The Future is Now: Marketing, Sales Best Practices in Transportation, Logistics

The first-ever 2020 Logistics Marketing & Sales VIRTUAL Conference & Expo packed a punch with its informative and relevant session lineup and peer networking opportunities, all surrounding the theme, "The Future Is Now." 

Here are a few highlights:

C.H. Robinson's Success in Delivering Innovation and Customer-Centricity

With nearly $20 billion in freight under management and 18 million shipments annually, C.H. Robinson is one of the world’s largest logistics platforms. One of the primary drivers for C.H. Robinson’s success is its ability to be customer-centric, says Chris O'Brien, Chief Commercial Officer for this worldwide company and opening keynote of the 2020 TMSA Logistics Marketing & Sales Conference yesterday.

Driving customer centricity really starts first with being good at managing change, says O'Brien: “Building a culture of change is not just a mindset. It’s how you meet, it’s your processes, it’s how you reward people.”

Driving innovation should be about customer centricity, he continues. If customer centricity means putting the customer at the center of everything you do, and ultimately how you make decisions and structure your company, then innovation needs to be customer lead. So how do you drive customer centricity? O'Brien explores thoughts on how the real thing you can control the most is being ready for change. And that it is hard, and frequently underestimated.

“Change starts with you. Don’t be someone who identifies problems but doesn’t have a solution. Do bring problems but bring them with a solution and a commitment to drive internal change. The key is by listening to customers.”

“If you have a process, it’s just much easier,” he continues. “Making change is hard. Making change that challenges your internal structure – that’s customer centricity, that part is really hard to nail.” What are the best ways to get it done?

  1. Find improvements that help you and your customer
  2. Build a business case – which helps you to build trust with leadership and your customers
  3. Build a team to get it done and over communicate
  4. Talk to customers

SEO is Dead…Again? A Look at Modern SEO

Success in SEO has fundamentally changed and “modern SEO” is much more than just keywords, suggests John Daters, Vice President of Technical & Creative Services at SyncShow, an online marketing partner for transportation and logistics services firms committed to growth.

The monotony of simply cranking out new content until you die isn’t how you’re going to win the game, he says. Today’s search is much more than a race for keywords. It’s a psychological understanding of user needs, buyer funnels and machine learning wrapped into the enigma of secret-laded algorithms. Modern search isn’t even confined to a screen, with the words you say and the actions you undertake replacing the need for a typed phrase, how does your brand surface in a world where AI and predictive modeling sets a user up for content even before they request it? 

He suggests that some things do not change, including WHY people search, WHAT they want and expect from results, and the DESIRES of the user to alleviate pain and create more happiness. But what does change in SEO?

  • What can be indexed
  • What can be shown and how items are shown
  • What data is available
  • Search and results interfaces
  • Connectivity between devices
  • Predictive information

Daters also says there are three types of Search:

  1. “Informational Search Queries,” which generally cover broad topis (i.e., “shipping options,” “trucks” or “how to ship heavy loads”). Users are generally not looking for a specific site, but they want to answer a question or lean how to do something.
  2. “Navigational Search Queries” is when a user’s intent is to find a particular website, product or service (i.e., “Matson Shipping,” “PITT OHIO,” “ArcBest” or “SCM3)
  3. “Transactional Search Queries” generally signifies the bottom of the marketing funnel when a user is ready or nearly ready to engage.

Future-Proofing Your Strategy: A Winning Approach for Uncertain Times

In times of rapid change you need a clear strategy more than ever, but also one that you can adjust as needed, says Holly LaBoda, Partner and Co-Founder of Luminaries Consulting. She recommends that you let your strategy work for you, not against you, as our industry evolves. There are three highlights she made through the session:

  • Make a strategy work during times of change by assessing the situation, developing a strategic direction, plan your implementation, then execute and monitor the strategy.
  • Tactics for determining the "right" approach when you aren't sure what the future holds, which includes overcoming common hurdles such as having unclear assumptions, a subjective selection process, and scoping opportunities. LaBoda walked through tactics that determine the right approach in addressing the driver shortage challenge.
  • How to monitor progress and adjust as needed. Have these in place: assumptions, goals and success measures, and resources and timelines. If all of this, you should be set up for success.

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Marketing and Sales

Artificial intelligence has reached peak hype stage, but is it possible that its potential to transform marketing, and your career, is even greater than advertised? This is a critical question asked by Mike Kaput, Director of Marketing of Marketing AI Institute. He provided the group with a basic definition of AI: “We can teach machines to be human-like. We can give them the ability to see, hear, speak, move, write and even in some capacity to understand.”

