Operations

Selling Motorcoach Service: How To Stand Out

Lexi Tucker
Posted on May 31, 2019

Learn how to reach the people you need to reach (Photo: Unsplash user rawpixel.com)

Learn how to reach the people you need to reach (Photo: Unsplash user rawpixel.com)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — More luxury transportation operators are delving into the bus space than ever before. This has caused traditional motorcoach operators to become concerned. Why?

Because this industry’s customer service levels are off the charts compared to most coach operators, said Christian Riddell, president of United Bus Technology and former executive director of the Motorcoach Marketing Council.

During his session, “How to Capitalize on Your Motorcoach Marketing Plan,” at the 2019 International LCT Show in March, he presented information on getting your name out there and raking in the incredible amount of business yet to be had.

Go Get ‘Em

On average, chauffeured transportation operators who venture into the motorcoach business are able to get 35% more for charter buses than traditional operators, Riddell said.

“When you start talking about an industry operating on 15%, 20%, 25% profit margins, that's an enormous amount of money, and because of that, they are petrified of what happens next in this industry,” he said. To continue this trend, it’s vital for operators to start pursuing opportunities outside of their marketplaces.

Less than one in every 1,000 people in North America are responsible for booking a coach in the next 12 months. To help visualize this, Riddell asked the audience to imagine there are 64,000 people in a football stadium. That means 64 people in that stadium will be responsible for booking a coach in the next 12 months. The question to ask is what percentage of the left over 63,936 people may need a coach in the same amount of time?

“I'm going to propose 50% of the people in that stadium are going to do something over the next 12 months they could use a motorcoach for,” Riddell said.

He cited a statistic of 35 million children in the U.S. who will play organized competitive sports, 60% of which will happen away from schools. This may fall outside the service of traditional chauffeured customer, but it’s still a group that could fill seats.

Each year, more than 2.5 million weddings are held that cost $25,000 on average. “What we see on the motorcoach side is buses actually have a huge place in wedding transportation, and it's growing at an unprecedented rate. So not just limos — small equipment for the wedding party — but actually moving entire wedding parties from the wedding venue to the reception venue, doing pre-wedding trips, doing photography trips…all of those things are tied to large group transportation,” he said.

More than 50,000 churches have travel programs. “Now, everybody goes, ‘Well, they're churches, they don't have any money. There are more than 14.5 million people who will attend religious conferences every year. Churches have money. Churches have money to buy equipment, and they have money to charter equipment.’”

Five Ways To Grab More Motorcoach Business

1: Follow up with your quoted but not booked charters

Traditional motorcoach operators are not skilled at this. The percentage of quotes they send out, talk to personally, and ask for the sale ranges from none to 5%. “Motorcoach operators live in a world where a quote is a document that got emailed, and if someone books it's because they took the step to call back and say, ‘I want to book this.’"

Christian Riddell, president of United Bus Technology and former executive director of the Motorcoach Marketing Council

Christian Riddell, president of United Bus Technology and former executive director of the Motorcoach Marketing Council

Many don't have a sales department that can follow up with a quote. “Every day, a traditional motorcoach operation’s salesperson's goal is to get through the pile of quotes they have for that day, but nobody's following up on them. If you don't train your salespeople to ask this question, this should be on every salesperson’s computer and office wall. It should be taught. They should say it to each other. ‘Can I book this for you today?’ It's the least aggressive, least offensive way to ask somebody for the sale.”

2: Cross-sell your products

Motorcoaches have many applications across many different vertical markets. “Anytime you're moving a group, there's only one meaningful way to do it and that's on a bus. But if you do your marketing well, and they think, ‘Well, you're a business provider. I can't call you for my family reunion, I can't call you for my kids' soccer team,’ you lose the opportunity to do that business for the customers you're working for.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming just because someone is your customer, they will be your customer regardless of what they do. “You have to work at advertising to them in a meaningful way that teaches them what it is you can do for them on a consistent basis. Thank them for what they're doing, and introduce them to what else you can do for them.”

3: Price Isn’t Everything

The first step when someone asks about using your company is send them an introductory email with a quote. “Let's say my kids' baseball team's going out of town, and I'm going to make a decision. I have five quotes from five local competitors. What do I have that's going to help me make a decision?” Often, the only remaining factors are a photo of the bus, which isn’t always convincing, and price.

“How many of you who have equipment find yourself consistently answering the question, ‘Can you match this price?’ It's one of the biggest questions in the bus industry. They don't know enough to know how to search differently, so they start looking at that price. As consumers, they've been trained to do that.”

He told a story about how his wife supervised a youth trip for their church, and got multiple quotes. The one she ended up booking with was the only one that called her back, followed up, and asked if they could book something for her.

“If you're going to go out and raise the bar, if you want to go take this work away from the traditional companies, this is your opportunity to look at this and go, ‘We can do better. We can raise the bar. We can change what the consumer has to make a decision.”

Riddell says operators should ask themselves two questions when deciding how their company will provide quotes:

  • Does it inspire the buyer to buy from you?
  • Does this document accurately reflect your company, values, mission statement, and who you are?

4: Sell Specifics

Always consider the needs of your clients. This may sound painfully obvious, but it’s vital to know how much luggage they will have, how many people are in a group, and even the occasion so you can go above and beyond in serving them. “People care about what they're doing, and the companies who care about what their clients are doing will land more of their business,” he said. “People want experts in the things they want to do.”

Instead of creating a super long bullet list of the different services you provide, use unique URLs and landing pages to help drive people to the amenities that matter to them. “So if somebody comes to you and they're a bride or a groom, they should see you care about that business. They should see your equipment is there, there are pictures of brides and grooms, that it's not just a header on a page or a bullet on a list.”

Tailor your marketing. Use the imagery and language of the business you’re trying to pursue. Don't just change one picture on the brochure and leave all the verbiage the same. Talk to and tell them why you're good at such transportation.

5: Make Marketing Integral

Marketing needs to be part of your daily focus, Riddell said. “Motorcoach operators don't think about marketing…ever. They don't spend any time on it.” You need to be consistent in getting your company’s name out to the world. Everything you do, everywhere you go…it has to become a part of the culture of your business.

Unless you have a busload of underage children on a school trip, you should be snapping photos and taking video, he said. “Take pictures of brides on your coaches, of sports teams getting on and off your buses. Use those videos and images to further leverage that type of business. Don't get hung up on the whole licensing thing. I tell people avoid kids, and if they're famous avoid that too because they're another group that gets twitchy about it.”

Need Help?

Go to motorcoachmarketing.org for training videos on pursuing multiple types of bus business. Learn who talk to, what they want to hear, how to sell to them, and what their pain points are.

Related Topics: bus market, buses, charter and tour, client markets, How To, innovative marketing, marketing/promotions, motorcoach operators, motorcoaches, Sales & Marketing, sports team transportation, tourism, weddings

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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