DEC. LCT: Motorcoach charter and tour services are suffering collateral damage as part of the city’s aggressive new rules.
Large events emerge throughout the year, and almost anytime you are able to provide service to one, a financial windfall comes with it. A major event can be anything from the Super Bowl to entertainment galas such as the Grammys, Oscars, or other “red carpet arrivals” that require precision timing and advance planning.
THE NETWORKS NEED YOU
Most large events have “preferred” or contracted companies hired specifically to transport invited guests, corporate sponsors, and other people connected with the event. These contracts usually go to large networks such as Music Express, Carey International, and EmpireCLS. But there are so many orders that the networks start reaching out for help outside of the operating area of the event. They know they need many vehicles to fill orders, and that telling their client they don’t have enough vehicles will seal their fate the following year.
Of course, being an affiliate of one of the big networks and living within two-to-three hours of the event will improve your chances of being tapped for work, but it is not always required. In fact, the need for more vehicles can actually help you build a relationship with a network and become an affiliate if your performance meets the company’s expectations.
There will be some sacrifices on your part, but in the end, these sacrifices can pay off handsomely. For instance, most networks will not pay you for any driving time to get to the area of service but will guarantee you a mini mum amount of pay or hours. For most large events, the minimum is 12 hours. The hourly rate will be determined by the network.
In reality, you may only work five hours, but of course, you may also end up doing a 16-hour day if your passenger is a big time socialite that hits every pre- and post-party the event has to offer. Most big events, such as Super Bowl and entertainment industry award shows are held on Sunday, a day that has long been considered the very slowest in the industry. So either way it is a financial boost.
MARKETING TO THE NETWORKS
You must realize that just because the networks need subcontractors does not mean they will lower their standards and take just anyone. They will want to know about you. They will want to know about your vehicles; have certificates of insurance naming them as additionally insured; and they will submit your chauffeurs’ names to the U.S. State Department in some cases for background checks and credential issuing. Obviously these things take time, so start your marketing efforts early.
Start by creating a package that includes photos of each vehicle you plan to use. To emphasize your professionalism, have impeccably dressed chauffeurs standing by the vehicles. Make sure to remove any type of advertising for your company, such as personalized license plate frames. Stars don’t want to be seen arriving in “rental limousines,” and Music Express doesn’t want to be advertising your company at “their” event. You will be representing the network, not yourself.
Create a one-page outline of your company which details your history, professional experience, vehicles, and of course any previous large event experience you might have. Make sure you include phone numbers to reach you 24/7 as this is crucial to their dispatching.
Include a copy of your insurance for auto liability, general liability, and workers’ compensation insurance. If you have a nice facility, take a photo of that as well. Your package should represent the professionalism of your company. Remember, the networks want the cream of the crop representing them and you must paint the picture of your company.
Once you have created the package, find out which companies already plan to work an event. You can do this by calling the venue where the event is being held and various network companies that you know routinely work an event or venue. When you call the network, ask for the “affiliate manager” or the “show manager” for the specific event you want to work. Ask this person where you can send your package for consideration of work. Once you have the address, spend a few extra dollars and deliver it by express courier. These packages generally get higher priority and usually are hand de- livered to the desk of the recipient soon after their arrival. Your phone conversation will still be fresh in the mind of the manager with whom you spoke.
PLANNING TO MARKET TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC
If you choose to market your services to the public and work without the benefit of a network, you first must engage in a lot of pre-planning. Refer to the sidebar about issues affecting large events and realize you must address these issues yourself.
Contact the venue to obtain information about any planned road closures or modifications. Check to see ex actly where you should drop your clients off and where you will pick up. Ask about parking and any fees. Make sure you ask about facilities for your chauffeurs to eat and take restroom breaks. In some cases, vehicles are not allowed in and out privileges during the event. Ask about what credentials are required and how to obtain them.
In some cases, employees must go through a photo ID process long before the event. You will need to use your strongest, most experienced chauffeurs for these special events. Be prepared, because information obtained in the pre-planning stages sometimes is thrown out the window on the “day of.”
The local angle There are probably numerous events in your own community that are popular annual or large scale events you can market to. You can provide the same level of service on a local level by pre-planning and taking service a step higher than your competitors.
