Interested in becoming a freight broker? Before you jump into brokering freight, brokers and other industry experts agree these are the must-do tasks before you set out on your own.
Recently, I had the opportunity of getting a little face-time with one of LDi’s top freight broker agents. During our conversation, he shared with me his struggles on building his presence on social media and with Facebook in particular. His main concern at the time was how he could grow his Facebook freight broker business page fan base. As LDi’s Marketing Manager, I was more than happy to share with him my social media expertise and offer in-depth insight and suggestions that he found to be valuable. It was then that it occurred to me that this information, as simple as it seemed to me with my background, was not so obvious to him and that it could be beneficial to ALL freight broker agents facing this very same struggle.
I’ll admit that this article might seem like a departure from more “traditional” methods for growing a freight broker business such as: turning cold calls into warm calls, finding new customers or retaining current ones, etc. But, I assure you that social media, once considered a novel alternative by businesses, is now a mainstream growth tool for your business and that you’re missing out on additional business opportunities if you are not fully embracing and exploring all avenues with regards to social media. To go a step further, if you have an established social media presence you may not be doing enough to truly reap the benefits that it offers. More specifically, I believe freight brokers should be utilizing Facebook equally if not more so than LinkedIn to grow their freight broker business and here’s my thoughts on why: first, in the professional world, the general consensus is that LinkedIn is the ‘god of prospecting and connecting’ when it comes to businesses or business professionals…when the truth is that sales and growing your business is a numbers game and numbers are all about reach and exposure. And if you’re talking reach and exposure, no other social media network even comes close to Facebook. For those of you, and I’m sure there’s quite a few, that are saying, “But Facebook is a SOCIAL network!” That’s absolutely true. But, the number of people that are on Facebook and using it daily are astounding! Whereas on LinkedIn, very much considered the powerhouse of lead generation, user numbers are considerably less and they are not on LinkedIn daily. And, now I can hear those same individuals saying, “But we need to connect with businesses”. Also true. But we don’t sell to a business – we sell to a person.
My second reason, is any individual looking to sell a product or offer a service can’t ignore the TRUE determinant of why prospects become customers and customers stay loyal to you…and that’s RELATIONSHIPS. And I’m not talking about a ‘business relationship’ where you call, they have a need and you deliver a solution. That’s just logistics and if that’s your only approach you’ll spend more time trying to drum up new business and the rest of the time wondering why you can’t keep your customers. I’m talking about a personal relationship where you have put in the effort since day one with them. Getting to know your prospect/customer as a person, relating to their concerns, building trust and deepening that connection to the point where they aren’t just a business contact anymore – they are now a loyal customer that trusts your word, depends on you to service their needs and would not even consider sending their business elsewhere. There will even be days, once that level of comfort is firmly established, that your customer will give you a quick call, state their need and know you’ll just ‘handle it’. But chances are you also know their favorite hobby, if they’re married, have children or just bought a new house – all because you’ve built a personal relationship with them. And what social network is known, used for and deemed appropriate for building personal relationships and connecting on a personal level? That’s right – FACEBOOK!
- More than 467 million people use LinkedIn BUT there are more than 1.6 BILLION users on Facebook DAILY!
- More than 3 people sign up every second on LinkedIn BUT more than 8 people per second are added on Facebook!
- An average user spends 17 minutes on LinkedIn per month BUT an average user spends 21 minutes on Facebook a DAY!
That’s impressive! Now that I’ve addressed the why and offered some facts, I’d like to share how a freight broker can begin leveraging Facebook as a POWERFUL tool to grow their business* even if they just created a Facebook business page TODAY! For those of you that have already been working with your Facebook business page, I’m confident that even you will benefit from some of these suggestions, keeping in mind I’m assuming nothing of your social networking abilities or depth in your current progress, so I’m starting with the basics:
- Create a Facebook business page
- Obviously! This is easily done from your personal page by looking to the upper right corner of your screen and clicking on the white downward arrow. In the drop down menu, select ‘Create Page’.
- Optimize your Facebook business page
- It’s important that BEFORE you decide to just create a business page for yourself that you research other users on Facebook, similar to you, that have created a business page and that you take the time to carefully review all the elements that went into their page (banner image, photos, bio, videos, everything). It’s always best to emulate the best instead of winging it or starting from scratch.
