Follow the customer.
If there’s one golden rule for companies in the coach hire industry, this is it.
Relying on the old methods of reaching customers and connecting with them is no longer an option.
You have to be present and engage customers in the channels where they prefer to spend their time.
Digital marketing is no longer an optional discipline reserved for those with too much time on their hands.
Nowadays, it is essential to engage in using these new techniques to acquire and retain customers. Especially if you consider yourself small business.
Here’s the good news:
Do it now and you’ll earn a point (or even a few) over your competition.
The space isn’t as noisy yet, so you stand to earn a lot of attention with a relatively low investment.
But how do you get started with digital marketing?
That’s why we’re here.
In this article, I will show you some of the easiest (and most necessary) ways to start doing digital marketing when you’re operating in the bus charter industry.
Let’s dive into it!
Note: This is not a post about the emerging tech in marketing — Artificial Intelligence (AI), crypto, Internet of Things (IoT). All these are important trends, but not the focus of a “getting started” article like this one. If you want to learn more about them, I recommend this excellent resource by HubSpot.
1. Build your online presence with a website
Every day I see more and more businesses that choose to skip building their website, opting instead for a Facebook page or even a more modest online presence (like a dormant Twitter account).
I cannot help but feel sorry for such brands.
Facebook (other networks are not alien to this practice either) are notorious for changing their policies on a whim.
And they’re not known for making their users’ lives easier.
The following chart shows how Facebook is making it harder for businesses to reach users on the platform organically, i.e. without paying:
The focus of companies like Facebook is to maximize their revenue and profits.
And if that means squeezing more money out of brands that want to advertise on the platform so be it.
Here’s the lesson for you.
Don’t rely on someone else’s goodwill to build your presence.
Invest in your own website, that you control 100%.
This might look like a matter of small importance but think about the hypothetical situation where an angry customer (or even worse — a competitor) pays a bunch of low-cost freelancers to post negative reviews on your Facebook page.
Always make sure you have full control over your main media outlet — i.e. your website.
Having your own website allows you to rank on Google
There’s another important reason why you need a website — not just a Facebook page or a Twitter account.
A website allows you to engage in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) where you target to appear on the first page of Google (and other search engines) for specific keywords that you know have the potential to make money for you.
Example: You run a bus charter company in New York City. Your website ranks in first place for “bus charter NYC”. People looking for this are clearly ready to make a purchase, so ranking for this term is highly profitable.
Search traffic is of great importance for any type of business. In the example above, you’d never rank with a Facebook page — therefore, you need your website.
Pick a content management system (CMS) for easy management
The days when you needed a team of wise sages to build a simple website are gone.
Today, you can do it with the help of 1-2 people (typically a designer and a developer) if you want to be fancy, or even on your own if you’re ready to put a few hours to learn the main website builders.
Discussing the pros and cons of these is beyond the scope of this blog post, but if you want to learn more about the various options, there’s some great research on the topic.
2. Perform conversion rate optimization (CRO)
Having a website is not enough — your website needs to be a tool for selling, not a business card for your business (I still see way too many of those).
Therefore, your site needs to be built in a way that allows you to sell through it — that’s why it might be a good idea to work with a professional in the beginning.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to learn about website builders and choose one — down the road, you’ll be working with it on a daily basis, so it’s good to make sure you’re happy with your choice.
Beyond that, do your own research — look at your favorite websites (especially those where you spend your money) to understand how they structure their pages.
The key here is to understand their behavior and what they want to accomplish and to make it easy for them to do it.
This practice is called conversion rate optimization and is one of the best ways to maximize the impact of your website on your business’ bottom line.
Check out the resources below to become an expert in CRO — it will repay the time you put in it manyfold.
Resources on CRO
- The Small Business Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization
- Conversion Rate Optimization: The Definitive Guide
3. Invest in local search engine optimization (SEO)
Even though SEO has been around ever since Google emerged as the dominant search engine at the beginning of the 2000s, it still remains one of the most trusted and profitable ways to generate business.
