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Operator Eli Darland advises patience and persistence in courting wedding planners.
While the popularity of stretch limousines has waned among the corporate crowd, they still shine in more micro-retail special events markets, such as weddings, proms, nights out and birthdays. Operators with a steady retail clientele would do well to stay abreast of the latest facts and trends.
The most effective strategy limousine operators can deploy to enjoy more business from the wedding market is to build relationships with wedding professionals. Wedding and event planners are in constant contact with people looking for limousine services for their occasions, and if you win them over, their entire client books become prospects.
“Getting to know these people and building trusting relationships can take a long time, so you have to be patient and persistent,” says Eli Darland, owner of Bellevue, Wash.’s Rare Form Limo, a 2012 LCT Operator of the Year. “Because the limo industry is all over the board with respect to service levels and quality, a lot of wedding professionals have been burned in the past by operators. You have to network with them and get to know them as people instead of just prospective business partners because that will open up more doors for you. It doesn’t matter how nice your cars are and how great your website looks — if they don’t like you, they won’t refer you to their clients. Keep working to develop these relationships; they’re worth the effort. To sum it all up in one word: patience.”
Vintage vehicles such as this Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud from Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario-based Niagara Classic Transport’s fleet are popular choices for the wedding getaway car. Photos: Bryan Caporicci
Wedding trade shows are the best way to get your company’s name in front of the right people and begin building those relationships. Operators should get display booths and hand out brochures detailing not only the vehicles but also the quality of service they guarantee with specific examples. Emphasize that the company and expert staff will handle the entire process for the client so that it’s easy and hassle-free.
“We’ll have our vehicles at the wedding show so prospects get to see for themselves what we’re offering, and we even get bookings right there on the spot, so it’s worked tremendously well for us,” says Scott Woodruff of Des Moines, Iowa’s Majestic Limousine, also a 2012 LCT Operator of the Year.
“You really have to network and get that face-to-face interaction,” Darland says. “If your social skills are inept, hire someone who excels at that, because it’s a very important skill to have.”
Shane Handel of Scottsdale, Ariz.’s Maxim Limousine will even raffle off a free limo ride at wedding shows. A raffle is a great way to get a list of prospects’ email addresses and phone numbers for a follow-up. Email blasts and cold calls at strategic points throughout the year can prime prospects for wedding season.