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Setting and Meeting Annual Sales Goals

On the last day of 2020, we gave you some pointers on how to measure your success after a year that could politely be called “unusual.” One of the points that we tried to make was that every business is different, your business is different, and judging your business based on what others did wasn’t the way to do it. That blog post was, by necessity, an exercise in judging something in hindsight. While many businesses set goals at or near the beginning of each year, goals set in January 2020 were probably not even useful benchmarks by the time March rolled around. The world had changed too much. So now there’s the question that a lot of us are only getting ready to ask ourselves as January 2021 winds down: where do we go from here? Let’s talk about goals.

 

What Kind of Goal Should You Set?

 

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals, and those are a great place to start. The great thing about SMART goals is that SMART Goals are a helpful framework whether you’re setting a formal goal or just thinking about the future. So as a refresher or to bring anyone up to speed on a what a smart goal is:

  • Specific: vague goals can make it very difficult to say for sure that you’ve reached the goal, or can leave you open to reaching the goal as stated but being unsatisfied with the result.
  • Measurable: in addition to be specific, it’s good to have quantifiable figures for your goal. This lets you measure whether you reached your goal and track your progress along the way.
  • Attainable: if your goal isn’t realistic, you’re not only going to fail to reach it, you’re going to take away your incentive to work toward it.
  • Relevant: your goals, and the goals of any employees you may have, need to be based on what makes your business more successful.
  • Time-based: without a date (or frequency) to achieve something, there’s nothing in your goal to work toward.

What does this mean for sales goals in a freight broker agency? The obvious way to make a goal specific is a dollar figure, but there are other ways to set goals. Let’s look at 3 different ways to build a goal, and how reaching one goal every day can help make sure you’re hitting your overall goals.

Increase sales by 15% this year1 new customer per month5 new contacts per day
SpecificIncrease salesNew customersNew contacts
Measurable15%15
AttainableCheck against prior performanceCheck against prior performanceCheck your schedule
RelevantIncreases your profitsHelps reach the first goalHelps reach the second goal
Time-basedThis yearMonthlyDaily

 

What Should Your Goal Be?

Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time-based are critical parts of the smart goal, but they’re relatively easy. Attainable, on the other hand, can be difficult. No matter how much information you have, there are factors that just can’t be predicted. There’s also no one-size-fits-all solution to forecasting and goalsetting. In the example above, we assumed that your primary focus was adding new customers. However, your business may be better served by maximizing your business with existing customers, reconnecting with customers from before the pandemic, or another goal that is specific to you.

Whatever your goal is, the most important things are to make sure your goal takes your business where you want it to go, and that have a realistic plan to meet that goal. If you’re launching your own freight agency and serving one customer, doubling your number of customers might be too modest of a goal. If you’ve been established for 10 years and are serving 100 customers, that same goal is probably unrealistic.

As you might imagine, that means there’s no magic formula that you can use to set a goal. That said, there are some very important ideas to have in mind when you set your goal.

Guidelines and Suggestions

 

Be analytical. You don’t need a complicated algorithm, but you do probably want to be aware if sources like Freighwaves’s Market Experts think the industry will have a year of growth or contraction and whether you have more or less manpower for prospecting than you had last year.

Be aggressive. This is the easy part. No one ever set a sales goal of the exact same amount as last year. Remember, if you hit this goal at the end of the year, that should mean your business is in the condition you want it to be in. On the other hand…

Be realistic. This is where the first two points meet. You want to set an ambitious goal, but not one that is going to be out of reach. In the first few years your business is operating, you might grow several times over. Businesses mostly grow at the rate the economy grows, but your growth can easily outpace that, especially as a small business.

Be practical. Another of those items that seems obvious, but is critical to keep in mind, is your capacity to meet your orders. Increasing your sales means not only increasing the amount of time you spend selling, but also increasing the resources you put into booking trucks and offering customer support. A good TMS and a support network like the one Logistic Dynamics offers its agents will help, but you need to make sure you’re ready to take on the added work that comes with higher sales.

