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Marketing Your Business

THE ROLE OF AWARDS IN MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS

BY ANDI GRAY

Dilemma: We just won an award! How do we use that to market ourselves, and how can we go about pursuing other awards that we can use to promote our business in the future?
Thoughts of the Day: Winning awards is all about picking your shots versus hoping to get lucky. Find out what awards fall into your space now and the ones you’d have to work to get qualified for. Campaign to get the awards you want. Have a plan for how to pitch your company both at the time of the award and after the winners have been named.

There are lots of awards out there, from local business organizations to industry associations, networking groups, philanthropies, and publications; the list of backers goes on and on. Rarely do award candidates end up on the radar of award organizations just by accident: They have already done something for which they deserve to be recognized or they have done something to make themselves more visible so that they’re now receiving more recognition.

When it comes to deciding which awards to pursue, think about who you ultimately want to notice you. In which industry segments do you want to make a splash? Which awards are likely to be most meaningful to your business, are good for boosting PR, or making you more attractive to potential suppliers and referral sources? Where do your potential customers turn for advice on go-to firms? Also look to those segments where you want to grow the business and attract more customers, such as weddings or group travel. That’s your target list for awards.

Once you have your list, do your homework to figure out how to win awards in each of those spaces. Build a multiyear plan. You don’t want to—and probably can’t—go after every award all at once. 

Assign a point person to each desired award. Make a list of things that have to be done to qualify. Create a timeline to prepare for each competition, taking into account any filing deadlines. Always keep your eye on the cost-benefit ratio of filing for awards—some may be more work than they’re worth. 

If you're not sure you can do a good job getting the message across, hire a PR firm.

It takes time and effort to win an award. Understand that there is a real cost involved in submitting your award packet (especially through staff time), so weigh that against the PR value you hope to receive. Smaller or more obscure awards may be good for the team and morale boost, but may not offer a good ROI.

You’ll need people advocating for your company. Line up your influential sources now and start working them. Figure out how long it will take to get them to know enough about your company so that they’d be willing to recommend you. Talk to others who have won the award. 

Not all awards have the same application cycle—some are one and done while others require repeat attempts before your company rises to the top. Some are highly politicized. For each competition, think through what makes your company important enough to be recognized by the judges and sponsors.

It’s ultimately about telling a story. Take a close look at the overall company: products, services, employees, customers, innovation, thought leadership, philanthropy—what makes your company stand out? If you’re not sure you can do a good job getting the message across, hire a PR firm. Let them craft and promote the messages you want out there—whether you win or not, the promotional efforts will probably boost your market presence.

Once you’ve been notified about winning, prepare for the announcement and post-announcement marketing campaign. Keep in mind that most awards’ organizers like the ripple effect that comes from your company’s self-promotion.

Ask lots of questions about promoting the award. Can you take video of the awards ceremony? If so, post it online and on social media platforms. Create a handout for the awards ceremony; ask the promoter how to get that into everyone’s hands. Ask how people can attend and if you’re expected to pay anything. Find out if speeches will be necessary. If so, carefully select a speaker and make sure they rehearse. Ask about press releases and how can you tie in with the sponsors.

Consider making a video telling how your company competed for the award or why your team delivers something exceptional. Make a plan to keep the award visible to customers and prospects, employees, and candidates long after the award ceremony is past. [CD1215]


http://www.limodigest.com/2013/09/6-common-mistakes-limo-companies-make.html?

COMMON MISTAKES LIMO COMPANIES MAKE IN MARKETING

 

 



Imagine being your own boss: a dream many people have once they venture into the world of business. In the competitive industry of ground transportation, many entrepreneurs come and go for many obvious reasons. Whether it be a slow economy, an overpopulated and competitive market, bad employees or lack of experience in running a business by yourself, owning your own limo business is a daunting task. If you manage to be one of the outliers and succeed, the rewards can be plentiful. But it takes hard work and some thought-out planning. The problem with many entrepreneurs is that they rush to the finish line and overlook some of the most important decisions that ultimately put a damper on their initial dreams. Here are six of the most common mistakes limo companies make in business - avoid them, and you will be one step ahead of your competition.

1) Your Business Name is Too Long 
Let's face it, the "less is more" theory comes into play when you decide on the name of your business. The recent overturn that has happened in the ground transportation industry has businesses scrambling to market their companies in unique and inventive ways. For example, when the recent recession hit, limousines were viewed by the public as a luxury they could live without, so companies started renaming their businesses appropriately--a company called something like Corporate Limousine becomes Corporate Limousine and Sedan Service within this trend.