It can be terribly competitive.
So what do smart marketers do? They look to explore opportunities where there’s less competition.
Local SEO is one such niche.
Even though optimizing for keywords like “nail salon in Long Beach” has been around forever, Google is gradually improving its offering when it comes to local businesses.
For example, this is what the search page for “coach hire NYC” looks like:
Let’s look at some of the ways Google tries to make it easy for its users to make a selection:
- It shows them coach hire companies that are close to the location they specifically asked about (Central Park in NYC).
- It shows scores based on the reviews customers left about each company — reviews are becoming increasingly important, we’ll get into them in more detail in a minute.
- It shows additional information in the “People also ask” section based on actual questions people ask. This content doesn’t come from Google but is instead pulled from various websites that contain that sort of information.
If I was running a coach hire company in NYC, just looking at this information would give me ample ideas on how to improve my website. I can:
- Make sure my business is listed on Google along with the exact address(es) of its location(s).
- I can run a campaign to solicit positive reviews from happy customers (more on this in the next section).
- I can create detailed content that answers some of the questions people ask (thus hoping to replace some of the current ranking content with mine).
This is just a taste of the things you can do with local SEO. For even more ideas, check out this excellent guide.
4. Engage in review marketing
Sounds really fancy, doesn’t it?
In reality, it’s just a posh name for the practice of trying to optimize your presence on sites other than your own.
A happy customer is a golden opportunity to generate positive sentiment about your brand online.
Send your customer a message asking them to leave a review about their experience on a site of your choice.
Make it super easy for them — give them the direct link where they have to leave the review rather than asking them to do work and look for it on their own. This will maximize the chance they fulfill your ask.
Check out this guide to learn more about using review marketing for your brand.
5. Use a shared inbox to engage customers
If you remain deaf to the wishes and complaints of your customers, it’s not going to take them long to find another place to share their opinion about your brand.
Playing hard to get can only hurt your brand.
Customers today expect to be able to quickly connect with a brand and have their issues resolved.
Source: Groove HQ
This allows your team to stay on top of customer interactions and never miss an important message.
If you’re not familiar with the feeling of realizing you missed a question from an important customer, you’d be surprised how easy it is to make this mistake. Even with a small team.
To learn more about getting started with customer service, check out this guide.
6. Use professional software to run your coach hire company
Software is eating the world.
Even 8 years later, this is still the case with more and more industries getting re-arranged (or disrupted) by the changes brought by technology.
I’m not saying you should give up on your business and try to build the next “Airbnb for coach hire”.
But you should definitely always be on the lookout to improve your operations.
Using software is one of the easiest ways to do this.
At Sengerio, we’re building exactly that type of tool that allows bus charter companies to manage their business from one central hub.
The platform allows you to complete the full set of activities related to running a transportation company — from providing quotes and tracking expenses, to running your monthly reporting about vehicle and driver utilization.
We have a free version of Sengerio, which you can try right away, without any commitment.
Getting started with digital marketing in a “boring” industry
A huge thriving market with hundreds of nimble companies fighting to survive and thrive.
The bus charter industry is anything but boring.
On the contrary, sometimes it might seem too dynamic to experiment with shiny new things like online marketing.
Remember, though — the earlier you start, the more points you score before your competitors realize they’re falling behind.
In this article, I tried to distill the tactics that have the highest potential for a quick return on your investment:
- Picking a CMS and building your website
- Turning it into a selling machine with CRO techniques
- Investing in local SEO to generate new business
- Managing and improving your reputation online
- Serving customers with a shared inbox
- Running your company through a professional platform
The good thing about all of these is that they don’t require a long setup time to get started.
The more time you spend learning about each and practicing it, the better results you’re likely to see.
But you can spend a few hours to a day or two and get started with any of them.
However, keep in mind that it might take a while before you start seeing results with SEO and the rest of the tactics.
Online marketing is a compounding tactic. Small steps will add up over time to produce outsized benefits for your brand.