The Race Against the Clock

 

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is to have a goal in mind in December and not realize that they missed that goal in May. If you’re landing customers that have recurring orders, it’s worth 12 times as much to land a customer in January than December. If you want a million dollars in new sales in a year, doing $25,000 a month with one customer starting in January gets you 30% of what you need. In December, it barely makes a dent. If, starting in January, you add $12,821 a month in new sales every month (and all those sales are recurring), you’ll hit your million-dollar goal. By April, that number is over $18,000, and it’s nearly $35,000 by June. Getting 12 bites at the apple each time in January, and 11 in February, is a lot better than 7 in June and 6 in July.

One final point, and maybe the most important one: remember that these goals are about what you want as a business owner. You earned the right to make those decisions for yourself when you started your own freight broker agency. Your goal doesn’t have to be a million dollars, it doesn’t have to be bound to the calendar year, and it doesn’t have to be formalized any more than you need it to be. If you have employees, they should have formal goals and expectations, but the goals for your business should be exactly what you want them to be. The only thing that your goals need to be are detailed measurements to help your business develop into what you want it to be, when you want that to happen.

Hiring Employees

If your freight brokerage has reached the point where you’re considering hiring employees, you’re not alone. Around 20 million employees in the US, more than 15% of all workers, work at a company with 20 or fewer employees. Hiring that first employee can be a milestone for your business that helps determine your growth prospects for years to come. The decision to hire and the process of making that hire should not be taken lightly.

Should You Hire?

 

If you’re considering hiring, that almost certainly means that you’ve grown your business to the point where you can no longer manage it alone, or you foresee reaching that point very soon. Congratulations on your success so far. The first thing to do is stop and think about whether you need to hire someone, or if you might have better ways of getting help. Hiring an employee is a major, ongoing investment that changes the way your business operates, even if the employee doesn’t work out. Before you hire, check to see if there are services or contractors that can do what you need.

If there’s no service for what you need, or it looks like you’re going to need those services so much that it’s more cost effective to have a full-time employee, that’s when it’s time to move ahead with hiring. Be careful though, just because you’re sure you need to hire doesn’t mean you have all the information you need.

Requirements

 

There are some important details in hiring that can’t be overlooked, and frankly aren’t fun to research. Fortunately, there are resources available to help. The Small Business Association (SBA) has a guide to help hire and manage employees. It’s likely to be an important resource for you, since your area of expertise probably isn’t HR. The SBA’s guide should be able to help you through some administrative requirements, required and optional employee benefits, and other laws you might need to understand. Make sure to look at your state’s laws as well, which the SBA has aggregated in a link on the same page.

A common question for freight broker agents when hiring is whether they can pay their employees commission only. As with most employment questions, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. That said, you’re probably going to be held to federal minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Reading the link above, you’re naturally going to be drawn to the outside sales exemption. It’s possible that someone working in your agency will qualify for that exemption, but it’s a high standard. The Department of Labor defines who qualifies for the outside sales exemption, including that “The employee must be customarily and regularly engaged away from the employer’s place or places of business.” On page two of that same document, you can find that ANY fixed site qualifies as your place of business. The phrase “customarily and regularly” is less clearly defined, but court cases seem to view this as a high standard as well. Bottom line – unless they mostly travel to customer locations, they probably don’t qualify, and will need to be paid at least minimum wage, plus 1.5 times minimum wage for hours worked over 40. They can be commission only, but you’re on the hook for the difference if their commissions are less than minimum wage would have been.

So now we’ve got the scary stuff out of the way. Those requirements are a big part of the reasons we talked about whether you can find support without hiring in the first section. Here’s the good news: if you’re heavily leveraging outside services to get your day-to-day work done, or you’re not growing because you just don’t have the help in the office, then a new employee can be a great investment – as long as you hire a good one.

How to Find and Interview Candidates

Wanted

This… probably won’t work on its own

It’s almost unfair to small business owners that when it’s time to grow, hiring becomes maybe the most important factor in your success. That almost certainly wasn’t the skill that made you decide to start your own business in the first place. For freight brokers, booking loads does very little to prepare you to find and interview potential new employees, so you’re left with a whole new skillset you need to learn.

