I’ve called on hundreds of companies over my 22 year marketing career and have discussed strategic concerns with just about every size, mode and geographic focus possible within transportation. Many companies say they do a dozen things well and really do 1 or 2. Others have an extremely diversified menu but customers are unaware of the breadth of service provided. Both are immediate marketing concerns.
#1. You typically have to win customers over one service at a time. Even though an integrated approach is the end goal for the diversified model, if you don’t establish the necessary rapport and trust first… the big sell is a hard sell.
# 2. By casting too wide a net with your marketing you run the risk of not catching anyone’s interest. If you can’t back up a statement with tangible evidence of expertise, your entire message can get grouped together as being unbelievable.
# 3. You don’t want customers confused about what your service offerings are and you also don’t want to hear the words “I didn’t know you did that” by failing to create the awareness of your full service offering. If you can, lead with your best service first and remember “It’s the steady rain that soaks.”
# 4. As a general rule, we find transportation providers have a core strength(s), a secondary focus and what we would typically call a value added or convenience sell. It’s important to weight these accordingly in your marketing so customers understand fully who you are as a company.
# 5. Most successful diversification is through a dedicated model, something that has been developed for a single customer with very specific needs. It won’t typically role out to your general customer demographic…so don’t market it that way.
# 6. Decide who you are. Are you better suited as a handyman that does a host of things pretty well? Or is what you do a craft, with a more select target that’s tough for others to duplicate. Both have value. You need to make sure there is alignment between your skill set and your targeted market.
# 7. Markets change. Regardless of your business model, if what used to be the volume of your activity is shrinking, maybe it’s time to bring one of those secondary services front and center. As an example, what represents 50% of our market strength today (websites and branding) was only 5-10 % of our mix 4 years ago.
# 8. From listening to recent shipper panels, they want stability, service commitments, information exchange and relationships. It won’t be just about price going forward… they know the landscape is changing and that shrinking capacity is on the horizon.
# 9. Reset your thinking soon, as no one can beat you down any further on price. The value, innovation and focus you have going forward will dramatically shape your road to recovery…proceed with caution, and confidence!
Lee’s quote for the day:
“Truckers are like elephants. They work hard and have long memories. The shippers who forced their hand too heavily during the recession may soon be viewed like a male porn star after a very cold shower…small, unimpressive and no longer carrying a big stick!”