Also, adapting a company name with "Worldwide" gave the end user a feeling of a giant corporation and entity. However, having a long name can have its downfalls. Not to name names, but way too many ground transportation companies have company names that sound like law firms. For example, "APT Buffalo Limousine Worldwide Ground Transportation" may solve the problem of letting everyone know all that your company does ("hey people, we service Buffalo with limousines and ground transportation... as well as anywhere in the world") but it's just way too long. No one is going to remember your name. And that's a problem.

Also, you have to think of your website as your business hub. Calling yourself a long name equals an equally forgettable domain name. A lot of companies use acronyms as well, which only confuses people more. Stick to a short, memorable name. For example, a name like Blue Diamond Limousine is both memorable and concise. Sure, it may take you longer to think of one, but the result will be worth the extra time in the long run.

2) Antiquated Email Addresses
You've spent thousands of dollars on brochures, a website and a marketing plan but you're using a hotmail account? Bad call. Nothing screams "amateur" (and small company) more than a search engine email address. A Hotmail or Yahoo email address is not the definition of innovation. Spend the extra $10-$15 and set up an email account that is connected to your domain (usually hosted with your website). Save your personal email address for dating websites... keep it professional when it comes to your company.

3) Busy Signals or Personal Messages
When was the last time you called anyone, let alone a personal friend, and got a busy signal? Exactly. So why should you let a customer with a credit card in hand hear one when they call your business? This happens way too many times, believe it or not. Many small companies are operating with one or two full-time employees, so they use a cell phone to field phone calls. Not using your business name on your voicemail will turn off a prospective client. Take the time and set up a company voice mail message... or better yet, open up a new business line to give the person calling the impression that he or she is reaching a corporate office. First impressions are critical in such a competitive industry.

4) Don't Make the Company About You
You've finally made the decision to jump into your own business and you're feeling enpowered. There's nothing wrong with that... you should feel great about yourself. Avoid, however, the temptation to make the company all about you. Naming a company after a family name was fashionable at one point... in the 1800's. If you are starting out with little or no history associated with your name, name your company after something else. When marketing your company, make it about the "brand" and not "you". Remember, you have good days and bad days - your company's brand has to be consistent. If you make it about you, you run the risk of not only alienating your employees but also diluting the product. All of your employees are part of the brand and having them feel part of the equation speaks volumes about you as a leader.

5) Use Social Media as Your Company Brand, Not Your Personal Platform
This one seems obvious but is practiced more often than not. Posting your personal views on controversial topics may also empowering, but by doing so you can alienate your audience. Keep to business and business only. Offer solutions to your friends and use social media to enhance your company brand and not as a medium to post your political views. Whether you are aware of it or not, the 15 "likes" you get for your post means that just as many or more feel the exact opposite way. Keep your language clean and your posts relevant to your business. Save your personal opinions for a fireside chat with friends. Don't polarize your client base.

6) Inconsistent Branding
Another common mistake is inconsistent branding. Branding, by definition, is the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's product distinct from those of other sellers. But it goes even deeper. Branding is a feeling associated with a message. Don't use inconsistent brand marketing and send out mixed messages about your company. Is your company about your vehicles or is it about the ride? Is it about price or excellence in service? If it's about value, don't accentuate your prices. Market how a quality ride is better than the cheapest price.

Also, if your company uses an acronym to abbreviate the company, make sure you are consistent with using it in all of your company marketing. Don't be "ALC" when you answer the phone and "Alliance Limousine Corporation" in your printed collateral.

Keep in mind your target audience. Does McDonalds make the best burgers in the world? No. Not even close. So why are they the most popular hamburger in the world? They know their strengths: consistency of the product, the speed at which you are serviced and their marketing. McDonalds knows that it's the experience you receive when you go there. If you don't know what your company is about, then don't confuse your audience. Figure out what you are good at and market your company the right way. If you don't know the answers, reach out to experts in the industry like Create-A-Card, Inc.

The old adage that you have to spend money to make money is never more obvious than when it comes to marketing your business. Spend wisely, and you shall reap the benefits.

There you have it, six common mistakes limo companies make when marketing. If you can avoid these pitfalls, you're certainly going to stick around much longer than your competition.


Written by 
Art Director

INDUSTRY

 

Ten of the Best Websites in the Luxury Ground Transportation Industry

I HAVE A CONFESSION. THIS MORNING I HAD A HARD TIME GETTING MOTIVATED. SO I THOUGHT I WOULD TRY AN INTERESTING GAME BASED ON A THEORY.

