COVID-19 has presented every business in the world with an unprecedented challenge, with Freight Broker Agents and the rest of the logistics industry being no exception. If you’re in logistics, your sales process is certainly different than it was last year. Considering the demand on the freight industry, you may have even seen increases in your sales, but whether you’re up, down, or even, you’re certainly facing new challenges. If you relied on trade shows or customer visits at all, two powerful sales opportunities have almost entirely vanished, and even if you’ve worked entirely online for years, your customers’ changing needs in response to the pandemic have almost certainly changed your approach. Hopefully you’re feeling pretty good about the ways you’ve adapted in the last 6 months, but there may be more steps you can take.
If you’re running a business, odds are your marketing efforts have been primarily online for years now. If not, the good news is that you’re likely to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic in a better position for modern marketing than you were before. Even if you were already doing most of your marketing online, there are a couple of good ways to increase your opportunities.
First, make sure your business is listed on Google. For freight agents, you may be comfortable working with shippers all over the country, but there’s an advantage to being local. If a shipper in your area does a Google search for freight carriers, you may be more likely to come up based on proximity. From the customer’s standpoint, they may feel that you have a better understanding of their industry, truckers in their area, or unique details about your local market. You can set your business up on Google here.
If you were visiting trade shows and customers before, and giving out flyers and business cards, remember that there are virtual options for that as well. LDI agents should make sure to use the marketing materials available to you in our knowledge base (and get in touch if you have any questions). There are also digital business card apps like Switchit and My Vista by Vistaprint that let you share a card via email or text. Those apps will continue to be helpful even after the pandemic, since you don’t run out of or lose digital cards.
In terms of social media, it’s important to remember that LinkedIn is not the only one that can be valuable to you, but it is still your main online networking tool for business. It can be tough to find the time to stay active on those websites, so remember that you can share LDI’s posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Present yourself as an active and engaged expert on all things freight. You may find that contacts reach out to you because of what you post, but even if not, your profile will lend credibility to your efforts when you’re prospecting.
Reaching out to new potential customers is always critical, but in 2020, it’s a key to survival. The more uncertainty your customers face, the more you want to insulate yourself against losing too much of your business if one of your customers stops shipping. After the downturn in 2008, Forbes listed the biggest risks to a business and made a note of concentration risk – the idea that one customer representing a large portion of your business is a threat. Sadly, there’s a good chance you got a lesson in this in March by having one or more of your customers shut down production or shipping. It’s important to have a diverse book of business to insulate yourself against the risk of your customer’s business changing dramatically, and a lot of businesses change dramatically when this happens:
One of the best ways to diversify right now is to look for businesses in the industries that are seeing more demand in 2020. While medicine and medical supplies are the obvious answer, there are several sectors that growing rapidly. There are also industries that have been deemed essential, and you can usually find those on state websites. It’s good to get this information locally, since each section of the country is facing different challenges right now.
Whether your customers or prospects are up, down, or even, they’re also facing challenges they’ve never seen before. In addition to looking for businesses that are seeing increased demand that you can fill, look for businesses that have unique problems you can solve. As shipping costs rise and capacity decreases, a freight agent who can help a company book trucks and shop for pricing has even more to offer to a shipper than normal. Check out our free ebook on using Google Alerts for prospecting; that can be a great tool for getting in touch with your customer about the latest news that’s affecting them. When you set up your sales calls, you’re going to sell your freight capabilities, of course, but you’re also going to sell yourself as the solution to their problems.
Of course, all of your marketing and prospecting efforts comes to this: selling. Once you’ve done your homework and learned about your customer’s challenges, make sure your customer sees the results. You’re not just there to sell your freight services as a solution to your company’s problem, you’re there to sell yourself as a solution to your contact’s problem. If you’re on the phone or meeting with the right person, then having a good freight agent will mean less stress in their daily work, and in 2020 they probably have more stress than ever. Make it clear, you’re going to make it easier to do their job by taking some of those stressors and handling them with your own expertise and capabilities. This is what you do full time, and you’ve devoted your efforts to adapting to the current situation. Gartner published a research paper on logistics challenges presented by COVID-19 where you can learn more about the problems that are keeping your customers and prospects up at night right now.
It’s important to remember, too, that selling an ongoing service is a very personal process. Right now, many of your potential customers may be isolated in home offices, unable to take meetings and not seeing anyone at trade shows. When you can, try to find a way to add a personal touch. Handwritten cards, friendly messaging, even cookies or a fruit basket. That personable attitude that probably got you where you are today needs to show through, even in these times. For as long as the pandemic continues, it’s going to take a little more effort to make a connection.
When the Pandemic Ends
Despite how it feels sometimes, the COVID-19 pandemic will end sooner or later. As much as we’re all looking forward to that, it’s important to prepare for it to be yet another seismic change to the way every business in the world operates. If you have one of those customers who has been shipping more than ever during the pandemic, be prepared for their business to decrease suddenly and significantly. You may find yourself needing to ramp up your sales, marketing, and prospecting all over again when the pandemic ends.
One way to mitigate that is to remember your customers that shut down or had a major decrease in business during the pandemic, or your contacts from those companies that may have been laid off. Make sure they know they are still valued and that you’re still there for them. Those contacts and companies are likely to need a freight agent again, and you’ll want to be at the forefront of their minds when that time comes. It’s good to know that things will be normal again before long, let’s make sure our businesses are ready for that as well.