Define your brand identity—your product’s “personality”—before you spend a dime on advertising or marketing.
Talk to entrepreneurs about their marketing and communications efforts, and they’ll often use the words “branding,” “marketing,” and “advertising” interchangeably. That reflects the pervasive confusion about the terms. About 15 years ago, ‘branding’ became a buzzword in the business vernacular, and people still get the words mixed up all the time.
That confusion is unfortunate, because understanding the concepts and how they mesh is vital to every company’s bottom line. Studies show companies that market their products or services without first establishing their brand identities are not likely to achieve return on investment. If you’re spending money to advertise and market without being connected to a brand position, you might as well pile the money up and burn it.
Rob Frankel, a branding expert and author in Los Angeles, calls branding the most misunderstood concept in all of marketing, even among professionals. Branding, he says, “is not advertising and it’s not marketing or PR. Branding happens before all of those: First you create the brand, then you raise awareness of it.”
Your Brand is Your Personality
And while many people think successful branding is only about awareness, it’s not, Frankel adds. “Everyone knows about cancer but how many people actually want it? Branding is about getting your prospects to perceive you as the only solution to their problem. Once you’re perceived as ‘the only,’ there’s no place else to shop. Which means your customers gladly pay a premium for your brand.”
Your product or service is not your company’s brand and neither is your logo or your business card. Your brand is the genuine “personality” of your company. “It’s what your customers think of you and say about you when they’ve left your company,” says Rodger Roeser, president of Cincinnati-based Eisen Management Group, a public-relations and brand-development firm.
Your brand is what your company stands for and what it is known for. “Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you stand for. Go around the room with your leadership and ask them what the company stands for. Settle on one or two brand pillars and build your brand around them. If you can’t define your brand, your customers won’t be able to, either. And the risk is that someone else will define it for you—probably your competitors,” Roeser says.
The Promise You Make to the World
A brand is a promise and branding is the act of devising the promise your company makes to the world. Marketing, is the strategy that differentiates your brand promise from all the other brand promises in that increasingly crowded house called “your category.”
Think of marketing like a toolbox containing branding, advertising, direct mail, market research, public relations, and other tools. “Marketing represents the combination of methods organizations use to persuade their target audience toward some specified behavior such as sales,” says Stephen Rapier, of Glendale (Calif.)-based The Artime Group.
Advertising, Rapier says, can take many forms: print, as in newspaper and magazine ads; outdoor, such as billboards; online Web banners; and broadcast advertising on radio and TV. “Typically, the goal of advertising is to grab attention, create positive perceptions, and prompt response while conveying information consumers will find relevant to their needs,” he notes.
Your Brand Is a Lifestyle
A successful marketing strategy uses all—or most—of the tools in the box depending on the job at hand, Cecil says. “Crafting a winning marketing strategy is challenging enough even when you have articulated your brand promise and is probably impossible if you haven’t.”
If you have not specified your company’s brand, don’t spend another dime on marketing until you do. While everyone’s familiar with megabrands such as Apple (AAPL), Nike (NKE), and Virgin, small companies can also develop potent brands and market them successfully, says Steve Manning, managing director at Igor, a branding and naming firm based in San Francisco.
“A brand creates an image in the mind of the consumer. It says something is different at your firm, something worth more than business as usual. If your firm is a commodity, your customers will choose you solely on the basis of price or getting something for free. If you’ve got a brand, you’re selling a lifestyle and you can sell anything you want,” Manning says.
No, I mean CCO. Chief Customer Officer. You do have one, don’t you?
A chief customer officer (CCO) is the executive responsible in customer-centric companies for the total relationship with an organization’s customers. Your company is “customer-centric”, isn’t it? This position is a relatively new addition to the C-suite and was developed to provide a single vision across all methods of customer contact. The CCO is often responsible for influencing activities of customer relations throughout an organization, whether in the call center, sales, marketing, finance, fulfillment or post-sale support. The CCO typically reports to the Chief Executive Officer and is charged with improving the customer experience.
Chief Customer Officers may be known by many titles, however, according to the Chief Customer Officer Council, the CCO is properly defined as “an executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”
Over the past five years, Forrester Research has observed an increase in the number of companies with a single executive leading customer experience efforts across a business unit or an entire company. These individuals often serve as top executives, with the mandate and power to design, orchestrate and improve customer experiences across every customer interaction. And whether firms call them Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) or give them some other label, these leaders sit at high levels of power at companies as diverse as Allstate, Dunkin’ Brands, Oracle and USAA.
