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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

ETS International Rocks out at Boston’s Mixfest 2015

ETS Sign MIXFest

MIX 104.1’s annual free MIXFest concert returned to Boston on Saturday, September 19th with a stacked lineup of live performances, including Rob Thomas, former Matchbox Twenty front-man, Third Eye Blind, Australian indie-folk singer, Vance Joy; and soul-pop singer Andy Grammer. 

ETS International's Johnny Greene, Tracey Fitzgibbons and Noreen Murphy
ETS International president Johnny Greene with
ETS’s Tracey Fitzgibbons (L) and Noreen Murphy (R).
The concert attracted thousands of happy listeners, including Johnny Greene and some of the staff of ETS International in Randolph, MA, which served as the “Official Ground Transportation Company” for the popular event. The program was run by Dianne McGillvary, Retail Sales Manager for ETS International.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Teddy’s Transportation System Names Martinez Vice President

John Martinez, Vice President, Teddy’s Transportation System, Inc.

Norwalk resident John Martinez has been named Vice President of Teddy’s Transportation System, Inc., a global ground transportation company based in Norwalk, CT.

In his new role, Mr. Martinez will assume duties associated with being an officer of the corporation, in addition to his ongoing responsibilities for overseeing operations, including dispatch, scheduling, chauffeur hiring and management, accounting procedures and vendor interface.

In making the announcement, Teddy’s President and CEO Charles Wisniewski praised, in particular, Mr. Martinez’s “aggressive responsiveness to our clients’ same-day needs, needs across the globe and across a myriad of vehicles sizes.

“John has a reputation for contacting customers proactively to address traveler questions and service comments. The resulting service delivery has delighted our clientele and consistently exceeded their expectations. This year, Teddy’s has maintained a 99.72 percent on-time record, a 98.27 percent satisfaction rate and scores upon scores of unsolicited business travel testimonials. These have been core factors in our consistent, nationally-notable growth,” Mr. Wisniewski said.

 “Teddy’s team works tirelessly to provide the highest quality of chauffeured executive car service in Connecticut and on-time chauffeured executive car service to JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airport, which gives me confidence when I tell customers that, no matter what they need, I’m there for them,” Mr. Martinez remarked.

 “I always treat this business as if it were my own,” he continued. “We’re in a disruptive era in the ground transportation industry. With strategic financial management to execute Charles Wisniewski’s vision for the company and the rollout of new technologies, including a killer app that will be launched later this fall, I look forward to helping to continue to grow Teddy’s Transportation, both synthetically and organically,” he said.

 “The good news is, as we bring on more employees and treat everyone fairly and equally, we are able to take care of more families,” Mr. Martinez added. 

Mr. Martinez, a 2012 winner of the Fairfield Count Business Journal’s “Fairfield County 40 Under 40” award, had been in the ground transportation industry for more than 18 years before joining Teddy’s Transportation in 2007. Prior to that, he had been Vice President for Business Development at U.S. Limousine in Stamford from 2006-2007. From 2005-2006 he served as Operations Manager at CLS-Empire in Brooklyn and subsequently, as Office Manager of CTS, oversaw that company’s move from Harrison, NY to Stamford. From1998-2005 he held positions of increasing responsibility with Carey Limousine culminating as General Manager of the Stamford, Hartford and Westchester offices. He was previously employed at Skyline in New York City. Mr. Martinez studied accounting at Baruch College and holds a BA in General Studies from the University of Connecticut. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he was an E3 NBC Specialist. He lives with his wife and their son in Norwalk.

About Teddy’s Transportation System, Inc.
Founded in 1932, Teddy’s Transportation System, Inc. is one of the top 50 executive ground transportation companies in the U.S. today. Teddy’s has redefined “professional transportation solutions” by forging a strategic network of premium global partnerships and utilizing innovative technology that provides corporate purchasers, event planners and travelers with access to immediate, real-time information. For more information call 1-800-888-3339 or visit www.teddyslimo.com.

