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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.

How Freight Brokers Diversify Their Book of Business

Your book of business is your lifeline. In other words, the more robust your customer base, the stronger your business continuity. At LDI, we talk a lot about your book of business’s health, and that means evaluating all those customers.

What It Takes to Be a Champion Freight Broker for Carriers

Before we get to the how, let’s address the why. So, why would you want to be a champion freight broker for carriers? The answer to that is the easy part; because freight brokerage operations that take the time to build solid, long-lasting relationships with motor carriers are the MOST stable and successful ones in the business. But, an achievement of that magnitude doesn’t come without it’s challenges and certainly doesn’t happen overnight.

As for the how…it’s a process that, when done right, involves investing the time and attention needed to create and establish a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. Taking the time to get to know your carriers, understand their needs and keeping an open dialogue with shared growth in mind will go a long way in building and strengthening carrier relationships.

And just like any champion, there’s the external and the internal preparation that will help you to nurture new carrier relationships as well as continue to effectively anchor your ongoing carrier relationships for years to come. For example, it doesn’t matter how powerful your punches are or how fast you are on your feet if your head and heart aren’t in the right place…and vice versa. So, first, let’s deal with the external:

EXTERNAL PREPARATION

Get Carrier Intel – Take the time to gather intelligence from the carrier. The best way to find out their wants, desires and needs is to ASK! Here’s some examples of some key questions:

  • Where do they prefer to run?
  • How many trucks do they have?
  • What lanes do they need help with? What other lanes?
  • What lanes are they most/least interested in?
  • Was the last load they ran a regular lane? Can you make this lane a weekly run for them?
  • Is their business expanding? If yes, how so?
  • What can you do to help them grow their business?

Also, inform them of what you’re currently working on and future upcoming loads you will have. These are great questions to not only learn more about the carrier but is a great starting point to help you solidify relationships with your carriers.

Follow Through on Promises – Strong relationships forged in TRUST are built on KEPT promises. During your relationship, there will come a time when you need a favor from a carrier, such as a lower paying load than they’d normally accept. To get them to take the load, you might promise them a better price on the next load. If and when you do that, make SURE you honor your word and do just that. After they deliver the load, continue to follow through and ask if everything went well and if there were any issues, they need to be addressed immediately. On another note, if the carrier mentions that they liked that lane, you could work it out so it’s a repeating route for them. Driving truck is a job that demands respect and, as their livelihood, your word to them and honoring your promises mean everything. That, and paying them quickly and consistently will help them value their relationship with you more and help pave the way for future business.

Share The Growth – While your transportation business grows, your carrier’s business should grow as well and will help to solidify a stronger relationship with your carriers. Be mindful not to drop your dependable carriers for ones willing to work cheaper. This usually ends up with you accepting a lower level of service that does not meet the standards you have set for your core carrier base across the board. Don’t be afraid to inform your carriers of pricing adjustments due to market conditions or other factors. Hopefully they will respect your honesty and appreciate your transparency.

Get Equipped – In today’s world and becoming more so in the transportation industry, technology remains at the forefront. Your freight broker business should be no different. Gone are the days when a freight broker equipped with a little technology could run with the pack. Today’s freight broker needs to have access to a Transportation Management System (TMS) that not only helps grow his business but updates to keep current with the needs of the ever changing industry.

Every TMS is different and it’s imperative that the TMS you use has the available tools that will help you to run your business as smoothly and efficiently as possible. By using the latest technologies in its proprietary custom TMS, LDi Freight, LDi has the advantage to match carriers and shippers faster than other third-party logistics options. Here are just some of the tools available in LDi Freight that bring real-time technology to our freight broker agents when sourcing carriers:

  1. DAT Matches – Any load posted to the DAT is set with an alarm which will be raised when DAT finds a matching carrier in their system. LDi Freight allows the user to see if a load has matches and see the corresponding carriers.
  2. Available Trucks –Displays trucks from multiple sources:
  3. Trucks posted by carriers through our carrier portal website
  4. LDi Loads that are delivering for any agent
  5. Available trucks manually posted by agents
  6. LDi Load History –Searches historical LDi loads for carriers that have delivered a similar load for us before and might be likely candidates to handle a current load.
  7. Carrier Smart Search –Aggregates possible carriers from multiple sources:
  8. Trucks posted to the DAT
  9. Trucks posted to Internet Truckstop
  10. Carriers set up with LDi who operate within the pickup or drop location of a load
  11. Carriers who have run a similar load for LDi before
  12. Trucks that are delivering a current LDi load soon
  13. Trucks posted to the Carrier Portal website
  14. Trucks posted to the LDi Available Trucks screen by agents

Regarding quoting/pricing, LDi has DAT RateView and ITS RateMate products integrated directly into LDi Freight to provide our agents with assistance in quoting their loads and seeing historical pricing trends.