He recommends that you need to go beyond the splashy headlines to explore a framework that makes AI approachable and actionable for every marketer and sales professional.

For companies in transportation and logistics, AI can be your competitive advantage, says Kaput. “It can actually give you superpowers. But you have to know how to get started.” He recommends starting with these four steps:

  • Evaluate repetitive, manual tasks that could be intelligently automated
  • Focus on your top-rated use cases
  • Consider the AI capabilities of your existing technology stack
  • Become an informed buyer of AI-powered technology

Kaput also outlined a collection of use cases and technologies to make your marketing more (artificially) intelligent. He pointed out that there is incredible speed with which AI is being applied to marketing. “In fact, 80% of what we do every day will be intelligently automated to some degree in the next 3-5 years,” he says.

Zap the Gap: Generational Differences Reexamined

For the first time in history, five distinct generations are working side by side: Traditionals, Boomers, Xers, Millennials and iGen (aka, linksters). According to Meagan Johnson, professional speaker and author, with differing values and seemingly incompatible views on how the workplace should function, these generations can stir up conflict, turnover, the lack of engagement, and frustration. She then covered how each generation developed its values (she refers to values as signposts) and how they creep into the workplace.

“Generational signposts explain how events, technologies and the economy shape various groups of people,” she says. “Clusters of people born during certain timeframes can be differentiated from other generations and oftentimes will behave similarly when presented in the same situation. Understanding the differences between various generation groups can be extremely beneficial to companies in transportation and logistics.”

One-Person Marketing Team? Be a Jack of All Trades and Look Like a Master of All

Being a small marketing team –especially a solo one – can be very challenging, says Jennifer Karpus-Romain, Director of Marketing Services and Industry Outreach of Faye Business Systems Group. She provided 10 tips on how to be successful as a small marketing team:

  1. Repurpose evergreen content in whatever forms make the most sense (i.e., blog, webinar, social media posts, infographics, audio files, white papers, etc.)
  2. Don’t forget your purpose – and be able focused on how the initiatives fits into your overall marketing goals, what are the expected KPIs, and what are the time commitment and resources required.
  3. Use Q&As in developing content, which can be less time-consuming, highlights your experts, and are informative and straight to the point.
  4. Pay close attention to the planning process – and be realistic to you and your goals.
  5. Focus on the three Ts of small marketing teams: timing, team and talent.
  6. Use the tools at your disposal by embracing technology and making your life easier.
  7. Use the FREE tools at your disposal, such as Canva, Hotjar, DrumUp.
  8. Replicate your success in campaigns in other markets, regions, etc.
  9. Master the medium your audience is in
  10. Don’t wait for perfection – strive for quality work but get the work done!

Virtual Sales – The New Normal

It’s a very distinct reality for sales professionals in transportation and logistics. Everyone is attempting to navigate a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic, social unrest and economic uncertainty. From a personal standpoint, many of us are practicing social distancing by staying inside, canceling plans, and avoiding crowded spaces. Professionally, there are many questions that arise about how one should move forward…not the least of which centers around working from home.

“Selling is now and will forever be different,” emphasizes John Boyens , Co-Founder and President of Boyens Group. “There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty/fear. As a result, it is exceedingly difficult to schedule face-to-face meetings and almost impossible to connect with actual decision makers. Even when the social distancing restrictions are lifted, I believe there will be significantly fewer meetings scheduled. That means the importance of each meeting will increase dramatically and the dependence on videoconferencing/web calls will be at an all-time high."

It will be much more difficult to unseat incumbents, he says. “The last thing they want is one more thing to change, and that means close rates will worsen, sales cycles will elongate, and pipelines will shrink. Add to that increased scrutiny when making purchasing decisions as well as budget/cash flow concerns and competing priorities.”

When transitioning your sales efforts to a virtual setting, Boyens recommends following these four key steps in your sales process:

  1. Research before making the call, including history with Accounts Receivable and data within your CRM systems, checking out the prospect/customer website as well as social media channels
  2. Pay attention to your environmental professionalism, which includes making sure you have a professional backdrop, quality lighting, high-quality sound system (headset, speaker phone, computer speakers, etc.), avoid clutter on your desk, and dress professionally
  3. Clearly define and be able to articulate your unique value proposition
  4. Control the call/video conference by effectively using two monitors, speaking clearly and pausing often, practicing active listening techniques, and repeat all questions that are asked before you answer to ensure clear understanding of key points.

