Motorcoach Operators Balance High and Low-Tech Methods for Marketing

Posted on March 29, 2011 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

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With the Internet being used as the primary avenue for many of Fabulous' marketing efforts, Ray Land says maintaining relationships with existing customers is also very important.
With the Internet being used as the primary avenue for many of Fabulous' marketing efforts, Ray Land says maintaining relationships with existing customers is also very important.
Back to Basics

Not to take away from the success many operators are finding on the Web, International Motor Coach Group President Steve Klika says that operators are getting away from the basics, including becoming involved in the communities that they serve.

"Yes, technology can help deal with things a little more efficiently, but it's not going to replace that personal touch," he says. "I really try to emphasize with our folks that it's about getting back to the basics of being engaged with what the community needs and showing that you're invested in the community. Once you do that, people have a tendency to pay you back."

Klika says his idea of getting back to basics stems from the industry's past when operators were in touch with the needs of the community, providing services from school bus to charter to line haul, to fulfill those needs.

"When we didn't have all this technology back when our granddads started the businesses, they were forced to talk to people and, now, you find at a lot of sales offices where they sit behind a desk and computer and wait for the phone to ring instead of getting out there," he says.

To become part of the community, Klika explains operators can get involved with city or local councils, Parent Teacher Associations and chambers of commerce, for example. He adds that simply going to meetings is not enough and, instead, urges operators to get involved in leadership positions, such as getting on the board of directors of some of these groups, so you can be recognized for the value that you as an individual have.

For his part, Land says he likes to keep involved in the community by remaining in constant contact with the existing customers he has and, since many of is larger customers are non-profits, participating in as many of their functions as he possibly can, including parades and other community-based events.

Escot's Brian Scott has also found success by getting involved in his community.

"The future of your business is in your own backyard," explains Scott. "If you are not at the table, you not only don't hear about new opportunities, but you also get planned over."

Escot representatives are active in local chambers, attend political events, and serve on various planning and transportation boards in all of the communities it serves in its home base of Florida, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando.

"This involvement has identified new contract opportunities, which we have capitalized on, and areas to expand our offerings of scheduled/line run services," says Scott.

He adds that Escot also works on forming partnerships with other local business owners and entrepreneurs, who can also benefit from the traffic that the operation's services will bring.

"[It] requires constant relationship building, rather than writing a check to cover advertising costs, but it is often times far more effective and rewarding," he says. "It also builds stronger ties in your community."

A happy medium

The success that Scott has found is exactly Klika's point.

"It's an easy step to reach, and it also helps you figure out how the needs might be changing in that community and where you can be on the front end to help deal with some of those changes," he says.

To be clear, community involvement should be seen as simply another aspect of an operator's larger marketing scheme, but is often a low hanging fruit-type step that is being overlooked by the industry.

Klika is quick to point out that he is not slamming operators who use the Internet or have moved to computerized phone answering systems, rather he sees it as the evolution of an industry that has gotten smarter and become more proficient in doing more with less. Still, he emphasizes not to lose sight of the value in the human touch.

"The e-marketing opportunities are a way to keep your name out there, especially for people you're not familiar with. And, it's going to take care of that portion of the population that operates better on computers," says Klika. "At some point, there just has to be a human behind the screen who will pick up the phone and solidify that relationship or a person who will get out from behind their desk to become engaged with the community."

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