Where to spend money in your limo business
Over the past 11 years coaching limo business owners all around the world, I’ve seen many different situations. It allowed me to break down what leads a limo business to success and what set it up for failure.
This week, we’re talking about where to spend your money when you start or run a limo business.
Let’s cut to the chase: Many limo business owners put all their money in their cars and this is definitely a guarantee of failure. Running a limo business, like any other business, is about getting customers to pay for your service. And guess what, the car is not the primary reason they book a ride with you.
We can break down the expenses in 3 main categories: Marketing/Sales, Chauffeurs and Cars.
1. The Car
I know it’s the 3rd item in my list but I’m starting with it: the car(s)
Of course you need a car to drive your clients and, of course, it needs to be comfortable. But here’s the thing, you can buy the best car in the world, it won’t drive down the street to find clients.
Still, you need a car. Question is what car? I’m a man like the immense majority of limo business owners and men have something special with cars. I got into the limo industry long ago, probably like the majority of you guys, because of the cars. I was attracted to them. And this is probably the biggest issue we have when we run a limo business: You car is only a tool. It’s nothing more than a tool. The good car is not the car you like, the good car is the car that fits your clients expectations AND budget. If you buy a Rolls Royce and your clientele can’t pay more than $90 to get to the airport, you can be certain that this car will be repossessed.
If, for the sake of the demo, you have a $100,000 budget, you don’t want to spend more than 70% of it in your car. And this is a real max. It also applies if you take a lease. If your budget is $100,000, don’t lease a car worth more than $70,000. If you do, you will end up shutting down your business or being the B… of another limo company.
Now, with this budget, figure out what will bring you the biggest profit. 1 $70,000 car or two $35,000 cars? This really depends on the clientele you’re working on and how much you can charge for a ride vs how much a ride costs you.
Be smart about it, consider your car like it’s a hammer in a carpentry business. Essential but choose it based on pure maths, not emotions.
2. Your Driver(s)
When you talk to your clients and ask them why they pick up your service instead of a taxi, they tell you that the first reason is the service. Not the car. Your drivers is why they come to you. Not your cars.
Carefully hiring your drivers, making them comply with the company’s culture and having them offer your clients a A1 service quality should be your primary concern. Not your cars. As a world traveler, I’ve tested hundreds of different services and I can tell you that I’d rather have an excellent driver in an average car than a bad driver in an amazing car. Both together are like paradise.
You’re probably thinking, OK, where’s the cost? Well, training guys. You can’t expect someone to be a good driver if you don’t train them. If you don’t train them they’ll be just like taxi drivers with a suit. This is definitely not enough if you want some kind of customer satisfaction.
When I first started the Prestige Chauffeur Academy in France over 10 years ago, almost no company believed in the virtues of training. After just 4 years, we were training chauffeurs for the Royals, for presidential services and most of the limo companies in Europe. And we made millions. Why? Because we simply increased customer retention, lowered chauffeur turn over and boosted our clients profit margins.
And please, don’t get an older “chauffeur” train yours. The fact that he’s been driving for years doesn’t means he’s fit for the job. Find a serious training center that has teachers who have never been drivers. They’ll be much better to teach your chauffeurs what customers expect. I recommend, still based on your $100,000 budget, that you spend $10,000 in recruitment and training.
3. Marketing and Sales
You can’t imagine how many small businesses I’ve worked with that had little or no marketing budget. This is likely the #1 reason why they fail. No marketing, no clients it’s as simple as that.
But Marketing and Sales is a very broad subject. Let’s break it down into 4 main branches to treat in this very order. Don’t start ads without sales tools nor branding, you’ll simply burn your money.
Branding is what makes you You. It’s the image that your customers rely on. Branding your business means giving it an identity that people will recognize. It includes a name, a logo, a set of colors, a slogan and a pool of pictures. That’s the minimum. I’d add a customer management policy, rules for the drivers and protocols that your client are going to get used to before getting addicted to.