When companies with CCOs made the decision to establish such a position, it often was because of a mass exodus of customers. However, other reasons included a change in leadership, a desire to accelerate growth, a reaction to a competitor’s actions or a response brought about by rapid growth.
The key role for the Chief Customer Officer is to lead Customer Experience Management:
To learn what customers value and how they feel about your organization and the current experience you provide.
To interpret this feedback and prioritize the most important issues.
To enact change that closes the gap between customer expectations and the actual experience delivered.
Finally, to monitor key metrics to ensure that your organization continually improves the customer experience.
Despite the many successes resulting from the creation of a CCO role, it’s also important to recognize that a chief customer officer is not a silver bullet for a company’s customer experience problems.
A 2009 study of over 860 corporate executives revealed that companies that had increased their investment in customer experience management over the previous three years reported higher customer referral rates and customer satisfaction (Strativity Group, 2009).
Think your company is too small to have a CCO? Think again. Those big companies started small.
These curious little black and white squares have literally been popping up everywhere. You’ve probably seen them in ads, catalogues, brochures and more. What are they and what do they do?
U.S. Postal Service is offering a 3% discount on standard mailings that include a QR (quick response) code in July & August 2011
Quick Response (QR) codes
are specific matrix barcodes that are digitally encoded with information that both barcode readers and smart phones can read. The QR code can contain a link to a specific web page (URLs), text or other types of data. A more sophisticated QR code can be used to embed other useful data like videos, music or promotional campaigns. A QR code is capable of 360 degree (omni-directional), high-speed reading.
Most smart phones (as of 2011) allow you to download a free “QR reader” that enables any phone to become a QR code scanner. Beginning in 2011, some phones already have this app as part of its standard software.
Having a QR code in your promotional materials grabs attention, leading users to high-quality, high-value content instantaneously. Skillfully using this tool in conjunction with social media marketing, video marketing or a high-quality (mobile) web site can help companies stand out in a marketplace that craves variety. Many businesses use QR codes innovatively to reach consumers via posters, billboards, ads, etc. to provide information regarding consumer campaigns, promotions and other company information.
QR codes can be a great branding tool. Mobile phone users can be directed to web sites where users can download ads, ringtones, logos, videos and flash presentations. Using QR codes on packaging is another innovative way to advertise products or offer information.
For businesses looking to differentiate themselves from their competition, QR codes should be on their radar. By integrating QR codes and a mobile friendly web site into their campaigns, businesses can leverage the needs and attention of the smart phone user more effectively.
Let Create-A-Card, Inc, your marketing specialist for the transportation industry, help you capitalize on this unique marketing opportunity and begin leveraging the potential of Quick Response codes in your business today!
Imagine if all of the people that are representing your company were thinking and acting like owners of your business. Do you think they might do their job differently? Do you think they would take more pride in their work and make sure the job was done right the first time? Is it possible they would come into work every day with a smile on their face excited about helping customers and solving their problems? What impact do you think that would have on the experience that your customers have when they deal with your company? Do you think they would feel valued and appreciated? Would they be more loyal to your company? Could that have a positive impact on your bottom line?
Many employees are just working for a paycheck. They have tasks and functions that they have to do every day and many of them go through the motions detached from the people around them, whether they are customers or co-workers. They act like robots, doing the same thing over and over again with no enthusiasm or passion. What impact are these people having on your customers? Do you think your customers are excited to speak with people that don’t care about them? Do you think they are rushing to tell their friends about your company? Or have they already left and gone to your competition?
Think about when YOU are the customer. Who would YOU rather have taking care of you? An employee or an owner? Who do you think would provide you with a better experience? Who would make sure you were happy? Who would apologize to you if a problem occurred? Who would genuinely thank you for your business?
Take a look around your company today. Observe and listen. Figure out if you have owners working for your company or whether they are “just” employees. Your customers have already done that. And perhaps they’ve decided not to do business with your company anymore because they don’t feel important and special.
