Josh Christie is the VP of Marketing & Recruiting at D&L Transport
Customers, of course, are the reason we’re in business. Getting their shipments from point A to point B in a timely and cost-effective manner is everything. However, we need to find those customers before we can do that. This article provides insight into how to find new customers.
Preparing for Selling
In our article, The 8 Ways to Grow Your Freight Agency, we discussed dedicating time to selling. In the hectic world of the transportation industry, it’s all too easy to focus on the here and now. Staying on top of all those shipping challenges can easily keep us busy 24/7. But that doesn’t always grow our businesses. Sure, providing excellent service and attention help you maintain and cultivate customer relationships, but scaling and diversifying your customer base adds security in the long term. We recommend dedicating a specific time on your daily or weekly calendar to focus on finding new customers.
Once you start reaching out to potential new customers, if they are interested, the first thing they are going to do is check out your online presence. This may include a look into your Facebook business page, your LinkedIn personal profile or business page, and your website. So you must ensure everything is up to date and that everything looks great — presenting you and your business in the best light possible. Perception is everything. You know you’re good at what you do. How are you communicating this to a new prospect?
While getting that all brushed up, look over your business cards, sell sheets, and other marketing materials. Don’t underestimate the power of a strong email signature. Note that our freight agents can take advantage of our co-branding program and marketing support. If you’re with another freight brokerage, make sure they offer something similar. Brand consistency is the first step in delivering a professional product.
One further preparation task is ensuring you have a system for capturing the sales leads you’re generating. You don’t want anything to drop through the cracks, missing an opportunity. Having a system in place will also keep you on point with consistency in your prospecting flow. Designing the sales communications cadence to stay top-of-mind with prospects will lead to more interactions and, ultimately, more loads.
Sources of New Customers
We’ve gathered a starting list of sources to find new customers. Ideally, you’d engage with every one of these sources regularly. This is where you should spend that dedicated sales time you’ve marked on your calendar.
- Current Customer Referrals. You’ve obviously been successful with your existing clients. That means they are the perfect reference to how well you provide shipping services. You can also ask them to recommend you to those they know in the industry or provide names of people you can call. This also applies to other locations within your customer’s corporation. They may provide the perfect contact point to get started in another site or branch office. You have a proven track record – leverage it!
- Current Customer Competitors. Your existing clients find your services helpful, and so will the competitors in their industry. You may have proven particularly good at routing a particular product. The competitors need those same services. Google searches can help reveal their competitors and also lead you to contact information. The Google search platform is a pay-to-play business. Simple searches on your existing customer’s name and/or line of business will yield their largest competitors who are bidding on the same lines of business. These searches can be a gold mine for prospecting.
- Personal Networking. In our article, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Freight Agents, we stated that networking is the key to unlocking the full potential of your business. You’ll not only learn more about what’s happening in the industry, but you’ll also be able to connect with people who could use your services. That includes local business networking groups and regional and national industry networks. Groups within social media platforms can also provide these outlets.
- Shipper Lists. McRae’s Blue Book can help you locate shippers that could use your range of services. Their listings include company contacts, job titles, and functions. USDA’s online business listings are an excellent starting point if you’re shipping agricultural products. You’ll find a number of these lists that can help your search for new customers.
- Online Search. Google is your friend when searching for businesses. You can also use their satellite maps and street view to check for loading docks to verify that the location is the right one for your shipping services.
- Social Media. As you start digging deeper for company information and contacts, LinkedIn company pages and Facebook Business pages can be excellent sources of insight into whom to contact. As one example, LinkedIn company pages typically show the number of employees. Clicking on that link will provide a complete list of employees on LinkedIn with links to their profiles. This is an excellent source of information.
Reaching Out to New Customers
There are three main ways to reach out to new customers: direct mail, email, and phone calls. It’s definitely not one and done. Instead, it would help if you had a routine of following up with the list of potential clients you’re developing.
It’s not just the outreach, but where are you driving traffic to? If you are operating under your own LLC, you need to have a brand presence that discusses why a customer should do business with you? What credibility do you have in the industry? Why should a customer trust you? Having a presence can build the perception that you can provide the expertise and service they need.
If you’re operating as an Agent under an existing Broker, leverage the marketing they have to build credibility with your customers. Your customers should know the support you can provide from your parent broker.
Similar to the 4C’s of a diamond, your communications should be Custom, Concise, Compelling and Consistent. With this in mind, any of your communications should quickly:
- Identify the prospect’s pain points.
- Address the dangers of not dealing with these pain points.
- Answer how you can (or have) alleviated similar pain points.
- Ask for the appointment.
- Provide easy access to resource links.
Yes, you read that header correctly. Direct mail still has one of the highest engagements in the marketing outreach kit.
Direct mail has an open rate of 90% versus the 23% open rate for email marketing. The response rates are still low, with almost 5% for direct mail versus less than 1% for email. But that postcard or letter doesn’t go away immediately or find its way to the junk mail folder. All that means that direct mail is a great way to promote your business to new customers.
Realistically, physical collateral can be expensive to a small business. Be targeted in this approach. Be personal, deliberate, and speak to your customers’ immediate needs. This isn’t a batch and blast recommendation.
Something particularly effective for direct mail is the personalization of the letter, including handwritten notations in the margins. Circle statements and write something like “I can help with this problem.” Another best practice is promising a phone call after the second letter.
While the email numbers are much lower than direct mail, it is much lower cost and can be effective with the right message. That means tailoring the message to meet their interest is critical once you’ve located the right contact. Research indicates that the best length of an email is 50 to 125 words and no more than 200 words. It’s also been determined that emails that asked one to three questions were 50% more likely to get a response than those without questions. It’s also best to keep the subject lines short and to the point. Those are a few hints to get you started or to fine-tune your message.
Research your prospects to identify the best person to call. It doesn’t need to be considered a “cold” sales call. Instead, it needs to be about learning their business and their needs. Then you can discover how you can genuinely help them. A best practice has a script or bullet points to help guide your discussion. It’s all too easy to either lock up during the call or to forget your well-thought-out approach during the stress of that first call.
It can be productive to build a list of questions to help surface shipping problems that you can solve. That brings with it a problem-solving mindset rather than a selling mindset. Once you’ve surfaced the potential new customer’s challenges, you can provide short success stories of how you’ve solved similar problems for your current clients.
You’ll encounter one objection: they are “already using someone else.” Well, of course, they are. So, you ought to be ready for that response. Ask what they like about who they currently use and ask if you could have the opportunity to provide a quote on their next load. Offer to forward your contact information for their backup list. You can also offer a free pricing comparison or a trial run.
We hope that has prompted a few new ideas or approaches to help find new customers for your freight agency business. It’s also wise to ensure you work with the best in the industry.
We’re biased. We feel that our freight agency program is the best in the business. To see for yourself, look at our Agent Opportunities page. You can also hear directly from our successful Agents. Then, get in touch, and we can get started.
Call toll-free: 866.559.0203. Or complete the form at D&L Agent Requirements.
D&L Transport. Your Family in Freight.