Industry leader and California operator Maurice Brewster contributes insights to a Wall Street Journal article.
By keeping up with ever-changing fleet preferences, operators can not only rake in word-of-mouth clients, but glean revenue from fleet vehicles beyond the traditional white stretch. From understanding popular vehicle types and colors, to brainstorming what your chauffeurs can do to add that special, tingly touch, your company can set itself apart by showing the bride and groom you’ve got their backs.
The days of the bride and groom riding solo are about over. Transporting wedding guests seems to be the priority for most wedding couples, says Jennifer Cuozzo, president of A Touch of Class Limousines in Frederick, Md. “I have several wedding couples who give up transportation for themselves to provide safe transportation for their guests.”
Wedding parties are opting for more transportation for more people, says Elizabeth Corr, lead coordinator of wedding planning company Bridal Bliss of Lake Oswego, Ore. “Brides and grooms are viewing it as a fun activity on the wedding day to enjoy together. We’ve seen everything from vintage trolleys to double decker buses.” In fact, they usually make sure to build in a buffer time for the vehicle to travel throughout the city because it provides fun picture opportunities.
While Corr has seen an increase in requests for non-traditional vehicles such as buses, Lincoln stretch limousines remain popular. Limo buses also have seen an increase in use because they are so much easier to get in and out of when dressed in formal wear.
However, quite a few operators are noticing a preference for black vehicles over the traditional white. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the getaway car at the end of the night. Most couples choose a luxury sedan or a small limousine for themselves. “That’s something that is a tradition and won’t really go away,” Corr adds.
Deborah Kosmicki, director of sales for Grand Occasion and Grand Select for Grand Avenue Chauffeured Transportation of Nashville, Tenn., also has seen an increase in couples requesting older vehicles. “Vintage glam is big this year,” she says. One of the vehicles she often recommends is the company’s gray Rolls-Royce because it photographs well against a white wedding gown.
More often than not, brides are looking for vehicles that are affordable, says Veronica Alexandra, founder and coast-to-coast event producer for wedding planning company Blue Ivy, based in Boston, Los Angeles and Palm Beach, Fla. “They are trying to find the smallest vehicle that can fit everybody. If it’s a vehicle that fits 36 people but they only have 24, they will go with the vehicle that fits 24,” she says. “They just want to make it happen. They want to make sure it’s reliable.”
Some of her clients have asked about non-traditional vehicles, but once she shows them the rates, they begin to lean more toward traditional selections. Often, planners are limited by the number of companies that offer such options. If your company can’t provide vintage cars, you might consider affiliating with one that can.
Work With Me
Planning a wedding involves incredible amounts of teamwork. No bride, wedding planner, or transportation company can do the job on their own. It’s important to be ready to answer any questions about contracts. Joseph Giras, owner of G&G Limousine in Southlake, Texas, and Cuozzo require phone numbers from people other than the bride and groom to be able to communicate any last minute changes.
“The most critical part in a wedding service is the agent who places the reservation,” Giras says. “They are the only one who can really put into words the vision they have for the limo portion of the experience.”
Teaming up with other vendors also helps. Jeremy Bellinger, owner and president of Platinum Limousine in Avon, N.Y., is developing partnerships with a couple of local wedding venues, and is already recognized as one of the preferred transportation providers for weddings in his area.
While not partners yet, he sends business to other companies and vice versa. Grand Avenue has partnerships with various restaurants, which could help with wedding catering, Kosmicki says. Andre Gaughan, owner and CEO of All About You Limousines in Dumfries, Va., has preferred vendors he’s used in the past for different events. He finds it helpful that they invite him and his wife, All About You co-owner Karen, to come to different weddings they are a part of so they can see how that particular vendor interacts with the wedding party.
Above all, remember the big day is one of the most important in a couple’s lives. What services do you offer that reflect that mentality? “Just Married” signs and the red carpet treatment will only get you so far. The bride and groom are likely nervous wrecks, and the last thing you want to do is stress them out more. Gaughan offers four different packages sure to ease decision making. All are customizable, and give the couple plenty of choices to fulfil all their transportation needs. “You have to make yourself available to just sit back and really listen to what they like and want,” he says.