The next time you need to fill a position at your company, don’t get so caught up with how many years experience a candidate has. Focus more on their attitude. Do they have an “ownership” mentality? If they do, that’s the person you want to consider hiring. Employees are a dime a dozen. Owners are the real prize. Don’t hire employees, hire owners. Your customers will be glad you did!
Arthur Messina earned his degree in Food and Business in 1984 and worked for the Marriot Corporation right out of college. After working as a manager there for two years, he realized the industry was not for him.
“It felt impersonal,” he recalls. “You become more of a number in a big corporation like that, and you weren’t respected for your knowledge.” Messina, who is certainly respected as an invaluable source of industry know-how among his peers, clients, and competitors, says he was more interested in the business aspect of his degree. He had a passion for photography and decided to turn it into a business idea: photo business cards.
Thus, Create-A-Card, Inc. was born. The limousine industry was a natural fi t because owners needed a way to show their vehicles to the public.
One of Messina’s fi rst clients was a company down the street from his house. “We took the car to a park and shot some photos, and that was one of the first samples I had,” he says. The business took off, and as many industry members know, has expanded into a full-service marketing provider, helping operators with anything from brochures and fl iers to social media to website and logo design. Whether the client is a newcomer to the industry or a 30-plus year veteran, Create-A-Card, Inc. makes sure to help them communicate messages well.
Your brand reflects the personality of your company and promises customers high value for the money they exchange for your goods or services.
Branding, however, is not easy and companies often make these 7 mistakes:
1. They try to be all things to all people. It is better to just focus on meeting the needs and exceeding the expectations of your target market.
2. Branding is not instantaneous. You have to think long, not short-term. A brand has to mature over time to be effective. Instant branding measures confuse customers and lose market share.
3. Branding should have a long-term perspective. Don’t limit your brand to what you are only doing now. Keep the possibility open for new technologies to completely upgrade your current best practices.
4. Even if your product is approximately the same thing, your brand should have something unique. Coca Cola and Pepsi are both similar looking and tasting sugared drinks, but they have been branded in completely different ways, resulting in consumers actually arguing about which is better.
5. While differentiation is important, it should not be overdone. The consumer should still feel a sense of familiarity with the product. For instance, Dell computers are designed in a slightly different way from other computers, but consumers are not bewildered by the customized configurations of Dell because they are similar enough to other computers to make them feel comfortable.
6. When your brand is attacked, you should defend it. Ignoring negative press will not make it go away. In fact, the rumors might even get worse. Brand reputation management will save your brand from collapsing under the weight of spurious competitors allegations.
7. Focus your brand on quality, rather than pricing. The Mac computers cost twice as much as PCs, but they also offer a lot more value, especially for those who do graphic design or online marketing. So, is it really expensive, or just different in a good way?
What are some of the branding mistakes your company makes?
It’s not unusual for media editors and journalists to receive hundreds of press releases every day.
This means that you have a lot of competition and you have to do something exceptional to get yours picked out. Fortunately, it is a lot simpler to do this than you might imagine. When you focus on quality, your press releases will stand out from the crowd.
Here are the top ten qualities your press release should include:
1. An attention-grabbing headline has to do two things simultaneously: convey the gist of your press release while stirring curiosity. Without a power-packed headline, your press release will not even be read. Instead, it will be relegated to the filing cabinet just below the editor’s desk (the trash bin).
Here are some tips to create compelling headlines:
• Be brief, succinct, and snappy.
• Reveal the gist of the story.
• Don’t be confusing.
• Send a clear message.
• Avoid hype and sales.
2. Send it to the right target media audience. For instance, if your field is biotechnology, a press release on a new scientific breakthrough will not be relevant to a media editor who only focuses on the financial markets.
3. Respect the time of news people. Since they have to sift through hundreds of press releases every day, they appreciate brevity. Keep your information focused on who, what, where, when, why, and how. Edit out any extraneous information.
4. Stay objective. Stick to the facts and stay clear of unsubstantiated claims. Use statistics, curb your enthusiasm, and stay objective.
5. Remember to always follow up. Despite the high quality of your press release, media people get busy and distracted, so follow up.
7. If you have a lot of additional information that you want to communicate, then create an online press release kit. Simply send the media person an embedded link, so they can find out more if they choose.
8. Respond immediately to any inquiries. If a journalist contacts you, respond immediately. If you procrastinate, you will have sabotaged your press release campaign.
