Many fleet owners built their operations by providing excellent customer service, delivering on time and managing operations well. However, if you want to take your fleet to the next level it will require marketing and communicating effectively with potential and even existing customers. When you boil it down to basics, Marketing is not complex.
Effective marketing is built around the four-P’s: product, place, promotion, and price. Miss the mark on any of these, and it can make a big difference in the success of your company. As an owner, you can build a successful company by serving a limited number of clients. However, the long-term strength of your company depends upon having a broad base of customers. Here’s how the four P’s of marketing can help you not just maintain, but grow your company every day.
Your product is the service you provide. Whether it is local delivery or OTR and nationwide, your customers pay you to deliver on time. Before any product can be sold for a premium you have to identify where the product or service is needed, how much to charge and how to promote the product.
I used to work for Peterbilt Motors Company. Their products command a premium price, because they deliver a premium product that maintains its value over time. Are you delivering a premium service?
Take a close look at your fleet. Is it up-to-date, clean and equipped with what you need to provide excellent service? How does your service compare to the competition? Are they more reliable, drive better equipment and deliver better service? Begin your marketing by looking at your product. If it’s not the best in the market, take steps to improve and address any deficiencies. Better products/services will translate into more sales and higher profits.
The “place” where you sell your services is your marketplace. For some, this will be a local or regional area. For many, it may be a nationwide marketplace. Your marketing must be targeted to the geographical region and the market you serve.
You cannot grow into a nationwide fleet operation if you only market locally or regionally. Define your market. Beyond geography, it should also include the specific types of customers you can best serve. If you operate a flatbed fleet and primarily haul heavy industrial loads in a specific region, you should target large customers in that region who routinely need your services. Stop wasting marketing dollars marketing to customers you do not want and who are not interested.
Don’t depend upon what you know. Do research and identify your “Top Ten” targets and attack that market if you want to grow your company. Understand the “place” where you sell your services better than your competition and that will provide you a competitive edge.
Promotion is the part of Marketing that many managers most commonly think about. How can we create a new brochure, or put an ad in the local newspaper?
Today, promotions go way beyond brochures and print ads. Do you have a well developed website? Is it easy to navigate? Does it provide the information your customers want? Can you track who visits your website?
Do you have a company page on LinkedIn? Are your sales people using LinkedIn? After all, it is the #1 business networking website in the world. Are you using other social media, like Facebook? Yes – even trucking companies can use Facebook to attract new drivers and to show how your people help you and your customers succeed.
Finally, advertising is important. However, running one ad every six months in a local newspaper is not going to make the phone ring. The secret to advertising is two-fold: repetition and consistency. Your advertising should deliver a consistent branding message and that message must be repeated over and over to build your brand.
Identify your marketplace. Identify your target customers. Then identify the promotions (advertising, social media, trade shows, etc.) that will allow you to maximize the ROI on your marketing budget.
When the shale oil regions were booming, fleet owners could charge unusually high prices because the demand for their services was high and the supply was low. This was not normal and fleets that were built on unreasonable pricing are now going broke.
Pricing is the final “P” in the marketing formula. You, as the owner of your fleet must know what your services are worth. The marketplace will determine the value of your service. Customers want the best possible service at the lowest cost possible.
To determine pricing, include all of the costs included in the service you provide, plus your profit margin. Next you have to determine how competitive your pricing must be to attract new clients. While excellent service can command a premium price, the marketplace ultimately dictates how much you can charge for your service that will attract new clients and allow you to grow.
If all other factors are equal, pricing will often drive the buying decision. Therefore, it is critical that you price your services competitively and provide excellent service.
Marketing is a tool, just like finance, accounting, and maintenance. If you develop a good product/service, target the right market, promote your service strategically and price your service correctly, you will attract new customers and grow your business. Remember the “Four-P’s” of marketing if you want to grow to that next level. If you don’t have employees with experience in marketing, consultants can provide excellent service at reasonable rates and help you tap into the power of your market.