Sales and Marketing During COVID-19

Coronavirus

COVID-19 has presented every business in the world with an unprecedented challenge, with Freight Broker Agents and the rest of the logistics industry being no exception. If you’re in logistics, your sales process is certainly different than it was last year. Considering the demand on the freight industry, you may have even seen increases in your sales, but whether you’re up, down, or even, you’re certainly facing new challenges. If you relied on trade shows or customer visits at all, two powerful sales opportunities have almost entirely vanished, and even if you’ve worked entirely online for years, your customers’ changing needs in response to the pandemic have almost certainly changed your approach. Hopefully you’re feeling pretty good about the ways you’ve adapted in the last 6 months, but there may be more steps you can take.

Marketing

If you’re running a business, odds are your marketing efforts have been primarily online for years now. If not, the good news is that you’re likely to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic in a better position for modern marketing than you were before. Even if you were already doing most of your marketing online, there are a couple of good ways to increase your opportunities.

First, make sure your business is listed on Google. For freight agents, you may be comfortable working with shippers all over the country, but there’s an advantage to being local. If a shipper in your area does a Google search for freight carriers, you may be more likely to come up based on proximity. From the customer’s standpoint, they may feel that you have a better understanding of their industry, truckers in their area, or unique details about your local market. You can set your business up on Google here.

If you were visiting trade shows and customers before, and giving out flyers and business cards, remember that there are virtual options for that as well. LDI agents should make sure to use the marketing materials available to you in our knowledge base (and get in touch if you have any questions). There are also digital business card apps like Switchit and My Vista by Vistaprint that let you share a card via email or text. Those apps will continue to be helpful even after the pandemic, since you don’t run out of or lose digital cards.

In terms of social media, it’s important to remember that LinkedIn is not the only one that can be valuable to you, but it is still your main online networking tool for business. It can be tough to find the time to stay active on those websites, so remember that you can share LDI’s posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Present yourself as an active and engaged expert on all things freight. You may find that contacts reach out to you because of what you post, but even if not, your profile will lend credibility to your efforts when you’re prospecting.

Prospecting

Reaching out to new potential customers is always critical, but in 2020, it’s a key to survival. The more uncertainty your customers face, the more you want to insulate yourself against losing too much of your business if one of your customers stops shipping. After the downturn in 2008, Forbes listed the biggest risks to a business and made a note of concentration risk – the idea that one customer representing a large portion of your business is a threat. Sadly, there’s a good chance you got a lesson in this in March by having one or more of your customers shut down production or shipping. It’s important to have a diverse book of business to insulate yourself against the risk of your customer’s business changing dramatically, and a lot of businesses change dramatically when this happens:

Major drop in GDP

One of the best ways to diversify right now is to look for businesses in the industries that are seeing more demand in 2020. While medicine and medical supplies are the obvious answer, there are several sectors that growing rapidly. There are also industries that have been deemed essential, and you can usually find those on state websites. It’s good to get this information locally, since each section of the country is facing different challenges right now.

States have been affected very differently by COVID-19

Whether your customers or prospects are up, down, or even, they’re also facing challenges they’ve never seen before. In addition to looking for businesses that are seeing increased demand that you can fill, look for businesses that have unique problems you can solve. As shipping costs rise and capacity decreases, a freight agent who can help a company book trucks and shop for pricing has even more to offer to a shipper than normal. Check out our free ebook on using Google Alerts for prospecting; that can be a great tool for getting in touch with your customer about the latest news that’s affecting them. When you set up your sales calls, you’re going to sell your freight capabilities, of course, but you’re also going to sell yourself as the solution to their problems.

Selling

Of course, all of your marketing and prospecting efforts comes to this: selling. Once you’ve done your homework and learned about your customer’s challenges, make sure your customer sees the results. You’re not just there to sell your freight services as a solution to your company’s problem, you’re there to sell yourself as a solution to your contact’s problem. If you’re on the phone or meeting with the right person, then having a good freight agent will mean less stress in their daily work, and in 2020 they probably have more stress than ever. Make it clear, you’re going to make it easier to do their job by taking some of those stressors and handling them with your own expertise and capabilities. This is what you do full time, and you’ve devoted your efforts to adapting to the current situation. Gartner published a research paper on logistics challenges presented by COVID-19 where you can learn more about the problems that are keeping your customers and prospects up at night right now.

