How Freight Companies Are Managing Their 2024 Marketing Budgets
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Today, I wanted to share an episode I recorded for Charlie Pesti, the logistics PR extraordinaire. Moderated by John Monarch, the discussion centers around how freight companies are managing their 2024 marketing budgets. Panelists include Steve Bonadio, VP of Global Marketing at Tive Inc., Clara Flaherty, Co-Founder and Head of Growth at CarrierSource, and Gemma Fiorentino, CEO of Consono, and myself. Together, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the latest market report, surveying decision-makers in marketing within the supply chain and logistics industry.

Brand new episodes of  Everything Is Logistics will be dropping in late January with all new guests and podcast partnerships. Until then, I hope y’all enjoy this one and find it valuable.





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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. I am your host, Blythe Brumleve, and we are proudly presented by SPI Logistics, and in this edition I want to share an episode I recorded for Charlie Pesti. He's the PR extraordinaire in logistics. If you've seen any kind of marketing work across the industry, it's probably had a hand or an influence from the Charlie Pesti team, and so in this discussion, we are going to be covering how freight companies are managing their 2024 marketing budgets, and what a great time of the year to dive into a topic like that. Now, John Monarch of the Pesti team is your moderator in this conversation, and myself, along with the other panelists, include Steve Bonadio, vp of global marketing at Tive, Clare Flaherty he's the co-founder and head of growth at Carrier Source. And Gemma Fiorentino, ceo of Consono. Now, this conversation is an eagle eye view as to what's shaping marketing and PR budgets for logistics companies, but it's based on a white paper created by the Pesti team, so to get a copy of that, you can download it over at Pesti. io/ marketing budget 2024. I also have it linked in the show notes in case you mix it a little bit easier. Now brand new episodes of everything, as logistics will be dropping in late January with all new guests and podcast partnerships, but until then, I hope you all enjoy this one and find it valuable.

John Monarch: 1:33

My name is John Monarch. I'm with Charlie Pesti. I've been working with him for a while now. I've been in the supply chain industry for well over a decade, ranging from fulfillment to technology. I've been working on marketing teams for my entire career. Now helping Charlie and his team help out supply chain companies and growth and marketing and PR. So what we've done is we have surveyed a range of people in the industry that are supply chain marketing leaders. Specifically, we've gone to the C level. We've gone to directors and VP's of marketing and asked them hey, what's the landscape looking like in 2024? What's your budget like? What's your focus like? What challenges are you facing? How are you making changes to this market, including everything from the nasty freight recession we've all been talking about and reading about, I'm sure, of course, to new technologies, to everything that can come in our way in 2024 and what it's looking like. So we want to go over that report with everyone and what I'd like to do is I'd like to introduce our panelists here. So we'll go alphabetically. So we'll start with Blythe, if you can introduce yourselves.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:42

Sure, my name is Blythe Brumleve. I am the host of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight, and then I also founded a company called Digital Dispatch, where I help companies build a better website in freight.

John Monarch: 2:54

Great to meet you and Clara.

Clara Flaherty: 2:57

Hey, yeah, I'm Clara. I'm a co-founder and head of growth at a company called Carrier Source. We're a review platform for carriers, helping carriers build an online presence, as well as helping brokers and shippers find the best carriers to move their freight. So excited to be here.

John Monarch: 3:12

Glad to have you and Gemma.

Gemma Fiorentino: 3:15

Hi, I'm Gemma Fiorentino, the CEO of Consono . Consono is a software as a service platform dedicated to the financial well-being of the employees. Before Consono, my skills have developed in big IT tech company. I work for more than 12 years in Avanade, that is a joint venture of Accenture Microsoft, as marketing director, and then I work in other big IT company in the transportation management and supply chain area. Thank you to be inviting me here.

John Monarch: 3:45

Great to have you and Steve.

Steve Bonadio: 3:48

Hi, I'm Steve Bonadio, the VP of global marketing at Tive. Tive provides end-to-end shipment visibility, real-time location and condition tracking and active monitoring of shipments. So if you want to know where your shipments are and analyze what condition they are in whether it's temperature, light, shock, humidity and take action in real time to prevent excursions and reduce risk through these really cool, awesome, solo 5G devices, then Tive is the place to come.

John Monarch: 4:18

Fantastic to have you and to go over the survey. The way that we structured this was we looked for marketing executives that had decision-making ability. 41% actually said that they were on marketing teams of fewer than three people, with the next group up being 29% of respondents saying three to nine members. So it's interesting that most marketing teams seem to operate pretty lean right now, with the seniority level being almost 50% C-level executives that were on the survey. Directors and VPs held the next up, with close to like 30% after that, and then another 15% were management level. So we wanted to go over budgeting approaches and specifically a lot of respondents here. If you're following along at home in the survey, it looks like where budget is being allocated specifically is becoming much more performance driven. So it's KPIs, it's everything from what can we squeeze the most dollars out of that are not just branding money. So I like to go around the room and kind of see what are you seeing when it comes to increases and decreases and does that match what you expected in the survey? So, for instance, we're seeing a significant increase in email marketing. Most companies also responded that their budgets were saying the same or increasing for marketing, but with lead generation and email marketing being the top two focuses for 2024. So we'll go around alphabetically at first, and if anyone would like to jump in and go right ahead, we'll start with Glyde.

