Lead generation — that is, drawing buyers to you through various forms of advertising; and sales, that is, asking those LEADS to give you their business, and doing so with a take-no-prisoners approach — is our current STATE of Survival.
In this crazy world of information overload, I am going to offer you only THREE THINGS to focus on for this entire year: Sell like hell, pay off debt, and repair your credit fast. AND UPGRADE SERVICE LEVELS AS BEST YOU CAN.
Selling, service, and credit solvency should be your top goals. Put those three things all over your walls, on your mirrors, on a post-it note on your dashboard. Get a tattoo, whatever.
People come out of the rubble after war and begin the task of putting their lives back together again. Life always resumes. You can count on that. So here we are — a far cry from this time last year when the alarms were going off, when we were in a mad scramble to cut costs, battening down the hatches to prepare to weather the storm. It was REDUCE THIS, GET RID OF THAT, DOWNSIZE, DOWNSIZE, AND DOWNSIZE.
And all of you reading this, even if you are hanging on by a thread, you did it. You survived a luxury-industry catastrophe. The major storm has passed. It is time for us to rebuild. Those who rebuild the fastest, who commit to spending more on advertising, marketing, and sales than ever before, will realize a quicker comeback.
Those who stiff creditors, walk away from leases, and take any ALTERNATE short cut to get out of a mess will not be limo operators in the future. Lenders today will show no mercy on people who don’t negotiate in good faith and work collaboratively with them to pay down debt.
Focus on sales — grab market share away from poor performers in your markets and find new types of business to sell to. Get in the networking game and increase farm in work. Create strategic alliances and partnerships with other businesses aiming for the same customers.
Advertise to the rich and famous. Advertise to your peers in this industry. Pay off debt — as fast as you can.
Improve your service levels — that means ON TIME ALL THE TIME; that means NEW vehicles; that means it’s time to re-train your front line staff. Make sure your phones are answered by the second ring, make certain your chauffeurs are sharply dressed, update your airport look/signage.
The staff must KNOW the art of being a moving butler. Now, a quick look at two cornerstone markets for our industry and how their budgets look for 2010:
According to the American Express Global Business Travel Forecast, pent-up trip demand coupled with supply base changes are likely to cause rates to slightly increase in most travel categories by the end of 2010. Business class airfares in particular are expected to increase in line with reduced capacity. This is a quote from Herve Sedky, vice president of American Express Business Travel, in a recent press statement:
“As the world begins to show signs of emerging from the recession, businesses are adapting to a fundamental shift in thinking focused on proving the value of travel and every employee connection.”
Global Business Travel Forecast
A prolonged period of weak demand in the travel industry depressed prices across travel categories in 2009, most notably in hotel, which as an industry cannot reduce capacity as well as airlines and transportation companies. Following this weakened demand in 2009, American Express Business Travel expects a pent-up need for travel and meetings to be unleashed in 2010.
Use of limousines for special occasions dates back to the horse-drawn carriage days and will NEVER go away despite the lull in consumer spend in 2009. As we’ve seen this past year, it was a PEOPLE MOVER industry…sort of like going from carriages to stagecoaches. But fear not — limousines will enjoy a consistent increase in wedding spend for the next four years, beginning with 2010.
In closing, I leave you with this: The worst is over and we see progress on the horizon, but there is no quick fix here. Hard work lies ahead. Remember, you must focus your energies on three things to be successful:
• You must sell like hell.
• You must pay off debt as fast as you can.
• You must make sure your service levels are at their all-time highest.
Congratulations to all of you for running your businesses so well this past year.