Freight Marketing and Sales Strategies to Close Out 2023
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This episode features a conversation with Blythe Brumleve,  Bill Priestley, and Kevin Hill about marketing and sales strategies for freight companies to survive 2023 and thrive in 2024. They discuss approaches like focusing on customer needs, picking the right marketing platforms, embracing challenges, and monitoring sales activity and attitude. Listen to gain insights into planning, budgeting, and mindset shifts to drive growth despite economic headwinds.





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Show Transcript

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Blythe Brumleve: 0:05

Welcome into another episode of Everything Is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight. We are proudly presented by SPI Logistics and I am your Blythe Brumleve. It's conference travel season, so that means I am bringing you another episode I did for Freight Waves Presents and this one is a special addition to include a long-form long-form conversation with Freight Waves, behind-the-scenes host and producer Magic man, Bill Priestly, and also Kevin Hill of Brush Pass Research, and we talk about the state of marketing and sales and logistics and how to prepare your teams to crush it in 2024. It's budgeting season, after all, so hopefully you will find this one enjoyable and refreshing and educational and all of the good things Enjoy.

Bill Priestley: 0:54

Joining us to talk about the blueprints for surviving 2023 and thriving in 2024 are Blythe Brumleve, owner of Digital Dispatch in Jacksonville, Florida, and Frequent Contributor to Freight Waves Now, and Kevin Hill, owner of Brush Pass Research in Dallas, Texas Metroplex area and the person who also hired me in full disclosure, which means I've at least sold him once. Guys, thanks so much for joining us here on the program as we talk about something that I think is going to be very important over the course of the next six, eight months or so in terms of people getting back on their feet and getting through these tough economic times, especially in the trucking and transportation industry. So let me just start off with a general question here and just understand this both from a sales and from a marketing perspective. Blight you first here. Should you have the same marketing and sales approach, regardless of the freight economy, if it's extremely good, like it was in 2022 or early 22 or now, as it is in 2023?

Blythe Brumleve: 1:53

I tend to lean more towards that. It should be the same approach. You should be coming at the approach from a customer first approach, meaning that oftentimes the one person marketing team is sitting in on sales meetings. If you don't have time to sit in on sales meetings and hear those direct customer interactions and interactions with leads, then you don't really have a clear compass on which way to take your content marketing plan. Starting with your content marketing plan, you can really have those insights if you're participating actively in those sales meetings. And so I think getting back to basics and getting back to building a strong foundation is where at the core of any decent marketing plan. And if you have a decent marketing plan, then that can set the groundwork for growth in the future.

Bill Priestley: 2:38

Kevin, what do you think? Do you take the same strategy? Good times are bad.

Kevin Hill: 2:44

The same ", the same blocking and tackling, if you will, in the sports analogy. It's all the same. It's fast and heavy customer approach first and then, depending on the market, you tweak it here and there. Bad markets are good to set up for the good markets, good markets are good to set up for the bad markets. So it's really all a cycle and Blight. Hit it right there, with the marketing people sitting in on the sales meeting, selling marketing, talking to each other, being complementary to one another as well.

Bill Priestley: 3:21

Let's take that ad as one step further in terms of the relationship between sales and marketing. Blight as you look at it. Let's ask the chicken and the egg question Do you set your marketing first and let your salespeople kind of follow that, or do the salespeople dictate what the marketing should be?

Blythe Brumleve: 3:38

So I actually I know this opinion has evolved a little bit over the years, but I am of the opinion that if you have a really strong marketing department, then you don't necessarily need a ton of entry level sales reps. You should be prioritizing those customer conversations, listening in on those conversations what questions specifically that they're asking, what verbiage specifically that they're asking and crafting a content marketing plan based on those questions with the clients and with the leads, or with your customers as well. And so if you have that setup, that infrastructure setup where maybe you don't have time to attend every meeting, but you can have some kind of an AI note taking tool that can attend every meeting for you and put it in a digestible format of takeaways and notes that are automatically sent to you, I think that that is a brilliant way for freight companies and small marketing teams all over the country to start taking their marketing at a strong foundational level and kicking it up a notch. And so if you come at it from that perspective, then you're coming at it from the perspective of the customer is already well educated on who you are and the problems that you're trying to solve for them, based on the marketing that you're already creating. And so when they do eventually reach out, when they do book a meeting or when they take that meeting with you, then they're talking to more experienced account representatives not entry level, more of the director level role, where they can get immediate answers and sign up much more quickly. And so your closed one ratio is a lot higher because you did the work on the marketing in first.