Blythe Brumleve: 5:50

Sure. So I think that that is a really interesting takeaway to know that a lot of folks, or a lot of marketers in freight, are expanding their budgets in 2024. Typically, what happens is that those budgets are being cut, people are being cut, but I think if you tie your marketing budgets directly to lead generation and performance indicators, such as email, then it's a much easier sell to the C suite as far as the worth of the work that the marketing department is doing. It makes it much easier to establish attribution to those different initiatives, and so from that lens, I think it's encouraging that email and lead generation are both being invested in heavily. But I also am a little concerned on how those are being measured and if it's with the measurement and if that's a true, I guess, sort of a budget where they should be spending it. There's other ways to have lead generation and to have performance indicators, but I think we're still kind of stuck in the indications of different performance measures over the last 10 years instead of where the next few years are going to go, if that makes sense.

John Monarch: 7:04

I agree, and lead generation is a very broad topic too, so that's something that it can come from many different sources. So, clairwood, love your thoughts and any new trends in the tech side that are coming on, those two especially.

Clara Flaherty: 7:16

Yeah, I mean I was very interested in the report of the investment in the agility and spending, because that's something that we're definitely thinking about is like we're setting our budgets, we're planning our budgets, but then we're also being like but this is all subject to change, like month by month and really taking a bigger look at that more than we ever have before, of like, okay, maybe March will be way down in budget spend and then we can fly in April and just having that ability and that flexibility. We are investing more in email marketing and part of that is with the new rules that are coming out with Gmail and Yahoo starting February 1st 2024. That will affect us. So we're just making sure upfront that we're ready to go and that we're ready to prepare for that. So, no, it's interesting to see that that many companies are focused on that as well.

John Monarch: 8:05

Would you mind describing what the rules are for anyone not familiar or anyone who has an email heavy?

Clara Flaherty: 8:09

For sure. So Gmail and Yahoo have recently released new guidelines that they will be upping their fight against spam, which is obviously a very good thing, but with that they're making much stricter rules than has ever been the case before for email marketing people, email marketing resources. So some of the things you have to make sure all your technical stuff is set up exactly how they want it to be, which a lot of people have their DKIM and DMARC set up, but maybe not their SPF, so there's just some technical back end on that side. And then you have to keep your spam rates below 0.3%, which previously it's been like okay, 0.8 to 1% is not great, but it doesn't necessarily shut you down, whereas now they're saying if you are consistently above that, your emails from your whole domain will be blocked, whether that's a personal email or a marketing email. So we've been doing a lot of research into that to make sure that we are compliant and that we're with the times. But it'll be interesting to see how that changes the face of email for everybody.

John Monarch: 9:10

It's definitely a challenge with so many companies using Google G Suite as their back end for their emails, so that'll be something to pay attention to, gemma.

Gemma Fiorentino: 9:21

I think that the wrapper was really interesting because some specific topic in the market investment in Europe specifically are for digital for sure. Perhaps, for example, in Europe we have to implement some specific regulation for the GDPR. Eu has implemented robust regulations to protect individual privacy and control the use of the personal data, and GDPR is one of the key regulations. So a key action is to collaborate with the legal department to be sure to be aligned with the regulations, and it's important to invest in tools. To be compliant is a prudent decision. So also in the paper, the investment in the tools are a key point and, of course, also educate the marketing team in GDPR's principles is absolutely another key topic to do, absolutely.

John Monarch: 10:27

And that has to be a challenge, I imagine, for European companies working with Americans and subcontractors or providers, especially because American companies don't necessarily have to follow the same rules or that, so they're not used to it, and then when they contract with you, all of a sudden they're bound by GDPR.

Gemma Fiorentino: 10:45

Exactly, that's the point. And also we have different culture, different data, different nations. So we have a GDPR rules at European level, but then we have different needs at regional level. So you have also to consider these in the channel that you decide to use in your marketing strategy, but also for legal regulations, of course, too.

John Monarch: 11:14

Absolutely, steve. Let me go over the first two with you the lead gen and the email side. But also I know your focus has changed pretty significantly to being much more laser targeted as well.

Steve Bonadio: 11:28

Yeah, and then, john, that brings in the whole account-based marketing types of things here. It's not surprising to me whether you call it lead generation, demand gen, growth marketing that even if you look at LinkedIn, there's so many roles still available and people are hiring for growth marketers and I think that's a reflection of the massive overspending during the pandemic and marketing and every other go-to-market function. And then we get to 2023 and it all becomes about efficient growth and doing more with less and maximizing your marketing investments. And I see that in any of the CMO and marketing peer groups that I'm in. We're all facing the same headwinds. But it's important to recognize that at the end of the day, in our business and, I think, a lot of other businesses, it's about marketing and demand gen. Lead gen, in particular, is about supporting the growth of the company. It's about building quality pipeline that converts into opportunities and closed one business which supports bookings growth, arr growth and, ultimately, revenue growth, and so I think email can contribute to that. It's a wonderful channel for engaging with your audiences, for nurturing your audiences, but at the end of the day, if you're not able to develop programs, whether email programs or any other type of program, an ABM program. Getting hyper focused on your ICP, your ideal customer profile, and then translate that into pipeline which is turning into closed business for your organization and growth for your organization, you're not going to be successful as a B2B marketer going forward.

John Monarch: 13:10

I agree with that Does your approach for major enterprise and smaller business anyone who wants to use a Tide Tracker, for instance? Let's say it's an owner operator versus XPO logistics Someone? Let's go like two opposite ends of the spectrum here. What's your approach like on that?

