February 1, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Greer, founder of BusRates.com, the online database of charter bus companies, used internet statistics to make the point that a Website is critical to effectively marketing a motorcoach company.
Greer conducted an educational session, called “Maximizing Your Website,” at UMA Motorcoach Expo here last month.
During his presentation, Greer provided tips and techniques for getting the most out of the internet as a business tool.
According to Greer, more than 80 percent of North American motorcoach operators have Websites and the companies that don’t have one probably should.
On Google alone, there are 1.8 million bus-related searches each month.
Not all of the traffic comes from potential clients looking for a charter, but when a serious shopper comes along, the benefit of being a Web-savvy operator is having the ability to turn that browser into a paying client.
Greer said motorcoach operators can do that by:
· Providing plenty of pictures. Coach operators have plenty to show. Pictures of their buses, the interiors, the staff and the facility can add interest to a Website.
· Using FAB (feature-advantage-benefit) statements, rather than subjective statements. “Our drivers have more than 5 years of experience so they know how to ensure your trip will go smoothly.” That looks and sounds much better than saying “We have great drivers.”
· Avoiding selling on price. Operators should use their Websites to teach customers what to ask about safety and business practices, among other aspects of booking a charter.
Greer said operators can develop a strategy for bringing internet traffic to their Websites. There are three ways to do it:
· Organically. That is, putting up a Website and letting the search engines find your site (slow but free).
· Paying for placement on directory Websites like YellowPages.com (expensive but effective immediately)
· Optimizing a Website on high-ranking directories like Google or Yahoo (effectiveness varies).
Greer provided suggestions for getting the most out of each approach, including using the internet to evaluate traffic levels.
Once a Website has attracted a client, preliminary contact is occasionally made via e-mail. Greer emphasized that how an operator communicates electronically can make or break a deal. Some tips are:
· Invest in a professional e-mail domain. Having “email@example.com” is much more professional than “firstname.lastname@example.org,” for example.
· Answer requests promptly and in sufficient detail to convince the customer you are serious about gaining their business.
· Prepare a standard e-mail response in the form of a letter that includes the company letterhead or logo, and introduces your company and its services and amenities.
· Reassure the customer by providing your DOT number and your safety and insurance information.
· Make your response to their request a ready-to-sign proposal.
· Offer to answer any additional questions they may have, and follow up if the customer does not respond within 7 days.
Greer’s own company, BusRates.com, was established to help operators be successful by driving charter business in their direction through use of an online database.
A customer can search a location for charter providers. The customer can then use the contact information provided and the customer and the operator can take it from there.
The United Motorcoach Association has formed a new partnership with BusRates.com to provide this service as a UMA member benefit.