LDi also has multiple mobile applications that allow an individual to always stay connected. Whether it be our mobile TMS, LDi AgentMate or our mobile carrier app, LDi CarrierMate – designed to connect our carrier base directly to our TMS. LDi is and has always been the leader in technology and we will continue to adapt and be ahead of the industry so YOU can stay ahead of the competition!

INTERNAL PREPARATION

Communicate Like a Partner – Asking your carrier questions, especially when it’s the first call you make to them is vital…but listening is critical! Carriers will appreciate you asking questions but if you want to make a great impression, you must remember the details of your conversation. Whether you talk about their latest vacation, a family celebration or recent weather occurrence, make sure you take notes and refer to them during follow up calls to keep building the bond and continue growing the relationship. Relatable conversation will always be more well received than launching into a generic inquiry. But know the difference. It’s not about prying into their private or personal lives. It’s about relating to them by being genuinely invested in them as an individual and not just a means to an end.

Be Trustworthy, Be Loyal – As loads become available, remember to reach out to your core carrier group and award freight methodically. And as you continue to do this, it will help to build trust and loyalty. And if there comes a time that they’re unable to cover the load, they may start to refer you to another reliable carrier and this will help to build your carrier network. Also, don’t just reach out to them for business needs alone. Make sure you touch them repeatedly throughout the year during non-business times as well. Small gestures such as sending a pizza to say thanks, a birthday card or gifts during holidays and occasions are very inexpensive ways to appreciate your carrier and make you a freight broker champion in their eyes!

Transparency Rules – A freight broker with fair procurement practices is a freight broker of choice for carriers. This means conducting transparent business practices at all times. For instance, when rates change, explain to your carriers why. If pricing becomes a concern, voice it to them. They may be flexible. When you are upfront with them and communicate the reason behind the rate change, such as weather, seasonal changes, fuel cost or other factors, it allows an open dialogue between you both instead of a conversation that could have been mutually uncomfortable. Whenever possible (and it’s always possible), be honest and ethical when doing business. There is no substitute for either and once trust is broken, the relationship will never be the same, so don’t go there.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Yep. But worth it? Absolutely! And in the spirit of perseverance, I’m reminded of the words from the infamous Rocky Balboa, “Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up”. So, time to put on your gloves, get in the ring, dig deep and go those extra rounds…and do what it TAKES to be a champion freight broker for carriers.

Click here to listen to Rocky Balboa’s Inspirational Speech

If you have any additional suggestions on how to be a champion freight broker for carriers, 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!

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.

Where Is Your Motivation?

For every freight broker and freight agent, achieving your goal in this industry is going to take time.  One day of hard, focused effort isn’t going to be enough.  To get what you desire, you have to put in hard, focused work every single day, day after day, for a long and extended period of time – even months and years.

Like billionaire Warren Buffet says:

“It doesn’t matter how hard you try, it takes nine months to have a baby.”

Every day, you have to wake up and take the steps necessary to get what you desire.  To do this, you’ll have to tap into your motivation.  To have a successful freight broker agent business, it takes a tremendous amount of motivation to get out there every day and make calls, build relationships, and face objections when you ask for the order.  Motivation, however, is a skill you can learn.

Are you a Freight Broker willing to pay the price?

There was once a businessman who made a fortune in the cleaning industry.  On an interview for a TV show, he was once asked “What is the secret of success?”

His reply was:

To become successful, you have to first know what you want, and then determine the price you are willing to pay to achieve it.  If you pay the price, you will achieve your goal.”

Whether your desire is to become a millionaire, or just make a little extra money so you can go on vacation or pay your rent on time, there will be a price you’ll have to pay to accomplish this.

You’ll have to work hard and make sacrifices to keep learning and growing and changing.  Your goal will cost you time, effort and energy!

The question is:

“Are YOU a Freight Broker or Freight Agent willing to pay the price?”

No one else will do this for you.  It’s all on your shoulders and the success of your freight broker business depends on it.

If you’re willing to pay the price, you can accomplish anything you desire.  Most people are not willing to pay the price.  It’s too difficult.  It’s too intimidating and they don’t desire it bad enough.

Even if you aren’t very motivated right now, you can unlock your hunger when you follow these 3 Essentials of Business Success:

  1. Goals

All success in this industry and in life begins with a goal.  Set some compelling goals that light a fire under your belly and get them down on paper.  If you don’t have a written list of your goals, then all you have are just dreams.

  1. Systems

You must follow a proven system if you want to be successful in the logistics industry.  If you don’t take the actions that successful freight brokers take, then you can’t get the results that successful freight brokers get.  Your roadmap to selling more freight includes making 3 new contacts a day and following up with your list weekly via email and phone.

  1. Motivation

Last but most importantly is Motivation.  Motivation is the glue that holds everything together.  It’s your WHY.  As Nietzsche said, “A man with a strong enough WHY can endure any HOW!”.

In other words, it’s motivation that gives you the discipline to review your goals and it’s motivation that allows you to stick to the system.