There are more ways to find candidates than we could ever discuss here, so let’s just talk about what works for small businesses. You need to compete with everyone, so take the advice of baseball great Willie Keeler and “hit them where they ain’t.” Major companies are prevalent on top job sites, so check out sites that serve your specific industry like Jobs in Logistics. Talking to people in your network is also a great idea. In a small business, being linked up with candidates by people who know you and the candidate can help make sure you’ll have a cultural fit. You’re not just asking them for help, you’re looking to potentially give someone they know a great opportunity.

No matter where your candidates come from, it’s important to go into hiring with a plan. You want to make sure that you’re asking relevant questions to help you identify the person who best fits the job and your business. Keep in mind, too, that you are trying to grow, and the person you hire today needs to be a good fit for the organization you want to become. You need to decide ahead of time the skills and temperament that you’re looking for and how you’re going to identify those.

To do that, really stop and think about why you’re hiring. It can be tempting to hire “another you,” someone who reminds you of yourself, has a lot of the same skills, and can back you up on almost anything. Undoubtedly, that person can make your work easier, but is that the best move to help your business grow? After all, your business already has you. Consider what this person needs to be best at. If you’re looking to offload the tasks that you enjoy least or struggle with most, another person like you may feel the same way. If you’re just overwhelmed with volume and need someone to back you up on everything, it could work. Even if that’s the case, though, it might make more sense to let a hire take on administrative work so you have more time to do what you do best.

Onboarding

 

It’s easy to overlook the importance of the employee’s first few days in a new job. Before they start, you should have a checklist. They probably need a computer and a phone, but what else? If they’re working from your office, where are they going to sit? If they’re working from home, how’s their internet service? There are probably all kinds of logins, licenses, and software they need in order to do what you do. It’s best to have all of that in a list and even set up ahead of time to make a good impression, but that’s a small part of onboarding.

Your new employee is looking for a paycheck, of course, but the best employees are usually looking to grow and advance. They’re going to want training, not just in a formal setting but from you every day. None of that starts the day they get to the office, but it’s a good idea to make sure they know you’re there to help them learn. Employee retention is tough in an age where people have unlimited access to information and employers can hire in your neighborhood even if they’re a thousand miles away. Ultimately, you can think all you want about compensation, benefits, and titles, but your employees want to feel good about their work.

Making sure your employees find their jobs fulfilling, while also making sure they are a good fit for you, is a tough task. There’s no one way to make sure you hire the right people, but if you make sure you have a clear understanding of your needs and what you’re offering through your hiring process, onboarding, and during their time at your company, you and your employees will be far better off.

Customer Reviews

Let’s start with a fun fact: the first known customer complaint is held in The British Museum and was written on a clay tablet 3800 years ago. The customer was upset that the wrong grade of copper was delivered. Etching a clay tablet seems like it must take a lot of effort, so it’s easy to imagine this must have been some pretty bad copper. It’s a lot faster and easier for modern customers to leave a review online, and companies need to be ready for both the threat and opportunity that review sites present.

The Importance of Customer Reviews

 

According to Invesp, customers are more likely to use your business and will spend more when they do if you have good reviews. It makes sense, right? If a customer can quickly see that they can trust you, a major factor in their decision making is already decided in your favor. 47% of customers won’t even consider using a business with fewer than four stars, meaning you can lose almost half your potential customer base without ever even speaking to them.

We’ve all had the experience of a customer threatening us with a negative review, too. Whether something has actually gone wrong with their order or they are just angling for special treatment, some customers will use your online presence for leverage. That can be a frustrating situation, especially if you don’t have a lot of reviews and you know one bad review will significantly lower your rating. If you get enough positive reviews, a few negatives are less damaging. They may even help, since customers will find large numbers of exclusively 5 star reviews suspicious.

How to Get More Reviews

 

Unfortunately, it can be difficult in the freight industry to get a positive review. Customers leave reviews when an experience is different than they expected, whether positively or negatively. A restaurant or product might get a good review because someone was surprised by excellent service or functionality, but a surprise with your freight is almost never good. The two possible outcomes for most shipments are either exactly what the customer expects or a bad experience.

So then what’s the best way to get positive reviews? There’s a deceptively simple answer: ask for them. It may be as simple as mentioning it next time you’re on the phone with the customer, but there are other good opportunities as well. Put a link in your email signature, post about it on your social media, or put a link on your website if you have one. You need to be careful not to trigger any spam or security measures, but a good rule of thumb there is just to be honest.

