The Small Biz "Killer App"
By Michael Roney
Superior travel value is no longer the exclusive province of large companies with in-house travel departments and volume-driven bargaining power. In fact, never before has there been such a wide range of opportunities for great deals, valuable perks and general travel ROI for small biz.
Simply being smart with these choices can amount to a “killer app” for small businesses. With that in mind, here are seven smart strategies that provide big biz returns:
1. Stay loyal: Focus on select loyalty club memberships such as Delta’s SkyMiles, Hilton’s HHonors or National Car Rental’s Emerald Club to maximize flexibility (multiple ways to earn and spend rewards), currency (points that are transferable to other programs) and earnings power (how rapidly you earn elite levels and awards) for your travels.
2. Use an affinity credit card: Almost every loyalty program has an associated credit card. Many of these offer special incentives for small businesses and allow you to further accelerate your reward accumulations with each travel purchase.
3. Take advantage of online booking: Travel sites such Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity have become a real boon for small businesses, as they enhance your comparative shopping for travel arrangements. Settle on a site that provides price comparison tools and allows you to view information based on the parameters most meaningful to you.
4. Be selective with airports: Top choices in recent Skytrax surveys offer convenient gate access, streamlined security checkpoints, plentiful business facilities and superior track records in on-time departures. Keep in mind that smaller legacy airports such as London City and Midway in Chicago also are earning high marks from frequent travelers, thanks to terminal upgrades, easier parking and close-in locations.
5. Use online check-in tools: Most top airlines now offer advance online check-in from mobile devices, while international hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotel Group, Marriott and Starwood provide lobby kiosks where you can print boarding passes for upcoming flights.
6. Make smart use of social media: Use Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to tap fellow travelers in order to discover the best “insider” values in local transportation, dining and entertainment.
7. Ask for discounts: In addition to using all of the high-tech tools available, remember to simply ask about discounts. The economic climate of the past few years has increased competition for your travel budget, leading to special deals that may be available but not advertised.
A killer app can be a powerful tool for any business. Use yours wisely.
National Car Rental Focuses on Small Business Advantage
The best travel providers are mixing technology with innovation to give small businesses more competitive power than ever before. A prime example is National Car Rental, offering some superb tools to help create success for smaller companies.
“You’re a small business. We get it: You’re on the road; you don’t have the luxury of spending extra time to get things done,” says Rob Connors, National’s Assistant Vice President. “You’re cramming three days of work into two, and our job is to make that time as efficient and pleasant as possible. So we do everything to make that happen.”
Time is money, and efficiency is essential for any small business. With this in mind, National has taken “express” to a higher level with its Emerald Club program, free and available in 56 cities nationwide.
“You begin your Emerald experience by reserving a midsize car. Upon arriving at the airport, you bypass the counter and head straight to the Emerald Aisle, where you will find a selection of midsize and larger vehicles. Simply choose which car you want to drive and make your getaway. You only pay your reserved midsize rate, even if you drive away in a larger-class vehicle,” says Connors. “On your return, just drop off the car and jump on the bus without waiting while your receipt is e-mailed to you. You can really cut it close and not have to worry about stopping. That’s a huge time-saver.”
The Emerald Club is free to join. You can instantly enroll or learn more by visiting www.emeraldaisle.com. There you also will find the Emerald Aisle Education Site, which provides a virtual tour for new members wanting to familiarize themselves with the choice and efficiency they’ll experience with every rental.
National’s Business Benefits Program (www.nationalcarbizben.com) provides ease and customization for any size organization—including special contract terms and rates, free-day rewards, account management tools, one-way rentals and more. “We created this Web site to make it easy for small businesses to enroll, sticking with the philosophy that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all,” Connors notes. “You choose the program’s components to suit your company’s needs.”
Belonging to a top loyalty club assures maximum control over earnings, flexibility and rewards for small businesses. National’s Emerald Club recently was named by the Market Metrix Hospitality Index as the best around, adding to number one honors already received this year from the National Business Travel Association, the Wall Street Journal, Smarter Travel, TheStreet.com and others.
The award-winning Emerald Club also provides top-notch service to the individual business traveler. “Our monthly statements keep you informed and in control of your rentals,” says Connors. “They list not only rental activity, but free rental days earned, how many days to earn for the next tier, what’s included in the next tier and how many upgrades you’ve received since the last rental period.”
The Bottom Line
National’s innovative offerings support a comprehensive small-biz strategy for competing successfully in any marketplace. “Business travelers are our heroes,” Connors states. “So we stay focused on whatever we can do to make their lives and work more efficient when they’re on the road—providing speed, choice and control.”
For more information, visit www.nationalcar.com
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