It’s important to remember, too, that selling an ongoing service is a very personal process. Right now, many of your potential customers may be isolated in home offices, unable to take meetings and not seeing anyone at trade shows. When you can, try to find a way to add a personal touch. Handwritten cards, friendly messaging, even cookies or a fruit basket. That personable attitude that probably got you where you are today needs to show through, even in these times. For as long as the pandemic continues, it’s going to take a little more effort to make a connection.

When the Pandemic Ends

Despite how it feels sometimes, the COVID-19 pandemic will end sooner or later. As much as we’re all looking forward to that, it’s important to prepare for it to be yet another seismic change to the way every business in the world operates. If you have one of those customers who has been shipping more than ever during the pandemic, be prepared for their business to decrease suddenly and significantly. You may find yourself needing to ramp up your sales, marketing, and prospecting all over again when the pandemic ends.

One way to mitigate that is to remember your customers that shut down or had a major decrease in business during the pandemic, or your contacts from those companies that may have been laid off. Make sure they know they are still valued and that you’re still there for them. Those contacts and companies are likely to need a freight agent again, and you’ll want to be at the forefront of their minds when that time comes. It’s good to know that things will be normal again before long, let’s make sure our businesses are ready for that as well.

Should You Be Using Customer Relationship Management Software?

 

Starting a new business or becoming a freight agent can be daunting, but CRM software is an important tool to make your life much easier, and there are good systems that are inexpensive or even free.

What is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system?

If you’re a freight broker agent or performing any sales or customer service role, you’re already managing customer relationships. You set expectations with your customer and make every effort to meet and exceed that expectation. Every chance you get, you do everything you can to maximize your sales to that customer, whether that includes calling, emailing, visiting, or otherwise engaging with them. You almost certainly have some kind of routine to help you do that, whether that’s a paper notebook or calendar, reminders set into your phone, sticky notes, or Outlook meeting invites. That’s what a CRM is, but in the form of a software system designed for that purpose. Think of it like an assistant, it organizes your notes, keeps track of your meetings, and helps you turn your long-term goals into daily tasks.

Since CRM systems are designed with a single purpose in mind, they can offer a range of purpose-driven tools that other systems just aren’t designed to offer. While calendar and email programs are designed to be versatile, CRM systems have one reason to exist: to help you serve and sell to your customers.

Why do I need a CRM system?

Small businesses that are just starting out might not need a CRM system. You might be the only employee, with a couple of customers whose needs you understand almost as well as they do. However, you’re probably planning to grow and attract new customers. Before long, managing that process with spreadsheets, calendars, and emails will be overwhelming.

CRM software, depending on the version and level of service that you have, is likely to have task management and reporting features organized into a dashboard that gives you the most up to date, important information for your business. If you’re not using CRM software now, you probably put that information in a spreadsheet or something similar to keep track of it. That process takes up valuable time and means you’re always looking at data that’s at least a little bit behind. If you have a good CRM system and are using it regularly, you can spend less time managing data and more time growing your business. You’ll get better, more recent information, and you’ll get it a whole lot faster.

What factors should I consider when choosing a CRM?

Price. We’ll discuss price more in the next section, when we look at a few examples of CRM systems, but you should be aware that there are free CRM systems available. Even if none of those suit your needs, there are cloud-based CRM software packages billed monthly. Years ago, installing a CRM system might have meant thousands of dollars in software purchases, a major installation, and possibly even a server. Now that most CRM systems are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models, it’s a monthly subscription fee if the free version doesn’t work for you. While migrating a long-established business to a new CRM system can be a time consuming and expensive project, small businesses can get started relatively easily.

Number of users. If you’re working alone, any CRM will have you covered here. However, if you have any partners or employees, it’s important to make sure that your CRM allows enough seats for every relevant person in your agency to use it. CRM can be a very effective communication tool for your agency to move everything related to a specific client from one employee to another, or to assign tasks between employees. There are several factors to consider, but if a CRM can’t support each user in your office, it’s probably not the right one for you.