Steve Bonadio: 13:28

Yeah, we really have two segments in our go-to-market and our ICP. On the one hand you've got the shippers and we tend to sell a lot into food imperishables who have temperature and cold chain issues, pharmaceutical, similar, cold chain high value goods, which you can define in a lot of different ways. They could be luxury goods, they could be electronics, semiconductors, automotive parts. That's one side of it, but a big part of our business is also selling into LSPs, Logistics Service Providers, 3pls, who actually see Tide as a value add and can sell Tide or sell the value of tracking the shipments of their customers, the shippers, the retailers, the Costco's, the Walmarts, the Amazon, freshers of the world, who can sell into the value proposition of meeting them to manage their shipments and have that level of visibility that they, here too, for haven't had. We tend to sell into both of those segments directly to end customers, but also LSPs who sell down to through their shippers and customers as well.

John Monarch: 14:38

That makes sense. It's interesting looking at the channels that seem to see the most decrease as well. It looks like push notifications was a pretty significant drop, which makes sense. I mean especially in B2B. It's not like we're sending out phone notifications to customers about 10 percent off or whatever. Pr and press releases was a drop as well, but I think the press releases can be separated out from that, because I think a lot of people don't really see the value of just blasting a press release out there without actually having the relationship to it. One that was interesting on the increased side was digital video marketing. It seems like there's a pretty significant increase going on in that. Would anyone like to speak on that, if you're seeing behaviors in digital video marketing or is it something that you're focusing on more now? Just anyone who'd like to jump in?

Blythe Brumleve: 15:31

I can jump in on that one, for I would say, starting in 2020, that's when everything locked down and a lot of the conferences initially went virtual. What we saw was this creep up of a lot of folks, especially independent creators, starting to create a podcast, starting with video first. When they start with video first, it allows your distribution of that content to have a massive advantage. You're thinking of your distribution from email to advertising spend, to social media. When you start with video first, you're able to pull out interesting moments from that conversation, from that long form conversation, and be able to turn it into digestible clips, digestible bites of information. Not only does it go to email, to social media, but it also transforms into text-based posts, pull quotes, blog posts, white papers. It really just lends itself to a variety of different marketing initiatives that you can do. From an organic perspective, I would say there was probably about 20 podcasts at the time, both company-driven and independent creators, but now I just saw a list the other day that was the top 100 supply chain and logistics podcasts. This is growing dramatically, not necessarily for, maybe, a news-based platform or a news-based initiative, but more so, ways to connect directly with your customers, to connect directly with them. So you have that long form content and then you can use the rest of that distribution strategy across all of your channels. It's really quite remarkable the amount of growth that we've seen in video marketing.

John Monarch: 17:16

It makes sense and it's funny, because podcasts used to only be audio and now it seems you must video or else you're just lost in the pile there.

Clara Flaherty: 17:25

I think there's also because we gather reviews for people and you can write a review on a trucking company and then you can use that review to help market your business. We're getting more and more requests for do you guys do video reviews? Can someone leave a video feedback of my company? We don't have that yet, but it is something that we've started thinking about. It's like, okay, we're getting requests from that, which is interesting. The other thing that I think, especially in our industry, that is helping video skyrocket is we are, I think, more and more distrustful of one another. There's so much fraud right now happening that like so, putting a face to it, having okay, I see who you are, I get a better vibe of what you are looking for, how you interact with me. I think that helps skyrocket it too.

Steve Bonadio: 18:11

Yeah, I would agree with that, claire. We see that quite a bit, I mean, when we look at our stats for LinkedIn and our CEO here at Tive, connor Konomi. Whenever he shoots up quick little video on his iPhone and posts it to LinkedIn with a couple sentences, by far and away it gets more engagement than any other type of posts, no matter how cool that post might be, no matter how relevant that content may be. I think it's that human connection through video that really matters and what engages with folks, particularly through social channels. It's the tick-tock vocation of B2B basically.

John Monarch: 19:00

I agree with that, and it's funny because user-generated content was such a big deal in B2C e-commerce apps, everything like that, and now it's finally spreading here to where a good example of that is. Go ahead, I'm sorry.

Gemma Fiorentino: 19:15

Sorry. What I can add here is that with artificial intelligence now it's more easy to produce video content. Also the technology tools to support our creativity and also preserve our times to do content. So that's the point of view of our future work in terms of marketing initiatives and activities.

Blythe Brumleve: 19:48

Are you in freight sales with a book of business looking for a new home, or perhaps you're a freight agent in need of a better partnership? These are the kinds of conversations we're exploring in our podcast interview series called the Freight Agent Trenches, sponsored by SPI Logistics. Now I can tell you all day that SPI is one of the most successful logistics firms in North America, who helps their agents with back office operations such as admin, finance, it and sales, but I would much rather you hear it directly from SPI's freight agents themselves. I want better way to do that than by listening to the experienced freight agents tell their stories behind the how and the why they joined SPI. Hit the freight agent link in our show notes to listen to these conversations or, if you're ready to make the jump, visit spi3plcom.

John Monarch: 20:38

I agree and I think that this leads well into the next part here, which is going to be the challenges that marketing teams and marketing leadership are facing in 2024. So we I mean everyone's bracing for, or already braced for, this freight recession and some kind of fear in general going forward into 2024, especially with uncertainty around the broader economy globally, uncertainty around conflict around interest rates, and it seems like there's this broader shared sense of urgency around making things KPI driven again and reducing spending while making it deliver better. So, like 30 or approximately 32% of respondents said that, pressure to reduce spending and marketing at PR while also delivering higher sales and pipeline growth. So there's a lot on marketing teams for that and then followed by 29% saying that the changing marketing expectations, including the need for direct sales and almost the merging of the marketing and sales team in some ways. So I'd love to go backwards on that and we'd love to start with Steve on your thoughts on the challenges going forward next year.

