LCT: Tell us about what you do.
Mark Kingsdorf: I have owned the Queen of Hearts for the past 10 years. We are a premiere wedding planning business in the Philadelphia market offering full service wedding planning. We get paid by the bride for our expertise. We do not take commissions from the vendors we recommend. We work with 35-40 brides a year. We can assist with every aspect of a wedding anywhere but I try to stay in the Philadelphia /South Jersey /Delaware region.
LCT: What does the average wedding cost?
Mark Kingsdorf: On average the brides we work with spend $30,000. We do work with those who spend less and more. I have worked on weddings that are over $150,000. To some brides, cost is not a factor.
LCT: What are you seeing as trends in the wedding industry?
Mark Kingsdorf: Brides are between the ages of 23 and 32. They are college educated and career minded. They want everything at their finger tips. They are very computer savvy. They use social media sites extensively. They care about what their friends tell them. They care what their virtual friends tell them. They also care about what people they don’t know are saying.
LCT: What are some of the recommendations you would make to limousine operators as it pertains to brides and weddings?
Mark Kingsdorf: I recommend that you have an email address with your company name in it. I am amazed at how many limousine companies still use AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo. Most of the spam filters will keep them from getting mail from wedding planners. Limousine operators should have a webpage dedicated to weddings only. Brides only want to see what pertains to them. Also, get involved in social networking. Blue Streak Limousine Company in New Jersey is a Facebook friend. They are promoting safety “Don’t Drink and Drive. Be Safe.” I don’t know who they are except for through Facebook. Social networking costs you nothing to set up and it is the hottest way to market your business to brides.
LCT: What mistakes do limousine operators make when dealing with brides?
Mark Kingsdorf: They treat them like every other customer. Train the people answering your phones how to work with brides or set up someone who does it exclusively. Brides don’t want to deal with order takers. They need for you to take the time and sell them. Explain the “whys.” They won’t understand terms that you use everyday like what garage to garage means. They won’t know that a three hour package really is a two-hour package if it is a garage to garage contract.
LCT: What should operators consider when selling to brides?
Mark Kingsdorf: What limousine companies should really be selling is safety. Brides don’t want their guests driving drunk. Sell the fact that you have insurance, your record, and the training that you give chauffeurs. Sell safety and security. This is an emotional purchase more than a dollars purchase. Take the extra couple of minutes to deal with the bride on the phone. Most brides just don’t know — they wait to be told what to do by the experts. They are looking for you to be one of those experts. Ask them what they are planning then tell them how to do it. “Will you be taking pictures after church? Where?” You could sell a bride a sedan transfer at the end of the night if you would just tell them about it. Most brides think that they have to buy another package and will just have a family member take them rather than the extra expense, but a sedan transfer really isn’t out of the budget.
LCT: Tell us about how brides buy?
Mark Kingsdorf: There is a food chain in weddings. It’s important for limousine operators to understand the food chain. The first line of planning for the bride is usually the church or synagogue. Form relationships with those in your area. I recommend that you start with an introductory letter and then a follow up call or visit. Next are the venue, caterer, or wedding planners. You have a commodity that you can barter for references. Consider using this. This business is all about relationships. Follow up and continue to create those relationships. People like tuxedo rentals, bridal shops, etc. fall further down on the list. Target the top of the list first.
LCT: What do you think about wedding shows?
Mark Kingsdorf: They are truly hit or miss. Most, though, are what you make of them. I am always amazed when companies go to these, then don’t bother to do the follow up work. I recommend using a program like Constant Contact which gives you the tools to send out a nice looking piece and to see how many people visited your website as a result of the promotion.
LCT: What other things should operators know about brides?
Mark Kingsdorf: Most brides do their research while they sit at their desks in their office — between the hours of nine and five. If you have music on your website, you should take it off. If a bride goes to a website that has music playing, they usually quickly close out of it to avoid being “caught” not working. Lastly, build your brand. A white limo is a white limo. You really need to set yourself apart as a bridal transportation expert. I tell everyone to step out of your comfort zone. Try something different. If you keep doing it the same way, you will only get the same results.
— Linda Jagiela, LCT East Coast Editor