While the numbers are hard to pin down, the reality is drivers don't make much when factoring out overhead costs.
The holiday season presents a great opportunity to make money. After all, this is the time of year when people have uninhibited spending habits. They’re looking for ways to make this year’s celebration memorable and are willing to spend some of their savings to reward employees, spend time with friends and family, and give themselves a holiday treat. Your key to the holiday treasure chest is a creative marketing strategy and one that will last through the holidays into the New Year. Your company’s unique holiday package not only can generate seasonal income, it can also create that all-important name recognition that is crucial in any industry.
Tradition With a Twist
Don’t be afraid to use a tried-and-true holiday idea such as a Christmas light tour. Many families and businesses like to follow a tradition year-after-year, and your company could be part of a yearly excursion. In time, your company could be known as the one offering the best Christmas tour package in the area. These traditional types of trips can generate seasonal income from both regular clients and from those who don’t use livery services at any other time of the year.
Some companies have taken a yearly tradition and added a unique spin to include a limousine. For example, All Transportation Network in Newburgh, N.Y., offers a Christmas tree outing package. “One of our limousines will take a family to purchase and pick up their Christmas tree,” explains Michael Zappone, CEO. “We have a pick-up truck following the limo so the tree can be loaded and taken back to the client’s home.” Zappone says that this holiday package keeps All Transportation Network in clients’ minds year-round. “It’s all about creating that buzz,” he explains. “If your idea is creative enough, people will be talking about you long after the holiday season is over, and that translates into income.”
Totally Texas Limousine Service in League City, Texas, uses a unique vehicle to create a different spin on the usual Christmas light tour. The company’s F-350 Dually pickup truck limousine provides the perfect vehicle for a hay ride. “We decorate our truck with a wreath on the front, and then we put bales of hay in the bed,” explains Kristi Riley, the company’s owner. “We give the clients hot chocolate and blankets. It always makes for a fun trip.” The warm Texas climate makes this a comfortable nighttime tour. (Companies located in colder climates could modify this idea to offer a daytime Christmas carol tour, complete with hot apple cider.)
When creating your holiday trips, be sure to offer something for everyone in a package that has several points of interest, such as a package offered by Prospect Limousine Service in Prospect, Conn. “Our most popular trip during the holiday season is our Manhattan trip,” says Prospect owner Roger Hamelin. “We start by traveling the Macy’s parade route upon entering the city so the clients can see the decorated store windows of places such as Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Then we take them to Rockefeller Center for skating and to view the tree and decorations. To finish off the night, they can go across the street to a coffee house or pub to relax before the ride home.”
Your package deals may be too much fun or too much of a value to pass up, so be sure everyone knows what you’re offering. Your marketing goal is the same as at any other time of the year, which is to grab clients’ attention and hold it long enough to make a sale. But during the holidays, this requires a bit more creativity. Start with newspaper, radio and television ads, then add something extra that will entice clients to make that reservation.
One item that has worked for me has been a simple holiday card with a photo of our entire staff standing in front of one of our limousines decorated in holiday style, complete with live reindeer. On the back of the card are holiday greetings along with a preferred client number that gives the client a special rate on all of our holiday packages. There is nothing people like more during the holiday season than the word “discount.”
A new item added to this year’s holiday marketing by Melissa Utech, the recently promoted manager of Starlight Limousine in Scottsboro, Ala., is an item she calls Client Cards. “We have digital cameras for each vehicle in our fleet,” Utech says, “and during our leisure and non-corporate runs we ask our clients if they would like their picture taken with the car. Once the picture is taken, we print out a photo for them with a printer inside the vehicle.”
When the vehicle returns to the office, Utech adds, the picture is then stored into the company’s computer with the client’s information. The client cards are created just before the holiday season.
“The photo we took earlier in the year is placed onto a personal Christmas card with a caption such as ‘Thinking of Special People During the Holidays,’” Utech says. The cards make clients feel special and remind them of our company.”