Steve Bonadio: 21:44

Yeah, I find it really interesting, john. We talk about growth marketing being a big lever to drive pipeline and bookings, but you know, generally there's a pendulum the more you're investing in growth marketing, the less you're investing in PR and brand. I think what we're going to see next year is that pendulum starting to come back into equilibrium as a consequence of the challenge in reaching your audiences, because everyone's trying to reach the same buyers out there. And just an anecdote, some data we saw about a week or two ago when we looked at our top 50 keywords. For all the keywords that we feel define what we do and what makes us valuable, the overall global traffic has nothing to do with us is down by about a third over the last six months. That means fewer people, theoretically, are in market or at least searching for the terms that we feel are important to our business. Now, fortunately, our share has stayed the same or even increased a bit, but it's a smaller pie. So, as a consequence, what are the results? You're getting fewer inbounds. Inbounds are generally the best converting leads. Well, everyone knows that. But how do you augment that? Well, I think that's where the brand discussion starts to come back into play, where you are making a concerted effort to get your message out to the people who you want to hear, your message, your target audiences. So I think we're going to see more of that pendulum shifting back, more of an equilibrium there, because you can't do one side of it and not do the other. The downside is that it's very often hard to make a direct correlation between investing in PR and branded article or byline articles and all the great things that PR firms generate for you. It's harder to tie that to ROI and pipeline and opportunities and close one business. So the attribution is going to be a real challenge, I feel, for a lot of marketers and myself included. But I do think that we need to start looking at marketing holistically and creating more of the surround sound effect as we go to market and try to target our ICP.

John Monarch: 23:59

Makes perfect sense, and I'd like to just remind everyone in the audience that if you have any questions, please put them in the Q&A box and we'd be happy to address them towards the end and the panelists are able to address them directly as well. Gemma, what are your thoughts on the challenges that you're going to be facing in 2024?

Gemma Fiorentino: 24:15

As I say before, there are a lot of challenges referring our future, the future activities that we have to implement in the marketing environments and tactics. I think, as I already say, gdpr is the key point and find new tools to create new lead generation. For sure, all the marketing leaders, the key actions that need to be in their mind is how to generate more leads. That's, for sure, is the most important challenge. Then I would love to add one point from my point of view about the research. That is not a challenge, but is a trend that emerged from the research. That's also the sustainability trends are really important right now. So, in my opinion, the sustainability became an architecture in the business that you're making. So, as a Chinese, as a marketing, maybe we have to more work in this direction to find good idea around these kind of topics. I would say maybe.

John Monarch: 25:38

That makes sense and I would say that sustainability focused partners are going to be the challenge going forward, then, especially for outsourced teams, and making that messaging both drive ROI but also hit the actual sustainability message. And, clara, what are your thoughts on the challenges going forward?

Clara Flaherty: 25:57

Yeah, one of our biggest challenges this year and I anticipate it continuing to be next year is that because we're so new we've been around three years but we're still pretty small. There's only seven of us on our team and so a lot of our efforts are convincing people that we're real and teaching people who we are. So one of our biggest investments is probably partnerships gonna be next year, because we wanna be able to use the leverage of the audience that our partners have in order to help share with people who we are, tell them about what we do. So that's one of the bigger things that we're definitely gonna be focused on.

John Monarch: 26:34

So you're having to do brand building in a time when brand building is much harder.

Clara Flaherty: 26:38

Yes, yes, which has been hard but fun too, blithe.

Blythe Brumleve: 26:47

So, just going back to your earlier point about the more investment in lead generation and I think for a lot of marketing teams they have been over reliant over the last decade or so on attribution tools, these tools that are telling you that there is a perfect pathway from when someone saw your ad or saw your post on LinkedIn and then they ultimately became a customer. So there is no straight line to that kind of conversion, especially if they do fill out a lead form or if they do engage in some kind of a conversation where they might become in a situation where they're going to be a closed one customer. And so for the easiest fix I think for a lot of the audience out there is that if you're struggling with attribution, it's just a very simple adding to all of your high intent lead forms on your website add how did you hear about us? Make it a required field, make it a free text field, no dropdown, no check boxes, nothing like that. You want to know the exact source or what was making an impact for that lead in order to make that conversion on that day. It's not going to be a straight line, of course, but it is going to give you some insight into what's working with that particular lead and so for. I think a lot of marketing and sales teams want to become aligned on how you're going to be measuring those efforts. Then you can start exploring other opportunities. I have been preaching to the high heavens for a lot of marketers out there to get a note taking tool. I use OtterAI I know that there's several others out there but having just that note taking tool, being able to join your sales meetings and then join those sales meetings and get the takeaways, get the questions, get the verbiage of what's going on with these conversations and then using that to fuel the rest of your marketing. Where you're getting the copy for your website, you're getting the frequently asked questions that are happening on these sales calls and then you can use that in your marketing throughout all of social media, email, pick your poison as far as what channel you're going to be at or where you're going to be creating content on and spreading that general brand awareness, and then you tie it back for when that person is ready to buy, because 95% of these buyers are not in an active buying cycle, but when they join that 5% and it's probably less than 5% it's probably anywhere from 2% to 3%, that when they actively join that buying cycle, then they come to your website and they convert there and then they let you know what was resonating the most. It's a long-term play, it's a patient play, but it's the only real way to determine what is making an impact with all of your marketing efforts.

John Monarch: 29:24

Yeah, that makes sense, and a lot of the tools focus too much on URL-based attribution or any kind of weird stuff. It's just to ask people that's trying to put that up.

Blythe Brumleve: 29:32

It's proving their value, not necessarily, but what's making an impact. So just be cautious for a lot of these tools out there that are preaching to the high heavens of what value they provide and they can give you that clear blueprint or that clear point, the X on the treasure map, and that's where you're going to find it. They're trying to prove their value when you really need to take a holistic approach.

