You have the trucks. You have the drivers. You have the offices and the yard and the warehouse. Now, you’re ready to go. But where are your customers? They’re not going to start pouring through the door or booking your services. You need to entice them, bring them in. To build up a successful transport company, you need to create a solid marketing plan, and in this age, online is where it is at.
When designing your online marketing strategy, you need to concentrate on the creation and sharing of informative and relevant content, as well as to offer great deals and incentives to get them visiting your website and staying there, to take some sort of action. That may be phoning you or emailing you for quotes, or booking your services directly. Remember, you will need to invest both your time and some money in order to gain visibility and exposure online.
How can you do this? Well, let us take a look at some of the strategies and tools that you can use.
1) Be different
Before you start your marketing strategy, you need to know who you are. We are all conditioned to follow the trends and do what everyone else is doing because it works, but we are also built to appreciate things that are new and different, and that is what you need to be. Remember, there are countless other transport companies out there, all offering the same services for competitive prices. How are you going to stand out? Sometimes, it's really subtle things, like the language you use. Don’t fall into the cliche of using the same phrases every other company uses - ‘In it for the long haul’ etc. Come up with something fresh, something different and exciting. Eliminate any of the industry jargon and be clear and specific about what you offer. This may be a time to get some outside help in to really get your business off on the right foot.
2) Brand your business
A logo and a brand are essential. Think of iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, or even competitors such as Eddie Stobart - as soon as you see their branding, you know who they are and what they do. That is what you are aiming for. Logo design is vital to completing the branding and marketing aspect of your transport company. Align this with your business values and people will be able to see this on your trucks, website, business cards, etc. This logo will be a representation of your business, so it is well worth investigating in a professional, who will know how to put all of this together in an innovative design. They will be able to choose colors, fonts, and symbols to make your logo both memorable but in line with your values and objectives. Keep your potential audience in mind, so that you know how they will perceive it. You can also ask for feedback on your social media!
3) Social Media
Social media is no longer just a way of stalking your old school friends or seeing what the Kardashians are up to these days. It is a tried and tested - and free - way of accessing a vast customer database. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linked In have incredible power when it comes to marketing. You can connect on a much more meaningful level with both existing and potential customers by engaging with them on social media. Facebook pages, for example, give you the opportunity to send regular updates, promotions and other valuable information to customers without the need to put your hand in your pocket. Twitter is a great way to connect quickly with people - customers, competitors, and industry leaders. Linked In is a more professional networking site and is ideal for seeking out customers, while Instagram is the fun one, where you can give a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what you do and really show the friendly, personal side of you and your company. You could even think about using YouTube - with dashcams and Go Pro cameras being all the rage now, can you do an ‘on the road’ vlog?
4) Let your personality shine through
The transport industry is very service specific. There are hundreds, if not thousands of companies doing the same thing you are doing. To stand out, you need your company’s culture and personality shine through. Is it a fun, friendly place to work? Show that to your clients! Show them that as well as being the very best transport company there is, you can also have a (professional!) laugh and joke with your customers.
Encourage your customers to leave you a (preferably positive!) review on your Facebook page, or on third-party review sites such as Yelp, and the all-important testimonial or review section on your website. While we certainly do not encourage bribing customers to leave reviews, especially if they didn’t have a good experience, there is no harm in offering an incentive to those who you know had a positive outcome. All too often, the only reviews left are negatives, and it is essential to make sure the good ones are heard as well. Make sure you respond to each one, thanking them for their comment and their custom. If you do happen to get a not so good one, take their comments on board and act on them appropriately. Respond quickly, professionally and publicly, acknowledging their complaints and outlining the steps that you have taken to resolve it. Every company makes the occasional mistake - it is how you are seen to be dealing with it that is important to many customers.
6) Start a blog
A blog attached to your website is an excellent way to get some free advertising and increasing your online visibility. It may also answer many of your potential client's questions, saving you time (and therefore money!) in the long run. Compile a list of frequently asked questions and then take one a week, answering them in detail and directing them to appropriate website pages, phone numbers or people. Prove to your customers that you are an industry expert by sharing relevant news and content, and don’t be afraid to share your opinions and thoughts - but remain professional at all times. Add further credibility with authoritative links, perhaps to government-run or funded websites.
If writing and blogging isn’t your thing, or you have no idea where to start, it might be worth looking at outsourcing it to a professional. They will know how to use SEO (search engine optimization) and keywords to get your website ranked higher in Google and to give you maximum exposure.
7) Direct E-Mail Marketing
Establish yourself in what is a pretty niche market by putting together a quality, direct marketing campaign. In the old days, this would have been done by post, but now, it is much more common to target potential clients through email. Compile a list of companies within your target market - food or automobile part distributors, for example, and email them with attention-grabbing subject lines and headlines, promotional offers and response deadlines. Be creative with what you offer and stand out from the crowd - remind them what you can provide over other transport companies. You also need to think about encouraging repeat custom, not just one-off clients (although this is better than nothing, of course!).
8) Stay in touch with your customers
As all good business relationships are based on strong communication, it's essential that you keep the channels open. Because if you don't, your clients will feel neglected and are likely to take their business elsewhere. It can be difficult maintaining a balance of keeping in touch without pestering them. Create a database of their information and their preferred method of communication, and maybe even the odd personal snippet about their personal life, if you know anything. Connect with them on social media, and drop them a regular ‘hello’ message, and send out regular newsletters.
9) Go old school
While we have focused mostly on online marketing so far, the old face to face marketing strategies are not to be ignored, and can sometimes be the most effective way of getting new customers. We are not talking about junk mail and cold calling, because nine times out of ten, it will be ignored, and can even negatively affect your business. Instead, visit clients, go and have a chat with them or find out about peer networking events in the area. Seeing the face behind the company is very attractive to some customers.
A transport company can be a very lucrative one. The consumer market runs on goods and services, so we all rely on, whether directly or indirectly, transport companies who move these goods from place to place, This is why it is so vital that your business has effective marketing and branding strategies so that you can be one step ahead of the game. Show customers why you are better than your competitors. Keep implementing some of these marketing methods and you will find that your business flourishes.