What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What got you here, won’t get you there is the message that we are increasingly delivering to our clients.

At TranStrategy Partners, our executive clients are very successful people, typically the owners and senior leadership of freight brokerage businesses. They have grown their companies through brains and hustle – lots and lots of hustle. Definitely a battle-hardened group of entrepreneurs.

These guys and gals are masters of the freight management universe and experts at cold calling, carrier network development, load tendering, customer service, problem solving and everything else needed to run a successful freight brokerage.

They come to us because they want to get to the next level, which means something different for every one of our client. Our engagements typically begin with a 360-degree business assessment to understand the current state of the organization. From the assessment, we make recommendations and partner with companies to develop:

· Strategy and implementation
· Training and people development
· Improved organizational structure and accountability
· Sales and marketing muscle

Our recommendations are changing somewhat, because doing the same things more effectively and more efficiently isn’t enough in the rapidly changing transportation market. To win in the new competitive environment, freight brokerage companies will need to do different things.

Do These 4 Things to Get There

1. Be an Industry Expert
Shippers are looking for a company who can solve their problems – ideally a company that specializes in solving problems for people just like them. If you are the shipping manager for an ecommerce company, wouldn’t you rather work with a company that specializes in ecommerce shipping? Stop generalizing and start specializing.

2.  Become a Total Solution Provider
Freight brokers have a narrow niche – they match great carriers with great shippers and manage every step of the process. But shippers often have other transportation needs like LTL, courier service, freight forwarding, etc. It might make sense to expand your service offerings. The fast-growing ecommerce company you serve no doubt has LTL and home delivery shipments and your competition who moves those loads, will be pushing hard to take over the shipments you currently manage.

3. Provide Insights and Recommendations

Business intelligence, big data and analytics seem to be all the rage these days even though most people have only a vague idea what they mean. I like to keep things simple. I think all those fancy terms refer to collecting data, analyzing it and providing actionable insights. Your company’s transportation management system (TMS) collects and stores all sorts of useful information. Talk with your ecommerce customer and determine if data in your system can be used to help them make better decisions. Perhaps, shipment data from the last 6 months holds the key to a solving a big problem that your customer has. Put your data to work.

4. Focus on Marketing
The freight brokerage business has historically relied on cold calling, which isn’t working as well as it once did. Savvy transportation companies are using marketing, usually digital marketing to fill the top of their sales funnel. A focus on marketing and lead generation is a big shift for many companies that have lived and died by “smiling and dialing.” To be found online via digital marketing takes just as much hard work and dedication as cold calling. The good news about the web is customers find you and if you do it right, they will reach out to you. When customers reach out to you, they know they have a problem and they think you can fix it, which is a much better way to begin a business relationship.

A Culture of Change

A Culture of Change

Change is inevitable. As time moves ever forward, change is woven into its fabric.

It can be small and incremental or it can be large and disruptive. How one deals with change defines whether the experience is positive or negative and varies by degree. Change, from a business perspective, can accelerate an organization’s growth, produce a surge in productivity or it can bring an organization to a screeching halt. The keys to positive change can be found in a well-designed company culture.

PREPARATION

While we may ‘know’ that change is inevitable, change takes humans out of the comfort of the familiar. The nature of change is a different pathway. Prepare your organization to accept change as a natural part of its evolutionary process. This should become a belief within the company – to see change as both welcome and necessary for growth and success.

Develop a process through which change is an activity like paying bills, selling or marketing your brand. Administer regular strategy sessions with the leadership of your organization to identify how and when change fits into the overall vision of company success.

COMMUNICATION

Any change that occurs should be in alignment with the strategic planning of any business. Through this alignment, all communication will have a proper context. Employees will need to understand the reason for the change, how it aligns with the strategy, their part in the activities related to the change and how they will be measured before, throughout and after the change process.

Involve people throughout the organization to review the need for change and various options for change. Create a team (or teams) from different departments to drive the process from inception through implementation.

Define and create the necessary training to provide employees with the tools to be successful at implementing the change.

ACCOUNTABILITY

By setting clear and proper expectations for key stakeholders, the success of the change can be measured and redirected as needed. To achieve the desired ‘buy in’ for the changes, each affected employee must know what is expected of them and how their success will be measured. Create a simple dashboard or tool to clearly see the impact of each area (individual, team, company) on the defined change success goals.

FEEDBACK

Through measurement of the expectations at the individual, team, department and organizational, the change can be managed properly. Share the results on regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly –  depending on the size of the change and the affected business areas). This will allow the area employees and managers to see where activity is effective and where improvements must be addressed.

Provide recognition for success to foster goodwill and celebrate the accomplishment of the change. Be sincere with praise and communicate how these success metrics drive towards the vision of the company. Change is inevitable. Be in a position to make that change a positive and successful endeavor.

Why Does Your Customer Buy from You?

Why Does Your Customer Buy from You?

Every business depends on their customers choosing them over the competition. This concept is so simple and obvious, that we forget about it sometimes.

We take it for granted that the customers we have will continue to work with us. A quick review of your customer list from last year, will most likely demonstrate that customers leave.

At TranStrategy Partners, when we ask our coaching clients why their customers buy from them, they often give superficial answers. Frequently, we hear “my customers buy from us because we provide great customer service” or “low pricing,” or “our integrity.” Customers may also buy because you have a specialty geared toward their business or because you make it easy to work together. Customers definitely consider all these factors when choosing a freight brokerage, but there is so much more that is missing.  

Irrational Buyers

There is significant research that suggests buyers make irrational buying decisions. Perhaps, your company was never the best option, but they chose you anyway. As a business owner, you need to know why your customers buy from you, even if the reason is a little out of the ordinary or off your radar.

Regardless of the reasons, your customer chose your company. Your company was considered the best option at the time, but…

Times Are Changing

There is new and different competition facing freight brokers. There are full-service 3PLs that offer a suite of services usually not offered by brokers. Carriers, who traditionally didn’t broker freight have opened freight brokerages. Lastly, there are new web-based freight marketplaces that will enable shippers to connect directly with carriers.

Shippers, including your customers, will consider these options. With the internet, it is easier than ever to research options. It is also easier than ever for your competition to find and connect with your customer.

Your freight brokerage might have been the clear winner when your customer compared your company to other freight brokerages, but how does your brokerage measure up against the new competitors?

The Questions are Easy, but the Answers are Hard

At TSP, we only work with freight brokers and transportation companies. We help our customers understand their customers and why they buy.

As part of our engagement, we do a complete competitive assessment of your company to determine how your company stacks up. If there are holes in your service offering, it is better that you discover them before your customer.

With the permission of our client, we interview their customers to understand why they buy and what they like about your service and where you can improve. We keep the interaction with your customers very positive and constructive. These exercises result with our clients having a much deeper understanding of their customers. This understanding almost always drives service and sales messaging enhancements.

If you want help getting the hard answers, like why do my customers buy from us, please contact TSP.

About the Author – Mike Temple

Mike Temple is a Senior Partner at TranStrategy Partners and the Director of the Xcelerator Leadership Program, which is designed to be a catalyst for accelerated growth for 3PL and freight brokerage businesses. The Xcelerator Leadership Program is a yearlong program that utilizes a unique process that maximizes business results with minimum disruption to day to day operations. Does My Freight Brokerage Business Serve Me or Vice Versa?