- Link your Facebook business page to your personal profile
- This is a great way to alert your personal contacts that you have a business page and hopefully drive them there and Like your business page. The more connections the better and those connections will hopefully help to share your business page content that could mean the potential for new or more business opportunities.
- To do this, start from your personal page and look on the left-hand side under ‘Intro’. Click on edit and start typing in the name of your business page. When you see it pop up, click on it to add it. Now it has become a link that people visiting your personal page can click on that will take them directly to your business page!
- Put a Facebook Fan Box on your website/blog
- Now that you’ve made your FB business page, don’t stop there! You need to promote your page every chance you get – be it on your website, in your blog, at your place of business, on your company literature, etc. Spread the word, again, it’s all about REACH and EXPOSURE.
- Take advantage of your personal Facebook account
- Whatever you post on your business page, you can also post on your personal page – that’s the beauty of Facebook and its lenient nature and flexibility.
- Content is KING
- Even if this is Facebook and interaction is very social and laid back, you should always post with being mindful to the “Big R’s” of social media:
- Relative: relative refers to the content you are posting for your audience. ALWAYS think of your target audience FIRST before you post anything! You wouldn’t post a smoothie recipe on a jewelry store page. SPEAK to your SPECIFIC audience. Your Fans should find your page informative, helpful, interesting and appealing. Remember that this is your attempt at promoting your business side so you should project yourself as an expert, thought leader, educator and above all else, a professional.
- Relevant: to attract and keep your Fans, you must post information that is always relevant. Keep topics current, keep your page fresh and you can even have fun with it by posting an industry article, a podcast of yours or (thanks to Facebook!) a funny meme about the transportation/logistics industry, etc. – and never, never, ever post anything questionable or offensive (I can’t stress this enough).
- Reputable: whatever you post, that’s your image and whatever information you put out there, it needs to be accurate and easily verifiable.
- Reciprocate: like any other social media network, content is shared. As much as you’d like your Fans to share your posts, you should make the same effort to regularly share some of your Fans posts as well. It can’t be a one-way street if you expect to continue having loyal Fans.
- Responsive: Engagement is key. Just as you will invite comments and interaction from your Fans, you must make the effort to respond to their comments and stay constantly engaged with them. Answer questions, stay on top of your notifications, reply to comments and do it all in a timely manner! That’s just basic social media etiquette.
- Results: Make sure to regularly check your Insights tab to gain valuable information/feedback on best time to post for your Fans, which of your efforts saw more engagement – was it a video? A meme? A posed question where they needed to select a response? An industry article? And harness that information to streamline your future efforts for better engagement by appealing more to your Fans.
- Even if this is Facebook and interaction is very social and laid back, you should always post with being mindful to the “Big R’s” of social media:
- Post on Weekends
- With being the biggest social network out there, people aren’t just on it during work hours. They are on evenings AND weekends too! So, post anytime you want – if it’s good content (see #7).
- Invites, Likes and Fans
- Now that you’ve created a business page, you need FANS! Luckily there are SEVERAL ways to gain Likes:
- Invite your friends from your personal page. Again, it’s all about reach and exposure and this one’s quick and easy.
- From your personal page, join groups relative to your business page. For instance, freight brokers might search for groups using some of these words: truck, trucks, trucking, freight, freight broker, shipping, logistics and so on. Once you join or are accepted into some groups, you are now free to post content to their page. Make sure you don’t do anything to get yourself kicked from the group such as over-posting or bad content. The rule is, if you’re unsure – DON’T POST!
- Make another established freight broker/trucking contact an admin to your business page. This is another quick and easy way to have access to their connections and invite them to your page as well!
- Now that you’ve created a business page, you need FANS! Luckily there are SEVERAL ways to gain Likes:
- Create a Group
- Not only can you add Fans to a group by promoting it on your personal and business pages but others on FB will be searching for groups to join that they are interested in and join your group all on their own! How easy is that???
- Also, since you created the group, you set the tone for the page and content. This is the next best thing to prequalifying your prospects! Even though not all group members might be a hot prospect, at least they are more targeted and easily accessible to you.
