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Double Brokering

These days, when you talk about freight, double brokering comes up almost immediately. The problem is on the rise and will probably keep rising until the scheme stops being profitable. That’s where Brokers come in. It’s our job to stay savvy enough to protect ourselves and our customers. Just like in the other parts of our jobs, the value we can present to our customers is that we know more about the freight industry than they can know, because it’s what we do full time.

We talked about double brokering in a recent episode of The Broker Bros podcast, and Freightwaves published an article on the topic in May. Each of those is worth checking out, as they discuss a lot of the red flags that come up with double brokering.

Working with a company like LDI also gives you access to the information we’ve collected and over 100,000 carriers that have already been verified. We have a process for adding a new carrier, and that process is designed to put enough eyes on the new carrier to keep an eye out for warning signs. Still, it starts and ends with the broker being aware of the risks and conscientious.

The episode of The Broker Bros linked above has some good, specific things to look out for when talking to a carrier to make sure your freight isn’t being double brokered. The bottom line is this: the carrier should be able to answer basic questions like the driver’s contact information, the MC and other details of the carrier that arrives should match the one you contracted with, and the carrier should be able to show a paper trail of prior reviews, inspections, etc.

Here’s the recurring theme to all of those details: you should be asking for them anyway. Do your regular homework on your carriers and look for things that sound suspicious.

That brings us to one final note, a little piece of trivia that is also good to keep in mind:

When you hear someone say they were “conned” or fell for a “con man,” that’s actually short for “confidence,” as in a confidence trick. Remember, that’s what these people are trying to do: get you confident enough to feel like you don’t need to check on the details. They’re usually not counting on their sophistication or a clever grand scheme – they’re counting on getting you to not look to closely. Don’t let your guard down.

Measuring success in 2020

At year end, most businesses take some time to look back on the prior year and judge successes and failures, and the outlook going forward. Sadly, for many small businesses, that discussion also includes serious consideration as to whether it’s practical, wise, or even possible to continue operations. Small businesses close even in the best of times, and 2020 was not the best of times.

So, what does that mean for freight broker agents then? As you’re looking back on 2020, and forward to 2021, it’s harder than usual to take a look at your business’s performance and get a firm grasp on your prospects.

Freight Industry in 2020

 

The freight industry has been on a roller coaster ride in 2020. Like many industries, we were almost at a standstill in the early part of the year. Trucks and drivers are naturally essential to our economy, but closed businesses don’t send or receive a lot of shipments. In April of 2020, a lot of the freight industry just stopped moving. Since then however, you may have seen that the industry has actually had unprecedented demand. Freightwaves did a great recap of 2020 in their look ahead to 2021.

In spite of 2020’s strong recovery in freight, there’s something very important to realize for freight brokers and freight broker agents. When there’s such a dramatic change in an industry, not every business is poised to capitalize on those changes. No matter how well this or any other industry recovered, remember that many businesses may have been left out of that increase. If you weren’t in a good position to ship medical supplies or cleaning supplies, many of those increased shipments never would have been available to you. Likewise, small businesses do best when they are able to handle a steady stream of transactions. If businesses dried up in April and then skyrocketed to more volume than you were able to handle, you likely still lost out.

All of this is to say one thing: if you had a rough year but heard the rest of the freight industry had massive volume, don’t lose hope. You may know freight brokers who had great years, some that had terrible years, and every possibility in between.  Wherever you fall in that spectrum, it’s going to be important to take the lessons you can and move forward, ready for new challenges and opportunities in 2021.

What to expect in 2021

 

We’ll start with a disclaimer: we have no idea what to expect in 2021 for the most part, and anyone who says otherwise is probably wrong. It does seem like we’re all expecting things to return to normal, or whatever the new normal will be, at some point in the second half of the year, however. So let’s think about what that would mean.

What would happen if, right now, every account you had suddenly behaved as if it was December of 2019. Certainly, that’s not what is going to happen, but it’s probably the closest approximation we have. There’s probably a lot of good things that would come out of that, but are there any problems? If those companies suddenly resumed their prior shipping habits, would you still be their first call? Would you be able to handle the sudden increase or decrease in volume or change in timing, mode, or lanes?

In September we reminded you to stay in touch, if possible, with your customers that were not shipping or not shipping as much during the pandemic. This is a good time to do that as well. See if you can get a handle on any changes they’d like to make to their shipping processes when things pick back up. On our blogs post, social media, and on The Broker Bros podcast, we’ll continue discussing our experiences and what we’re able to learn, but remember that no one knows your customers like you. Your product is yourself, your understanding of what their business needs, and your expertise in freight – keep offering the best mix of those three things.

If you have customers that are shipping more since the pandemic started, this may be a good time to start feeling out whether you’re part of their long term plans. Businesses that needed shipping support to deal with changing circumstances during the pandemic might plan on going back to how they did business before, but if you’ve shown your value, it’s a good time to remind them that you can help with their day-to-day business even after things calm down.

The Takeaway

 

Setting aside the strategic suggestions for a moment, the biggest thing for everyone to remember right now is that 2020 was unusual. However you did in 2020, personally and professionally, was probably affected in a very direct way by things that were beyond your control. While none of us know quite what to expect in 2021, we all expect the end of the pandemic and better days ahead. If your business is doing well right now, do your best to capitalize on that. If not, remember that there are big changes coming in the New Year. As always, LDI will be here to support freight broker agents in 2021.

Sales and Marketing During COVID-19

Coronavirus

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

Marketing

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

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

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

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

Prospecting

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

Major drop in GDP

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

States have been affected very differently by COVID-19

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

Selling

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

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

When the Pandemic Ends

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

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

LDI Featured in Business in Focus Magazine

The March 2020 edition of Business In Focus magazine covered our awesome organization. Read our article and feel free to share with all your customers! Let them know that we don’t just toot our own horn, but our accolades catch the attention of others. Check it out now! Business In Focus March 2020

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

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Before we jump into 2020, let’s take a look back at the logistic and transportation news from Q4. From our podcast success to the ELD mandate, there’s quite a bit for us to review from the last quarter in 2019.

Why LDI? From Golf Pro to Logistics Pro

Before signing with LDI, Jeremy looked at 30 freight agent programs. He partnered with a 3PL that he knew would help him achieve success.