Good Timing Is Essential
Any direct-mail marketing that you do needs to be well-timed. If your materials are sent out too early, clients may forget about your special by the time the holiday season arrives, and if materials are sent out too late, your potential clients may already have their holiday schedule planned out.
Zappone suggests targeting your mail promotions for as close to the day after Thanksgiving as possible. Most people start their holiday season planning on that day. “Of course you will have more advertising after that, but getting that initial word to the client at that time is important,” he says.
There are many companies that manufacture promotional items for any season or occasion. When purchased in bulk, they can be a relatively inexpensive way to provide lasting advertisement value for your company.
Calendars are probably the most popular holiday promotional items, as well as one of the most effective. A calendar is something that literally hangs around all year. Your name and phone number are always just a glance away. Pocket calendars and appointment books are effective also. Of course, the holiday months are the perfect time to give out calendars for the New Year.
A Personal Touch
Believe it or not, during the holidays, livery companies located in small communities have an advantage over their larger counterparts. If you’re located in a small town, you can arrange to visit your best clients personally, thank them for their continued support and wish them the best for the coming year.
Christine Bennett, owner of Showcase Limousine in Boise, Idaho, adds a motherly touch to client appreciation. “I bake chocolate chip cookies and add them to the cookies that we get from Cookies by Design that are in the shape of H2 limousines,” says Bennett. “I then take them to our best clients as well as the hotels, wedding shops and other businesses that send us referrals.”
A Safe Ride Home
During the holiday season one type of event is guaranteed: company parties. Special-rate packages and multiple-car discounts can be great marketing tools to get this business. The biggest concern at company-sponsored parties is preventing guests from drinking and driving. Your approach to these companies is to provide efficient shuttle-type service to keep employees safe. Let your corporate clients know well in advance that you provide this service. (A 14-passenger van is great for this type of work, and even if you don’t have one in your fleet, you can find one or several at most auto rental companies for a low daily rate.)
The holiday season provides numerous opportunities for increasing sales, making money and creating experiences client will remember all year. You can use ideas that other companies have used, or you can create some of your own. But either way, if you play your cards right, maybe Santa will put a little green in your stocking this year.
Giving Back to the Community
The holidays are all about giving, and charities provide many ways to live up to the spirit of the season. The livery industry is one of the most versatile types of businesses for giving.
Cheryl Berkman, CEO of Music Express in Burbank, Calif., says her company combines customer appreciation with charitable donations. Each year, Music Express makes donations to a charity in the names of its clients. “We send cards through City of Hope here in L.A.,” says Berkman, “which helps with cancer, AIDS and diabetes research.” Not only do clients feel remembered and appreciated, they also feel that they have helped the community by using the services of Music Express.
Donating your service to a local civic organization or the parade grand marshal guarantees that your vehicle will be driven in the local parade. Decorate the vehicle for the holiday occasion, and put your magnetic signs on the front doors creating a rolling billboard for all to see. It is advisable to put your highest-profile limousine into the parade; after all, a Hummer H2 will definitely get more notice than a standard stretch sedan.
Another idea for the parade is to have several people dressed as elves walk next to the vehicle handing out grab bags with candy for the children and brochures that contain your holiday specials. We generally recruit our local cheerleading squad for this duty, to support our local teams and promote school spirit. For payment we give the participants a voucher for a free Christmas light tour.
Other ways to donate to charities and support your community are toy drives (you can give discounts to clients who donate a new toy worth $10, $20 or more), cash donations (a percentage of each job may be earmarked for donation to a designated charitable organization), or time donations (giving free rides to underprivileged children). All of these activities can give you a reward that no amount of money can equal.
Screensavers Keep Your Name in Sight
An attractive screensaver with your company logo and contact information works all-year round to promote your services continuously. Most people and most businesses own at least one computer, and most computers have the same standard screensavers. Your clients would likely welcome something new, different and attractive on their computer screens. Be sure your design is tasteful for anyone of any age. You can’t go wrong with photos of limousines in different scenic settings.
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