Freight Vision 2020: Q&A from Transportation Marketing & Sales Leaders

TMSA asks a several marketing and sales executives their perspectives about marketing, sales, and industry issues. This is the fourth and final installment of a 4-part series that provides perspectives from TMSA members on predictions for freight transportation in 2020 – and the impact Marketing and Sales can have on overall business success.

What do you see as the most significant challenges in freight transportation in 2020 – and solutions to them?
Chuck Everett, Director of Business Development, Red Classic Transportation Services: The single biggest challenge will be the continued contraction of capacity. With ELD rules impacting operations, drivers continuing to exit the profession, and the closing of some significant carriers, the coming year will continue to be very challenging across the industry.

Shippers and receivers have a significant impact on a carrier’s ability to facilitate deliveries in an expeditious and cost-effective manner. As an industry, we have talked about the “Shipper of Choice” for many years, and in fact many shippers have adjusted by pushing the use of palletized loads and allowing carriers to drop equipment for pre-loading. However, there is still improvement to be made at certain receivers where drivers are held up while the receiving personnel count and sort the product. The trailer may be unloaded in an hour or two, but the time necessary for restacking and other tasks causes tremendous delays.

The sales professional in transportation and logistics faces some significant challenges in 2020. What do you think the biggest one is and what’s the solution?
Crystal Lahr, Sales Director, ATS Logistics Services: Technology and automation will remove some of the transactional benefits of the spot market. The silver lining is people will always play a role in the movement of freight. However, the sell is shifting. Adapting to the new buying expectations of shippers is going to be vital with the digital transformation in the logistics space.  

What’s your outlook for the sales profession – and what will help them to be successful particularly in this industry?
Jason Ickert, Manager of Integrated Logistics, ENERGY Transportation Group: Nearly 13% (1 in 8) jobs in an organization are full time sales positions. This is an incredible profession to be engaged in, especially when you consider that on average, sales people average 21% higher salaries than other organizational roles. However, only 55% of people making their living as a sales professional have the appropriate skills set to be successful, and even fewer are reaching their sales quotas on a regular basis. This means that there remains an enormous opportunity for sales leaders and individual contributors to improve the skill set and effectiveness of both their team and themselves. This can occur through formalized and customized sales learning and development and individual self-learning.

For marketing professionals in this industry, do you see as the biggest opportunities?
John Meier, Director of Marketing, ODW Logistics: One of the biggest opportunities for marketing professionals in the logistics industry is blurring the lines between sales and marketing. Passing off marketing qualified leads to the sales rep and hoping for a conversion is not going to get you far.  Marketing needs to understand the entire buyer’s journey and what sales needs to successfully close a prospect. This means designing and delivering targeted nurturing email campaigns, case studies that specifically address the prospect’s pain points, messaging and demos that coincide with proposal development, and engaging the client frequently for feedback and regular client business reviews.

Google Ads continues to simplify its user experience which leads to about anyone being able to launch a search or display ad campaign. The challenge presented to marketers is that this evolution drives up the cost of search advertising. Try bidding on the terms “logistics, warehousing, or freight brokerage”. You’ll quickly learn that unless you have the budget to compete with the big-players, you’ll be priced out of competing on these broad search terms. Instead of trying to win the bidding war, focus your search advertising on detailed specific problems your buyer has and then build individual campaigns that address these buyer concerns.

How can a transportation sales person grow his/her customer base in transportation and logistics?
Leah Fenech, CSCP, Vice President of Sales, Intelligent Logistics: Embrace technology, learn how it can enhance the process, and rework your thought process and your communication style by pausing to research your prospect before diving in with that first phone call, email, etc. Give your prospect a reason to be interested in hearing your message by talking their language rather than yours. This is an age-old concept, but one which gets used all too little. If a salesperson is not willing to change their stale processes, then their results will be transactional at best.  Their client base will consist of non-loyal, dollar focused shippers and their margins will not produce the commissions they need. 