Take a look at any automated messages you send out, too. Got an email that goes out when a customer’s delivery is dropped off? Think about including a link to a review page. Same if you have a notice to a carrier saying that their payment is on the way. This is where you want to be careful though. If you have an alert going out to your customer saying their payment is late or to a carrier saying they damaged a shipment, it might be best to leave the link out. Ultimately, you’re just trying to remind your customers and partners about review sites at times when they might not normally think of them.

Review Sites

 

The largest review sites, like Google and Yelp, are important to every industry, but DAT and Truckstop both have places to leave feedback. It’s also important to be aware that if you’re an employer, you should keep a close eye on your ratings on Glassdoor and Indeed, along with any other job-hunting website. The first thing to know about any of these sites is that you can usually log in and manage your presence, and it’s good to do so.

Some common review sites in and out of our industry

Since reviews are all about making a good first impression, let’s start with maybe the most likely place for a potential customer to see your business for the first time: Google. Google reviews can be left by customers, current and former employees, suppliers, and just about anyone else. The mix of reviewers means that to keep your Google reviews high, it’s important to be a good partner to everyone. It also means that asking for a Google review is an option no matter who you’re talking to, so you have the opportunity to really build up your presence.

It’s also important to be aware of reviews on DAT. Carriers will be able to leave you (or the company you’re operating under) reviews based on their experience. Much like customers, drivers have the expectation that things are going to go smoothly, so they have either the experience they expected, or a bad one. Here again, the best way to make sure that they’re still leaving reviews when things go well is just to remind them. Just like with customers, you don’t need to harass your carriers for good reviews, making sure the link is readily available will usually get reviews steadily trickling in.

Responding to Reviews

 

Most review platforms give you a chance to respond to reviews. That’s important for a few reasons. First, if someone leaves a negative review, your response can be a chance to correct whatever went wrong. For readers of the reviews later on, they get a chance to see that when something did go wrong, you were active in trying to make it right. As an added bonus, a lot of websites use engagement as part of their algorithm that decides where you get listed. In short, if you’re active, you rank higher. There’s no big trick to responding – you’re performing the same customer service you do every day.

In fact, you’ve probably noticed an ongoing theme – none of this needs to be or even should be a major effort on your part. Reviews should be a small part of your daily customer interactions, not a huge initiative. The most important thing is that you don’t neglect this important part of your online presence.

The Importance of Customer Retention

Let’s face it, landing a customer is hard. We don’t always like to say that out loud, because most of us make our living based on how good we are at landing customers. Being good at it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy though. According to sales consulting firm The Brevet Group, it can take 8 cold calls to reach a prospect and 5 follow ups after a meeting to give yourself a good chance of landing a sale. Even then, up to half of all sales go to the first vendor that responds with a workable solution.

Of course, you need new customers to grow and even sustain your business, but it’s important not to overlook the value of customer retention and maximization. Both are exactly what they sound like: customer retention is how many of your customers continue to do business with you over time, and customer maximization means getting the most out of your existing customer relationships. Effectively, we’re talking about selling more to your customers, for longer.

Why is Customer Retention Important?

 

Okay, we all have a pretty good grasp on this on an intuitive level. It’s not like anyone reading the first section stood up and shouted “why should I keep my customers?” Still, it’s important to take this to the next level and quantify what we’re talking about, so you can make educated decisions on how to focus your efforts.

It’s an old adage in sales and marketing that it costs 5x as much to replace a customer as it does to retain one. Depending on who you ask, that number can be almost anything, but it’s always at least a few times more. Of course, if you’re a freight broker agent, you’re really looking for how you can make more money, more reliably. Simply put, it’s easier to run a business if you have a baseline of recurring or relatively easy to close sales each month. As an example, picture this: you reach out and try to make a sale with 20 contacts, 10 are existing customers, 10 are new leads – how many sales do you make to each group? If you’re an average company, you make 6 or 7 sales to the existing customers and 1 or 2 at best to the new leads. New leads are critically important, but when you’re planning out your day, you may want to focus a little more on deals that are very likely to land. There’s no better lead than a prior sale.