John Monarch: 29:55

That makes perfect sense, and one of the top issues that we've seen everyone running into is talent shortages and high turnover. That was a really hotly discussed topic in the last couple of years, especially, I think, mid pandemic. We really saw that picking up in an aggressive way, where I mean turnover was just people were taking jobs, quitting in a week and then moving around, and marketing teams still seem to be experiencing some pretty significant turnover, especially for high quality talent that's out there. We wanted to ask everyone in the survey what, first off, how are you combating the talent shortages or a turnover? And along with that, it's kind of a nice corollary here into outsourcing parts of your marketing responsibilities. So the number one thing that teams were looking to outsource was actually public relations. So that was about 30% of respondents said that they were looking to outsource their PR, followed by 26% looking at lead generation pipeline management. So now I could see that as being a maybe even everything base level to CRM cleanup and management all the way up to the full flow. And then a distant third was content creation. It seemed like a lot of teams wanted to have that in house, was any sort of like video and blog content. So, blythe, what are you seeing about how companies are managing the shortages, the turnover, and what they're looking to outsource going forward?

Blythe Brumleve: 31:22

Yeah. So this is a really like hot button issue for me, because I've always been a small, very one person marketing team on. I'm on the board of the transportation marketing and sales association and the majority of our members are all very small one person teams, and so they're trying to figure out how to do more with less. And what keeps coming up in the conversation is AI. Now, ai is not an end all be all. It is a tool to get to the destination, I think, a little bit faster. I think where a lot of mishaps are happening is, or a lot of confusion is happening is. You have a lot of C-suite executives that think that just because you invest in an automation tool or an AI tool, that it's just it's magically going to fix all of your marketing, when that's just simply not the case. You have to have a very detailed process of what you're doing and why, and then reverse, engineer that goal to figure out where software is going to be playing a role. And so for a lot of teams, they overspend on software, they overspend on these tools that don't necessarily move the needle or make an impact, and so they're coming back to the drawing board and trying to figure out well what the hell is actually working, and you don't necessarily know what's working because you don't have an attribution model set in place. You don't, you're not monitoring traffic from several different channels. You know you're not asking a very simple, basic question that you can have on your website of how did you hear about us? Your sales team is not asking those simple questions, and if you're not fine tuned in those areas, then you're just going to keep spending money and you're just going to keep wasting money in areas that don't make a whole lot of sense. Now, for a lot of these small teams, they can use these tools If you have. You know you can do more with less with these AI tools. I mentioned earlier about the note taking apps that can automatically join meetings and provide you takeaways and feedback. But then, outside of that, how are you using a lot of these tools to your advantage to feel like a team of five or six or maybe even 10, when you're only using, you know, one or two in-house employees, and so that's where I think that outsourcing that a lot of you know, just hiring specialized freelancers, I think, is where the move should actually be made. So you can outsource some marketing, of course, but you really want to find the operator in-house that kind of knows a lot about just marketing in general and can be a generalist and then go out and specifically hire for certain roles. You know somebody to manage specifically the PPC ads on for Facebook or to manage your specific ads on LinkedIn. You have to have somebody that is specialized in that platform, not necessarily someone who knows how to set up your ad account on these different channels, but someone who knows how to set it up and then analyze it constantly, monitor it, be able to hire a graphic designer that can, you know, switch out graphics instantly. If they find something that's working, switch out messaging instantly. That is working. So you have to have somebody that is in-house, that has an overall skill set and then have them go and be able to devote budget to the specialized workers and specialized freelancers.

John Monarch: 34:24

So I'd like to jump around a little bit on that note. And, steve, you're on a larger team here, so your perspective is going to be very different from like a one-person marketing. You know the person is the department. So what are your thoughts on, like the Alan shorter, just turnover along with outsourcing?

Steve Bonadio: 34:43

Yeah, you know, fortunately we haven't had to deal with any kind of turnover. In fact we're aggressively hiring going into next year to expand the team because we've got aggressive growth targets as a business. So that hasn't really impacted Tive or my team in particular. When it comes to outsourcing, I'm not sure I like the word outsourcing because we to Blake's point we do hire specialists to fill niche needs that we might have that we are either incapable or just don't have the skill set or the time to manage. You know, I was quite surprised actually, john, when I read that only 10% are going to outsource content production. Now, there's lots of different types of content, right? So I guess it depends on the type of content. You know, when I think about thought leadership content, I like to work with thought leaders in the industry to help build that content, and also organizations that have audiences that we might want to reach. So that could be one of the dives, that could be a freight waves, that could be one of the supply chain brains, that could be a Gartner, that could be a Forester. You know the content developed by those folks. Not only do they have audiences that we want to reach, but it tends to have a credibility factor. So that's kind of one side to it. But we also have some very strong content partnerships that help us with some of the day to day our blogging, some of our use cases, case studies, things like that. In those contexts we don't consider that an outsourced relationship. We consider them very much part of the team. They are on our slack, we are slacking with them day in and day out. They are very much a part of a team, but they're not full-time employees of time. So I think there's different types of relationships with specialists, with industry thought leaders, with content producers, with folks freelancers that can fill specific niches that you might have. It all depends on, ultimately, what you're trying to do, what gaps you have and how quickly you need to get to market with your content for a campaign or a set of programs and what have you. My advice to the audience is to be flexible in terms of content, and you're going to do some of it in-house, you're going to partner with others to do it Whatever works for you, but at the end of the day, if that content is not supporting the growth goals of your organization and you're able to attribute that content at the end of the day, to your pipeline generation, to your bookings and ARR growth, then you might want to take a second and look at what you're doing.

