3… 2… 1… Context

3… 2… 1… Context

How to Build Loyal Customers with Impactful Communications

Impactful communication with customers and prospects requires the fulfillment of connection. Whether for a current customer – ‘how is this going to improve our situation?’ – or a prospect – ‘how is this solution better to make me change my provider?’ there has to be a clear understanding of their current situation. Without this understanding, communications (emails, marketing, etc.) are quickly discarded as irrelevant.
The creation of the target customer profile helps you to build communication around relevant themes that are tied to specific business needs that your company can solve. Too often, brokers will try to promote their suite of solutions to the entirety of the market in hopes of landing business – the spaghetti against the wall technique. Unfortunately, the efficiency of this method is low and expends too much time and energy for a worthwhile ROI.

By knowing the core needs and decision frameworks of a targeted customer profile, you can be very focused in your approach to communication of solutions. This will require research about target. Begin by understanding:
1) The language of their industry – acronyms and jargon
2) The differences in their processes and methods
3) Their equipment, lane and pricing needs
4) How they define success – and the role of transportation in that success
5) Their business mission/vision

Much of this information can be found on company websites and industry association materials.
All transportation is currently moving on another provider or providers. Your job is to cause the decision maker to enact a change in their current process. While you may be lucky and reach them just as another provider is failing, more often you encounter someone who is comfortable with the status quo. The cost to change (both economically and emotionally) has a certain value to them and your solution must equal or exceed that value.

To change, the decision maker must feel that your solution is:
1) Significantly simpler than their current option (saves them time); and/or
2) Significantly cheaper than their current options (saves them money); and/or
3) Significantly different than their current option (paradigm shift)

With a clear knowledge of what the customer wants/needs, you can tailor your communications to best address these areas and begin to develop credibility and rapport with the customers. When you can fit your solutions within their context of reality or begin to shift their reality to form a new context, they begin to see your company as a potential partner.

Microscope, Telescope and Mirror

Microscope, Telescope and Mirror

The cost of retaining a strong employee is significantly less than the costs associated with the recruiting, hiring and training a new employee. When did you last meet with your employees -on either a personal or professional level, just one on one? It could be a regular performance review or it could be a half hour away from the office to check in to make sure all the pistons are firing.

Trust, respect and integrity are built with connection and interest in others. Just as you do with inquiring about customer needs, make sure that you are addressing and solving the professional needs of the people in your organization – and that they are addressing the needs of the company.

Inquire about how the company and the work satisfies the development needs of each person – or how it might not be. Be clear about how the employee’s role and work meet the needs of the company. The more examples that you can provide, the more the person knows that you care about their efforts and accomplishments.

Talk about the things that would make life/work run more smoothly – new technologies, beer fridge, flexible schedules – and talk about the successes that need to occur to bring those ideas to fruition. It becomes a partnership.

In their book, Love ‘em or Lose ‘em, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans surveyed 17,000 employees across multiple industries to understand the reasons why employees stay with an employer. The top 10 are:

1. Exciting work and challenge
2. Career growth, learning and development
3. Working with great people
4. Fair pay
5. Supportive management/good boss
6. Being recognized, valued and respected
7. Benefits
8. Meaningful work and making a difference
9. Pride in the organization, its mission and its products
10. Great work environment and culture

Pay and benefits, number 4 and 7 respectively, are the objective things you can establish for your company. The other eight are aspects of a vibrant and positive culture that are built over time, though the focused efforts of a caring leadership. They are the intrinsic motivators that drive employees further than any dollar or day off ever could.

Does your organization satisfy the needs of its people? Are they excited and challenged? Do they have a pathway and the tools to build their career ladder? Is the pay structure equitable to promote the right behaviors in the team?

Take the time to investigate with your people, dream with your people and have honest conversations with your people. Use this information to build the organization into a stronger, more flexible and desired company that is positioned to grow into the future.

Three Elements in Relationship Selling

Three Elements in Relationship Selling

Relationship selling is all about establishing long-term connections with your customers in order to generate repeat business for your company. It also minimizes the need to constantly market your services to potential new customers.

Three basic elements are essential to building and maintaining relationships with your customers: intimacy, passion and commitment. If your business is going to succeed, these elements need to be integral parts of your business culture.

Intimacy in business? You are probably wondering, “What does that mean?” In your personal life, intimacy is all about getting to know someone at a deeper than usual level. It’s the same in business. Building intimacy involves getting to know all about a potential customer — its goals, who the business serves, the conditions within which it operates, and so on. It also involves developing a deep understanding of the needs of the shipper.