How To Hire — And Keep — Limo Drivers

Limo Drivers

An entry-level limo driving position isn’t hard to snag, if you know how to read a map, have polished customer service skills, and a chauffeur’s license (this may vary by state). Why aren’t drivers lined up in droves at every livery service around the country? There are several reasons that deter skilled applicants from pursuing a job in this field. When you do find a suitable candidate, you’ve got to worry about the high turnover rate associated with limo driving. This low retention rate can be attributed to a couple factors. Often, drivers face:
  • Long shifts
  • Low pay
  • Maintenance expenses
  • Heavy traffic
Experience Makes a Difference
If you’re looking for a limo driver that you can count on, it’s best to find someone who has experience in the business. Often, first-time drivers are more than enthusiastic on day one, only to get frustrated and burnt out relatively quickly with the demands of the job. Longtime chauffeurs and retired police staff, for instance, have a little more familiarity in dealing with the high stresses of maintaining a busy schedule, and navigating around an often-crowded urban setting. Many employers find them to be a good fit for this position.

Qualities to Look for in Limo Drivers
There’s more to a good limo driver than a neatly pressed suit and freshly shined shoes. First impressions can say a lot about a chauffeur’s personal habits, and will be the first thing a potential fare sees, so these items are important, but they aren’t the total package. The following qualities often point to dedicated drivers:
  • Experience
  • Personality
  • Professionalism
How to Keep Limo Drivers with Your Company
Even the most dedicated driver requires appreciation and incentive to stay motivated on the job. As a limo-service owner, you can do this immediately by encouraging frequent and honest communication among your employees. If he/she is a brand new driver, schedule some shadowing sessions or a ride-along with a more experienced fleet member. Here are some proven ways to help employees keep a positive outlook about their job: 
  • Offer competitive pay
  • Recognize a job well done
  • Build an office community
  • Update your fleet management software
Fleet Management Software
Fleet management software can streamline the whole process and keep you in contact with your workforce, making it easier for employees to plan their day, manage time, and maximize daily pickups.

With reliable fleet management software, you can minimize wait time, and make the whole shift run smoothly for everyone on your team. The system’s GPS technology keeps track of each vehicle’s geographical location. This makes it easier to arrange punctual pickups within a close proximity of your driver’s last destination. In the long run, fleet management software can ease the burden on the employer, but also on the employee, who no longer has to dawdle impatiently and wait for a fare that’s clear across town.

If you know where to look — and what to look for — it can be easy to hire and maintain a fleet of reliable limo drivers who take pride in their job. These satisfied employees will help your business gain an edge over competitors, and will encourage customers to keep booking your service.


Robert J. Hall
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies. Check out one of his other Limo Digest posts here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Enova Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation Appoints VP of Sales and Marketing For Affiliate Division

Karl Walczak
Enova announced today that it has appointed Karl Walczak, the company’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, to manage its rapidly growing Affiliate Relations and Business Development Division.

At Enova, a South Florida-based provider of chauffeured transportation, Karl Walczak will apply his extensive experience and education to help the department deliver consistent service and refine the processes to strategically manage affiliate accounts and realize their full potential

“I’m delighted to appoint Karl to manage the affiliate team,” said Enova President and CEO, Bito Pimenta. “Our company has experienced explosive growth this year and this department needed to improve its processes and improve affiliate relations. Karl’s appointment will help us build on our forward momentum and enable Enova to sustain this rapid growth.”

Prior to being the VP of Sales and Marketing at Enova, Karl started in this industry as a night dispatcher at the tender age of 16, and worked as a reservation agent/dispatcher while attending college and studying for a dual degree in Hospitality and Business Administration.  He also has a CDL and enjoys driving VIPs. As a testimony to his passion to deliver unsurpassed customer service, he is the chauffeur most requested by demanding clients. Bito adds, “Karl has helped Enova at every stage in the growth of our business and who knows, he eventually may become the CEO of the company!”