Gemma Fiorentino: 37:16

I agree If I can add something I'm agree with Steve, because we have also to keep in mind that with big enterprise company it's important also the human part of our job. So that's the IE tools can cover. For example, in some area we need to have credibility, as Steve said, but also connections, for example, in the PR environments, the human touch and the human collaboration from is key.

John Monarch: 37:55

That makes sense, clara. For a smaller startup team, it seems that going with agencies can often be almost a requirement, just to be more agile.

Clara Flaherty: 38:06

Yeah for sure. That's exactly what I was going to say. The agility in budgeting, I think, also speaks to the agility in agencies, agility in outsourcing. Set up the expectations of here's how long we're going to run this or here's how long we're going to do this. If it's not working, don't be afraid to take the step back and be like okay, that's not working right now for us, maybe we'll try that again in six months. But setting up those expectations early with your partners, like here's what we're going to try. If it works, great. If not, then we revisit, maybe later. Then the other thing I'll say is making sure that you align with your partners, with your agencies, that they understand who you are, what your business does, what your business is about. Have, spend the time investing, invest the time in speaking to them about who you are and what you believe and what your company believes. Because, especially for the content agencies like that's so critical. You don't want any content to be being put out.

Steve Bonadio: 39:03

That is not what you would align with and would say yeah, and if I could just add, you know, on the agency piece, I mean, over my career I've hired agencies for just about every marketing function and one thing for the audience to look out for is finding that strategic partner, because I think all of us have hired agencies that talk a really good game and they, you know, for the first three, four, five, six months they do a really good job. And then you know they take the senior people off your account, put the really junior people on your account and then they start to do a really bad job and you end up having to let go of that agency after nine months or a year because they're just not getting it done. So I've worked with wonderful agencies that I've had long-term relationships with. But it's important to pick the right agency that aligns to your core values, that aligns to what you're trying to do. That is a true strategic partner in every sense of the word.

John Monarch: 40:03

It makes sense, and it's interesting to look at some of the results in the survey, because what companies seem to be expecting of agencies is surprisingly across the board. So only 33% expected partners to bring their own technology, and the most surprising one to me was that only 23% of respondents expected partners to function and is an extension of their team. Every time I've been around agencies in any space, it seems like they join the Slack you're communicating daily. It should be an extension there, because that way, like you just said, the messaging becomes much more clear. They tie in together. It's not just a transactional relationship. So seeing only 23% say they expected that, I wonder if that's a difference in enterprise mindset versus small and startup. So what we'd like to start doing is we can move towards some of the questions, because there are some really good ones from the audience here. One specifically is what are the best channels for just regular old freight forwarders at this point? Like 2024 is a challenge for them as well. That's still aggressively B2B. What is that looking like? Is there anyone who really like to jump on that one?

Clara Flaherty: 41:18

I can jump in real quick. I think this is a tough answer, but I think it's so specific to your size of company and where is your existing audience. But I think leaning into like life was saying earlier, like putting that, how did you hear about us? And leading into those things that people do say Like go where it works and don't spend a bunch of time trying a ton of different things, definitely test. But like, if you have something that already works, lean into it, invest more in it, keep iterating on it. I think that would be my advice for that.

Gemma Fiorentino: 41:56

If I can add something, it's also to invest. It depends on the business, as Clara said, and the company, of course, but if we are speaking about B2B, email marketing, in my opinion, is the best way to create lead generation. I try different tools, different marketing activities, events and so on. You know, everything can support the lead generation, but email marketing, for me, is what really creates hot lead generations.

John Monarch: 42:32

So that's my point, how do you find the data for companies that I mean? I guess let's say you're a freight forwarder and you focus on a very specific type of cargo, you should only be going for the data for you know if it's what you're familiar with. I would say would be my guess.

Gemma Fiorentino: 42:49

I found some specific contents using LinkedIn, for example. I think that LinkedIn is an amazing tool to use to create connections, for sure in B2B, so I would suggest this one. You know in a direct way also.

Steve Bonadio: 43:12

Yeah, and I think to Gemma's point, as a freight forwarder let's say, john, you mentioned a freight forwarder that has a very specific type of cargo create a newsletter, an email newsletter, and bring some interesting perspectives on the different aspects of shipping that very specific piece of cargo and best practices. So bring a thought leadership element into that. The second piece which anyone can do fairly easily and I think can hire some quick expertise, whether it's freelance or otherwise is to experiment with just some very simple Google pay per click, google paid search, again, if you're shipping a very specific piece of freight, and that can tie back to your website or to your thought leadership content. So it can be content driven or topically driven. It could be driven based on the type of cargo. But you can get started relatively easy. You don't have to spend thousands and thousands. You can bid $500 for a month and see what that gets you and if it brings any inbounds to your site. But the key point here for I think any marketer, particularly if you're a freight forwarder, you've got a very small or maybe a non-existent marketing group is to experiment, experiment, experiment, experiment. You don't have to spend a lot of money, a-b test all the things us marketers know how to do. They're not particularly challenging when you think about it, but it's important to always be experimenting.

John Monarch: 44:46

So it's perfect to tie this into one of the next questions, actually, and I'll let you continue on it, Steve. So I'd like two perspectives on it, basically, as one is the GDPR perspective and one is the non-GDPR perspective. So, Steve, it seems like everyone's leaning towards email marketing. How do you get the emails and how do they rank against personal emails in LinkedIn?