- Check Yourself
- Just a word of warning as you venture into Facebook territory and begin marketing your professional self and your business. In the past, what might have been viewed as acceptable to your personal connections on your personal page (trash talk, slang, off color or inappropriate jokes/references, etc.) will now be potentially viewed and judged by anyone that connects to your business page. So, it might be wise to examine the content on your personal page (videos, posts, images, content) to make sure there is nothing that might offend or turn away potential prospects or current customers.
Let the above methods serve as a jumping off point for any freight broker looking to create a Facebook business page or have already done so but not sure how to proceed in optimizing it’s use. For those that found this information to be too basic and you’re looking to deepen your leveraging efforts with your Facebook business page even more, I invite you to obtain a copy of our free report, “Advanced Facebook Leveraging for Freight Brokers”.
If you have any additional suggestions on how to leverage a Facebook business page to help grow fan base and ultimately business opportunities, we’d love hear them! So, please feel free to comment on this or any of LDi’s blog posts or suggest future article topics and thanks for reading!
*Please keep in mind that this only serves as a general gauge and not all freight brokers will reach the same level of achievement, results or success when utilizing a Facebook business page to gain more customers or grow their business.
You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve managed to build a solid freight broker business with happy, long-term customers and mastered the technique of bringing on new customers regularly. In fact, business is booming! Sounds great, right? The problem is…your business is busting at the seams and there’s just you and maybe a partner that’s running the whole thing. If your business grows any more, your attention to the details and stellar customer service level that your clients are accustomed to will drop, you’ll have to refuse loads (wait, what???) and tarnish the top-notch reputation you’ve worked so hard to build or worse…potentially lose a customer!
You know the solution. You’ve toyed with it in your head for a while now – You have to hire more staff, but you just don’t think you can swing it – for a variety of reasons (or perhaps, excuses?). Starting a freight broker business was difficult enough but hiring more staff can be downright terrifying! Ask any start-up business owner and they’ll tell you how scary it was for them to hire their first person. So, here are some things you should consider that might help you overcome your fear of expanding your freight broker business and help you better navigate the process:
- Why Hire – Make sure you accurately identify WHY you want to bring on more staff. This could mean hiring someone for just dispatching, finding new customers or exploring a new niche in your office such as LTL or oversize, etc. Once you bring that individual on for a specific need, make sure you don’t divert their focus or muddle their main task(s) by adding on other tasks or making that person be the catch-all of other responsibilities. If you do, make sure it’s always in the best interest of the business and ok with your new hire, otherwise you run the risk of losing them and taking your business off track thereby hindering your success or growth. NOTE: It might seem logical to hire based on expertise. Keep in mind that you can always provide additional training to get your new talent up to speed or knowledgeable in certain areas of the business but you can’t train someone on attitude. When bringing on someone new, always hire for character FIRST, then experience.
- Hire Smart – Freight brokers need to realize that just adding extra heads to your office won’t necessarily help or increase your business. If you’re absolutely certain that you’re ready to bring on more staff, consider these key factors.
- Who to Choose – Do you want to hire a seasoned transportation professional or someone new to the industry? Hiring someone experienced will cost you more but you’ll benefit from having to spend little time to train them and they will be able to hit the ground running fast. Also, hiring one experienced employee could replace the need to hire 3 inexperienced employees. However, if you choose to hire an eager newbie, the training time will be longer but you can customize their training to tailor-fit your business. Either way, once you’ve found your great new hire, make sure you do your best to hold on to them by making them a respected and valued team member, paying them accordingly and empowering them to do the job they were hired and trained to do. And before you make your final decision to bring someone onboard, consider one last thing – perhaps THE most important factor…fit. They may be an outstanding, intelligent, hardworking individual, but they also need to fit in with your office and you. NOTE: It’s not only important but veryrealistic to understand that with whomever you bring on board, provide in-depth training to or give access to your extensive book of business, you always run the risk of them jumping to a competitor or taking your customers with them.
- What Tasks – Only YOU know who you need to bring on to help your freight broker business grow. If you know your office needs more help NOW, one of the safest bets and best bang-for-your-buck might be to hire a dispatcher. Hiring a dispatcher will help you cover loads, dispatch drivers, perform check calls, schedule pickup/deliver appointments, send rate confirmations and do carrier due diligence. This will buy you time to invest in customer interaction and relationships which drive all business!