Bill Priestley: 5:07

Kevin, it's also been noted that basically 20% of brokers will do 80% of the revenue as well. Do you, if you have a situation like that, do you let that 20% say, hey, here's what we need to do marketing wise, or do you kind of work it so that marketing still has a hand in exactly how the company is going to be viewed externally before they get to a salesperson?

Kevin Hill: 5:26

If we're talking about the top 20%, that they should, that they should design. You should design your marketing system, like Black says said, to generate inbound leads. So you're not, so you can skip that. The entry level sells. If you don't have that, though, you know, I think it's just a natural evolution, right? You start at ground zero, making cold calls, reaching out sales, being that the heavy arm or the heavy lifter of everything as you develop your marketing program. But your natural evolution, what you really want to get to, is that that cold outreach at the beginning stages of a company or a cycle or what have you, and evolve that into inbound leads and leading with inbound leads, having a content marketing structure and just overall marketing structure that generates leads. But you don't start there from ground zero, right From from T zero. You don't start with that, so you build that up over time and you use cold outreach to do that.

Bill Priestley: 6:25

So let's kind of I want to kind of take a broad base approach to this, obviously in terms of trying to make sure that we get to a very basic idea of what people should be doing to survive 2023 and get to 2024. And so why don't we just start in terms of marketing? Obviously, excuse me, you get to where you have. You've got to have a strategy in place. If you had to start over, if you had a blank slate, what are you telling your people? Started in terms of marketing and how you want to get the word out and how you're going to survive this. What's necessary for you to do that?

Blythe Brumleve: 7:01

So what I would do is I would start at the base level the customer interviews of what we talked about before but then I would also look internally at the founders and look at the executive team. Is there anyone within the executive circle, or the founder, preferably the founder are they able to be conversational on camera? Are they able to do interviews like this? Are they able to jump on podcasts interviews? Are they able to put together three or four paragraphs that they could promote regularly on social media, focusing on who the founders are and who the executives are that are going to be there for the long haul? I think utilizing your internal executive team and your internal leadership team is a quick recipe for success because it doesn't involve the marketing department spreading themselves too thin. Now, if you do have a marketing department, aka one person that's handling everything, what I would do immediately is slim down everything that's not working. If it's not working, say, instagram is pretty tough to. Unless you're posting memes, it's a pretty tough nut to crack, and so, from that perspective, I would turn all other social media profiles if you're active there, I would turn them more into informational overview pages, not posting regularly, and then I would double down on the platforms that are working. So think about LinkedIn is an obvious answer for a lot of folks within our industry. But then, if you have time, in addition to that one platform, I would start looking into either YouTube shorts or I would look into a community built platforms such as Discord or Twitter slash X. There are growing freight communities on those platforms and so you get a little bit more bang for your organic buck without having to pay for that additional advertising. Then you can get some additional exposure and brand awareness by simply just conversating with people. It takes a little bit of a time investment, but if you focus on the time investment piece, then you could just focus on one platform, two platforms max and then you can really find out what nuances and what languages and verbiages are working on that platform. Engage your employee leadership base in order to post on their own and be creative, and then you can amplify each other based on those platforms and that that strong focus of where you're going to put your time and attention for right now, until you can build on, add more people, add more contractors, freelancers, and then you can expand to other social media platforms.

Bill Priestley: 9:22

Hopefully you can figure out what those platforms are fairly quickly there as well. Kevin, starting from the ground up, or at least starting from where you are in terms of the sales team that you've gotten and how you kind of work that forward, do you take a position of all right, do we need to educate, Do we need to train, Do we need to get better? Or do you take these if you're just starting right now and trying to enlist a new outlook, a new philosophy, if you will, or do you take the Glenn Gary, Glenn Ross method and say, hey, first place gets the car, second place gets the knives, third place gets the door?