Steve Bonadio: 45:09

Yeah, so I mean, when we look at GDPR, we don't look at it only from. You know, whatever 28 European Union companies are countries that you need to be compliant across. We're looking at as a global issue and inevitably, you know, if you peel away California, which has its own set of rules. You know email is going to get more restrictive. We talked earlier on Clara about some of the new rules with Gmail and Yahoo. So it's better to be compliant than not compliant. You know, the first rule for any marketer is never, ever, ever buy a list. If you do, you're going to get in trouble. You're going to get blacklisted because they're going to sell you at some junk. And you know 50% you're going to get a 70% undeliverability rate, a lot of spam complaints and you could get blacklisted by your email service provider. The way we like to do it is partnering with the right folks in the industry. So maybe we run some programs with freight waves or supply chain brain or, you know, food dive, if we're going after a perishable audience. And you know we work to create some great thought leadership content. We promote that content not only via email but via multiple channels social, both organic and paid. We could do a webinar based on that content. We could run ABM programs based on that content and they're promoting on your behalf and they're bringing in context of their audience, their subscribership, their readership, people that you know you want to reach and engage with, and so they're able to bring those into you. You mentioned free email addresses. I think the greatest tip I have for any email marketer is unless you're in B2C and this is a completely different beast but if you're in B2B, we don't allow free email addresses. We don't email to them, we purge them from our database. They're of no use to us at the end of the day because you can't match them against an account, unless you really want to do the work of trying to work with a company that can do that work for you. But it's not worth the time. We don't allow Gmail or free email addresses to fill out our forms on our website. Let's just wait. Too much hassle and with all these new rules, like with Google and sending emails to gmailcom addresses, you can very quickly find yourself in trouble. So we don't even bother. It's not worth it.

John Monarch: 47:35

That makes sense. So it's to continue through the questions here, and I'd love to get the opinions of Clara and Blythe on this one specifically. With AII now able to crank out seemingly limitless content, will content run the risk of becoming irrelevant, low value commodity? That's just not taken seriously anymore.

Blythe Brumleve: 47:55

The crappy content will the good content If you rise above it, if you actually invest in good writers, founder driven marketing, which is probably the most powerful as far as marketing initiatives are concerned. As an executive on the C-suite team or a subject matter expert within the company recording a quick video establishing that trust, establishing that face to face, I think the crappy marketing will be unavoidable and you will have to stress to the people that you work with and the teams that you have working with you. You have to stress those guidelines of AI. How are you using AI within your content marketing? Have you established what's okay and what's not okay? A lot of companies and I think there was a study that was just released last week that a good majority of your employees are already using AI and that's without any kind of company oversight, any kind of guidelines. You really need to think about that from the lens of your employees and your coworkers are going to be using AI. How are you establishing within not just your company but the vendors that you work with on how they should be using AI? For example, legal is a very tricky area to combat right now around the lens of AI, because any kind of a Supreme Court, I think, just ruled recently that any kind of derivatives of images, of content of writing that you're creating is not copyright protected. You need to know from the vendor perspective, from your employee perspective, on who is using these different tools. Now, ai is still at a very baseline level, but today is the worst it's ever going to be. It's only going to continue to get better. Companies need to be thinking about how they're using these tools, how they're allowing their vendors and their internal employees to be using these tools, because of the commonality of those tools and the ease of them, that it's only going to create more content, to wade through the waters of what is actually real. What's a value to get in your social media feeds, in your email? Because it's just going to continue to explode. If you can invest in a really good writer or a really good subject matter expert or founder-driven marketing strategy, that should be your ultimate goal, because that is going to be the content that resonates with people, not a blog post that you post into chat, gbt and ask them to write 5,000 words. That is going to fall by the wayside. That type of content is going to be ignored. But you should be thinking about how you're going to be using these tools in a responsible way, so that you can rise above and be the cream that rises to the top.

John Monarch: 50:35

Laura, did you have any thoughts on that?

Clara Flaherty: 50:37

I 100% agree with Blythe. I'll just add two things. Ai is getting smarter, but Google is getting smarter. Your content is going to rank lower. It won't rank at all if you just slap in what Blythe is saying like 5,000 words. Write me a blog post. Google is getting better at tracking that too. It doesn't want to raise bad content to the top. I would caution people on doing that for sure. The other thing is trust. Just like in personal relationships, trust in a business. Once you lose it, it's very, very hard to get back. If you're putting out crappy content crappy content people are going to see that. People can read AI. Now we understand this is an AI, but you see LinkedIn posts and it's like cool, that's AI. This is actually what someone is thinking. You'll lose people and it will be very, very hard to get them back and convince them to come back.

Steve Bonadio: 51:28

There's a massive credibility gap. I'm not going to mention any names, but mainline publications and journalists or chatbots replacing journalists and then pointing that off as real people generating that content the few things we see in the news about that is dramatically eroding their credibility and brand as news organizations or whatever you want to call them. You really do have to be careful because it's not a replacement for humans. It can augment and help you with a lot of things that you're trying to do. One thing I was doing a couple of weeks ago is we had a list and one of the folks in my team said well, we just have a list of like 400 company names. We need the domain names. I, just for fun, I just dumped it into chat GPT. I dumped the list of account names. I said can you generate all the domain names for this? It did it in like 10 seconds. I'm like wow, okay, that's a really good, useful thing for a marketer. You throw a list of account names in chat GPT and it gives you all the domain names. That's a cool use case, but replacing humans who are writing real pros.

Gemma Fiorentino: 52:35

No, another real cool way to use chatGVTs to analyze the competition, did you?

Steve Bonadio: 52:44

try these Competitive intelligence.

Gemma Fiorentino: 52:45

Yeah, yeah, I would also to understand how our competitors communicate, for example. That's interesting to find a way to be different from our competitor, for example. I think that if we use the AI in this way, it's very supportive for our work.

