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 John Crawford, Creative Director, Limo Digest