9. Use a cell phone for all your marketing. A landline may drop the call or result in a static reception.
10. Be prepared to answer questions that you may be asked in an interview. For instance, who you are, what you do, what makes you unique, and why you do what you do.
What do you do to get your press releases read and acted on?
Create-A-Card Thrives on Strong Client Relationships
By Liz Hunter
There seems to be no shortage of experts in the limousine industry. Operators have vast resources to tap when it comes to what software to implement or what insurance to purchase. But for one of the most important aspects of running a successful business—marketing—there are only a handful of suppliers that are truly familiar with our industry and getting the message out. One in particular has emerged as a go-to company for transportation marketing advice and materials.
For nearly 25 years, the name Create-A-Card has been synonymous with “marketing” in the limousine industry. Arthur Messina started Create-A-Card (CAC) to capitalize on a new trend: picture business cards. After attending college and graduating with a background in food and business, Messina worked for The Marriott Corporation, only to realize 18 months later that a career in hospitality wasn’t where he wanted to be.
He looked in magazines like Entrepreneur and picture business cards were something new and exciting. Messina was suddenly enthralled by the thought of working for himself and running his own business.
Setting up shop in his kitchen—like many limousine operators did themselves—Messina kept his filing cabinet in a closet and the fax machine on top. When it came to deciding what industry or business would benefit most from these picture business cards, Messina immediately thought of limousines. “It was the heyday of the industry, and people were spending lots of money for vehicles and they needed ways to market them,” he says. “One of the first business cards we did was for a limousine company down the street.”
Anyone who knows Messina will tell you that he is certainly not shy, even back then. So, it should be no surprise that he simply walked to that limo business down the road from his house and asked to borrow a limousine to make sample business cards. “The owner, James Ficcarra, of Richard James Limousine, was open to it. We took the car to a park, shot photos, and that was one of the first samples I had,” Messina says. Even though CAC has branched out to other niches like restaurants and entertainment—one of his clients is the famed Peter Luger’s Steak House in New York City—CAC’s business is still concentrated in the limousine and transportation-related industries and his list of clients reads like a who’s who: Reston Limousine, Partners Executive Transportation, Broadway Elite Chauffeured Services Worldwide, The Limousine Connection, Worldwide Transportation, Overland Limousine, and more. One of its first five clients, All Star Limousine Service in Lindenhurst, New York, is still a customer today, something that both owners are proud of. “We work together on a daily basis,” says Messina of All Star owner Jim Powers. “It’s nice to see some of us have survived together.” Powers, who started his business in the basement of his parents’ home, now has a 40,000-square-foot facility and operates 106 vehicles. “Create-A-Card has been a tremendous asset to All Star,” says Powers. “He has helped us with a successful direct mail program that gets us a 3 to 4 percent return on investment. We have a strong business partnership and friendship.”
CAC may have started with just business cards, which is why Messina chose its name, but the moniker stuck even as the company evolved its offerings into various types of marketing collateral including brochures, meet-and-greet signs, website design, and today, all kinds of digital media. “We are really Create-A-Card and more,” says Messina. “The name and brand are extremely strong and it’s one of those things, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” CAC operates based on the same philosophy it recommends to its clients. Messina believes that one of the most common mistakes that companies make involves brand identity. “Some companies have two or three different names that they use depending on what market they are trying to reach,” Messina says. “People are confused by that. I tell my clients to establish a single brand—which includes a logo, colors, tag line, etc.—and stick with it over a long period of time to promote the company. A key component of marketing is consistency. People have to see you over and over and over again before they start to remember you, much less begin to trust you.” On the branding front, CAC recently worked with the company we now know as Broadway Elite Chauffeured Services Worldwide based in New Jersey. The product of a merger, Broadway Elite needed its name and brand to reflect its level of service as well as its connection to the industry’s biggest market: the New York metropolitan area. COO Jason Sharenow says, “Arthur and his team have been instrumental in everything Broadway Elite has done from business cards to brochures to lapel pins. They have done everything possible to help us move the company to the next level.”
A great deal of CAC’s business comes from referrals. When he has a new client, Messina needs to know what the market is. “Sometimes people want to be everything to everyone. I look at the type of vehicle, location, how far it is from the airport, things like that,” he says. “People will often tell me they want to do a corporate brochure. Then I ask them about their fleet and find out that they have 16 stretches and 2 Town Cars. Corporate business just isn’t the right market for them, especially since I know who their competitors are. I try to point them in a different direction, like focusing on retail with some airport business mixed in.” Messina says operators often have their blinders on because they are so busy with their businesses.