Please don’t pick your branding provider on Craigslist or Fiverr. It will be bad and, again, you’ll just burn money. You can find good professionals on Upwork and, based on our $100,000 budget, prepare a budget of around $2,000 at least
2. Sales tools
You can’t sell without the right tools. The time of receiving bookings over the phone and writing information down on a note book is over. That’s how you leave tons of money on the table. The sales tools will include your website, your business cards, a CRM, your booking widget and app and your email auto responder. If you have all that setup, you can start talking business.
Regarding the website, it needs to rank well on google when people google “limo service Chicago” for example. If it doesn’t, your web site is just a virtual business card. People won’t remember your website’s address. How do you achieve that? It’s actually fairly simple. Build a good website, not a Wix, and then optimize it for SEO. SEO takes time and results usually take 6 months to a year to show. In the meantime you’ll run ads.
Your website MUST be a funnel. Not just a nice place to visit. It’s here for one thing only: sell rides. A phone number is good but a booking widget is better. Way better. Getting someone on your website isn’t free, so you don’t want to miss them.
But the web is a very competitive environment so you’d better quickly get them off the web and send them to your app. When you’re on an app, you’re not looking at other companies at the same time. For you to get an idea, Karl members report an increase of 240% in bookings with the clients that use their app.
Because clients need to me marketed all the time, especially if they already booked a ride with you, you need an email automation. Using Mailchimp is free or cheap and will allow you to create custom campaigns?
Budget? It depends if you want to spend time on it or if you want to have someone do it for you. A good website usually goes for aroudn $1,500 to $5,000. If you do it yourself, start a WordPress for $25/month, get a nice template on themeforest.com for $59 and get KARL to manage your sales, widget and app for $59.99-$179.99/month. If you do things yourself, for one year, we’re talking about a $1,100-$2,500 budget. If you have someone build your website and take care of your SEO, it’s a $7,000+ the first year.
3. Online communication assets
In order to get the word out you will need several online communication assets. Most are free because they know you’ll then spend money on ads.
- Facebook page
- Instagram account
- Linkedin profile
- Youtube Channel
Whatever the social media platform you choose, make sure to post on it often and consistently. Every post must have an intention. Post about your service, about your customer experience, about who you are, about who your chauffeurs are. Don’t post videos bashing your clients, complaining about Uber or videos of you driving at night with Dr Dre blasting in your car.
We will go in deep in social media in next blog posts. All these accounts are free, they will only cost you time.
Ads are the last tool you want to start using. If the other 3 Marketing and Sales tools are not in place, running ads is like throwing money by the window. And before you run ads, you need to setup retargeting ads. Ads will take clients to your website but 96% of them will leave without making a booking or downloading your app. Yet, you probably paid between $1 and $15 to have this person come to your website, so you don’t want to give up. Retargeting ads will be shown to customers who came to your website and showed some interest. Retargeting ads will help you convert them into paying clients.
Once this is in place you can start running ads. The odds of placing an ad at the moment your client wants to make a booking are very low. That’s why promoting you app is the cheapest way to acquire clients. The cost per download is usually between $1 and $5. And if you have a good app, these new clients will “fall” in your email marketing automation (which is free to you) and you will eventually generate a booking. If you don’t have an app or a booking widget, it’s not rare to hear limo business owners spending up to $100 just to get someone to make a booking.
If we keep working on your $100,000 budget, after the car and training your drivers, you should have around $15,000 left in your pocket. This should allow you to get 2,000 to 3,000 people to download your app or, if you don’t have one, it should get you around 1,000 bookings. That’s how the math work. And when you make money, keep re-investing it in ads to build up your clientele.
If I had to summarize this post, it would be like this:
- Never put all your money in a car
- Get the car that fits your clientele
- Train your drivers
- Spend money in technology and marketing
If you think this post was useful, thank you for sharing it on social media. It’s because we come together as an industry that companies like Uber or Lyft will keep taking care of the customers you don’t want 😉