Karl is very excited about the new job responsibilities and adds, “I’m really looking forward to take on the challenge of the Affiliate Relations and Business Development Division appointment for Enova and to help this team grow successfully for many years to come.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Are Businesses Too Timid With Their Growth Plans?

Cameron Herold
Corporate Development Expert Says CEOs & Entrepreneurs Shouldn’t Sell Their Vision Short.

Variety in business is generally good, but when it comes to profit and revenue, an entrepreneur’s expectations should be fairly singular—go big.

That’s according to business development expert Cameron Herold, who drove 1-800-GOT-JUNK’s growth from $2 million to $106 million in a handful of years. Otherwise, he says, you’re probably selling yourself short.

“If you’re a CEO or entrepreneur and you do not plan on doubling your profit and revenue within the next three years, you may be lacking focus,” says Herold, author of “Double Double” (www.DoubleDoubleBook.com).

“It’s within your grasp to increase your business drastically within a few years, but you need to make several smaller goals in order to do so. It all starts with a vivid vision.”
Herold discusses how to cultivate that vision:

•  Get out of your office. A vision needs perspective, and if you’re waiting for inspiration to strike at your desk or the boardroom conference table, you’re bound to get dragged into the daily routine. You need to allow your mind to drift into the future, but at the office you will get pulled back into specific constraints. Go somewhere that allows you to forget metrics, daily tasks and obligations. Great locations to set your mind free include the ocean, a forest or a place in the mountains. Or, simply lie down in a hammock in your backyard and start sketching ideas. 
•  Turn off your computer. Computers are notorious for sucking you into the vortex of daily emails and tasks. Instead, put pen to paper. There’s magic in just writing it all out by hand first.
“I got a sketchpad with unlined paper,” Herold says. “Initially, I had trouble thinking abstractly because I’m so left-brained. I turned my sketchpad sideways, ‘landscape mode,’ and ideas for how my company would look in three years began coming to me.” 

•  Think “where” and not “how.” Look at the road in front of you. Don’t focus on how you’ll make it happen. The “how” mentality is sort of like trying to edit a first draft before it is written; the “where” mentality allows you to simply get your ideas out first. Where do you want your company to go? Look down the road, see what you see and let the view have its moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself. The how will have its day. 

•  Think outside the box. Getting out of your comfort zone will change your usual thought patterns and spark creativity. Think about crazy stuff – maybe something too outlandish to share at a meeting or even consider seriously. 

“I like to use a technique called ‘mind-mapping,’ which isn’t so much formal writing as it is plopping down random thoughts onto paper and fleshing them out later,” Herod says. “Mind-mapping allows you to brainstorm without having to provide explanations of strategies for achieving the desired goal. Here’s a good rule: if what you think about during one these sessions seems bizarre or unlikely, it’s something you should definitely include in your vision. 

Cameron Herold (www.DoubleDoubleBook.com) has been instrumental in the successful sale, branding and integration of 500 business locations with three major companies. He’s best known as the driving force behind 1-800-GOT-JUNK’s spectacular growth from $2 million to $106 million in revenue in six years. His range of executive roles includes strategic planning, negotiating corporate acquisitions, operations, people, sales, marketing, call centers and public relations. Herold is a top-rated lecturer at the EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program and a powerful and effective speaker at EO/YPO & Vistage events around the world. He is the author of “Double Double.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

Is Your Company’s Mobile App Putting Your Customers At Risk For Fraud?

Mobile apps are becoming big business for businesses. Many bank customers now check their account balances or transfer funds through an app on their cell phones. Savvy retail shoppers can use a favorite store’s apps to learn about discounts, access coupons and find daily deals.

“The apps for financial institutions and retailers are getting greater use and that can be wonderful for business,” says Gary Miliefsky, CEO of SnoopWall (www.snoopwall.com), a company that specializes in cyber security.