My theory is that, with all things being equal (and, clearly, they never will be), an entrepreneurial  web designer could jump into the luxury ground transportation and make a killing. The problem, as always, is money and time. With that being said, I can assure you that the luxury ground transportation industry has some of the most neglected and outdated websites of any type of business. This is not hyperbole... there is evidence to back it up. It looks like a neighborhood that flourished 15 years ago that has since been left vacated with a few blinking lights and the sound of static as the soundtrack.

Websites are not necessarily a profit maker but more a credibility measuring stick. As I once read somewhere, a business without a website is just a hobby. But what about a business with a neglected website? Not a great idea.

The good news is that there are some really great luxury ground transportation industry business websites out there if you look hard enough. Here are just a few I have found that I think are some of the best in the business, in order*:

* Disclaimer: There is absolutely no bias in this list. It has nothing to do with friendships or advertisers... in fact, I'm not sure I have any friends in the industry. Nonetheless, I digress.

1) Limousine Service of Westchester (www.lswlimo.com)

Limousine Service of WestchesterLSW won the 2013 Best Website Award and is still the standard in the industry, in my opinion. It's clean and easy-to-navigate, with hard-to-miss icons to get you where you want to go. The touch of green (I cannot deny my bias towards both green and orange) is a perfect compliment to the overall feel. Although I have stayed in Eastchester, NY, I have never been to Westchester. But the design and look of the website makes me think that if my travels were to take me there, I could count on LSW to deliver a smooth, clean ride. Mission accomplished.
 
 


2) Reston Limousine (www.restonlimo.com)

Reston LimousineHere is a great example of a company that did its homework on branding. This website is beautiful and although it it chock full of content, nothing gets in the way and whatever you want is a click away. It sells the company so efficiently and gives the impression that they are a viable, trustworthy service. I love how they focus on Washington, DC and don't clunk up the branding with "worldwide" services, etc. Simply put, Reston Limousine appears as a juggernaut of top-of-the-line vehicles and a company that pays attention to detail. Nothing is overlooked in the design and it sells the company well.
 
 


3) Celebrity Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation (www.celebritylimo.com)

Celebrity Worldwide Chauffeured TransportationThis one, to me, is super unique and corporate but not the corporate you expect. The choice of colors was a brilliant touch. The choice of colors do not seem to work well in theory, but the execution proves the contrary. The site is really easy to navigate and the design is clean and sleek, making a subtle yet direct correlation to what the end users want in their ride. I love the functionality and ease of navigation. Everything I need is a click away, and it really gives off an elegant, first-class impression.
 
 

4) Grand Avenue Worldwide (www.grandavenueworldwide.com)

Grand Avenue WorldwideAgain, my bias is showing. Grand Avenue Worldwide was one of my favorite logos a few 
blog posts back, and the logo was the genesis for some of the best marketing in the luxury ground transportation industry. By creating a near perfect brand and building it all the way out, Grand Avenue took a huge risk by not playing it safe, and it pays off. The website is no exception. You can tell there was some real thought put into the choice of colors and imagery. The best way I can describe the functionality of the site is "inviting", especially with the custom icons that effective communicate options for the viewer without cluttering the website. A winner, all around.
 
5) TriStar Worldwide  (www.tristarworldwide.com)

TriStar Worldwide's website proves that a clean look with some bold color choices can really stand out as well. I love the palette of colors and clashing pastels that are sprinkled in just enough to give the site the look of sophistication without forcing it on the reader. From the logo on down (another of my favorites), the site is neatly packaged and cordially invites you to find out more without being too obtrusive. The scrolling news feed on the bottom is a nice touch as well.
 
 
 
 
 

6) Leader Worldwide Chauffeured Services (www.leaderlimo.com)

I really wanted to put this one up higher because it's just an awesome site. Leader Worldwide Chauffeured Services went for a different approach and nailed it perfectly. The testimonials that jump out at you when you visit the site are an excellent touch. The rest of the site fits nicely around some powerful recommendations. I'm not normally a fan of having the president of the company being the "face" of the company, but the way it is presented on the home page works for me. It balances out the "we are too big for you" message some people might think when they see a Kansas City Royals coach's testimonial. .
 
 
 
7) Boulevard Limousine (www.boulevardlimokc.com)

The great part about Boulevard Limousine's website is that everything you need is in the small window that you are greeted with upon visiting the homepage. I really love the logo and the design that they chose to build the website around. Their slogan, "travel confidently", is effectively on display with the choice of solid black and corporate red. With three main buttons upon arrival ("Our Vehicles", "Why Choose Us?", "Place a Reservation") and "Current Specials" and "Join Our Mailing List" all easily identified with an appealing touch of design, there is no confusion as to where you need to go. Like many sites, however, the blog needs some updating (but I will save that topic for a later date). Boulevard is not alone with dormant blog pages, trust me. But overall, this site is one of my favorites.
 