Building intimacy is not a passive process; it doesn’t just happen. That’s because most businesses are not going to call you up to say, “I want to tell you all about me and my needs.” Instead, you’ll have to ask lots of questions to find this out. When you do, you will not only get the information you need to determine if your business can help satisfy a shipper’s needs, but you’ll also demonstrate that you care about the shipper. In turn, this will make it more likely it will want to listen to what you say and that you’ll be able to distinguish yourself from your competitors in its eyes. So don’t be shy about asking shippers lots of questions when you are going after their business, and remember that you can ask the questions in a light-hearted way. In fact, if you are super serious, you may scare the shipper off.

Tip: Although building intimacy is something your salespeople should be doing, it’s also something that everyone in your company should do. They need to stay attuned to the needs of your customers and by doing whatever they can to meet those needs.

Your passion or enthusiasm will help demonstrate to your existing customers that you want to keep their business and to potential customers that you really want their business. It can make the difference between cementing your relationship with a customer and losing it to a competitor and between getting and not getting a new customer.

Commitment demonstrates that you will do what it takes to meet a customer’s needs and that you will do what you promise. For example, if you tell a customer that you will provide a quote in 5 minutes or that you will deliver a load within a day, you do. Your commitment to a customer will demonstrate that you are sincere and can be trusted – two qualities that will make your relationship with one another last.

Cultivating Partnerships

Cultivating Partnerships

From a growth perspective, whether personally or for your business, each of us needs to have others to help drive us forward. It could be something as simple as being given permission – to try, to succeed or, even, to fail. It might be the person who tells us, “Yes….if….”, “Have you thought about…..?” or “No!”.

These different voices and perspectives act to provide reference, experience and support as we make decisions every day. While having confidence in your own abilities as a leader and a decision maker can streamline the process, the connections created through asking questions and requesting input can be far more beneficial to the success that you seek.

Where do you look for advice? Does it come from family, friends, business associates? Do you have a network of mentors or a group of industry colleagues where you can bounce ideas and truth without fear of judgement or solicitation? It has been said that ‘…we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with…’. Are those five people the ones who make you the best person and leader you can be?

Look at your network of colleagues and others to find folks who can fit your best version of yourself. Look for someone who can provide insight and support to you – and who can benefit from you. Remember, it is not just about making you better, it is about making everyone stronger in how they engage, lead and support.

Communities of people have historically been the drivers of both change and support. Innovation comes from the need to improve and grow and compassion comes from the need for succor and solace. Building a community of similarly focused people, not just like-minded, but those who share a common destination, can create amazing results.

Build your community to stretch yourself, challenge yourself and to serve a common goal – empathetic improvement and growth tethered by humanity.

Your Marketing Strategy Sucks (or How I stopped Fearing and Learned to Love my Brand)

Your Marketing Strategy Sucks (or How I stopped Fearing and Learned to Love my Brand)

Within the transportation industry, there are few folks who are defined as Marketers. If they do exist, the marketing program is often tucked into a much larger Sales department and exists to write copy or create shiny collateral for the team. However, as new technology, platforms and channels finally reach the transportation industry, the need for marketers and strategic marketing looms large. The communication of your unique position and selling proposition in such a crowded landscape can no longer be accomplished by the sales force alone. The depth and breadth of the market is too great to be reached through a static website or loadboard advertisement. The principles of marketing, as message driver and sales partner, must be deployed to maintain your company as a competitive force in the intermediary marketplace.

Your brand is not simply your logo, your mission statement and your color scheme, it is the expression of who you are and your service: to your customers, to your carriers, to your employees and to the community where you exist. Your brand is an aggregation of your past successes (and failures) in communication, operation, administration and organization. Your brand is the promise of solution driven service, relationship development, timely payables and competitive compensation.

Creating the brand is a process built on the truths and integrity that exist within your company. It is borne from the very essence of your mission, your vision and the leadership that you provide to your company. Your position in the marketplace (whether as price leader, as unique, differentiated service provider, or as a market-centric trusted advisor) plays a key role in your ability to compete. Properly communicating this value to your target customers is essential so they can see you and believe that you are a viable option to help them succeed.

As the profiles of shipper decision makers continue to change and morph, their needs and sensibilities change as well. The buying experience continues to shift to a more digital and social one. You must be able to communicate on these new platforms with valuable content and targeted messaging. You must be able to lead the buyers along the path so that your relationship/solution selling salesforce can take the baton and convert the prospects into customers, who are then amazed by the end to end service provided by your operations staff.

As you build your strategy for 2018, operations and sales are always a priority, but do not forget to focus resources on your brand, your message, and the communication methodologies designed to best serve your customers and your own organization.

Join us on October 26th for the BrokerXcel round table focus on Marketing Strategy. We will be addressing frameworks, best practices and tactics to improve your marketing program. Click here for the event specifics or contact TranStrategy Partners for more information.