You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at firstname.lastname@example.org for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: As a millennial/next gen representative of the industry, how do you personally connect with companies or brands outside the industry? Is there a brand or a campaign that resonated with you? How do you use your own preferences to market your biz to clients within your peer group?
I like to search for companies that sell products and services that I will buy on a repeat basis: I find something I like and stick to it. Generally, I ask friends for opinions or advice, but, before I even get to the point of reaching out, I take notice of the ads on Facebook and Instagram. They have created the experience of social networking and shopping all at once. You can swipe up and order something without even leaving the platform.
Nick Boccio, General Manager
Buffalo Limousine in Buffalo, N.Y.
For me, online reviews and website/social media presence are huge when I’m looking to connect with a business or product. These tell me immediately that the company is accessible if I have questions or issues related to service.
For example, my wife and I recently purchased a really nice kitchen table from Mealey’s Furniture—a larger furniture store with a few dozen stores in and around the Philadelphia area—which wound up being defective. We called and they came out and replaced it, but a few months later, something else was wrong with it. When my wife called to have it fixed or replaced, she was given the runaround for weeks with no resolution; they claimed it wasn’t part of their warranty plan, etc. I decided to put some posts up on social media showing my disgust with the company and their lack of customer service. Within one day, I had someone from management reaching out to me and fixing the issue. We had a new table delivered within one week.
Social media is an extremely powerful tool if used properly. We try to do targeted marketing as much as we can via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. We also used it very successfully for employee recruitment. One major component I constantly harp on with my team is response time. I would like responses to direct messages, comments, and emails to be as close to immediate as possible. This gives the client or potential client the feeling that they are dealing with a very accessible company and gives them confidence in doing business with us. Another thing we always do is respond to all of our online reviews—especially any negative ones. This is very important in our industry.
Johnny Donohoe, President
Sterling Limousine & Transportation Services in Newtown, Pa.
I receive most of my information through Twitter, but I put an emphasis on researching everything I read or hear from all angles, as everyone should. Brand is everything. How people feel when they use or see your brand is of the utmost importance. When your brand is associated with service and quality, the rest trickles down to your bottom line. It isn’t all about volume and who has the most accounts or vehicles. It is about quality of your people and the product you put on the street. The rest in controllable.
I think from the client’s perspective constantly. I love to sell per-person pricing, no matter the vehicle size. If I went out with 10 of my friends, after the combined taxis or ride-sharing costs of the group, it would be cheaper to use our luxury car services. It is educating them on this fact, first. The younger generations seem to believe more in supporting brands and experiences, which are convenient and easy to understand.
Kevin Duff, President
Signature Transportation Group in Chicago, Ill.
Right now, for my demographic, I think Instagram really takes the lead in terms of brand identification. That platform allows companies to connect with their consumers in unique ways that simply were not possible, say, 10 years ago. Instagram is a great tool for discovering new brands, and they have more than one way for you to do so. You can use the “Suggestions for you” tool on a page that you already follow to find like pages/products; follow certain hashtags that pertain to an item or industry you’re interested in; or just use the “Search” page, which actually curates posts based on your past search history. Users are also able to bookmark posts, share them with friends, or tag photos of themselves with said product. On the other end of the spectrum, brands are able to convey their message/voice/image by not only sharing photos and videos of the products they are promoting, but also curating and, therefore, selling a lifestyle to their followers. Brands are also able to connect with customers by showing a human side to their business and sharing things that would not typically be shown on a website (behind the scenes type content).
However, I think that Instagram is a tough one for our industry because it is difficult to produce a constant stream of interesting, targeted content. I do think that influencers have the ability to promote our brands, but I wonder if the ROI is really there. Sure, anyone can comp a bunch of cars to a pop star’s concert in exchange for her posting “@XYZLimo has the best service in town!”, and you’ll get lot of new followers and some decent brand recognition. But ultimately, I don’t think that’s how we will actually grow our business and attract the type of clients we are focused on. Investment bankers aren’t scrolling Instagram looking for inspiration for what car service to use next; we still have to hit the pavement and sell the old fashion way.
Kristin Hundley, Director of Operations
Limousine Connection in Los Angeles, Calif.
There is no one specific marketing method that always works, so I have a list of items to consider. Relationships are always a priority, but we also rely on Facebook referrals, referrals from trusted companies and individuals, and online research based on things like Yelp reviews.
When it comes to the ground transportation industry, specific brands mean very little to me: There really isn’t one that separates itself from the others—except for TNCs, of course. Marketing campaigns matter, though, as they’re an opportunity to make a statement about your company that’s louder and more focused than any other method since they may be connected more to an owner’s or key figure’s “personal” brand rather than the company’s image.
It’s hard to explain my personal preferences when it comes to marketing among my peers—there is actually none, simply because I don’t advertise. I prefer to attend networking events and let my personality differentiate myself from others. If people need my service, they will let me know. Sometimes they’ll tell me so directly, and sometimes I have to pick up the vibe of them being ready to consider alternative options. I guess, in a way, that’s my marketing strategy.
Anton Kirichenko, Owner
Motor City Limousine in Livonia, Mich.
In our modern world, staying relevant has become increasingly difficult. The simplest way to keep my attention is to have me constantly being exposed to a company’s brand. You cannot believe everything you see and read on the internet; however, the best way to discover the truth about unknown resources is to rely on your network of personal and professional relationships, and to see of their first-hand experiences with that brand. This has been a critical element to the success of our family business for the past 33 years.
People in my peer group like things that are fast, easy, and current. I research for the most modern and up-to-date marketing materials, and present it to them conversationally, therefore establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships.
Drew Messina, Director of Operations
Create-A-Card in Smithtown, N.Y.
In order to connect with companies, I search social media, as well as the web. Positive reviews strongly influence my decisions. I also feel word-of-mouth referral is important and always comes into play.
As far using my own preferences to market, I like to empower a strong social media presence, while ensuring that our clients are provided with highest levels of service. This inevitably leads to positive online reviews, and the opportunity to increase the valuable word-of-mouth referral.
Andrew Schwartz, Vice President Client Relations
Executive Limousine in Bellmore, N.Y.
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
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