Kevin Hill: 9:56

Well, you don't really want to totally take that attitude but at least at the time to win. That attitude is taken in a lot of ways, but I think I think in the core of it right now, to set yourself up and make it through these growing times, you have to embrace the nose, you have to embrace the silence, you have to embrace starting from scratch in a lot of ways, because a lot of your messaging that you go out like I talked a lot about the platforms you need to pick out your platforms. You need to pick out your messaging too and I'll talk a little bit about the content is your core values, your core business, your core strengths, your core message that you really want to, that you tell your sales team. You need to take it out publicly and don't expect a lot of activity from it at start.

Blythe Brumleve: 10:41

I think what you know for blogging stats and we talked about all the time. It takes a long time to get a podcast up and running to reach that scale, but once it does, it pays off in an exponential way. So it's the same with thing with your messaging and your phone calls, your outbound marketing your inbound marketing.

Bill Priestley: 11:03

It's going to be slow right now, but this is the time to really build out that content library build out that messaging find out who you are, because the market is going to turn and I have no clue whatsoever.

Blythe Brumleve: 11:14

but it will turn and once it does, you want to be out there. You want to be a known quantity in the market you know, to front of your customers, your central customers, your buyers, you want to be a known quantity because a lot of the sales process is all about credibility.

Kevin Hill: 11:31

And if you can get the credibility and get up to that scale where you're credible before you even talk to that prospect, the sales become so much easier. And when there's an upswing, when there's a need that arises, it is like shooting you know, shooting fish in a barrel. I think I messed up that analogy, but or that metaphor, but it really is. It makes everything so much easier. So now's the time to actually Get out there, pick your platforms, pick your content and run full steam ahead.

Bill Priestley: 12:06

Bladeless back up a little bit. Just talk a little bit about the structure of how things go here. I know this could be really nerve-wracking for marketing people, especially having been one for a while and knowing this myself from personal experience. But in terms of how you want to set this up between sales and marketing, do you have them under the same umbrella? If you're safe for instance, you're the CEO or an operations person do you have them under the same umbrella and that person calls the shots to what marketing does and to what sales does, or do you have them as more independent entities?

Blythe Brumleve: 12:37

I think it needs to be a little bit of a separation of church and state, but it also needs to be a collaborative effort. You don't want to have marketing completely on an island, separate from sales, because that's the way they're going to operate. They're going to operate independently and not work together. If they're working together, if marketing is doing the job of sitting in on those meetings and proving to be a helpful resource for sales, then that's a tremendous opportunity for the sales to have a two-way relationship with the marketing department to say, hey, this messaging or this ebook or this video is working really well with my leads and with my audience. I'm closing more than I typically was with any other content that's been created. Let's go create three more versions of that same type of content and keep building on that. I think that they need to operate independently but they need to be collaborative together because otherwise marketing is not going to be able to create the content that's going to be driving revenue. In today's world, marketing needs to understand what's driving revenue. Otherwise, you can't justify the things that you're doing, you can't justify the numbers that you're reaching and you can't justify the goals of the content that you're creating If you have a boss that's coming to you and saying why aren't we getting leads from this landing page or from this ebook, then you need to be able to explain clearly as to why and how you're going to be able to fix it or what the original goal of that piece of content was. If it wasn't to generate leads, it was just to generate brand awareness or to generate email signups, then that's a totally different metric for marketing success versus someone that's going to book a call because they're ready to buy right now. The reality is that most people are not ready to buy. Only about 5% of your audience is ever really in a buying, active buying cycle, but you need to be creating that messaging for the 95% that are going to eventually hopefully become ready to buy in the future.

Bill Priestley: 14:34

Kevin, we've got a chart here that used last week on freight waves. Now, in terms of the number of brokerages that are out there, we're getting a little bit active at this particular point, maybe not depending on how small they are, how big they are, how they are moving as that number continues to increase. Obviously this becomes much more as I mentioned in the opening a street fight between people in terms of trying to get the freight that they need to pass, to get into red numbers, essentially, or to get into black numbers, essentially. As you look at it from a sales perspective, how important is it to make sure that you've got the right people and not necessarily again going to that Glingary-Gunross method of attrition, if you will, and losing who's not being effective? But how critical do you need to be of your salespeople to make sure that they are doing what they need to be doing to survive in this kind of an economy?

