Recently, I was in the market for a new set of binoculars. Being the armchair shopper that I am, I turned to the web to start my search. Amazon, Bass Pro Shop and a number of online optic stores later, I was frankly more confused than I was informed.
Prices for a new set of “glass” were remarkably diverse—from just a few dollars to thousands of dollars for what seemed to be almost the same thing. 10×35, 8×25, 12×50? I didn’t know what those numbers meant, but now I do. The first one references the amount of magnification, and the second reflects the size of the objective.
To be honest, I had always thought that the power—or magnification—of a pair of binoculars was the big deal. I learned, though, that while magnification is important, objective size is even more so. The objective refers to how much of the world you see when you look through the binoculars or how wide of an area you take in. A pair of binoculars with a magnification of 20 would be useless with an objective of 1; even though you could see things magnified 20 times, you’d only be able to look at one rock or one stripe on a zebra’s butt!
That got me thinking about marketing (surprise). Just like the objective in a pair of binoculars, the value of our marketing efforts is greatly increased as we take in more of the world by talking to more people.
I am going to discuss one of the biggest missed opportunities in this industry as I see it. In any business, there are only a few types of people you can potentially market to: those who have used your product in the past, those you know who would have a propensity to use your product and those who don’t currently know they need your product but could potentially use it.
Each of these categories has merit. From a marketing perspective, however, the further out individuals are from your customer base, the more difficult and expensive it is to market to them. For example, talking to everyone in your area who could possibly use a coach in the next year would be an expensive proposition compared to a campaign targeted specifically to your previous customers. While past customers know your products, services and where to find you, new customers (in the other categories) require you to educate them—something that costs both money and time.
So let’s dive a bit deeper into what a customer is and why this category represents such a missed opportunity for the vast majority of us in the motorcoach industry. While it’s true that a customer is someone who has used your product and paid for a charter in the past, customer has a broader definition in this case; it includes individuals who have been merely passengers on your coaches, too.
This definition isn’t relevant if you’re a line-run operator, but if you’re a charter operator, it matters to the tune of 1×30. In North America, only one person out of every 30 who steps foot on our coaches is actually paying for the charter. What does that mean? It means that even though 30 people experience our service, ride our coaches and have the “motorcoach experience,” we likely won’t talk with 29 of them ever again.
Just like with a pair of binoculars, the worth of our marketing is tied to the amount of the world that we see as our customer base. Capturing more of these customers’ information and learning how to talk to them as we move our companies forward are important.
It can be done, and it is currently being done by operators around the country. WiFi, streaming movies, onboard advertising through video screens, drawings and contests that customers can enter for a grand prize are all ways you can talk to a broader audience of customers. If you’re consistently only talking to those who have paid for charters in the past, your binoculars are not nearly as efficient as they should be. Embrace the idea that passengers are customers, find ways to talk to them and you’ll turn your marketing efforts into a pair of $2,000 binoculars in no time.