As a Freight Broker or Freight Agent, if you follow these three steps – and pay the required price – then you can live out your dreams and create an amazing life for yourself and your family!

What does “Courting” have to do with Freight Brokering? EVERYTHING!

I recently had the pleasure of sharing my time with an older married couple. After learning that they had been married over 50 years and were clearly still in the honeymoon phase of their marriage, I couldn’t help but ask them what their secret was for maintaining a long and happy marriage. Which I found to be quite the accomplishment in a society where over 50% of marriages end in divorce. The gentleman’s answer came quick and was simple:  Never stop courting each other.

Being in the logistics industry, that message hit me like a freight train! Immediately, I could envision how freight brokers and freight agents could apply this principle towards their freight broker business to never stop courting.

What’s more is that this advice could be applied to the freight business or any business. For instance, when you meet the one you want to spend your whole life, do you treat them well or poorly? Do you court them or do you ignore them? The answer to both is obvious.

Just as a couple puts their best foot forward during the initial dating period, overall happiness and the desire to continue in the relationship depends on certain “needs” to be consistently met. The same principle can be applied to the freight broker/customer relationship.

Courting the Marketplace

For freight sales agents, building your book of business is no picnic but it is a necessity. If you’re doing it right, a LOT needs to happen even before that initial phone call is even made; researching prospects, building sales intelligence, getting past the gatekeeper, even creating the perfect voicemail message. And this process needs to happen each and every day. Like they say, if you’re not growing – you’re shrinking. But, after a while of courting the marketplace, you may feel the urge to stop. To stop building your contact lists. To stop reaching out to new prospects. To stop making calls. You begin to just coast along. (The-not-so) funny thing is, the problem with coasting is that you can only coast downhill! Freight brokers must continuously court the marketplace.

Courting Prospects

Industry success is similar to high school dating. Remember this guys? Seeing a girl who caught your eye and made your heart jump a little? Then, eventually, you’d gain enough courage to ask her out on a date. If she said yes, you took her out and courted her. If you wanted her to be your girlfriend, you courted her even more. The same process can be applied to your freight broker business by reaching out to three new contacts each day; you’re actually courting your prospects.

When turning a prospect into a customer, the challenge for most freight brokers is they don’t court their prospects the way they court the love of their lives, thus hindering the probability of success in the process. Most freight agents will court a prospect once and then stop. This is the equivalent of going on a first date and never calling the person again. If you want a long and lasting relationship with your customers, this isn’t going to cut it.

Courting Your Customers

When it comes to your customers, if you desire to have a long and lasting business relationship, you must court them. You must treat them like they’re someone you want to stay in your life forever. The more you court your customers by continually solving their problems and being relentlessly positive, the more freight you’ll move for them – period!

Continue applying that process to your customers by regularly following up and continuing to court them, year after year. A good habit to get into is to ask yourself these questions every day:  What have you done today to court your customers? Whose problems and drama can you solve? Whose day could you light up by taking a large load off their hands? How could you surprise and delight your customers today?

Court the marketplace, court your prospects and court your customers continually. Your success as a freight broker in this industry demands it!

Bonus Tools and Tips on Courting:

Be Appreciative – Always remember to say thank you, take your customers out to lunch, send a pizza to their office, mail a handwritten thank you note (or Birthday/Holiday card), invite customers to company events (like a golf outing or cookout), give away some company swag, pay them a visit – a little face-to-face goes a long way.

Be Attentive – Regularly follow up with your customers (via email, phone, visits), give your full attention during conversations (people know when you’re not paying attention), ask if they’d like to get the company newsletter, call back when you say you’re going to, if they reach out to you and you don’t have the time – make the time! Remember, if you stay at the forefront of their mind, you’ll stay miles ahead of your competition.

Be Helpful/Solve Problems – Check-in with your customers often and listen for issues, be proactive in keeping your customers (it’s easier to keep a customer than obtain a new one or gain one back), be genuine in your interest when following up (people can sense a feigned interest), offer additional services (i.e. different shipping modes), follow through (ex. even if their problem is accounting-related, stay with them on the issue until resolution).

Be Positive – Whether in person, on the phone or in email – keep the tone upbeat and positive, always. Attitude is everything and despite “good intentions”, if they don’t like your tone, demeanor or attitude, they’ll go elsewhere. Take the call and sound happy (smiling actually does come through over the phone). If it pertains, say Happy Birthday, congratulations, etc. Be human – crack a joke (keep it tasteful), talk about their interests (sports/hobbies, etc.), make small talk (not to add ‘filler’ but to create a bonding effect – such as recent crazy weather, weekend plans, an article or industry news they might find interesting, etc.)

Be Consistent – Consistency builds trust and speaks volumes about your character. Whatever you start doing (a weekly phone call, sending birthday cards/newsletter, yearly visit, etc.) continue doing. There isn’t the saying, “Consistency is everything” for no reason.