Beginning in 2014, the Motorcoach Marketing Council began unveiling its new “GoMotorcoach” campaign and branding, which shifted its original focus from being the advocacy voice for the industry to helping the industry find its own voice in the markets they serve.
“The Council started with a broader base idea that we would one day reach out to consumers through national media ads directly to get them to ride motorcoaches,” explains the Council’s Chair Peter Shelbo. “Through some decisions amongst the present board, we decided it would be the best to train the operators how to reach out to customers in their markets while maintaining our ‘Go Motorcoach’ branding.”
The program the Council began to roll out in 2014 at the American Bus Association’s Marketplace, the United Motorcoach Association’s Expo and other industry shows around the nation now includes a host of marketing flyers, post cards, rack cards, table cloths, posters and more that operators can access via the Council’s website (http://motorcoachmarketing.org), customize with their own branding and photos, and print out to help increase their business as well as the industry’s overall profile.
GoMotorcoach also includes videos on as many as 22 specific niches — from weddings to concerts and events — that first help teach operators about the opportunities available in that particular market, and then, what they can do to begin generating business in that specific sector.
“What we’re really trying to do is create a structure that we can use to educate the industry and make them more effective,” says Christian Riddell of deliverabilities.com, the creative force behind the new GoMotorcoach tools and training programs. “The mission of the Council hasn’t really changed, they want more people riding on coaches tomorrow then they did today, but the way that will happen is accessing the marketing budgets of all of the individual operators that are already spending money and helping them to become more effective at what they do.”
A major reason for the Council’s new direction is the intense need for marketing knowledge industrywide.
“The industry lacks marketing expertise,” Shelbo says. “It’s always the last line item and it’s not a percentage that’s high enough in any of our income statements as far as ratios go; it just isn’t. This program makes it easier and cheaper for people to do a great looking, professional job.”
Riddell adds there are many reasons for the industry’s lack of marketing reach and skills.
“In most industries you have separate marketing and sales departments, but in this industry there tends to be a lot of overlap, so you often have the marketing guy who also does sales, works as the dispatcher and drives on the weekends, which makes it difficult,” he says.
With the nature of the business being so incredibly demanding on both time and resources, Riddell says that even operations that want to, and actively do, market their services, often lack consistency. Many times, though, operators don’t advertise because they feel they don’t need too.
“The industry has become a commodity for people who know they need it,” Riddell explains. “So, what has happened is that companies don’t actively market to different sectors in their communities because there are people out there who continue to use motorcoaches.”
With the industry percentage of total revenue spent on marketing “shockingly low,” Riddell says the Council’s work is attempting to slowly reverse that trend by educating operators, in regards to marketing, so they can take those tools to help grow their businesses and give the industry new vitality.
“To people who understand sales and marketing, the [industry’s tiny marketing budgets] indicates it is a dying industry, because we are not going after new buyers,” argues Riddell. “As an industry, we need to convert more people who aren’t already buyers than we need to fight our competitors over an existing contract or over who is offering the better price.”
Tools and training
Along with a set of videos covering several different niche markets, GoMotorcoach also offers collateral, including post cards and posters, for marketing to those niche groups.
Shelbo explains that all of the post cards, flyers, rack cards and other printed materials in the Council’s toolbox are available for a subscription fee of $199 a month, with the operator able to stop its subscription at any time. Extra fees apply for the operator to have its campaigns printed by a local printer; however, operators can also order printing services directly through the Council’s website.
The tools offer a host of marketing opportunities from basic safety messages to the benefits of using motorcoaches to targeted marketing for weddings, family reunions and more.
“People in the industry are really excited about what we are now offering and are actually using the tools,” Shelbo says, adding that now that the program is a year in, the Council isn’t just re-marketing what it has available but is now hearing success stories from operators who have used the tools.
Videos covering several niche markets are also available free of charge to any operators who visit their site.
“The idea is that you sit down and watch the videos, which teach you and your staff not only about the opportunities that are available, but also what you will need to do to enter that particular niche and market your operation to the right people,” Shelbo says.
The videos are hosted by Riddell, whose team has created them using his past experience selling charters.
“A lot of the training videos are based on what I found worked and didn’t work,” he says. “We also reached out to other operators who specialize in those individual markets and [incorporated] what they have found success with.”
The step-by-step process covered by the videos includes: information about the specific niche market; what kind of transportation options operators can provide; how to enter that market; and the types of collateral that they can use to market to that specific niche, which are all available on the GoMotorcoach website.
“There is not a lot of magic to sales and marketing. If you use the tools that are offered and follow best practices, like following up with people and constantly talking and marketing to them, the result is clear, your business will grow,” Riddell says. “All of the tools that are being offered are really structured to raise the bar in terms of how operators do what they do.”
Recruitment, social media
Even though the Council is existing on a modest budget that includes funding from an OEM penny parts program, auctions and straight donations, Riddell says that he believes that the “roll forward” for Go Motorcoach is really exciting.
Looking ahead, GoMotorcoach is already developing different types of training programs and collateral to fit the industry’s needs, including its recently launched driver recruitment and social media campaigns. It also is looking to push its focus on sales and marketing to the next level.
“Right now, we have some great tools in the toolbox, which is great, and we are going to continue with that, but our vision is also training,” Shelbo says. “We have other things that we are working on that will be really progressive, as we come down the pike, on how to train and work with people to become great marketing people within their own organizations.”
While agreeing with Shelbo that actual marketing and sales training tools are in development, Riddell also adds that GoMotorcoach is looking at developing metrics to measure an operation’s sales and marketing progress, the possible formation of non-competing companies with a 20 Group-like focus on sales and marketing, and more.
“What the future holds is a shift in our role as the Council,” Riddell says. “We really hope we can help facilitate making a shift that will position the Council as a resource that will help operators grow their businesses not only by providing tools, but by also providing all of the support for the tools, including the education, the management, and potentially, even stepping into the role of facilitator for companies who feel a challenge of trying to implement the sales and marketing tools in an attempt to kind of bridge the gap for them. I think the future really looks bright.”