- Business Flexibility – Don’t just decide to bring on another person because you’ve had a crazy week or hectic month. You need to ask yourself if your freight broker business has enough work to keep a new hire busy during slow times or seasonal slumps. Still not sure? The best rule of thumb is not to “think” you might need more staff. If you need to add more staff, believe me, you’ll know without a doubt when it’s time.
- Can You Afford It – Bringing on staff is another out-of-pocket expense for your freight broker business. You definitely don’t want to hire someone only to find out that you can’t afford to keep them! Below, I’ve kept with our hiring a dispatcher scenario to give you an idea of how to go about figuring new employee cost.
- Dispatcher Break-Even Analysis**:
Hourly cost range of $8-$15per hour with an $11.00 average.
$8 per hour = $1,492 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 8.98 loads per month
$9 per hour = $1,680 Employee Monthly Cost/ $166 per load = 10.12 loads per month
$10 per hour = $1,866 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 11.24 loads per month
$11 per hour = $2,052 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 12.36 loads per month
$12 per hour = $2,080 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 12.53 loads per month
$13 per hour = $2,424 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 14.60 loads per month
$14 per hour = $2,612 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 15.73 loads per month
$15 per hour = $2,799 Employee Monthly Cost / $166 per load = 16.86 loads per month
NOTE: The amount of $166 was used because that is the average agent commission per load at LDi over the past 12 months. **Employee costs are an estimate that includes related costs such as payroll taxes, benefits, tools, equipment and small supplies needed to perform their job.
- Ask yourself how long would it take to increase your load count by 8.98 to 16.86 loads per month if you could spend 3-5 more hours per day selling to your existing customers and calling on new customers.
- Would it take 1, 2, maybe even 3 months? Now ask yourself if the investment is worth it? The decision or indecision to grow is yours but always remember, “If you’re not growing you’re shrinking…you just don’t know it yet”!
- Growing Pains – You can’t bring on more people to your freight broker business without incurring additional overhead costs, not to mention compensation. More people in your office mean the need for additional equipment (phones, computers, printers, desks, chairs, headsets, etc.) and potentially more space, depending on if your current office space allows for additional bodies and equipment. You might need to move your business to a new and bigger space or location, which could mean additional (and costlier) expenses, such as utilities, rent/lease, parking, etc. Also, whether you bring on someone seasoned or not, you will still need to train them for their position as well as acclimate them to your business model and office procedures. This is another often overlooked expense when bringing on a new hire and, although the figure varies with each individual, your time is valuable and has a price. In addition, once they are fully functioning, you will still need to take additional time out of your daily schedule to monitor their activities and make yourself available to them for questions and guidance as needed.
One final note, it’s good to remember the old adage, “With great power, comes great responsibility” or the sage advice that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Now that you’ve decided to bring on one or more individuals into your freight broker business, you need to recognize your own new role within your company. You will need to adjust your mentality from being a one-man-band to being a leader as well as a team player. You will need to be the epitome of patience as you and your new hire(s) become acquainted to you, your business, your office space and additional staff, if applicable. You will need to trust them and turn over certain tasks…something you may not be comfortable with or used to doing. But, it’s up to you to invest in them and develop a strong team atmosphere. It will take time, but it can be done through honesty, transparency, trust, communication and by recognizing individual accomplishments and identifying and rewarding specific milestones or achievements. Once implemented, these actions will create happy workers by instilling loyalty, inspiring work satisfaction and helping to cement a long and happy professional relationship between you and your staff. And as we all know…happy workers are productive workers! In fact, new research suggests we are more productive and work more effectively, creatively, and collaboratively when we’re happy at work…TWELVE PERCENT more productive, to be exact!
Still unsure if you should expand your freight broker business and take on a new hire? Then, chances are, you’re probably not ready. But, if you firmly believe you are, hopefully this post provided some good insight to help you start the process. To learn more on the challenges and solutions for growing a successful freight broker business, watch our insightful workshop video, “Successful Freight Broker Agent Strategies and Techniques for Growing Your Business”, presented by a top LDi Agent http://bit.ly/1L2SwGK, where he goes into detail about his own brokerage’s growing pains and how he not only overcame them but grew to be a multi-million-dollar freight broker business.