The Joys & Pitfalls of Native Marketing 

Did you know that the average click through rate of display ads is 0.1%? Unlike traditional display banner ads, Native Advertising is paid marketing that delivers useful, interesting and targeted information to your audience in a form that looks like the site’s native, or non-ad, content. Erika Dawkins, Director of Public Relations, Columbia College and Founder, It’s Only Write Communications, dived into the good and the bad of native marketing in this TMSA session, sharing that native marketing can be carried out on almost every online platform, including websites, blogs and social media. She covered the many benefits such as higher ad effectiveness, increased brand perception and higher engagement

However, there’s flip side to that coin she warned. 52% of people say they don’t trust sponsored content and 48% say they’ve felt deceived upon realizing an article or video was sponsored.  

Talking through examples of successful - and not so successful - cases, she proposed how native marketing can work for your strategy:

  • Identify an audience and their interests
  • Create content that matches the interests of that audience
  • Utilize a channel of disruption that matches your audience’s consumption habits
  • Measure results and iterate

What Logistics Buyers Say: How to Get and Keep Their Attention

“Logistics services are bought, not sold,” says Jim Bierfeldt, President of Logistics Marketing, a TMSA Affiliate member that provides marketing services to third-party logistics companies and other firms that offer logistics-related products and services. “Buyers usually are through around 70% of the buying process before they talk with the seller. Our job is to get found.” 

As smart marketers and business strategists in transportation and logistics, what are the keys to successfully getting found? “Smart positioning and relevant content,” he says, “ but focus heavily on positioning. It’s easier to market ‘different’ than ‘better.’ Be real clear on your value proposition and be differentiated.” During his presentation, he offered several examples of transportation and logistics companies that have done an effective job in this area.

Bierfeldt mentions that it can be extremely difficult getting the attention of logistics buyers, let alone keeping that attention. What strategies and tactics should marketing pros in transportation and logistics use to elicit a buyer response? And what strategies and tactics should you avoid that will instantly turn off a buyer? These are just a few questions marketers and business strategists should ask themselves as their prioritize where they focus their time, talent and budget. 

Every other year, Logistics Marketing Advisors surveys logistics buyers on the best ways to get and keep their attention. To order a copy of the report, visit

Influencers & the Trucking Industry

Influencer marketing is quite the buzz word, but does it apply to the transportation and logistics industry? In this session, Michelle LeBlanc, Consultant and Social Media Strategist, shared why influencer marketing might be right for your company and outlined these five reasons to work with influencers:

  1. You need to build trust
  2. You need to expand audience
  3. Your paid ads aren’t performing
  4. You need to feed the content funnel
  5. You need an expert 

“In the era of social media, everyone has the ability to be a broadcaster,” she said. Although anyone may have influence, your influencers will vary based on your business goals. She then provided context around three models of influencer marketing to consider: Advocacy; word of mouth “sampling” and co-creation. Additionally, she explored real-life case studies where content from trucking influencers and advocates directly impacted driver recruitment, app downloads, social community growth and even sales lead generation. 

2020 TMSA Marketing & Sales metrics Study: 5 Tips to Improve Your Strategy

The spot market, volatile diesel prices, freight volumes and capacity – all disrputed by the COVID economy - are factors that are making 2020 an interesting year. How can sales and marketing drive business success when considering these factors? TMSA’s CEO Brian Everett answers this question and more using TMSA’s 2020 Marketing & Sales Metrics Study, which highlights responses of a survey of sales and marketing leaders in the transportation and logistics industry. During his presentation he pointed out 5 tips to improve your marketing and sales strategy:

Tip 1: Leverage Technology, whether it involves your CRM system, sales and marketing automation, or emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. With the power of analytics and data (performance of channels, technologies, ads, offers, etc.) you can significantly impact conversation optimization on your website and SEO through Google AdWords, Bing, Yahoo, etc. In addition, remarketing is becoming a more popular way for transportation and logistics companies to generate qualified leads and engage customers. 

Tip 2: Listen to the Voice of the Customer. Make sure to set upfront measurable goals and objectives, ensure proper collaboration within the relationship, perform regular customer reviews, and implement the appropriate Customer Experience (CX) strategy.

Tip 3: Look at Your Sales Strategically. Everett covers common ways that transportation and logistics firms structure their sales team infrastructure and the most effective ways to create effective sales channels and results. He also mentions that it’s important to align behavior with incentive (compensation, benefits, bonuses, and other programs), and routinely measure and monitor successes and failures.

Tip 4: Look at Your Marketing Strategically, which means to establish SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Base) and reflect on all activities within the Buyer’s Journey.

Tip 5: Ensure proper alignment between Sales, Marketing and Operations.

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