But as with so many things in the cyber world, caveats are connected. Even as companies provide additional services through those apps, they may be putting their customers at risk for fraud.
“Most companies don’t realize just how vulnerable their apps are and what the potential is for leaking their customers’ personal information,” Miliefsky says. “And when that happens, it’s bad for business.”

He suggests a few reasons why most companies need better protection for their mobile apps

  • New forms of mobile malware are being widely deployed in the major app stores and can eavesdrop on a customer through a company’s app. “These new forms of malware are undetected by anti-virus engines and are able to circumvent encryption, authentication and tokenization,” Miliefsky says. “That makes it easy for cyber criminals to exploit the personal information of a company’s customers and commit fraud.  
  • The PCI Data Security Standard requires merchants to protect credit-card holder data. Likewise, mobile-commerce providers must protect any payment card information, whether it is printed, processed, transmitted or stored, Miliefsky says. “Even though a customer has the breach on their mobile device, the retailer is responsible because it was their app that allowed the eavesdropping,” he says. A breach of credit-card information potentially could result in fines for the retailer, Miliefsky says.The FDIC requires banks that are providing an ATM-like online or mobile-banking experience to protect access to the confidential records of the consumer, the consumer’s bank account information, user name and password credentials, and bill payment and check-deposit services.  
  • Just like with retailers, it doesn’t matter that the breach happened on the customer’s mobile device, Miliefsky says. The bank’s app caused the problem because it allowed the eavesdropping, so “the risk and the responsibility is the bank’s not the consumer’s, he says. And, as in the case with retailers, banks could face fines for a breach.
“Businesses have become great at creating useful apps that their customers eventually feel they can’t live without,” Miliefsky says. “But the failure to secure that app is going to come back to haunt the business over the long haul.”


Ronnie Blair is the Senior Creative Communications Strategist at EMSI Public Relations. Blair is a veteran journalist with more than three decades of daily newspaper experience, including 20 years in writing and editing positions at The Tampa Tribune. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Morehead State University in his home state of Kentucky.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Misreading Customers Means Missed Sales

Selling is never easy. Never. But salespeople often make it even tougher for themselves by letting customers get away empty-handed. It isn’t that customers don’t find what they want or what they’re looking for. It’s just that they don’t want to deal with the salesperson.

With the 800-pound Internet gorilla lurking over every sale, today’s customers are much more demanding when dealing with salespeople. If the experience doesn’t meet their expectations, they’re gone.

More often than not, misreading customers causes them to look elsewhere—missed sales. It doesn’t need to happen and here’s how to avoid it:

1. Be sure you’re speaking with the right “customer.” Wrapped up in every customer is a handful of different customers, who behave differently depending on the situation. The first job is figuring out which of these customers you’re dealing with at the moment so you can respond correctly. Here they are:
·        The “I want to know more” customer. This customer requires patience, so ask clarifying questions and get them talking. Don’t push, but gently pull them along until they’re comfortable.
·        The “I have all the answers” customer. Let this customer talk and tell you all about it; don’t cut them off. This person wants to be the salesperson so let them feel they made the buying decision on their own.
·        The “I know what I want” customer. By listening carefully to these customers, you may find inconsistencies in their thinking. Then by asking them follow up questions, these customers may recognize that what they thought they wanted was not a good idea after all.
·        The “I can’t make up my mind” customer. Here, the salesperson becomes a resource, offering options and comparisons and making note of the customer’s responses so the person can recognize the best solution.

By making sure you’re talking with the right customer, salespeople take a big step toward making the sale rather than losing it.

2. Think individuals, not groups. Even though everyone is unique, we lump people into groups—doctors, servers, business owners, blue collar, boomers, Gen Z, old people, Hispanics, and on-and-on. In reality, we know that all Hispanics, accountants, or electricians are not the same. For example, out of the nearly 80 million 18 to 35 year-old Millennials, there’s a segment of 6.2 million with an annual family income of $100,000 or more. They’re the Affluent Millennials and they’re quite different from the other 62 million non-affluent Millennials of the total group.

