In this increasingly crowded and digital world, developing a brand name and story that cuts through the clutter has never been more important. That’s true of companies striving to make a difference in most every sector and it’s certainly true of the highly-competitive logistics and transportation industries that we call home.
The way we choose our favorites – in any aspect of our lives – has changed considerably over the last 25 years and particularly over the past decade. Part of that is simply driven by living, breathing and doing business in a digital world where we make decisions on the basis of what we see and what we connect with through online search. The role of search engines such as Google, Bing and others has completely transformed the way we make decisions and choices, both personal and professional. Web presence, however, is no longer enough. With the proliferation of social media platforms over the past decade and the increasingly strong attachment of younger business people to their smart phones and tablets, we need to not only have a digital profile, our profile needs to appeal to our customers in just a few clicks.
Building your brand name and story requires clarity, consistency and continuity on a number of fronts in the logistics industry:
- Foundational statements: These are the true building blocks of brand. The most common is your company mission statement. Many of us now have them, but do we use them?
The best practice is to develop a simple yet aspirational mission statement; a sentence instead of a forgettable paragraph. In addition, you may want to gain more attention in the marketplace – digital and otherwise – by combining a mission (your call to action) with a vision statement (the future condition you’re committed to building or helping to build) and a mantra or tagline (the phrase that becomes your slogan, internally and externally). Round it all out with the values that define the way you want to do business, even if that is as much for your own employees as it is for customers to check in with what you stand for. The bottom line here is that your mission, vision and values give you the opportunity for your staff to come together under your brand: To live it, breathe it and implement it.
- Differentiating yourselves: It may be Marketing 101 to many of you who have been successful in the US logistics and transportation market, but building your brand is all about letting customers know what distinguishes your operation from your competition. And then the picnic is over: The real key is in living up to those attributes and making them part of the word of mouth your brand gets from happy customers.
- Your knowledge: Your knowledge is an essential part of your brand. Your intellectual capital carries significant value. If you’re a transportation insurance agent, your knowledge and experience in comprehending the financial exposures your client can face becomes a huge asset (and the more you have specialized knowledge, the more of an upside it will give you and your brand).
- A freight broker’s investment in a robust insurance, risk management and best practices program that extends coverage and protection to shippers can be a major advantage in differentiating yourself. Broader forms of cargo coverage can cover gaps present in a motor carrier’ own cargo coverage. Auto liability and third party liability coverage specifically designed for freight brokerage operations that in turn can be extended to protect shippers when accidents occur and third parties are injured or tragically killed are significant valued added financial protection for shippers. Taking a similar customer-centered approach is part of what you could consider in building your company and your brand. The more industry knowledge you have – of your shippers’ own business model, the commodities to be moved and the nature of exposures they face – can be a tremendous brand asset. It won’t mean anything, however, unless you tell your prospects. Your sales and marketing staff should be well-versed in how the scope, risk management and best practices of your insurance program extend significant financial protection to their clients. Staffs focused exclusively on freight rates tend to convey companies as nothing more than commodities. Instead, you have the opportunity to enhance and expand your brand and increase your margins by selling value added services. You will stand out like the red apple in a barrel of green apples!
- Passing on that knowledge – Educating your customers: In our web-based world, many of the best companies are using their web sites, webinars and other educational tools to help educate their customers about solutions, with “no purchase required”. This applies as well in B2B channels, whether it’s a logistics company spelling out the key considerations of moving goods or a transportation insurance company outlining ways to mitigate risk by freight brokers, motor carriers, freight forwarders or shippers. Consider this: If we sell something, we’re doing a transaction. If we teach someone something, we’re building a relationship. And that relationship will help build our brand.
- Your service culture: If you’re offering a service, especially a specialized service of value to companies looking to move their goods securely and on time, make that clear. Your brand depends upon it! This could be as simple as a pledge around customer service or by being sure to include your commitment to service among your core values and attributes.
- Your network and associations: The saying goes that you are the company that you keep. That’s also true of the memberships and associations we make part of our brand story. As a member of the TIA, you automatically invoke the shared interests of a much larger community. By reinforcing the TIA’s commitment to education of all stakeholders involved in the logistics industry, it’s another way to ensure that your brand is associated with customer education and industry advancement.
- Your financial strength: Brand conveys strength of purpose, capacity and follow through. As a transportation insurance company or retailer, your ability to pay your motor carriers in a timely fashion is a sure way to strengthen their loyalty to your operation and the shipper you serve.
- Your processes: Simply put, the strength of your vetting process of motor carriers can be an asset as you promote your brand and the merits of doing business with you. Should accidents arise in transit where injuries or fatalities arise, the strength of your vetting of motor carriers becomes your 1st line of defense in litigation that may be filed against you and your shipper. Your shipper directly benefits from the level of professionalism demonstrated in this process. And that kind of connection can only boost your brand position in the marketplace.
- Your track record around innovation: One of the most important ways you can make your brand relevant to decision-makers on all sides of the logistics industry is by telling your prospects that you’re not afraid to invest in your own business to ensure that it keeps pace with the world around us. An example could be your investment in technology platforms that help to reduce exposures associated with the contracting of motor carriers as well as the tracking of their shipments. Another is your investment in an insurance program, risk management and best practices program that can be extended to protect the shippers you represent.
From mission, vision and values to your knowledge and service culture to your financial strength and commitment to innovative approaches to solve your customers problems, brand building begins and ends with your story and how well you tell it, online and in person. Investing in that brand name and story can pay dividends for many years to come. Yet if you stand still in the way you tell your story to existing and prospective clients, you’ll fall behind. And given the way many of us are wired, that’s not something that any of us in the logistics space want to do.
Glenn Stebbings is the President & CEO of LOGISTIQ Insurance Solutions, a Los Angeles-based transportation insurance company that also offers brand solutions to logistics companies in partnership with EMBLEMATICA Brand Builders. He can be reached at email@example.com.