 
 
 
8) Gem Limousine (www.gemlimo.com)

Gem LimousineI have been in the industry a long time, and I have always know of a few companies that really worked hard at marketing their company effectively. Gem Limousine is one of them. Their website is just another example of some really powerful design and verbiage that drives home (no pun intended) the fact that Gem Limousine is BIG. They market themselves as a worldwide force and they do it perfectly. This site is just too good to ignore. It has app features, excellent social media connectivity and the corresponding pages, especially the About page, make for an easy read. A world-class site, indeed.
 
 

9) Carey Worldwide (www.carey.com)

Carey WorldwideCarey is so good that they don't even have to brand themselves with anything but their name. When you can grab a url like www.carey.com, you are on the ball. Not only that, but Carey is marketed under the guise that you should know them already. They remind me of Rolex. And their site is no exception. Carey's website functions as a phenomenal salesperson, demonstrating visually and with just the right amount of perfectly chosen words why you should go with Carey. The photography is second-to-none, the verbiage near perfect and the blog is full of valuable content. Top-notch, for sure.
 
 
10) Limousine Livery (www.limolivery.com)
 
Another great example of great photography making a homepage jump out at you, Limousine Livery's homepage is so striking, it cannot be ignored. The choice of black with a a thin Helvetica font, along with a touch of green as a complimentary color, is executed perfectly. Their brand is built around a "green" sustainable solution to luxury ground transportation, and they reinforce that message throughout the secondary pages,like the "Event Logistics" and "Green Rides" pages. The consistency of their branding throughout the site is remarkable, considering how many services they offer.
 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Here are a few more worth mentioning as well:

LimoCarOrlando (www.limocarorlando.com)

LimoCarOrlandoSimple, yet effective. Maybe it's just because I love the logo and colors.
 
 
 
Santos VIP Limousine (santoslimousine.com)

Santos VIP LimousineThis is one of the only sites that focuses more on leisure than corporate business, yet still manages to pull off a great look and feel. I stumbled on this site and something about it sticks out as a great example of a website for proms, casinos and the nightlife that still communicates top-of-the-line service.






Windy City Limousine (www.windycitylimos.com)
 
Another great example of focusing on your hometown, Windy City Limousine focuses their branding on servicing the corporate clientele in the Chicago area, specifically on their expertise of the city and its outskirts. Simple yet powerful, this site is certainly worth honoring.






Well, there you have it—my favorite websites in the luxury ground transportation industry. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are more really poor websites in the luxury ground transportation industry than there are great, so there is work to be done. The above companies already have a leg up on their competition.

Like any list, it is up for discussion and debate. It was not an exact science—there may be some websites out there that I missed. What do you think of my choices? Do you think I missed any worth noting? I welcome your opinions!

*********************************************************************************
 
Written by 
Creative Director





 
 

With all the modern technology that has flooded the market—to assist us in getting the client from point A to point B as quickly as possible, perhaps nothing has impacted us more than the advent of GPS. Unfortunately, no matter how sophisticated they make it, or how many technological upgrades we download into it, there is no GPS capable of showing us the correct path to building a successful ground transportation company. For that, we have to go “old school” and use a business road map, one that points out six important stops along the way as we rock on down that highway en route to creating a successful company. Buckle up.
 

6 Steps to Building a Prospering Business?

1. Growth through acquisitions
Part of your long-term business strategy should be to grow through acquisitions as they present themselves to you. My company has done five acquisitions in the last six years, and it has allowed us to show significant growth without a serious outlay of capital. Acquisitions also allow you to collect valuable assets—not just personnel and vehicles, but those very important client contacts as well. Gasoline drives our vehicles, but a brand new, freshly minted client list from a recent acquisition is the real fuel that powers our success. Our most recent acquisition was a straight asset purchase which included the company’s customer list, website, and access to all its corporate business—a virtual goldmine.

2. Outside sales 
Emails, phone calls, LinkedIn messages, and even Skype meetings all serve a purpose in our “not-enough-hours-in-the-day” busy business lives. But you should never ignore the power of that rare opportunity to shake a hand, pass a business card, or look someone straight in the eye without being filtered through a computer monitor. Join local ground transportation associations, be seen at limousine conventions, and make your presence felt at your local chamber of commerce. Build your brand by talking to people face-to-face. It’s something with which no fancy, high-tech, graphics-loaded website can ever compete. 