CAC clients can count on Messina’s honesty. “I have no problem telling it like it is,” he says. “It’s their business but I am going to tell them what will work based on my experience. My goal isn’t just to sell my customers a brochure—if they aren’t targeting a viable market, exploiting a competitive advantage, and aren’t taking advantage of all the marketing techniques that are available to them today, they are probably going to fail. If they fail, I lose a customer. I want each and every one of my clients to be successful, so they can always count on me to tell them the truth.”
Messina is thankful for the success both he and his customers have had in business. “I have learned over the years that there is a lot of trust between CAC and our clients. When we get testimonials, it reinforces the fact that we’re not the company that does your business cards and then says ‘See ya later.’ For me, personally and professionally, that is really important.”
Beyond their business relationships, Messina and his clients are truly friendly with each other. “Maintaining friendships beyond business is really key to succeeding,” he says. “I make it a point to see clients outside of work. Actually, I go out of my way to make it happen. When we are in the office, we’re always ‘on’ and 9 times out of 10 we’re distracted. I like to get away from the day-to-day and just relax and hang out.” He enjoys attending baseball games with Alex Pope of LSA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation in Washington, DC, or golfing with Sergio Sanchez of Partners Executive Transportation and, well, eating with just about everyone. “The truth is,” says Messina, “I really like my customers. I have known some of them for years and we have a good time together, respect each other, and are all pretty driven—we work hard and play hard—you really can’t ask to meet a better group of people.”
You’ve most likely spotted Messina at your local association meeting or seen pictures of him at various industry events in the pages of Limousine Digest. To the unknowing observer, Messina would seem to spend little time working—but that is in fact the opposite of reality. According to his wife Kathy, Messina is always working somehow, even on vacation when his kids often tease him for picking up countless travel brochures in hotels and on cruise ships. “I have my eyes open for new things wherever I go,” he says. “There are only so many ways to say the same thing for the limousine industry, so I’m constantly looking for new ways to get the message out.” And yes, Kathy also confirms that Messina suffers from the dreaded disease “iPhone-itis.” She says, “He goes absolutely nowhere without it, and does not hesitate to use it, whether we are at one of the kids’ games, in a restaurant, at an airport—with Arthur, he always finds a way to mix business with pleasure.”
When he is in the office, a typical day means spending at least five hours on the phone with clients, strategizing, planning, and consulting. “It’s almost like therapy,” says Messina. “We talk things over and figure out the best way to get the message to customers.” The rest of the day is spent on overseeing CAC’s own marketing efforts, including website maintenance and managing a growing presence in social media. CAC not only has active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but the CAC weekly blog has become a popular marketing read for many of the company’s followers and an important tool in keeping CAC’s website ranking high on the search engines. “Social networking and blogs are creating a real business structure we can all use,” he says.
Messina has embraced this new method of marketing and is encouraging his clients to do the same. “Some of my clients don’t quite believe in it yet,” he says. “But those who have are already seeing that there is value in it—if done correctly.” Messina doesn’t see the purpose of having a Facebook page that lets his clients know he just had coffee, for instance. “I use Facebook strictly for business information. If I see something interesting in the industry, I’ll post a picture. On our CAC Facebook page, we post marketing tips every day encouraging people in the industry to look at their marketing plans and reminding them to update their website content. It’s all worthwhile information,” he says.
Despite his enthusiasm about social media and digital marketing efforts, Messina says print collateral should still be the foundation of every marketing program. “Print must still be the linchpin of every campaign,” he says. “First of all, business cards are no longer optional. If you don’t have a business card, you are not serious about being in business and no one is going to take you seriously. Your business card is the first—and sometimes only—impression that a prospect will have of you. What’s the impression you want to leave with that person? Cheap suit or high-quality operation? We make sure all of our client business cards deliver the high quality impression they want portrayed.”
