The truth is — you have just seconds to make a first impression on your prospective clients. Whether it’s with your vehicle, your website, or your business card, you seldom get a second chance to get their attention.
“Your prospect has made a decision before they even walk through the door and before they ever make a call to you,” says Michael Ellwanger, director of marketing for Create-A-Card, a 20-year-old full-service marketing team, located in St. James, N.Y., that specializes in the limousine industry.
For this reason, Ellwanger says your company’s marketing materials must promote an image of trust, which means showing that you take pride in your business by utilizing quality marketing tools.
“If you can prove to your prospects that you take pride in your business and invest in it, they will trust you with their business,” he says.
So What Do Quality Marketing Tools Look Like? The answer is, the simpler, the better. Keep these four concepts in mind while creating your business’s image: •Clean •Attractive •Professional •Consistent
According to Create-A-Card, your marketing collateral should have easy-to-read, clean-looking layouts and should showcase your vehicles and services prominently.
“Less is often more,” says Ellwanger. “Focus on what is unique about your offer and answer the question,‘What is in it for me?’” According to Arthur Messina, Create-A-Card’s president, offering your prospective customers a first-time discount or something for free in exchange for their business is a good way to attract new clients. So essentially, you are giving them extra incentive to try out your service. It is up to you to prove your image once the customer is in the car and keep them coming back to your company.
Another great tool that will remind those customers to use your service again is the use of professional promotional items. Simple and tasteful promotional items emblazoned with your logo such as letter openers, pens, stress toys, and mini mag lights are functional, realistic items that will keep your name fresh in your clients’ minds. “Promotional items are simple branding tools that continue your marketing efforts,” says Ellwanger.
Stick to Your Brand Identity Consistent branding is an area that gets overlooked in a lot of companies and being inconsistent with your marketing materials equals a weak brand. Without a consistent image, your brand can be confusing to clients and appear unprofessional. Use consistent imagery and pick a logo and stick with it. Clients will not trust you with their business if you present them with too many different faces.
“Consistency is what customers expect, so your branding must be consistent as well,” says Ellwanger. If you present an inconsistent image, your service may be viewed as inconsistent as well, and if that happens, prospective clients will not count on you and they will simply choose another company.
The Candy Wrapper Concept When creating a marketing strategy for your company, Ellwanger and Messina suggest thinking about your service as if it were a candy bar. What would you want the wrapper to look like and what would you like it to achieve? Obviously, you are interested in attracting customers so the wrapper would have to look good. This means having a great design will make people look at your service.
So, you got their attention, now you have to get the prospect to buy using impact marketing or “call to action” tactics. This goes back to giving the prospect a reason to try your service, such as offering a discount or any other extra incentive to get them to go with your service.
Once that client is on board, you must give them a great experience that supports that wrapper. Your service is what they will keep coming back for, not the packaging of your company. That just gets them in the door; the rest is up to you.
“The candy wrapper looks really good, but what really matters is what’s inside,” says Messina.
So get that client to choose your company by offering them something unique or of particular value to them. In other words, get the client hooked on your product, says Ellwanger. This will guarantee you repeat sales and better yet — referrals.
Let’s Get Real, It’s Going to Cost You Time and Money Successfully marketing your company is not going to happen overnight, and is not something you can skimp on when it comes to a financial commitment. How much is it worth to you to grow your business? Your answer to that question should reflect the investment you make into creating a marketing plan for your company. Those who spend little will get little in return.
“Investing in your marketing and promotional tools will generate sales and new business growth,” says Ellwanger. Marketing your business takes a consistent effort and a consistent investment plan. Without taking proactive measures to get your name out to your prospective clients, you won’t get very far.
Unfortunately, advertising, promotional items, and business cards all cost money, but when done properly can have a dramatic effect on increasing your revenue.
“Marketing needs to be consistent and sustained over time,” says Ellwanger. He suggests budgeting for a whole year’s worth of marketing every year.
Putting an ad in the Yellow Pages and in a couple of different places every once in a while will not get you business, but a constant barrage of marketing in your local area will. Whether it’s handing out fliers, leaving postcards at local businesses, or doing radio commercials, your company should have a constant presence in your local area — at the very least. Staying focused on your marketing strategies is also one of the keys to success, but if you don’t enjoy your business, you won’t be enthusiastic about promoting it. Sure, it’s a lot of hard work, but if you enjoy what you’re doing, the payoff is great.