According to a study, Money Matters: How Affluent Millennials are Living the Millennial Dream, this group is in a second phase. “Compared to non-affluent Millennials, affluent Millennials over index when it comes to changing jobs, buying a home, and making home improvements in the last 12 months,” and they also “over index when it comes to expecting a child in the next 12 months,” states FutureCast, the study sponsor.

It’s clearly good to be cautious when making marketing and sales assumptions about any group. Basing decisions on opinion, inaccurate information, or hearsay leads to misreading customers—and missed sales.

3. Don’t stop with first impressions. A marketing manager called about meeting to talk about working with his company. After a 400-mile drive, he arrived in a near-ancient pick up truck, wearing ragged jeans, a wrinkled shirt, and dirty boots. There was little doubt about that first impression: the meeting was going to be a waste of time.

Not recognizing it, we instantly pigeonhole customers—and that can be a mistake. First impressions may not tell the whole story. The man in the dirty boots is a good example. He was for real; his company became our largest account.

Never get carried away with first impressions, and be prepared to discard those that don’t fit.

4. Always offer options. There’s a lot to learn from companies that do a great job capturing customers by offering options. The Honda Accord, for example, comes in several models, each with a basic price: LX, Sport, EX, and EX-L. Choices engage customers so they don’t go away.

To be effective, options must be realistic and not so many that they become confusing or frustrating to customers. A financial advisor may present three scenarios for a client’s consideration, while a real estate agent may show a client several styles of homes. Options should create discussion and further interaction.

5. Don’t tell customers what to think. “Do you love it?” asked the interior decorator after delivering the reupholstered sofa cushions. The couple murmured a few words, “It’s bright and different.” But at that moment, one thing was certain; they didn’t love it.

Far too often, salespeople make the mistake of trying to “guide” customers, tell them what to think: “This a great buy.” “Isn’t this a perfect floor plan for your family?” “Don’t you just love the color?” “This is going to look great in your home.”

Customers want help and suggestions, but they don’t want salespeople telling them what to think. When that happens, it’s a turn off.

5. Forget about customer loyalty. It’s only human to believe that we have loyal customers. When some leave, we make excuses as to why they left. It’s tough seeing customers leave. It’s as if they are rejecting us. It negates everything we’ve done for them. Breaking up is painful, particularly after making customer care a top priority and bending over backwards to satisfy them.

We think that customers show their appreciation by being loyal to a company, brand, or salesperson. However, what we label as loyalty may be something quite different. It may be nothing more than convenience, price, laziness, inertia, or habit. Nothing more.

In other words, customer loyalty is an illusion. It lets us think the interchange with customers should result in their loyalty— and that’s a big mistake. Today, nothing—absolutely nothing—stands in the customer’s way from getting what the customer wants, the way the customer wants to get it, and where they want to get it.

We misread customers and lose them when we expect their loyalty. Our task is to focus on doing everything possible to give them a great experience. That’s the only reward that counts.

Misreading customers costs sales. To prevent this from happening, it takes doing battle with our assumptions, particularly those that influence how we think about customers and what we expect from them.


John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing
and sales strategist-consultant and business writer.
He publishes a free monthly eBulletin,
“No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.”
Contact him at jgraham@grahamcomm.com,
617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

How to Lower Insurance Costs for Your Fleet

Insurance Costs

One of the areas where the modern limo business needs to look into cutting costs is insurance. Insurance costs can quickly raise overall operating costs, but a few changes and tweaks can help lower that expense and make insurance more affordable. When you are ensuring a fleet of vehicles, this is a valuable change to make.

Keep Tabs on Claims
Automotive insurance providers will typically lower insurance rates if a customer does not make many claims over the course of a year. However, this may not happen automatically. Chron.com recommends that you meet with your insurance agent once per year to review the number and types of claims that your fleet has had. If you do not have many, or any at all, you may be able to request a discount for your fleet. If you notice a trend in problems with your fleet or your drivers, you can make changes to avoid these problems and position yourself for a reduced claim down the road.

