How to Make an Effective Motorcoach Marketing Program
Over the last few years, we have come to realize that for many motorcoach operators, marketing is just one more thing on that ever-growing list titled “Eventually, I am going to get to this.” However, this year, the tides seem to have changed and more operators are making marketing a priority, putting it where it belongs on the “It’s Getting Done” list. This has led to a groundswell of important questions focused on where busy operators should put their valuable time and resources first.
While it is difficult to try to generalize every operator and create a single marketing plan that could be rolled out across multiple companies, there are indeed some “best practices” that every company should implement when creating their own strategic plan. But first, let’s talk about a couple of introductory points that suggest a change in the way we have traditionally thought about customers and our role when they do business with us.
Most motorcoach operators that we encounter have a database (somewhere) of their “customers.” While it is often tied to the billing system, this list almost always shows who it is that booked or paid for a trip. Even though you need that information, the biggest problem with this line of thinking is that it represents only a small percentage of those who have been on our coaches.
The truth of the matter is this: everyone who sets foot on a coach, whether they were the person that paid for it or not, is a customer. They have experienced our service, our equipment, and hopefully, our company culture. At the very least, they were part of a group that had a transportation need and their experience with us is a crucial component of future business opportunities.
Now, you may be wondering why this is the first step in a marketing article, since we’re suggesting a new way of thinking as opposed to something to do. However, it’s the approach we need to take to utilize our marketing strategies for all of our potential customers.
Engineer an experience
When I have the opportunity to speak at association meetings around the country, one of the questions I love to ask to a room full of operators is, “What business are you in?” The standard responses are pretty predictable. Transportation always tops the list. While I agree that transportation is what we do, it shouldn’t be who we are. We are actually in the hospitality business.
Even Wikipedia knows this, as they define the hospitality industry as “a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line and additional fields within the tourism industry.”
Our job is not simply to move groups safely from point A to point B; rather, it is to engineer experiences. We want people to leave any interaction with our company feeling like they have been taken care of.
I understand that this idea presents some very real-world issues. Often the act of providing transportation takes 127 hours of our 40-hour work week, and the idea of trying to engineer an experience at that point feels, well, distasteful. Sometimes, the job of safely getting people from point A to point B sounds perfectly adequate.
However, this mentality is what has put us in the price war that we currently find ourselves in: buyers who shop around for the lowest price, and customers who are wooed by a savings of a few dollars a day instead of being loyal to a company.
Brands like Nordstrom and BMW work hard to create experiences that are worthy of their customers’ loyalty. In every interaction, they look for ways to create a connection and build that loyalty, because they know that loyal buyers will result in returning business with less regard for price. And, let’s be honest…it goes without saying that you’d like more of this happening in your own business, right?
So, now that we have addressed these two paradigm shifts, we will move into the more “tangible” aspects of a best-practice marketing program. Keep the following questions in mind as you consider each tactic. First, how can I use this to engage with my entire customer base, including those who are passengers, not bookers? Second, how can I use this to shape the experience that my customers have with me?