If you have any additional suggestions on how to overcome the fear of expanding a freight broker business, I’d love to hear them! So, please feel free to comment on this or any of LDi’s blog posts or suggest future article topics and thanks for reading!
The only thing constant is change and in order to build a successful and sustainable freight broker business you need to embrace diversification.
Diversification. The word tends to strike fear in the hearts of entrepreneurs and business owners alike, for two reasons: To implement, it means that your business must undergo changes and consequently growing pains or choosing not to diversify means you run the risk of going under if you lose one or two or your largest customers. However, if done right, freight brokers and freight agents that choose to diversify can see their freight broker business and income grow as they expand their scope of business and reach out into untapped territories. This helps to add new customers to your client base as well as give you fresh opportunity to service your current customers in new ways!
Without a doubt, the reasons to diversify will always outweigh the reasons not to diversify your freight broker business. The question is how. Here are some options to help you explore ways to diversify:
1. Grow Your Customer Base: A good rule of thumb for freight brokers is when your freight broker business gets 10% of business coming from a single company or a certain industry – it’s time to expand your client base. The loss of that customer could be crippling. Focus on getting three new contacts a day and make that your daily challenge. HELPFUL TIP: Think above your competition by utilizing different/varied ways to grow your business. Try LinkedIn – using the search function in LinkedIn can help you with targeted searches that narrow your results to provide you with more accurate leads to potential customers. Get Referrals – reach out to your vendors, associates and customers to turn a cold-call into a “warm call” and gain an instant conversation opener.
2. Expand Your Services: Every freight broker and every freight broker business needs to continually evolve or old habits and routines will cause you to overlook opportunities and potential threats that surround you every day. To expand your freight broker business, try branching out into other business sectors (lumber, bottled water, produce, etc.) and adding additional modes such as LTL, Flatbed, rail, ocean, etc. (note: margins for a full load are at about 10%-20%, compared to the 20%-35% for a partial truckload) or simply try asking your customer for more lanes. The benefits to expanding your current services would help to offset seasonal setbacks or customer supply fluctuations. HELPFUL TIP: Some factoring companies can provide you with credit ratings and analysis on shippers that will give you a better idea on whether your freight broker business should take on a potential customer or not.
3. Utilize Social Media as a TOOL (not a distraction): The use of social media for your freight broker business, such as LinkedIn, can be a valuable tool to promote your services. You can utilize their search functions to find similar businesses like your top customer. Try to join groups your customers would belong to-NOT other freight brokers-where you can interact and give input that could lead to additional business. A blog is a great platform to showcase your knowledge and experiences, promote your services and even establish yourself as an industry leader! HELPFUL TIP: Content is always, ALWAYS the most important factor when promoting anything. The second most important factor is contribution. Don’t just post and post and post and post content. People will get tired of your one dimensional activity. Take the time to visit your groups regularly and offer valuable feedback or comments. Don’t forget to respond to any comments or feedback others leave on -your- posts and/or blog. Not just interaction but timelyinteraction speaks to your credibility and genuine connectivity to others and always be professional.
4. Have a Contingency Plan: As diversification quickly becomes the latest powerful way to grow and expand your business and proving to be a must for long-term success, it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place so that your business can still function during any unexpected turbulence that is especially likely in the volatile world of the transportation industry where a freight broker business is constantly at the mercy of the economy, capacity and the weather. HELPFUL TIP: When creating a contingency plan, identify your key risks (loss of customer/revenue, weather fluctuations, technical disaster, etc.), prioritize those risks then you can decide what you will do to resume business in case one of the disruptive scenarios takes place. Your plan should basically answer these three questions: What could happen? What will we do in response? What can we do in advance to prepare?
Need a little kick in the pants to help you jump on the diversification wagon? Imagine walking into work tomorrow morning and your phone is flashing. It’s a voice mail from your biggest customer and they’re letting you know that they’re sorry but they’ve decided to switch to another freight broker. Motivated yet? I thought so…Now get growing!
BONUS: Want to know more techniques that will save you time, increase your income and grow your customer base? Get our free report, “Top 10 Ways Freight Brokers/Agents Can Increase Their Income” that outlines specific ways every truck broker, freight broker or freight agent can implement to INCREASE THEIR INCOME IMMEDIATELY.