No one has to tell you the 3PL market is competitive; it’s likely the reason you regularly read publications like 3PL Perspectives, among others. Business leaders need information, tools, and actionable insights to make the strategic business decisions that will not only shape the future of their own 3PL, but the freight industry as a whole. As we’ve watched evolving trends in the freight industry over the past few years, one notion has grown from being an admittedly “buzz-y” marketing notion to now being a critical aspect of the leading 3PL’s total business strategy: hello, digital marketing!
“Digital Marketing” is an umbrella term for all of your online marketing strategies, which in reality encompasses nearly all marketing efforts today. It’s frankly becoming near impossible to separate digital from traditional marketing as a whole. For example, when you’re exhibiting at a trade show, it only makes sense to maximize your presence by utilizing digital tools before, during, and after the show. And while some digital tactics are well known (e.g., websites, email), the total consumer, business, and marketing landscape continues to evolve more quickly than we could have ever imagined.
The important thing to remember is that digital marketing goes way beyond advertising. In fact, some of the best implementers of digital marketing don’t spend a dime on traditional or pay-per-click advertising.
This changing landscape creates an incredible opportunity for those 3PLs that actively keep up with the trends. Not because those 3PLs have the shiniest tools or best tricks up their sleeves – the 3PLs ahead of the digital marketing curve are the ones really listening to their future clients, and they’re meeting them where and in ways those prospects really want to engage.
Whether you already have a 15-person marketing department, are just starting to dabble in digital marketing, or haven’t put much thought into it yet, here’s the state of digital marketing today, especially as it relates to 3PLs:
The First (and Most Important) “P” in Marketing
Before you can dive into a strong digital marketing strategy, be sure your product is in sync with your clients’ needs. Businesses need to be able to not only get noticed among competitors, but consistently provide value and address clients’ specific pain points.
If you took a marketing 101 in college, you probably remember the “4 Ps” of marketing; product, place, promotion, and price. The product “P” in marketing is the foundation you create when building your digital marketing strategy; without a strong foundation in your product, the “digital marketing house” you build atop the foundation will crumble.
As a 3PL, your product encompasses a few intangibles: the support you provide to your clients, the ease of doing business with you, and your ability to provide the service your clients need at a price they believe is fair.
The 3PL market is amidst a technology revolution that is changing the way 3PLs interact with both their carriers and their clients. In changing the way business is done, it’s changing the way many 3PLs’ products look and are delivered. Those 3PLs with the best total product offering will absolutely have a leg up when starting down the path of digital marketing.
With a strong product in place, we can divide digital marketing into two primary buckets: digital assets and digital tactics.
the 3PLs ahead of the digital marketing curve are the ones really listening to their future clients…
Digital assets allow you to tell your story: What’s the advantage of a 3PL over working with carriers directly? What makes your 3PL different? Digital assets are the fuel for the strategic tactics that will follow. Digital assets like your website, blog posts, white papers, guides, and infographics provide your future clients with the tools and information they need to make an important business decision that much easier.
Assets drive web traffic, engagement, and ultimately, new business. According to an April 2018 report by HubSpot, a leading marketing automation platform, B2B companies that published 16+ blog posts per month had almost 3.5 times more traffic than those publishing 0-4 posts per month.1
The great thing about many digital assets is that they are relatively easy to create and distribute. Blogs are often a free-flow of new concepts, products and services to consider (anyone in your organization can give it a try), and there is a slew of drag-and-drop editors for simple infographics and visual content creation.
It’s important to remember that buyer behavior and buyer preferences can dramatically impact your go-to-market structure. Business buyers now prefer to research on their own, and only engage with a sales rep once they have a good idea of what they specifically need. In fact, 49 percent of B2B buyers say they rely more on content to do research and make purchase decisions, according to a 2018 Demand Gen Report.2
With your digital assets in place, it’s time to distribute them. But that’s where digital marketing has turned traditional marketing on its head. Digital marketing is becoming more and more about meeting your prospects where they are, versus relying on outbound methods like email marketing and pay-per-click advertising. These tools still have a place, but they are now just pieces of the puzzle.
While digital tactics like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content marketing aren’t new, they are gaining more widespread traction, especially in industries that have traditionally relied on outbound or more simplistic marketing methods.
SEO is the process of optimizing your website to “rank” higher in search engine results pages, thereby increasing the amount of organic (or free) traffic your website receives. And Content Marketing is the creation and promotion of content assets for the purpose of generating brand awareness, traffic growth, lead generation, or customers.
A lesser known tool to those outside of the digital marketing world is Marketing Automation, software that automates marketing actions. These tools automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. While the tools can be an investment up front, they give back valuable time to your marketing and sales team. And, they ensure that no lead slips through the cracks with a series of intelligent rules, triggers, and automated responses to get those leads engaged.
You don’t need a massive budget to take a strategic digital marketing approach. Often, a well-versed marketing manager can get the job done in a small to mid-sized 3PL, and those efforts are multiplied with the help of a digital marketing agency.
The 3PL market is competitive. Those 3PLs who dive into digital with a customer-centric mindset will stand apart from the crowd. Change is right in front of us, and those prepared will grab their inordinate share of the
market and success.
Banyan Technology is a provider of live carrier connectivity, including API connectivity. Banyan is headquartered in Cleveland, OH. For more information, visit www.banyantechnology.com.
1 How Often Should Companies Blog [New Benchmark Data] https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/blogging-frequency-benchmarks
2 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report https://www.demandgenreport.com/resources/research/2018-content-preferences-survey-report