OCT. LCT: Financial success in this industry depends on how much information you gather and what you do with it.
Even in the smallest of cities served by transportation companies, business can be found in group transportation. Whether it is a family reunion, high school reunion, homecoming game, wedding or funeral, all of these events happen in small towns and large cities alike. Whether you run a single luxury sedan or a fleet of charter buses, there is a place for you in the group transportation market. Knowing what the clients might be looking for will help you market your company to the people needing group transportation while visiting your city.
Defining a group
The word “group” may conjure up an image of 50 people getting off an airplane and needing a ride all at once. While that might be good for a charter bus company, it wouldn’t be beneficial to the one-car sedan operator. However, in our business, a group is defined as people coming together for a specific purpose within your community, likely arriving one or two at a time and needing transportation to a specific hotel or venue.
A group can be a total of five executives all coming from a different city to attend a business meeting. When they arrive one at a time, it can provide a single car operator with as many as 20 individual rides over a few days. This includes to and from the airport, from the hotel to the meeting venue, and back to the hotel at the end of the business day. It may include going out to dinner or clubbing while staying in your city. Groups can be very lucrative business by the sheer volume of work they produce. The larger the event, the more rides needed.
If you plan to market to groups, you must be prepared to handle the work. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by misrepresenting yourself with a marketing slogan that emphasizes being able to handle hundreds of rides. Develop a network of farm-out affiliates before you begin marketing. Create a list of every affiliate you can use along with a list of all of their equipment, colors and passenger capacities. Make sure you have payment arrangements and rates agreed upon in advance. Don’t place yourself in a poor bargaining position by desperately needing an affiliate and having to negotiate for their services once you have landed a job that requires help.
Top Places To Market Your Meetings Transportation
These include organizations such as International Association of Administrative Professionals (www.iaa-hq.org), Meeting Planners International (www.mpiwweb.org), and organizations catering to specific groups such as bar associations. Also included in this would be national or international service groups such as Rotary International.
Hotel sales managers
The visitors must sleep somewhere and hotel sales managers are usually called upon to provide group rates as soon as a date is firmed up. Developing a working relationship with hotel sales managers and providing them with your brochures and a complete education of the services you offer could land coveted referrals.
Chamber of commerce
Local chamber organizations exist to foster commerce in the community by providing networking opportunities and referrals of member businesses in response to inquiries for a particular service. Most chambers host small scale events providing opportunities for small businesses to meet with representatives from large corporations to facilitate business between the two. Obtain an event calendar from your chamber and attend appropriate events.
Convention & Visitors Bureaus (CVB)
These organizations promote tourism within the community and actively solicit meeting and convention planners to host events in the city. They serve as an intermediary between local providers such as hotels, transportation providers and event organizers. Make sure your brochures are provided to the CVB to include in solicitation packages sent to meeting planners.
Board of Trade or Bureau of Tourism
Holding a very similar mission as a CVB, these boards are usually government funded as opposed to being member-funded and may have authority to issue permits for such things as movie or commercial filming in the area. Anytime there is a “shoot” going on, there are usually people coming and going from the set who all need transportation. These boards also might work closely with specific industries such as petroleum or agriculture and foster the export sales of such products out of the area. This can mean organizing visitors to come and review operations. They usually maintain a website of resources for services and goods and it may be free to post a listing.
Local newspaper social sections/websites
Newspapers typically list high school reunions coming up. There are also listings of charity events. Contact the organizers of these events to offer your services and provide special group pricing. Arriving at your high school reunion in a limousine is trendy, and if all the participants are given your name and number by the organizer at the time they sign up, you could land a sale.
There are a ton of sites such as reunions.com, familyreunions.com and greatreunions.com that offer reunion planning services and management. With some sites such as greatreunions.com, you can apply to become the provider of transportation services in your area and they will hire you on behalf of their client. You also can run your own ad campaign in familyreunion.com for about $2 a day (per 1000 impressions).
Myles Flood, owner of Limos for Less in Dublin, uses LinkedIn.com to connect with groups specializing in various industries such as event planners and pharmaceutical meeting planners. There are literally hundreds of groups you can join at no cost to promote your company. Each group has a designated owner. Contact the owner of the group to discuss the best way to market your company to the group.
To get started, create a LinkedIn account online and complete your profile. LinkedIn will suggest people you should know and groups you should join based on your profile. Each time you click on a group link, you will be presented with a list of similar travel groups on the lower right of the screen.
Flood also uses blogging as a method to connect with meeting planners and travel agents by blogging about events in his community along with his services. Many of these travel and meeting planners use “spider services” that continually search the web for new posts of a given city name or a specific event name to stay current with information and deliver emails to them as soon as you post. Blogspot.com offers an easy format to get started blogging about your group services. In a single blog entry containing the words “Dublin” and “International Bar Association,” more than 500 people viewed it, Flood says. Include a link to your website within your blog to make it easy for people to connect with you after reading about your services offered for the event.
Google AdWords allows you to create your own “campaigns” and pay-by-the-click or pay a maximum amount per day to be featured in Google search results. The campaign can include keywords chosen by you, and you can create as many as you want. Using keywords such as “group transportation in Phoenix” or “reunion transportation,” “convention transportation,” and similar terms, will result in your company website being listed at the top of the search results highlighted in yellow.
People tend to click on the first result seen that matches their searches. Being highlighted in yellow certainly draws the attention at a price. In the pay-per-click method, you determine a specified rate you are willing to pay each time someone clicks the link to your website. Where you are placed in the search results depends upon the price you bid for each click. If another company is paying Google more than you in the same industry, it will be displayed on top of yours. Under the maximum per day total plan, your ad is displayed randomly in the sponsored section, but if no one else in your area is paying Google for AdWord campaigns, you remain at the top as the only sponsored ad.
Meeting and greeting
Develop unique airport greeting protocols such as having greeters wear neon green shirts or drivers carry bright pink clipboards. Airport greetings are the first impression and passengers are very anxious as they attempt to find their driver. This is an area where a good start is critical; many limousine companies refuse to do baggage claim greets. You should station greeters to meet arriving passengers, even if it means having to hire staff. That’s better than having chauffeurs try to park and come in to the terminal. Make it easy and stress-free.
Setting a marketing budget
In this economy, marketing dollars are precious. While many forms of marketing might be free or low cost using the Internet, you should set a realistic monthly budget and stay within your budget. In order to use some of the methods described on pages x and x, you will need to pay a fee to join groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce.
The annual membership fee to join a group such as Meeting Planners International is $500. According to its website, this gives you access to about 22,000 registered meeting planners. However, if there is no meeting space in your town or no tourist sites to draw their attention, the money is probably not a wise investment. With some websites offering advertising for as low as $10 a week, your spending easily could get out of control by advertising on too many websites at once simply because it looks cheap at the time you create your campaign. You may want to consider rotating campaigns on different sites in different weeks to maximize your budget. Be consistent in your marketing efforts. It would be unrealistic to think that a one-week campaign would land you a ton of business.
Instead, you must continue repeating your marketing efforts to increase the number of “impressions” you make with potential clients. An “impression” is every time someone sees your ad, whether the person acts upon it or not. It may take many impressions before someone attending a high school reunion decides to arrive by limousine. If that person is constantly visiting a reunion website to see who has signed up to attend and sees your ad nearly every time he checks, you are more likely to connect. Mentioning the event name in your ad such as, “Valley High School Reunion Packages,” is more likely to draw attention from the group.
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