Use Fleet Tracking
Fleet tracking can earn you a significant discount, depending on your insurance provider, with nothing other than having the system installed. Insurance providers understand that fleets utilizing GPS tracking technology are less of a risk. There are two reasons for this:

First, GPS tracking makes it easier to recover any stolen limos. Unfortunately, commercial vehicles are not on the top of the list for most law enforcement officials, so your insurance company will most likely be left holding the bill if your vehicle is stolen. If you have GPS tracking, you can report the last known whereabouts, making it easier for law enforcement officials and increasing the chances of recovery.

Not only is it easier to get stolen assets back, but second, you also have more driver accountability, and drivers tend to drive more safely when they know their activities are monitored and reported. Limiting unsafe driving practices, like speeding or braking suddenly, can make your drivers and your vehicles less of a risk. If you can show safe driving practices using your fleet tracking technology, you may be able to request a discount. Performing a GPS audit of your drivers' behavior can earn you a significant drop in your insurance rates.

Ensure Proper Driver Training and Qualifications
A bad driver can boost your insurance rates quickly, and put your customers at risk as well. Perform a thorough background check on any drivers you hire, and ensure that the drivers have a clear driving record. Being able to report this to the insurance provider may earn you a discounted rate as well.

Having experienced drivers can also help. As you are making hiring decisions, look not just at driving records, but also at commercial driving experience. Progressive, for instance, offers a discount of up to 20 percent for experienced CDL drivers on commercial fleets.

Pay in Full Each Year
Commercial vehicle insurance can be a large expense, but whenever possible, try to budget so you can pay it in full each year. Most insurance providers give a paid-in-full discount to companies that will pay once a year rather than entering into a monthly payment plan.

Discount for Commercial Business Experience
If your limo service has been around for a while, with at least three years of experience, ask your insurance provider if it offers a commercial business experience discount. Unique to commercial auto insurance policies, this discount rewards companies that have been in business for several years, as insurance providers have realized this means the company represents a lower risk. Your past success is a prediction of future success, and you therefore have the potential to be a long-term policyholder. To ensure they get your business, insurance providers may offer a discount, according to DMV.org.
Going without insurance for your limo fleet is not only irresponsible, but it is also illegal in most areas. If you are finding the costs are a bit higher than you like, consider if you are taking advantage of all of these money-saving options. Sometimes, all it takes to get a discount is a small change, and those discounts can add up significantly.


Robert J. Hall
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck,
a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems
and software for small and midsized companies.

Hashtagging Your Way To Social Media Relevance


Not so many years ago, many people probably paid little attention to that pound sign on the computer keyboard.
You know, the one that looks like this: #. Then along came Twitter and what we have come to call the “hashtag,” and social media marketing was changed forever.

Yet not everyone takes advantage of hashtags the way they should, and that’s unfortunate because if you are not using hashtags you are missing out on exposure for you and your brand. When you are on social media sites such as Twitter or Instagram, your goal should be to become part of the conversation. The hashtag allows more people to find your contributions to that conversation.

Without them, you miss out on lots of eyes that could be viewing your content. For example, let’s say 1,000 people follow you on Twitter. Not counting re-tweets, only 1,000 people will see your posts if you don’t use a hashtag. Add the hashtag, though, and you start picking up momentum because the post has the potential of being seen by, and re-tweeted by, any number of people. A common hashtag, such as #love, can position your post to be seen by potentially millions of people. But be warned. While there are great benefits to hashtags, there also are pitfalls.