In his experience, Messina has seen several companies attempt the transition of printed collaterals, including newsletters, postcards, and brochures to completely digital formats. “Those who are going completely digital or moving everything online are realizing it’s just not working. Why? You have to deliver information to your prospects and customers in the format that they want to receive it in. Some of your customers want to read a paper newsletter or brochure. Other customers don’t care if they ever see another piece of paper again.” Messina doesn’t believe you should lose the opportunity to reach any customer or potential customer just because of your own personal preferences.
No matter which method of marketing works best for your company, Messina urges clients and all general industry members not to stop marketing during a tough economy. “The first thing companies want to cut from a budget is marketing,” he says. “But don’t assume that your customers or prospects are going to remember who you are or all the services you offer once the economy rebounds. People don’t retain information for long. You need to make sure that your current clients and prospective customers are repeatedly informed on all of your services, no matter how bad the economy. Of course we understand needing to cut spending, but maybe you should start an e-mail newsletter or social networking program or enhance your website. You can’t stop marketing completely or else people will forget who you are and move to your competitors who are making positive noise.”
After spending his days helping limousine companies market their services, one might think it would be an easy transition for Messina to think of strategies for CAC. “At the end of the day, it’s actually harder for me to sit down and come up with ways to promote my business,” Messina says. “I have many of the same marketing issues that my customers have only I don’t have me to call,” he jokes. “But there are a couple of us, almost like a ‘20 group’ of suppliers, that get together and brainstorm or reach out to each other for help. Pat Charla, president of LEAP, is a good friend and one of the best marketing strategists I know. When I am stuck on a concept or even just a word, I’ll call Pat, we’ll knock around an idea and before you know it we’ve come up with a new ad, or headline, or whatever.” His industry relationships are, just like his customer relationships, a two-way street. “I am always happy to do whatever I can to help Arthur and his team at Create-A-Card not only because they are friends, but because I know that I can always depend on them to go above and beyond the call of duty for me as well,” says Charla. “My customers, (and I) like many people, tend to do things at the very last minute. Arthur has never not pulled out all the stops and delivered; and, delivered without whining or complaining.”
Messina may be the face of CAC, but it is not a one-man show for sure. He has a core team of staff that he knows he can—and more importantly, his clients—can trust. Marian Abrilz, VP of customer relations, has been with CAC for 13 years. “Marian is, in a word, indispensable,” Messina says. “She has worked incredibly hard over the years to build her own client base, and her success has been a great help to CAC.” Messina adds that the fact that so many clients feel so comfortable with Marian allows him to spend as much time on the road as he does meeting customers and developing new sales opportunities. “I am only one person. When I am on the road, I know that the people who call the office are going to get the correct information and feel comfortable with my team.”
Jolanta Bak joined CAC 4 years ago as its art director. Despite coming in as a student right out of college, Bak was a quick learner, according to Messina. “She is extremely talented and has become an industry specialist in a short period of time. She has great ideas and designs and it’s amazing that she is just 27,” he says. “Jolanta is much more than our art director today, she is our lead designer, and most of the logos, brochure designs, and rebranding efforts we present to clients are based on her concepts.”
CAC is also a family business. Messina says that his wife Kathy provides him with balance, advice, and plays a big part in planning the strategic direction of the company. Their oldest son, Andrew, just finished his master’s in mathematics at Hofstra University and while looking for a job as a teacher, he is pitching in at CAC. “He is always willing to do whatever he can to help, is great with customers, and really knows the business after working so many summers in the office,” says Messina. “I could easily see Drew running the business one day if he decided that it was something that he would be happy doing.”
CAC clients have nothing but nice things to say about the staff. Alex Pope, owner of LSA Corporate Car Worldwide Transportation, has been a CAC client since 2003. “The customer service from Arthur’s team couldn’t be better,” Pope says. “They are committed to the point where you almost feel like you’re the only customer.”
With a solid team at the CAC office, Messina admits that he spends a lot more time out in the field meeting clients than he did in previous years, but he feels that the face time with existing and potential clients is invaluable. In the last few months Messina has traveled to meetings of the Long Island Limousine Association (LILA), Limousine Associations of New Jersey (LANJ), New England Livery Association (NELA), Limousine Association of Houston (LAH), Dallas/Fort Worth Limousine Association (DFWLA), Virginia Limousine Association (VLA), and the National Limousine Association (NLA) board meeting. Why the heavy association involvement you wonder? “I feel that contributing my expertise to association members is my chance to give back,” Messina says. “The industry has been great to me and my family, allowing us to build a livelihood. I can tell associations what is going on in other markets and what is working.” CAC client or not, Messina wants to help the industry. He is an NLA vendor board member and the time he dedicates there is on a volunteer basis.
