The Council’s Mission
For any of you that have attended a meeting where I have been asked to speak, you can probably recite in perfect cadence our mission: to help operators sell more charters, to more people, for more money. Each of those statements is unique and important to the end goal of increasing the number of people who choose to “Go Motorcoach”.
As some of you may have noticed, the council has seen a lot of change over the years, and there have been many programs, ideas, and campaigns that weren’t as successful as we hoped they would be. As we’ve reflected on those efforts and tried to understand why they didn’t pan out, the answer always seems to come back to budget. As you know, we are a small nonprofit organization that is sustained by donations from manufacturers, vendors, associations, and the support of motorcoach operators.
For many years, there was a groundswell of underlying energy from those who wanted to see the council become an organization that would execute forward-facing campaigns (think of the “Got Milk” or “Go RVing” campaigns that we are all familiar with). I think it is fair to say that everyone would love to see Super Bowl commercials and national media content advertising the motorcoach message. The reality, however, was that our budget and our desires simply didn’t line up. (The “Got Milk?” campaign, for example, cost nearly 24 million dollars a year during its execution, and our $130,000 annual budget couldn’t reach that high.)
That left the council with a difficult question: How do you make a strong impact without a budget that allows for forward-facing campaigns? The answer came over a number of years, and it boiled down to the fact that our industry needed to market the product more effectively. After we came to this realization, our focus turned to developing some very important tools, along with an educational campaign to highlight the lack of focus given to true marketing in this industry. Because the board is run by operators who understand the unique limitations of reaching our target markets, they have been able to address the key challenges from an informed perspective.
Accordingly, we’ve created a toolbox with hundreds of plug and play templates for marketing in any of 24 unique vertical markets, a vast social media library that offers copy and paste simplicity for social engagement, and a robust education program that has given me the opportunity to reach hundreds of operators in the United States and Canada.
These initiatives have provided the industry with some fantastic tools, helped operators begin to see how, when, and why they should use them, and generated newfound enthusiasm for marketing for many operators who now understand what was missing in their previous efforts. As operators put these tools to use in their companies, they’re experiencing positive results.
Throughout this journey, I think the biggest challenge we’ve encountered has been the motorcoach industry’s culture. As we’ve worked on moving the council’s mission forward, we’ve realized that, along with educating operators on the newest and best ways to reach new customers, we also have to try to shift the very culture of marketing in this industry.
As the former director of sales and marketing for a motorcoach operation in Portland, Oregon, I learned firsthand how real this is. Most of my days were filled with dispatching, managing drivers, driving coaches, maintenance, cleaning the bathrooms, and anything else that needed to be done. Then, if there was leftover time, I’d focus on sales. Oh, and if there was time left after all of that (and after I had responded to all of the people who had called and emailed wanting quotes), then, on that magical unicorn day, I would do some marketing.
The industry’s marketing culture is as simple as it is difficult to change: “We do marketing when we don’t have anything else to do, and we always have something else to do.” Thankfully, we’ve started to see this paradigm shift over the last few years. Even though it might not be happening as quickly as we would like, the shifting is, nonetheless, underway, and it’s happening for a number of reasons.
The first reason is that more and more companies are realizing that they have to compete on a different level than before to protect their marketing share. The proliferation of internet brokers and the introduction of limo companies competing in the motorcoach market are increasing, and we’ve realized that if we truly want to sell more charters, to more people, for more money, we must evolve. I have talked to dozens of operators who have taken big strides toward making marketing a priority. Why? Because they understand that the brokers and limo companies are selling motorcoach transportation for, in some cases, much more money, simply because they are better at marketing.
The second driving force is that more and more millennials are getting involved in the business. Some are generational additions to family businesses, and some are hired to fill new positions. They bring fresh perspective that is often open to change, and they’re not afraid of moving away from the old adage of “how we have always done it.”
The third is technology. Like most everything in our lives, technology is changing the marketing world to make things easier, faster, and more effective. Automation, analytics, and even real-time monitoring give even the novice marketer an edge in today’s competitive world.
This sea change has encouraged the council to keep evolving in what we do with and for the industry. One of the new things we’re really excited about is the addition of an annual award, in partnership with the UMA, to be awarded at the EXPO show each year. This award will recognize those companies who are taking innovative steps to grow their market share and increase the number of people who choose to “Go Motorcoach”.
We hope that by showcasing companies who are committed to marketing, other companies will see that with even minimal effort, a little creativity, and a commitment to execution, marketing will become a more mainstream plan for the entire industry. If you are a company that has been doing marketing and seeing results, you can self-nominate by visiting motorcoachmarketing.org/award. All submissions must be received by Nov 15th.
Marketing is an important part of any business. It has been said that with a good product and great marketing, you can be as successful as you want to be. I hope you have felt the shift and know we can’t keep doing things the way we always have. I hope you’ve begun to put marketing higher up on the to-do list. And I hope you have seen that, while we are struggling to keep our prices from getting beat up every day, others are selling our own product for more to the same people we could be selling to. What are they doing differently? What is their secret? It’s simple. Marketing.