Hashtags don’t come with exclusivity. Anyone can use them, so a hashtag can become a weapon that works both for you and against you. Critics of your brand, or just the usual assortment of Internet trolls, may attempt to hijack your hashtag, putting you or your business in a bad light. A prime example of a hijacked hashtag happened a few years ago when McDonald’s, apparently hoping for a flattering conversation about the restaurant chain, introduced #McDStories on Twitter. #McDStories went viral, but not in a good way as the Twitter world had a field day tweeting unflattering tales of their alleged bad experiences with the restaurant. Don’t let such cautionary tales deter you, though.

March boldly into hashtagging, but as you do keep in mind these suggestions for getting the most out of your efforts:
  • Use proprietary hashtags. One of the advantages to a proprietary hashtag, such as “Orange is the New Black’s” hashtag #OITNB, is that it is linked directly to your brand. These hashtags typically are not used as widely as a more generic hashtag, but the goal is to brand yourself through the hashtag with the hope it could go viral.
  • Don’t overdo it. A post littered with too many hashtags can be difficult to read, so your message might become obscured as your followers see what appears to be gibberish. Perhaps you saw the skit Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon once performed in which they spoofed the device’s overuse by lacing their spoken conversation with seemingly endless hashtags. It was hilarious and annoying all at the same time. Twitter itself suggests using no more than two hashtags per Tweet. Certainly, three should be the very maximum on Twitter. A different etiquette exists on Instagram, though, and most Instagram followers will tolerate excess hashtags. Meanwhile, although hashtags can be used on Facebook, there’s little reason to include even one. That’s not the way people use that social media site.
  • Think geographically. If you are a local company that depends mainly on local clientele, a hashtag that links to your location works well. Hashtags such as #Seattle or #Bangor drop you into numerous conversations about your hometown.

Since social media has become such a vital element of any comprehensive marketing strategy, understanding all of the nuances is critical. A hashtag may not look like much, but it’s really a powerful tool that is a double-edged sword. If used correctly it can greatly bolster your marketing reach. Used incorrectly, it can have adverse effects or unintended consequences. With social media, your hashtag is your brand, so use it wisely.


Jay York, senior digital marketing strategist for EMSI Public Relations
Jay York, senior digital marketing strategist for EMSI Public Relations (http://emsincorporated.com/), is an internet marketing expert with extensive experience in social media marketing dating back to the early days of MySpace and LiveJournal.

Since graduating from the University of South Florida Business School, Jay has worked as marketing coordinator for an international IT training company; business development and branding manager for a startup restaurant management group; and CEO of his own social media management firm.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The 4 Keys to Building Rapport: Tearing Down the WALL

Emily, a sales manager in a large organization, was having significant challenges with her team.

Communication with team members was inconsistent, and she continually struggled to motivate them. Her team was regularly missing their monthly objectives, and failed to provide meaningful status updates.

The core issue Emily faced is all too common. Anytime you are communicating with people, your ability to create rapport is key to your success. Emily did not realize that there is a WALL between her and the team, and her responsibility to take the WALL down as quickly as possible.

Two simple questions helped Emily realize she had not built rapport, or developed any form of relationship with her team members:
1) Have you spent time building a relationship with your team members?
2) Do you know what they like, want, and need at home and at work?

In Emily’s case, the answer to both of these questions was no. She was attempting to manage people with whom she had no relationship other than being “the boss”.

Establishing strong rapport does not mean learning everything about your customer or employee’s private lives, but rather, showing them that you care about them and what is important to them.

Taking the WALL Down

The wall between you and other people can be removed by developing your skills and maintaining focus on four key concepts:

W- Watch
A – Ask
L – Listen
L – Learn

1) W - Watch
Observe any master of rapport, and you will see a person who has a keen awareness of their surroundings including other people and how they react.

What to watch for before the first word is spoken: When you enter into a rapport building situation, your observation skills will help you determine good starting points for your conversation.

Before the first words are said, take a few seconds to take stock of the surroundings.

If you are meeting someone in their home or office look for conversation starters or anything that might create common ground.