John Monarch: 53:09

That makes sense. I'd like to jump on another question here, and that's sponsoring events going to be useful in 2024, you think Now everything from large booths and parties all the way down to just attending the event in a lean team. I'd like to go around the room on that, without naming any specific event names or anything, but if you get value from it or you're seeing that having an enormous booth is actually a value to you versus just being a lean team, I'd like to start with Steve on that one.

Steve Bonadio: 53:40

Yeah, I do think I think after the pandemic, people were very excited to get back together and start traveling again, and I do think events have a role in any kind of marketing portfolio. Events certainly should not be the totality of your demand generation strategy and I see quite a few companies who think that investing in events and they're very expensive. The cost per lead is always very expensive 500,000, even more per per lead. You know events have a place in your portfolio along with your content marketing and your, your, your digital marketing, your social marketing, your a b m marketing, all you know they all play a role In our business. Events play a pretty significant role in terms of the, the percentage of pipeline they generate. But you got to really have a great team that can maximize your investment in events that can go. They're hungry to walk the floor to meet folks, to have interesting conversations. You need to be able to track the outcome of those events because if you're spending 1020 $50,000 for a booth and to sponsor various activities at an event, you need to be able to show ROI on that. So managing you know all of that post, pre, pre, pre event, reaching out to folks to try to get meetings at the event post event follow up. Yeah, I really got to have it all buttoned up, but I do think events will continue to be a part of any B2B marketing portfolio. We're human, we want human connections, we want to get in touch, we want to escape our, our homes for a couple of nights and do something a little different maybe get a nice dinner and meet some interesting new folks and see some interesting new companies and technologies. That's never going to change. Maybe we'll do fewer in the future, but I think events are always going to be part of a B2B marketing portfolio.

John Monarch: 55:33

Gemma. What are your thoughts?

Gemma Fiorentino: 55:36

I completely agree. I think that events still are a good channel to create the connections you know and also increase our brand visibility, because also it's important also to continue to invest in brand visibility too and be different from our competitions. So that's my point, but I'm the competition.

Steve Bonadio: 56:03

The competition piece is interesting because if there's specific events that you go to every year that are like key for your industry and I, john, I respect your wish not to list any names here and all your competitors are there and you're not there for one year, you're people are going to notice like where's Ty? Why aren't they at this event? They've been here every year. All their competitors are there. What's going on at Ty? That raises questions. So there are brand implications to not being at you know, key industry events. So you got to be a little careful, totally agree, Steve.

Gemma Fiorentino: 56:37

If I cannot, just one thing here is maybe to be present. If you decide to allocate the budget in a different way, maybe we does more boots, for example. But be present, that's my advice.

John Monarch: 56:51

Clara, from the startup side of things. Events are a big cost when you're a new company.

Clara Flaherty: 56:57

Yeah, for sure, and we so we've identified a couple events every year where, like, we really believe in what this event is saying or we really are behind this mission. We want to have a booth presence there, we want to sponsor in this way because we want people to know that this is, this is our value and this is what we believe in too. But from just attending, I think, as a small company, has been huge for us. We've made so many connections. A quick anecdote we were like in line behind someone at the bar and the bar was like all right, like close now, and so everyone in line was like no, and we got to talking and it was someone, it was a company that we've been trying to connect with for the whole year and it was. He was a C-suite, you know, rep at that company. So I think it's so critical. And then I think going around to every booth has been huge for us. Like we attend the conferences and then we stop at every booth that could in any way maybe be a potential partner, someone that we want to learn from, and that's been huge. We've made so many connections. So I would definitely recommend small teams like invest in attending, you know two or three events, as many as you can, and getting your sales reps or your leadership there to have some of those conversations. But I don't think at the small stage a booth is necessary or can get you the ROI you'll want.

John Monarch: 58:14

And Blythe.

Blythe Brumleve: 58:17

It's really interesting to hear it from the enterprise level to the startup level, and I think what frustrates me the most is when I see an SMB or a startup that will invest thousands of dollars into booth space, thousands and thousands of dollars into booth space, but they won't have video marketing, they won't have a video podcast that you to connect directly with their customers. I think the importance of live events cannot be understated, simply because of the conversations that you can have from booth to booth or even at the lunch table, different networking events and things like that. That is where, to me, with all the events that I go to, that is where I have the most bang for my buck. But I think for a lot of the SMBs and startups, if you're going to be dropping 50 grand at a conference, think of what you could do if you invested that into a content marketing plan where you start off with a video podcast and you have the opportunity to have a keynote speech on LinkedIn every single day and reach that massive audience. So just think about it from that lens too, that you can play in both areas, but where you should be putting your priority, especially in the initial stages or if you're working on a small budget, then you really need to be investing in creating that feedback loop with your customers by creating content, sitting in on sales meetings and reiterating from there and remaining agile with your spend. But I would agree with Clara that attending the conferences there's really I don't know what kind of value you can put on it as far as like from a dollar percentage or from a dollar perspective, but it is worth it to attend these conferences that make sense for your audience.

Clara Flaherty: 59:55

Just one more thing to add on that I think also apply to speak. A lot of conferences you don't need to sponsor in order to speak. People are looking for speakers. So if you have something that you want to talk about like we've had a couple conferences where we've been able to speak without, without investing any more money in it Just because you know they're looking for speakers, so shoot your shot.

Steve Bonadio: 1:00:14

Yeah, absolutely.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:00:20

I hope you enjoyed this episode of everything is logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in 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 everything is logisticscom. And in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let you all know about another company I operate, and that's digital dispatch, where we help you build a better website. A lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a co workers, child, a neighbor down the street or 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 digital dispatchio. 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.