Traditional wedding packages often include three or more hours of service. During this time, consider providing extra services that may help reduce worries and encourage a relaxing atmosphere. For instance, Bellinger offers to pick up food trays or drinks that may have been ordered for the bridal party to enjoy during their transportation. Giras makes sure to provide party favors and beverages that may help cool down members of the wedding party on a hot day.
Dress To Impress
Remember, the car isn’t the only thing potential wedding clients will be curious about. Your chauffeurs are the face of your company, and in a sense, also will be a part of the couple’s wedding. Often included in the bride’s line of questioning (see sidebox) is an inquiry into how your hauffeur will be dressed for pick up.
While you can’t go wrong with a classy tux, consider taking it a step further. Bellinger likes to give his chauffeurs a little leeway and allows them to get creative.
“Almost all the time the chauffeurs ask what the couple’s wedding colors are and then dress accordingly,” he says. Giras, who operates in Texas, often gets requests for his chauffeurs to show up in Western attire and arrive in a Hummer stretch. Cuozzo ensures the chauffeur arrives dressed in a black tuxedo and top hat unless the client requests otherwise. Not only does this trend well with customers, it also shows the bride and groom you care about making this day as special and accommodating as possible.
Make It Memorable
All limousine companies that specialize in weddings want to ensure the event will be a night to remember. The clients you serve will often be the ones who end up serving you. Never underestimate the power a customer’s testimonial can have for your business. If something does go wrong, you always should try to do right by the bride, Kosmicki says.
This is wise; social media is a vital tool that enables people to leave reviews that can either wow other potential customers or make them avoid you at all costs. Facebook, Yelp, and wedding planning sites such as Wedding Wire or The Knot are all venues people use to find transportation companies. Pinterest is a wonderful platform to show off your fleet, particularly if you own vintage vehicles.
Word of mouth is a company’s strongest advertising. Instead of scouring the Internet for hours, it is easier and less stressful for a bride-to-be to ask a friend who she used.
“Being pre-screened by someone who has used us before helps us,” Gigas says. “They know we are going to do what we say we will, and we will deliver on our promises. Weddings (usually) only happen once, and that means there isn’t a second time to make it up.”
Bellinger also makes a good point: “If you were to poll 10 brides years down the line and ask, ‘Who was the transportation you used?’ I bet nine of them couldn’t say. We want them to not only remember our company’s name, but also the name of their chauffeur,” he says.
In fact, one of Platinum Limousine’s chauffeurs has done seven different weddings that all stemmed from those in the bridal party of a previous wedding. Cuozzo mentions another great source of potential clients: wedding shows. “We participate in about 30 wedding shows per year. This is truly the best opportunity to meet potential brides,” she says.
Platinum Limousine (Avon, N.Y.): “Recognize the importance of the day. This isn’t only one of the most important days of their lives, but for their guests as well. You want to be remembered as being part of their day, and providing outstanding transportation.”
A Touch of Class Limousines (Frederick, Md.): “There is no substitute for experience. We do dry runs at wedding venues that are harder to find, or that a chauffeur has never been to. We have special training for wedding etiquette.”
All About You Limousines (Dumfries, Va.): “Do your homework. Start going to bridal shows, and attach yourself to companies already succeeding in the business. It doesn’t so much have a lot to do with the vehicles you own; it has more to do with your knowledge of the wedding industry.”
G&G Limousine (Southlake, Texas): “Focus on providing excellent service. If you know what the customer is looking for, you will know if you will be able to deliver it. If you assume, it might end up backfiring. Really understand what their vision is.”
Grand Avenue (Nashville, Tenn.): “Be very patient. Transportation seems to be one of the last things that brides think about, when in fact it should be thought about right at the beginning and put into their budget.”
Industry leader and California operator Maurice Brewster contributes insights to a Wall Street Journal article.
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