You might look for:
  • Any item that is given a place of prominence
  • What is on their desk and side tables
  • Pictures
  • Awards, memorabilia, or collectibles
If they are coming into your office you will have fewer clues so pay close attention to what they are looking at. When you notice that they are paying special attention to something, it may be a sign of a potential conversation starter.

Once engaged in a rapport-building conversation, your skill at observing the reactions of the other person will help you guide the conversation in the most productive direction.

Pay close attention to:
  • Their eyes
  • Their body positioning
  • Their gestures
  • What they look at during the conversation
When you are observing people as part of rapport-building, never make an assessment based on a single “sign”.

Caution:  People are called “individuals” for a reason and each will respond in their own way. Look for combinations of signs and signals, and changes over the course of the conversation to understand more accurately how they are responding to you.

2) A - Ask
Asking powerful questions will provide you the most reliable way to create rapport. Beyond just asking powerful questions, having a strategy with preplanned questions frees you to focus more intently on the other person.

As you consider the questions you will use to build rapport, choose questions that will:
  • Show you taking an interest in them
  • Build a relationship based on the needs of the other person
  • Show your understanding of your area of expertise
  • Gather important information to direct the conversation
By asking questions that show a genuine interest in the other person’s wants, needs, and interests, they are more likely to open up to you.

If you have similar rapport-building situations on a regular basis, to take the time to develop a question library that you draw from when building rapport.

Caution:  During the rapport-building segment of a conversation, it is easy to slip into the “I” mode, telling the other person everything about what you do. Your objective is to get them into “I” mode.

Keep the rapport-building about them. They should be doing most of the talking.

3) L - Listen
You have asked your powerful questions and now it is time to employ the most important rapport-building skill – listening.

So many professionals ask all the right questions, but they don't listen to the answers they are given. These professionals assume they are building rapport, but they forget to really listen:
  • Intently to the words 
  • For changes in tone, volume, or speed
  • Vocal cues for emotions like excited, contemplative, annoyed
  • For vocal cue and body language changes
  • Watch for changes and correlations between words/vocal/body to establish base line responses
In addition to paying close attention to what the other is saying, become an expert at listening to what is not being said in your rapport building discussion.

There are two specific situations to be aware of: 1) the one word answers and 2) intentional omissions and avoidance.

If you're asking powerful questions and all you're getting back is one word answers, odds are you're going down a track that the other person is not interested in pursuing.

In addition to single words answers, it is not unusual for the other person to provide partial answers as they omit the details in an attempt to avoid complete disclosure. In many cases, the omitted information is exactly what you want to learn, but they are not yet comfortable sharing. Make a quick mental note and find a way to come back to that point later in the discussion.

Caution:  Rapport building should never feel like an interrogation. Remember that your objective is to get to know as much about them by letting them know and feel that you care about what is in their best interest.

By asking questions that show a genuine interest in the other person’s wants, needs, and interests, they are more likely to open up to you.

4) L - Learn
Learning how to build rapport is about trying things, watching and listening, observing the end result and learning from it so that you adjust your approach the next time.

There's no one right way, or a magic process to building rapport so it is important to learn what works for you and the situations you work in.

Become an ACTIVE student of rapport building:
  • Learn what works for you with different people and different situations
  • Become more aware of how others react to you
  • Try new approaches when encountering roadblocks
  • After each attempt at rapport building do a critical assessment
  • Watch how others build rapport
Less than one month after Emily began focusing on removing the WALL with her team, people who were distant became engaged both personally and professionally, and overall team performance began to improve.

Become a student of building rapport and over time you will see your ability to generate rapport will develop quickly and your success rate skyrocket.


Mark A. Vickers
Mark A. Vickers is a Certified Professional Coach, a Gitomer Certified Advisor, and Certified World Class Speaking Coach. 
Mark is a communications consultant focused on helping you
and your organization achieve Excellence through improved communication and speaking skills.  He is known for creating and delivering specialized and innovative programs to help his clients.  For more information about Mark and his workshops, consulting, certification programs, please visit: http://speakingisselling.com/

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