More reliable business is nice, but how much does this really hit the bottom line? One study showed that “increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.” If you own your own business, that’s probably all you needed to hear.

How to Retain Customers

Business meeting in a booth

Develop a relationship with your customer

You’re going to find a lot of overlap between retaining and maximizing customers, and for good reason. Retaining a customer without maximizing them means that you’ve landed a recurring deal, and now you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by failing to do anything more with that customer. Maximizing a customer without retaining them means you’re either got great profit margins or a high percentage of the customer’s business, and now they no longer do business with you. Either way, you and your customer probably don’t interact much, and are indifferent toward each other at best.

We would all love to discuss a brilliant new strategy for this, but the bottom line is that you need to build a relationship with your customers. If you run a Google search any time for how to retain customers, you’ll get article after article full of great ideas. Honestly, it’s a great idea to run a search and read new articles often. Each of those articles is going to give you ideas on how to build and maintain relationships. In freight brokering, your customer stays with you because they’re confident that you know their needs, you’re reliable, and they’re comfortable working with you. Bottom line: handle their shipments well, and then make sure they know you can do that for more of their shipments.

That last part is also huge when we are discussing automation and technology companies that are working to get some space in the freight brokerage market. No matter how good their technology gets, there’s one thing they can never offer your customers: you. If your customer feels a sense of confidence knowing that you are available to them, then there’s nothing anyone else can offer that replaces that.

Maximizing Customers

Online shopper

Maximizing sales to a customer doesn’t have to look like this.

Just like retention, there’s no magic formula or big secret to maximizing your sales to each customer. Maybe the most important thing is that you keep this fact in mind: you should be maximizing sales to your existing customers. That has to be one of your goals. It’s a shame not to do it, but it’s easy to get so caught up in prospecting for new clients and handling customer service for existing ones that we forget that a current customer is also a sales opportunity. When it comes down to it, the best lead you’ll ever have is a prior sale.

There are a lot of great ways for any small business to maximize customers. This article breaks them down into three categories: increasing penetration, developing a plan of action, and building credibility and trust. So, what does that mean for a freight broker? It’s a good idea to read the article and think about that for yourself, but let’s quickly summarize each part.

  • Increasing Penetration: Are you currently handling a small part of your customer’s freight, or most of it? Talk to your main contact at your customer’s company and see if you can find out if they have any lanes or types of freight you’re not currently handling. See if you can find out if there is anyone else at the company that purchases logistics services, and if you can make contact with that person.
  • Developing a Plan of Action: Work with your customer to make sure you know exactly how they want their freight handled and make it clear to them that you understand. Consider combining this step with LDI’s CRM blog to give yourself an advantage in tracking and executing that plan.
  • Building Credibility and Trust: Do what you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, and when that goes wrong, make sure your customer hears from you that you know it went wrong and you’re on it. The last thing you want is your customer hearing from their customer that there was a problem with their shipment. Do your best to be in front of any problems and honest with your customer.

If you take nothing else away from this post, just take some time to think about whether you focus enough of your time and energy on retaining your customers and maximizing your sales to them. There are a lot of ways to do that, but the first and most important step is to make it a priority.

3 Tips to Becoming a Freight Agency Owner

Running your own business can sound like a daunting task. But with LDI, you can launch a freight agency and start brokering freight for your loyal customers within hours.

Do This Before You Launch Your Own Freight Brokerage

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.

How Top Freight Brokers Leverage Facebook to Grow Their Business

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!

FACTS:

  • 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:

  1. Create a Facebook business page
    1. 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’.
  2. Optimize your Facebook business page
    1. 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.
  3. Link your Facebook business page to your personal profile
    1. 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.
    2. 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!
  4. Put a Facebook Fan Box on your website/blog
    1. 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.
  5. Take advantage of your personal Facebook account
    1. 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.
  6. Content is KING
    1. 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.
  7. Post on Weekends
    1. 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).
  8. Invites, Likes and Fans
    1. 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!
  9. Create a Group
    1. 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???
    2. 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.
  10. Check Yourself
    1. 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.

What to Consider BEFORE You Hire to Expand Your Freight Broker 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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”!
  10. 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 How & Why to Diversify Your Freight Broker Business

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.