The information sharing doesn’t stop there. Messina was one of the first editorial contributors to Limousine Digest when it began. “We’ve been a supporter of Limo Digest since day one. It’s amazing to see how far we both have come,” says Messina. He is currently a regular contributor to the magazine writing articles about various marketing topics. In another showing of support for Limo Digest and its annual Show, Messina made a generous contribution to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, bidding on the cover of the magazine. “I thought it was a great way to help out the organization,” he says. “I was truly touched by the video shown at the event and it made me very thankful that I have been fortunate that my kids are healthy. It was time to pay-it forward and help out others in need.”
When he’s not focusing on CAC or its clients, Messina spends a lot of time with his family. Besides Andrew, Messina also has a son Ryan and a daughter Kristin. Ryan will be entering the University of Tampa this fall and Messina spent several weeks this summer watching him play college baseball, including participating in the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) College World Series in Toledo, Ohio. Kristin is a sophomore in high school and Messina attends her volleyball games and track meets while trying to figure out how to deal with a teenage daughter. For himself, he prefers golfing. “I enjoy playing it whether it’s in an association tournament or for fun. It’s very relaxing and I do play with many of my clients. You’re always working even when you’re not.” And don’t forget Messina’s best friend his loyal King Charles Cavalier Spaniel “Rookie Rose” who is now 6 years old.
The Messinas will be celebrating a major milestone soon: Arthur and Kathy will be married 25 years in September. The two will be sailing on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise to celebrate. For Kathy’s sake, we hope he leaves the iPhone at home. LD
At Create-A-Card, our experience in media relations has taught us how important a good business card can be — especially for a word-of-mouth enterprise like a limousine service — and how many ways it can be used to generate new customers, provide contact information for existing customers and remind old customers of your services. The more creative you are at distributing your business cards, the broader you cast your net and benefit from the grapevine.
A business card basically transmits your contact information and succinctly conveys information about your limo company’s particular style. Resist the urge to skimp on your business card budget and go ahead and invest in an assortment of cards in lavish colors with eye-catching designs printed on high-quality paper. Consider unique places you can tuck business cards besides the traditional gift baskets and leave some every place you go, especially at restaurants and hotels.
Networking Your Business Cards
Talk to you local printer about other clients who put together promotional packages for travelers, and offer to leave a box of your cards with them so they can be included if their client agrees. Also ask the printer’s help in designing material such as introductory packets, bid packages and promotional mail-outs that are die cut so that multiple business cards can be inserted without falling out.
Since limo companies have so many affiliates businesses they work with on a regular basis, invest in attractive business card holders, perhaps some that hold cards from multiple related businesses, that you can ask them to display. You can even propose making specialty coupon business cards that you honor for mutual customers to help add value to their product or service. Inquire if they are interested in including these cards in any promotional material they distribute and supply them with plenty for their projects. You can offer to do the same for them in your outreach campaigns.
Since there is such a limited space on a business card, creativity really pays off. Obviously, a card shaped like a the classic black limousine or a brightly colored party limousine complete with hot tub would get the message across quite clearly. A more subtle approaches is to use business cards that look like common travel items like passports, credit cards and hotel door keys. You can create different business cards for your various clientele that maintain the basic information yet have a targeted appeal.
If you have a “green limousine” company, look into producing cards made of recycled, nontoxic materials and that are shaped like natural objects to make it clear you support sustainable ground transportation practices. Also think about who you prime customers are and contemplate having cards designed in shapes that reflect their niche market, like a heart-shaped card for the bridal planner.
Virtual Business Cards
With so many people using the Internet, having a good virtual business card is mandatory. Get a high quality scan of your business card and have it converted to a crisp JPEG file that can be used as a live link to your business from other web sites.
Vcards can be included in your e-mail signature so that anyone who receives a message from you can click on the icon and automatically add your e-mail address to their contact list. Vcards can also be distributed on social networking sites and major networking hubs like travelocity.com and Expedia.com. There are also business card CD-roms that will play in any CD player and provide the listener with your contact information and details about your services. These are excellent to include with new business presentation packages.