3. Inbound affiliates 
This just makes sense. If people are flying out of your city, then most assuredly they are also flying in, and you also want that business. Inbound affiliates are not to be taken lightly when you are putting together a business plan. In fact, they can be a major source of your revenue. For our company, six out of our top 10 clients are other limousine companies referring us their inbound work. More than $4 million of our annual revenue is a direct result of inbound affiliate sales. Do what you need to do to cultivate those important relationships, and do it right.

4. Outbound marketing 
There are a number of key ways to reach potential clients, starting with good PR. Never think of yourself as being in the witness protection program: you want as many people to know about you as possible—in a positive light, of course. Send out press releases to local publications and trade and association magazines about the good you do in the community, charitable endeavors, new hires, acquisitions, bumps in your technology prowess, your green initiatives, etc. Send them your company newsletter, put them on your e-blast or e-bulletin list, drop them a postcard. If you are fortunate enough, utilize bylined articles and try to get your expertise on specific subjects printed in major trade publications that affect and impact your industry, such as Limo Digest. Then send the link to that published article far and wide. You can also utilize traditional outbound marketing avenues, such as print and online advertising, radio ads and direct mail pieces. 

5. Inbound marketing
I firmly believe that inbound marketing today is what websites were 10 years ago. The sales process has changed dramatically over the past 30 years, when all it took to get in to see a client was a phone call and a briefcase. Or, if you were really lucky (and gutsy), you just knocked on their door unannounced. In the good old days that decision-maker would have been the president of the company’s executive assistant or the company’s travel manager. But in the era of company downsizing, a lot of travel decisions are being made in the procurement department. This means the person who now orders ground transportation has probably just gotten off the phone from ordering those plastic mats that go under office chairs. 

So now you need them to come to you, which means you want to increase your Google presence and your social networking capabilities. Each month we do two blogs and one e-blast which are generated through our website and social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Then our sales team, each of whom belong to at least 50 social media groups (i.e. corporate travel planners, wedding planners, travel associations, etc.), send it to their contacts, and so on. Since we implemented inbound marketing, we have already seen the number of contacts who entered our company website through LinkedIn alone jump 35%. Finally, one of the most critical aspects of good inbound marketing can be summed up with two simple words—follow up. Companies like Hub Spot and Inbound Marketing Agents can be instrumental in helping you coordinate all aspects of your inbound marketing program. 

“For the past year we have worked with John Greene at ETS to align their marketing and sales funnels into a lead-generation machine,” says, Bill Faeth, CEO of Inbound Marketing Agents. “But the key element is conversion, which requires targeted offers based on the leads buying cycle. You need to know your prospects and deliver the right information at the right time to get prospects to convert to customers.” 

6. Customer service 
I saved this for the very end because even if you hit a home run with the previous five suggestions, you are only going to wind up like “Casey at the Bat” if your primary focus isn’t on servicing the client. And I don’t mean just meeting their needs, exceeding their expectations. But keep in mind, those expectations will continue to grow. Travelers will continue to have high expectations as they search for better value. They’ll expect to be picked up by a well-trained and courteous chauffeur who shows up when and where he’s supposed to. He’ll know where he’s going, isn’t talking or texting on a cell phone during the trip, doesn’t have Van Halen blasting on the radio, and is quick to offer the customer a bottle of cold water and magazines that aren’t two and three years old (an astute observer once pointed out, “the back of a limousine shouldn’t look like a doctor’s office.”)

Chauffeurs constitute the direct link between your company and the client. They have to be friendly but not necessarily buddy-buddy. The client needs a knowledgeable, courteous, capable driver, not a new BFF. As someone once pointed out, “the biggest variable in terms of quality of experience is the chauffeur.” 

So as you see, even without a GPS system to lead you to the financial promised land, there are ways—six in fact—to be successful in this tough, profit margin-thin industry. It’s a road that can be successfully navigated, even with all the obstacles seemingly looming ahead, if you use these six steps as outlined. And if you do, chances are that all those obstacles will soon be in your rear-view mirror, leaving a wide-open road ahead as you strive to build a successful ground transportation company. // LD

Contributed by John M. Greene

John M. Greene is a 25-year veteran of the limousine business, and president and CEO of 
ETS International in Randolph, MA. ETS International has an affiliate network of more than 
350 limousine companies throughout the U.S. The company won the Limo Digest Show’s 
2011 Image Award for Best Marketing. John Greene can be contacted at (617) 804-4801 
and jgreene@etsintl.net.

 http://www.chauffeurdriven.com/resources/feature-stories/733-the-role-of-awards-in-marketing-your-business.html?