitors of that site to yours. You in turn would provide a link on your website to their website. This “reciprocal” sharing allows both businesses to target similar clients. An example would be to have a link to your website on a cruise ship site. Many people who cruise also take limousines to get to the cruise ship. This allows easy, one-stop shopping for the entire trip. By the same token, cruise lines know that people that typically consider limousine travel also consider and have the income level of cruisers. It makes sense for each business to promote the other. Similar arrangements can be made with local hotels, restaurants, golf courses, airports, wineries, amusement parks, theaters and other venues.
Jodi Rudick of AdVisors Marketing Group reminded class attendees the importance of a good website as well as maintaining it. Websites need to be kept fresh. They need to be accurate. The more information provided, the better. We live in a “now society” that demands information faster and broader. Vehicle types, prices, company history and areas served are just some of the many frequently asked questions (FAQS) and every website should have an FAQ section. By rotating specials and providing fresh content, potential clients will visit your site often as well as refer others to your website if there is something worth referring. Avoid such things as “Under Construction” areas of your site. If it has been sometime since your last revamp, consider a major overhaul. Of course online reservations is the current rage of the consumer. They can do it with hotels. They can do it with airline or train reservations. They can even do restaurants now. So, our advanced technology customers expect to book their limousine in the same manner as their other travel arrangements.