As transportation professionals, we know there are many opportunities to grow our businesses. Based on the size of the fleet and focus of a company, customers can come from a variety of demographics. There is the corporate side, with a focus on airport transfers, group transportation, conference attendees, destination management companies, etc. Special events like concerts, sporting events, Proms, private parties, or even funerals can also bring in transportation customers.
And then there are weddings. With spring just around the corner, now is a great time to boost your wedding business. Wedding arrangements can range from a simple getaway car for the bride and groom, to a multi-vehicle production bringing in thousands of dollars in revenue from buses, limousines, and more.
Every wedding is different, but every wedding client requires the same thing: meticulous attention to detail.
A wedding is intended as a once in a lifetime event, and a glitch in the transportation can ruin an otherwise perfect wedding day. But if you’ve got the resources to handle these clients, you will find a significant source of revenue that is fairly consistent throughout the year.
So, how do we locate and bring in wedding business? Three proven methods are targeted marketing, strategic alliances, and social media.
1. Targeted Marketing
The wedding business is a growing, multi-billion dollar industry, and one of the best indicators of this upward trend is the proliferation of bridal shows. Beginning in January and running for multiple weekends throughout the year, you’ll find a bridal show at your local convention hall, hotel ballroom, banquet hall, and many similar locations.
Bridal shows are a great place to capture leads for your wedding business. For a few hundred dollars, you can exhibit at a show and talk to hundreds of potential clients in a single day. One good way to increase traffic and capture leads at your booth is to display one of your vehicles. Another useful technique is to raffle off a limousine ride. To enter the raffle, show attendees complete an entry form with their contact information, which you can then use to follow up with them via email, phone call or regular mailing. It’s also important to capture the wedding date from these leads, so you can contact them at a time that is closer to their event.
Bridal shows also give you the chance to speak to other professionals in the wedding business, like wedding planners, wedding venue staff, bridal shop staff, and many others. These people can provide valuable referrals to their clients who may come to them with questions about transportation options. Because transportation is typically one of the last things to be ordered for a wedding—since the client doesn’t know how many people will be attending and needing transportation until just a few weeks prior—potential wedding clients have already spoken to people at the hotel, the reception site, shop from which they purchase the wedding dress, etc. And if you have networked and formed a relationship with those other wedding professionals, they will give your name to their clients.
But the most important thing about a bridal show is the follow up. Show attendees may not keep your literature, or they may not remember you several months down the road, when they are actually ready to set up transportation. Once you have gathered the leads from the show—and a good show will net you literally hundreds of qualified leads—the next step is to contact your potential clients. Depending on how you prefer to make these follow-up contacts, you can gather street addresses, email addresses or phone numbers during the show and then contact your leads accordingly.
Gathering and pursuing leads from bridal shows can really boost your wedding business over time.
2. Strategic Alliances
Building effective relationships with other wedding professionals is another crucial tool for building your wedding business. As mentioned earlier, bridal shows are one place to meet and network with these people. However, that is not the only way to make those contacts.
In most cities, you will find professional organizations for meeting planners, wedding planners, hotel workers, restaurant workers—in short, for virtually any type of professional, there is an organization catering to members of that profession. While membership in these organizations may be limited to only that specific industry, many of these organizations do accept members from other types of companies. You can join the organization, attend the meetings, and form alliances with dozens of people who can then refer potential clients to you.
You will also find that, once you have established a rapport with other wedding professionals, the word will spread. The wedding coordinator at one hotel will give your name to the staff at a sister hotel, and you will then have the chance to generate business from both those venues.
Wedding planners are the most fruitful alliances, as most wedding clients depend on their planners to recommend or choose the various wedding vendors. Once you have established a good relationship with a wedding planner, that planner will contact you for all his or her clients’ transportation needs. In some cases, several wedding planners may work together in a single business, and as a group, they can become an even better source of wedding business.
Of course, you must be prepared to provide excellent service when you hear from these wedding professionals. But your effort will pay off in an ever expanding network that provides consistent business growth.
3. Social Media
We really are in a new millennium, and social media is exploding. Today, it’s extremely important for your company to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest—at the very least. Weddings are predominantly organized and noticed by young people, and they are all using social media every single day. Your presence in the cyberworld will get you noticed by potential wedding clients that you may not reach in any other way.
If you don’t have a social media whiz on staff, consider outsourcing to a company that specializes in these electronic communications. To be effective, you need daily Facebook posts, multiple Twitter feeds per day, and regular postings to other media outlets.
The most demanding thing about social media is coming up with content for all those daily posts. That’s where hiring a third party can be helpful, as they will be hustling to come up with content to earn and keep your business. These experts also know how to set up posts that automatically migrate content between Facebook, Twitter, and other social media applications.
To summarize, the way to grow a successful wedding business is really the same as growing any successful business: market your services effectively, nurture the best professional relationships, leverage available technologies and, first and foremost, always provide exceptional service to your customers. It’s a tall order, but it can be done!
Reprinted from March 2013