“That’s one of the most important things,” says Ellwanger. “You have to keep excited and passionate about your company and that means you have to enjoy what you’re doing.”
“If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you better get out of your business,” says Messina, “because without that you will not succeed.”
Company Branding Strategies Your brand is a clearly defined identity with a unique selling proposition and a solid reputation, says Ellwanger. You can work as hard as you want on your image but if you are perceived a certain way, that is the reality of what your brand really means. It’s that old adage — “perception is everything.”
A brand is not a logo, colors, photos, or fancy designs,” says Ellwanger. “Your brand is how well you communicate your service promise and how you communicate with your audience.”
If you want to make customers for life, abiding by these standards may get you there faster than you think: • Choose a name and logo that are memorable and professional. • Be consistent in your marketing efforts. • Be unique. • Update and maintain your image on a regular basis. • Offer specialized service. • Be personal. Send thank-you notes, and birthday and anniversary cards. • Be flexible with longtime clients. • Use customer surveys and respond to them. • Be on time. • Be available.
It’s a Virtual Reality Technology is everything when it comes to marketing. Having the means to easily connect to your customers and, more importantly, make it easy for them to reach you is a non-negotiable. These days, everything is done electronically. That is not to say you should eliminate the human touch side of your business, but you should not ignore the fact that there are a myriad of electronic means to reach your markets.
Here are a few you may be interested in trying out: • CD-ROM or DVD presentations of your company — “These are great for prospective corporate clients,” says Ellwanger. “You can drop them off at their office and they can be shown to the client at a meeting later.” • E-newsletters — This is a great tool to promote your company. You can send your newsletter to all of your existing and future clients. It can feature a history of your company, announcements about new vehicles and promotions, as well as news you’d like to share with them. • Pod casts — Pod casts can be downloaded from your website to your clients’ mp3 players and are an easy way to broadcast a commercial or promotion to a wide audience. • Interactive Flash graphics — Amp up your website with Flash graphics. These will enable you to create online streaming video of your facility, commercials, virtual tours, or even 360-degree views of the insides of your vehicles. This program is also great for creating animation and interactivity features on your website. For more information and to view a full line of Create-A-Card’s products and services, visit www.createacardinc.com.
5 Tried and True Tools of the Trade
01 / POSTCARDS These are great direct mail pieces and are excellent for showcasing your vehicles and promotions.
02 / PRESENTATION FOLDER WITH STEP INSERTS A professional way to house all your company has to offer including your mission, vehicles, staff, rates, and services available.
03 / LUXURY TRI-FOLD BROCHURE Yet another sharp way to promote your company, services, and vehicles.
04 / CUSTOM-PRINTED THANK-YOU CARDS These postcards are a thoughtful way to show you appreciate a client’s business and to promote your company with pictures of your fleet, your company logo, and your contact information. You can even create a thank-you card with a pop-out gift certificate to give the client even more of a reason to use your service again.
05 / MEDIA KIT This is a full view of your company, from revenue to photos of your vehicles, its owners and staff, testimonials, and your chauffeur training and safety programs.
“Call to Action” Marketing Tactics • Offer a discount on services with every new account. • Create a VIP club and offer free membership with every service contract. • Offer a free transportation consultation. • Give the new client $100 worth of “Limo Bucks” toward their next ride. • Create a deadline-driven promotion like “Book before May 15, and receive $200.00 off!” • Give a free wedding gift with every wedding vehicle booking. • Hand out gift certificates.
10 Easy and Relatively Inexpensive Ways to Get Your Name Out There
- Get a website. The web should be your number one marketing forum.
- Don’t leave home without business cards. Make sure your cards have your name, phone number, and website. Make sure they are simple, and try to keep the contact information as clear and direct as possible.
- Go to your chamber of commerce and get a list of companies in your area. Go after them for corporate work!
- Write press releases and promote your company by sending news to your local media and LCT.
- Brand your water bottles with your company logo.
- Bring coffee and donuts to local companies with your brochures.
- Check out your competitors (as a customer) and offer something they don’t or something they do — but do it better!
- Cross market your services with restaurants, hotels, and wedding vendors like bridal and tux shops.
- Create a blog that targets your market.
- Donate your services to charity or other local organizations or sponsor a local event.