Kevin Hill: 15:25

Oh, it's essential. It's essential to have yourselves people on the same page, having that positive attitude, because there's a lot of no's out there I just said it a lot of silence as well. But to be able to embrace that and think long term, think to the next turn on the cycle and embrace the gap to there. And I won't say don't worry about the short term, but don't put all your eggs in that short term basket, because that is going to trip you up. Right, because there's a lot of activity that sells people do. That is based on future sales and that's what marketing does mostly bring in future sales. So there should be a lot of concentration about that. It's a good time to train Whenever you have this downtime or this slow time in the market training, training, training and really just your sales process, your automation. How do you get all the manual tasks that take time away from your sales people being on the phone, being in front of customers? How do you automate as much of that as possible? And that's what you want to be thinking about right now. And it's all setting the terms being solid in the short term here in the down cycle, but building up to attack the market once it turns again, because that rise, a lot of most brokerages, most salespeople will miss most of that rise and they'll be just hitting their stride when it peaks and all of a sudden it goes back down again. You want to capture that rise up because that's where the profits are.

Bill Priestley: 17:05

Blav, if you're the marketing person, again let's say we're started, we're on a new strategy, we're moving forward. What are the metrics that you want to look at in terms of if this is working or not?

Blythe Brumleve: 17:16

So I would be looking at so specifically when it comes to your website, because that's where that's a property that you own. It's one of the three properties you're ever going to own, between your podcast and your email list, and also your website. So all of your social traffic, all of your marketing traffic, should be generated back to, or should be focused on generating traffic back to your website. And so, if they're on the website, you want to be looking at the landing page metrics, those key metrics. Is the visits to this page going up or down? How is that trending this quarter versus the previous quarter? You don't really want to look at month over month because there's a lot of variations that can affect that. Holiday travel, summer travel all of these things can negatively and impact those numbers. So looking at it on a quarter versus quarter basis is really where you get a lot of those eye-opening insights, and then you can compare the half year versus the previous year once you start collecting that insight. So if you're looking at the traffic, is it trending up or down? Are the lead form fills? Are they trending up or down? What kind of insight are you getting from those lead form fills? Are you asking people? How did you hear about us? It's this thing that I just preach to the high heavens. You make it a field on all of your high intent converting forms. You ask people how they heard about you. You make it a free text field, no dropdown, no text or check boxes, and you just let people freely tell you how they heard about you and then you can take those answers and you can funnel them through Kevin mentioned using different automation tools. There's also AI that can come into play with these, as you can export all of those different data points and then you can use AI to analyze where's the majority of these leads coming from. Are they coming from an advertisement? Are they coming from a webinar? Are they coming from a guest appearance? Are they coming from a single social media post? Are they coming from a podcast? All of those things you can tell from that kind of data which a lot of marketing attribution software cannot tell you. They're going to tell you that somebody came from Google search, when in reality a lot of folks just go to Google, type in your name and then arrive on your website. So a lot of leads will get unjustifiably attributed to Google search when they should have been attributed to something else. So that's the reason for asking how did you hear about us? So you really want to look at those key landing pages. Are they trending up or down as far as visits? And then also on the form fills are they trending up or down on those form fills? And those are your key impact pages and as long as you're looking at that, then that can tell you the story of where you shouldn't be investing more time, whether it's on the landing page itself or whether it's on social media campaigns or email campaigns that you might be working on.

Bill Priestley: 19:49

Kevin, is it a mistake, if you're taking that particular perspective? Is it a mistake to measure sales growth as a function of how well your marketing is, or is that sales growth basically dependent mostly upon the effectiveness of your salespeople?

Kevin Hill: 20:06

I think it's mostly effective on the marketing and your messaging out there and less on the sales team itself. I think that's where I would land on that you have to have an effective sales team and that they have to be doing their XOs and their processes. But I think marketing has a lot to do with that and the overall messaging of the organization.

Bill Priestley: 20:33

Gotcha, we've got just a few minutes left here. So, blythe, if you were to put it out in terms of how you want to set this up and what is maybe one or two things that everybody or every broker needs to be concerned about in terms of how they're going to market, how they're going to get out there, what do they have to do, what is definitely on that checklist to be successful in 2023, to get to 2024?