Number of contacts or records. Most cloud-based CRM systems, especially the inexpensive and free services that work best for small offices, restrict the number of contacts or other records you’re allowed to upload into them. This makes sense, since if you are managing huge amounts of data or sales contacts, you’re probably not a small business. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not only able to upload enough data into the system for your current contacts and records, but that you have room to grow. You won’t need an exact number, just a good sense of the scale you’re dealing with. If one day you find yourself with so many accounts or sales prospects that you have no choice but to upgrade to a paid version of your CRM, well… you’ll probably be pretty happy about that.

Ease of use. Most of the time when a business implements a new system unsuccessfully, it’s because users found the system too complicated or confusing to use. Surprisingly, this is one of the hardest factors to judge, since every system has a learning curve and it’s hard to know if a system is showing you what you want to see until you get your own data into it. Check for user reviews online, and make sure the software comes with plenty of documentation and support. Free services are not likely to offer live phone or chat support, but they may have pretty active message boards. YouTube can also be a more valuable resource than you might think, since the company may have an official YouTube account or there may be experts in the software who create “How to” videos.

System integration. Think about the software you’re already using that has your contacts in it, especially if it’s been important to your success or if you just don’t want to give it up. It’s important to make sure any software you consider isn’t outright incompatible with what you’re already using, but it’s also worth reviewing whether there’s a CRM system that is specifically designed to work with your preferred program. If you’re using something common like Outlook or Gmail, the answer is almost certainly yes.

What are some available CRM systems?

Unfortunately, no one can tell you which system is best for your needs, but we decided to take a look at a few examples of CRM software. LDI offers our agents a CRM system as part of our proprietary software package, but there are other options as well. Naturally, these companies make updates to their policies and technology frequently, so it’s important to review what’s posted on their websites. We’ll place the current links to their download/purchase pages and support below for your review.

HubSpot’s solution hits a lot of the points we discussed above. HubSpot’s site says the free version of their system is available to unlimited users, can hold up to 1,000,000 contacts, and integrates with Gmail and many versions of Outlook. One nice feature here is that you can have both paid and free users, so if some of your employees need advanced features, you can still have employees on the free tier.

Zoho logo

Zoho is another popular and helpful CRM system that offers a free tier of service for up to three users. Their system also comes with reporting options and offers compatibility with many well-known business tools. As we discussed earlier, Zoho, HubSpot, and most other free services also offer a paid tier, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much about outgrowing your CRM system.

Salesforce logo

Salesforce. Salesforce does not offer a free tier of service, and starts at $25 per user, per month. Salesforce is a very well-known company and software, however, and in addition to the peace of mind that may offer you, there are a lot of Salesforce resources and experts available.

Additional resources

HubSpot signup page: https://www.hubspot.com/products/get-started

HubSpot support: https://help.hubspot.com/

Zoho free version signup page: https://www.zoho.com/crm/free-crm.html

Zoho support: https://www.zoho.com/crm/resources/

Salesforce pricing and purchase page: https://www.salesforce.com/editions-pricing/sales-cloud/

Salesforce support: https://help.salesforce.com/home

Logistic Dynamics Statement on the Coronavirus

Logistic Dynamics Statement on the Coronavirus

We continue to closely monitor developments and the global impact with respect to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The health and safety of our Team Members is of utmost importance while ensuring there are no disruptions in our level of service to customers, carriers.

We are ensuring Team Members have the necessary equipment and ability to telecommute with all access and capabilities should the need arise. In the past, due to weather conditions or other emergencies, we have successfully supported our customers and carriers with full teams and offices working remote. This would be no different.

Internally, LDI has increased environmental cleaning and travel precautions are in place as we continue to monitor updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies.

LDI is prepared to help you navigate potential shipping disruptions due to COVID-19 through our business capabilities. We will continue to monitor the impact to the industry and post updates to our blog, social media, and distribute information via email to keep you up to date.

Our customers, carriers, and Team Members’ health, safety, and businesses are at the forefront of our concerns and we will do everything possible to deliver a best-in-class experience through the potential disruptions.

How Do I File Taxes as a Freight Agent?

Freight agents regularly ask how to file their taxes, so we put together a blog post on all the resources they need to file their taxes correctly.

Why LDI? What Our Freight Agents Say About Us | Pamela

New Year, new case study! Read Pamela’s story and how she’s living the life she wants after partnering with LDI.