What do you see as the biggest challenges in freight transportation in 2020 – and what are solutions to them?
Matt Wagner, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Jarrett Logistics Systems: In 2019, there has been a large number of carriers who have filed bankruptcy and ceased operations with very little notice.  The amount of trucks that have been taken off the road has had a significantly impacted shippers with reduced capacity. Carriers and 3PL’s alike will need to remain disciplined in their pricing strategies as well as focus on continuous improvement opportunities to gain greater operational efficiency.  The key is being open to understanding business requirements from each perspective and working toward being a preferred partner (shipper/3PL/carriers) to do business with.  When shippers, 3PL’s and carriers strategically work together they can achieve significantly better results that will benefit everyone. 

In what ways has Marketing made a significant impact in your company’s business strategy within the past two years?
Lina Acosta, Chief Marketing Officer, GLT Logistics: I believe that the majority of marketing efforts in the past 2 years have made a huge impact not only on GLT Logistics’ strategy but also in its performance. The Marketing Department has been an active part of the company´s strategic planning, helping the management team focus efforts, people, and tactics on what really matters and defining the commitments we make to our clients. It has been a long run and more than 2 years of hard work since our department was created. GLT marketing is making a big impact on the following aspects:

Brand Awareness: Our team has been working hard to get the company´s name in the market consistently and to create a good and credible reputation. From the creation of our new brand look and feel, to our email marketing strategy and events during this time period, GLT Logistics´ awareness has increased. The company name is not only top of mind for many potential and actual partners but also in the hearts of many as well.

As an example, we created the Logistics Sessions program. This is a series of events created to deliver knowledge and thought leadership content to professionals in the logistics industry. This is our commitment to deliver useful and valuable information to our transportation community.

Lead Generation and New Customers Acquisition: Generating new business opportunities for GLT has become a priority for Marketing. Participating in events and tradeshows and using social media and email marketing are our main tools to find and acquire qualified leads to help close new business and increase company growth.

Building Sales and Marketing Alignment: We work side by side with the Sales Team, backing their process and providing materials and tools that help them achieve their sales goals. The Marketing Team is on top of all their sales needs, as well as our customers’ activities, and can create everything necessary to make the sales job more efficient and effective.

And last but not least Customer Retention: It is our number one priority to create strategies and work hand in hand with other departments to make sure we offer the best customer experience that translates to high customer retention.We have implemented different strategies in order to achieve this goal. We have deployed marketing automation software to be on top of our customers’ journeys and needs using a mix of technologies and personalized support. We also work hard to ensure that our customers receive valuable information through our Logistics Sessions program.

What do you see as the most significant 1-2 challenges in freight transportation in 2020?
Greg Recht, Vice President, Integrated Sales, Kenco: Aligning freight rates with the market, and tariffs. For shippers, it has been a roller coaster ride for the past two years. Trucking capacity was extremely tight in 2018 and carriers invested in equipment and drivers. In 2019, capacity was more readily available and there was an unprecedented number of trucking company bankruptcies, including some large carriers. As we move into 2020, there is uncertainty in the industry. Will capacity again be constrained, impacting carrier rates or will a soft market enable shippers to improve their rate positions?

One other challenge is the regulatory environment. Carriers were originally required to have electronic onboard devices (ELDs) in Dec. 2017. This year, there is a new deadline. Trucking companies that currently use automatic onboard recording devices (AORDs) must replace these devices with ELDs by Dec. 16, 2019.Analysts expect this deadline to be less of an issue that the previous one, but it still impacts the cost of doing business for those carriers that have not already made the change. Another unknown is the types of tariffs and trade regulations that will be implemented in 2020 which could also mean changes in a shipper’s network. 

 Solutions to these challenges are for shippers to:

  • Look for ways to optimize their entire transportation network to ensure they are using the best mode and best carrier for each shipment.
  • Develop relationships with core carriers and focus on “being a shipper of choice”.
  • Leverage technology for all aspects of the supply chain to drive efficiency by automating some low value processes – like manual freight bill entry or freight payment processing.

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