Develop a relationship with the officer in charge of the traffic division of your police department. I started dialogue by calling before a large concert with concerns about how many vehicles we had picking up at the end of the show. I asked where the safest place would be for all of them to park and load our clients. The result was overwhelming as the decision was made to close an adjoining street and allow only taxis, limousines, and charter buses to use this street.
The police line up each type of service in its own lane with livery vehicles getting the curb. We inform the traffic division of any large public or private event we are working in advance so they can provide traffic control if needed. They appreciate it and in turn call us when they close roads around the events we are working.
With this type of relationship, you can tell prospects that you have arranged with the police department for access to the curb or other specially designated areas worked out in advance.
If you want to increase the level of service for a large event, assign a greeter to the event. If you have multiple vehicles arriving at a venue, position a greeter to open the door to the limousine and greet your clients on behalf of your company. Your greeter can specify an exact location to meet after the show to escort them back to their vehicle.
As many limousines look alike, there will be no guessing with a company representative to walk them to their waiting vehicle. Most other companies probably won’t do this, so use this to stand out in the delivery of luxury transportation. If there is no public parking in the immediate area of the venue, you can still distinguish yourself at a multiple car event. There may be some merchant or office in the vicinity that may rent you their lot when not being used at night. Offer to provide them with a certificate of insurance naming them additionally insured when asking about the use of the property.
If you successfully arrange for all of your vehicles to be in a private lot, you can market the fact that you have exclusive parking as close to the venue as possible. This is important, since the other companies will have to keep circling and moving through traffic, hoping to find their client, while making the familiar loops around a venue.
Make it a point to call the organizers of large community events and inform them of your plans to bring clients to the event. Let them know that you don’t want to cause any disruption and ask where exactly you should drop guests off and ask where they prefer you to park during the event. This type of pre-planning can gain you preferred parking just because you took the time to make the arrangements ahead of time.
WORKING LARGE SCALE EVENTS: WHY WORK WITH A NETWORK?
Large events are tricky to work. Parking is usually at a premium in the area. Networks rent whole parking lots or vacant lots for their vehicles.
These lots are very important as they typically offer restroom facilities, complimentary food and beverage, and most importantly, a coordinator who will notify you when passenger is ready to go. Networks will be aware of road closures and two-way streets that are temporarily one-way streets.
In some venues, limousine parking is $300 a day. The large networks have contacts with local law enforcement, the venue, and handlers for celebrities. Most small companies just don’t have the resources, experience, or contacts to do a job like this on their own.
ISSUES AFFECTING LARGE EVENTS
Two-way streets become one-way
$300+ parking fees
Access to area controlled
ID credentials needed
Specified drop-off and pickup zones
Background checks before event day
LARGE EVENT MARKETING PACKAGE CONTENTS
01 Brief overview of your company
02 Photos of your vehicles with uniformed chauffeurs
03 Photo of your facility
04 Certificates of insurance
05 General Liability
06 Auto Liability
07 Workers’ Comp
Pre-Planning Check List
• Obtain road closure information
• Exact location for drop off & pickup
• Limo parking locations and fees
• Availability of food & restroom facilities for chauffeurs
• Obtain credentials if needed
ONCE YOU HAVE all the details worked out, you truly have information, qualifications, and arrangements that most of your local competitors lack. This puts you in a prime position to sell your tire-kicking phone inquiries on why they should use your service.
If you have obtained credentials that allow you access to areas designated just for limousines, you have the ultimate selling tool. You can confidently make a statement such as, “Certain areas of the venue are devoted to the limousine crowd, such as yourself. You must be an official limousine provider to access these areas. As far as I know, no one else in town has such credentials.”
You are, by all means, an “official provider” of limousine service if you have received credentials that authorize you to perform service. You also can explain that there are dedicated parking lots for limousines on a reservation-only basis, and you have confirmed parking at the venue in this lot. Explain that without these arrangements a person may have to walk a considerable distance if they charter an “unofficial” limousine service.
You can explain that certain roads will be closed. The closures won’t be announced for security reasons until the day of the event, and all official providers will be informed. Unofficial limousine providers may find themselves stuck in traffic and cause clients to arrive late to the event.
Because you’ve done your homework, you know the exact drop off and pickup locations. You can inform the prospect that there is a special place just for those arriving by limousine and that your credentials allow you to access that area. All of these selling points are valid and persuasive reasons to charter your company for the job.
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