Operators Prepare for Business Growth

Posted on January 26, 2004 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

A new year and a recovering economy mean operators are in full gear with preparations for growing their business. Adopting new and improved marketing programs, upgrading or adding vehicles, and spending additional money and effort on advertising are among the ways operators are greeting 2004.

Tom Sturdivant, for example, owner of Nashville-based Sedan on Demand, is tapping into his current airport business to increase his retail bookings.

“These clients may typically use more corporate service, but these same clients also have birthdays and anniversaries and other events that they could use our service for,” Sturdivant said.

Sedan on Demand worked with American Express on a direct mail program. American Express helped the company send coupons to some of American Express’ local clients.

Last year’s coupons featured 20% off airport service if customers used their American Express card. Businesses working with American Express must offer a discount when clients use the card.

“It’s a great lead for us because it targets clients who hold [American Express] travel entertainment cards, and it only costs us about 75 cents per piece mailed out,” Sturdivant said.

Sedan on Demand sent mailers through American Express to 2,500 people in 2003. Sturdivant said about 14%, or about 350 coupons, were redeemed.

With a better economy in sight, the company decided to target 5,000 people this year.

Sedan on Demand also opened an office in Nashville Airport Dec. 1. It took three years of planning and preparation, but once the Airport Authority gave the OK, Sturdivant brought in four cars to be kept at the airport, four drivers and one person working the counter.

The cars are kept busy about 50% of the day, Sturdivant said. Service from the airport to downtown Nashville is $30 and service from the airport to anywhere else in the county is $45.

Like many operators, Dave Murray, owner of Total Luxury, Minneapolis, has been focused on the prom and wedding season, advertising more on radio and television for these markets. However, his overall goal is to bring up Total Luxury’s corporate bookings, which account for 35% of his business. He has already increased his phone book ads to include all three local directories.

Boston-based Limousine 18 owner Marc Shpilner said his company’s marketing efforts are targeting its current client database. He noted that many of Limousine 18’s accounts reflect small portions of companies and he is looking to market to other departments.

Almost all of Limousine 18’s work is corporate. From 2002 to 2003, Shpilner said the company saw about a 25% increase in business. Ten percent of that came from Limousine 18 purchasing another, smaller company in July 2003.

In addition, Shpilner upgraded his limousine management software in April 2003, which has helped prepare the company for more growth with advanced functions such as online reservations and credit card processing through its Web site.

For Julie Herring, owner of Julie’s Limousines and Coachworks in Clearwater, Fla., preparations for more business have her evaluating her fleet with an eye toward adding vehicles or upgrading them.

She also is planning on adding an interactive presentation to her company’s Web site. This presentation will have a picture of Herring, who will introduce herself and the company’s info, such as fleet size and services offered.

She has found that personalizing her service, making it one- on-one, is something customers like.

“I get a lot of positive customer feedback on my phone answering recording,” Herring said. Her automated answering service has her voice as the first thing customers hear when they call.

Herring also added a telemarketing program with one full- time employee, and is anticipating more sales from that effort.

- Alisha Gomez

Economy Expected To Continue Recovery

According to a survey by the Wall Street Journal, economists forecast the economy will continue to recover in 2004. The WSJ reported that this recovery should prompt increases in employment and business spending.

The WSJ also reported that corporate profits were up more than 25% in the third quarter from a year earlier, and are expected to continue to rise by 15% in 2004, “providing executives with cash flow and confidence.”

According to the WSJ, the economy is expected to register its strongest growth during the first quarter and then taper off by year end.

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