Blythe Brumleve: 20:57

Immediately, I would sign up for a tool like otterai. It's a meeting note-taking tool that automatically joins all of the meetings that you are scheduled to. It automatically takes notes so you can focus on the meeting at hand and then get those notes afterwards. Those notes are shared with everybody who is on the call and you have that database that you can then look up in the future to find different content ideas, find different social media ideas, and then I don't have time to really get into it too much, but develop what's called a why buy? Campaign, where you're talking about what the problem of the current state is, what is the future state and some pseudo-controversial opinions that you have and how your company solves those things. I've written about this before. I'd be happy to share it with you guys, but that's where I would start, because it's starts with the foundational insight at gathering and then also from the lens of okay, this is how we're going to develop our messaging from a sales and marketing perspective in order to go after the customers that we really want to target.

Bill Priestley: 21:52

Kevin, looking at that, what is one thing that, as a sales manager, or as the CEO, looking at the sales team, what is one thing that you definitely want to see happen in terms of either if it's training or if it's quotas, or what is it that you want to see in terms of getting this thing going to make sure it's successful?

Kevin Hill: 22:09

I will borrow a line from Brent Orsiga that he said on Put that Coffee Down years ago activity and attitude. You want to monitor activity and attitude because those are only two things that you can really control. You can't control the market cycles. You can't control buying. You want to, as Bly said, find your why buy and what works right now, but it's all about activity and attitude. You can have the training, you can have everything else out there, but in the sales force, activity and attitude. Keep it upbeat, keep it flowing. Make sure that your salespeople have the activity and attitude and things will pay off.

Bill Priestley: 22:50

Moving now from 2023 and the doldrums of 2023 into, hopefully, a land of prosperity in mid-2024 and beyond. Hopefully there is well-blithed as you look at that. Again, we've said, kind of keep it the same in terms of how you use your marketing and sales philosophies to move into a better economy. But are there any minute changes that you absolutely look at in terms of I know you're always in a constant state of evaluation what's working, what's not working, but in terms of when things start going, do you change any little nuance just because it is a better economy?

Blythe Brumleve: 23:25

So I think when it is a better economy, that's when you the groundwork of the organic posting so the non paid posting or the non paid content that you've been working on you can look back on and see okay, this performed really well for an organic perspective. Now that the economy is humming along a little bit, it's looking, it has signs of improvement, Then you can justify more budget, to take that budget and then invest in advertising because you've laid the groundwork. You're listening to your customers, you're listening to your leads, you've developed that messaging, you've developed your Y buys and then you can test and you can see okay, all of these things have worked really well for an organic perspective. Now I have justification to go to the executive team and to be able to ask for an advertising budget that I can go to a specialized agency, a specialized freelancer that is experienced in social media advertising, and then you can take some of that organic content that you've created and you could put a little juice behind it with some paid advertisements, because it's more well organic.

Bill Priestley: 24:22

I've got to go to Kevin real quick. Kevin, do you change anything in your strategy?

Kevin Hill: 24:27


Bill Priestley: 24:31

We'll have to keep it there. Blav Bromleave and Kevin Hill wonderful talking to you and great to see you both, and thanks for joining us here on For your Presence.

Blythe Brumleve: 24:43

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Everything Is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in it freight, telling the stories behind how your favorite stuff and people get from point A to B. Subscribe to the show, sign up for our newsletter and follow our socials over at everythingislogisticscom. And in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let y'all know about another company I operate, and that's Digital Dispatch, where we help you build a better website. Now, a lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a co-worker's child, a neighbor down the street or a stranger around the world, where you probably spend more time explaining the freight industry than it takes to actually build the dang website. Well, that doesn't happen at Digital Dispatch. We've been building online since 2009, but we're also early adopters of AI, automation and other website tactics that help your company to be a central place to pull in all of your social media posts, recruit new employees and give potential customers a glimpse into how you operate your business. Our new website builds start as low as $1500, along with ongoing website management, maintenance and updates starting at $90 a month, plus some bonus, freight marketing and sales content similar to what you hear on the podcast. You can watch a quick explainer video over on DigitalDispatchio. Just check out the pricing page once you arrive and you can see how we can build your digital ecosystem on a strong foundation. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll see you all real soon and go Jags.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.