Marketing Playbook for 3PLs and Carriers in 2024
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This episode shares advice for 3PLs and carriers on how to streamline marketing heading into 2024. Blythe Brumleve covers strategies like cutting outdated PPC campaigns, ensuring your website looks modern, leveraging AI tools for content creation, and investing more in social media. She provides practical tips to help freight companies get the most out of marketing budgets.



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Show Transcript

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Blythe Brumleve: 0:05

Welcome into another episode of Everything in Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight. I'm your host, Blythe Brumleve, and we are proudly presented by SPI Logistics, and in this episode, I really want to cover a lot of topics that I have been going over in my client and lead calls. It's budgeting season, so we're having a lot of meetings to talk about how to spend your money marketing and sales wise for the rest of 2023 and primarily for 2024 and beyond, and I'm getting a lot of questions about strategy and what to invest in time wise, money wise, budget wise, and a lot of things make sense for right now and in the future and a lot of things don't make sense. So I really want to cover what freight companies specifically 3PLs and carriers are really should be focusing on for the rest of 2023 and 2024, and how these strategies and tips will help that one person or that small marketing team really grow, really flourish. Now, if you are working at a vendor in the freight space maybe you're working for you know an insurance broker or you know a software tech provider, something like that a lot of these tips will still apply to you, but I'm coming at it from the perspective of you know a lot of companies, especially in a down market, it is very, very challenging to justify spending money on marketing when you're not exactly sure what the ROI of that marketing is, and for a lot of these strategies they are, frankly, just simply outdated. So I'm going to try to cover a lot in a short amount of time, so let's just go ahead and jump right into it. The first thing I'm hearing a lot is companies that are spending a ton of money thousands, sometimes, well, hundreds of dollars, for sure, but sometimes thousands of dollars on PPC, which stands for pay per click campaigns. Now, this strategy is just flawed in so many ways because what happens is that Google is seen now a pay per click campaign is typically when you pay somebody like Google or Bing or another company in order to pay for high intent keyword phrases so you can rank for those keywords and show up at the top of searching results in order, you know, for a visitor to go to Google and they do a little quick search and hopefully you show up either organically or from a paid perspective If you are paying for it. It is called PPC and a lot of companies are overvaluing this because Google as a channel, as SEO as a strategy, is incredibly fragmented and it's in chaos right now. With Chat GPT entering the landscape about a year ago, it is really thrown the entire search engine optimization, search engine marketing world into a full on fury because they don't exactly know, or we don't exactly know, where the market is going. A lot of users close to 100, well, more than 100 million now. Chat GPT launched about a year ago and it was the fastest growing app to 100 million users and it reached that within three months. Now, for a lot of folks, what they primarily have focused on is organic SEO, which means that you know you're optimizing your website for keywords, that if somebody is searching for a carrier in your region, a broker within your region, or maybe not a broker within your region, but maybe a broker that specializes in a specific type of equipment or a specific type of commodity, now, some of those from an organic one time perspective is still absolutely a good idea. But if you were spending hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, on pay per click campaigns, you need to reevaluate that budget that you're spending and, in my opinion, probably cut it and you probably wouldn't even miss it. There are numerous studies. I think eBay in particular, was very famous for a few years ago. They completely shut off all of their pay per click campaigns and saw no significant drop in traffic, no significant drop in customer activity. And so I would caution every one of you that if you were looking for ways to trim your marketing budget and you are spending a lot of money on pay per click campaigns, I would caution you to look Very, very closely on the production of that, and when you look very, very closely, I would caution you to look at it from an objective eye, not from a Google representative or a marketing agency that may specialize in paperclip campaigns, because they have a financial incentive to Make sure that they're showing the value of that platform and the way that they show value and the way that Google shows value for their paperclip campaigns is. Google is treated as a pass-through channel, meaning very rarely Does someone Google your. Does someone know the direct ass no, the, I guess the direct address of your website. What do they do? They go to Google, they search your brand name and then they click on your brand name and arrive at your website. If they convert on your website, that lead is attributed to Google, when Google was just the pass-through channel. They just use that as a means to get to your website quickly, and so for a lot of paperclip campaigns they they appropriate that lead to that campaign when it had nothing to do with the conversion that that took place to begin with. So in my opinion, that's what I'm hearing a lot on the calls that I am on, you know, in the pad really today. I took three calls today and all of them were talking about their paperclip campaigns and how much they're spending and if they should Continue to invest in that or not. Now you need to be able to look up this, look at this from an objective eye. But also, why don't you take a page out of eBay's book, take a page out of their book by shutting off all of your ads. Shut it off for a couple months and see if you notice any any change in traffic and leads that are coming to your site and how those leads are converting and if their quality leads To begin with. So there's a lot of money being wasted in paperclip campaigns and a lot of money being wasted and Paying for the top result on Google when it's basically a free-for-all right now With chat, gpt funded content that we're able to now, from an organic perspective, be able to pump out thousands and thousands of words and hundreds of articles and a matter of hours and be able to instantly Rank for those keywords. So that is a number one strategy that I would take a look at. If you're looking at Trying to cut your marketing spend and without seeing a huge drop-off, then consider turning off all of your PPC campaigns and just seeing how it goes and just seeing if you keep all everything else the same. How would that cutting off that specific campaign and how that would affect your traffic and the leads to your website and the quality of those leads to your website? So it's important to know that a lot of things are going to be changing in the world of SEO, whether you pay for it or whether you take an organic approach. I even me myself I still invest in organic SEO, but I do so because I pump out a lot of content. If you are not pumping out a lot of content, then you're not going to be able to see a noticeable change in your search engine rankings and your search engine traffic, and it might not make sense for you to even have that turned on. A lot of brokers, a lot of carriers are paying for PPC campaigns when they don't need to pay for those things. Think about it how often are shippers going to Google and searching for your solution? They're not. They're getting hundreds of calls a day. They're getting thousands of emails every single week from brokers and from carriers looking to do business with them. They don't have to go to Google to do these searches, so the people are coming to them. So the search engine traffic, the numbers that you're getting, is probably very flawed and it's very skewed, especially depending on who's providing that service to you. So that one to me is an easy one to cut out and just to do a trial. If you're spending a lot of money, just do a trial. See what happens if you shut it off. You can save a little money in the process but also gain a ton of insights on if the marketing agency maybe you're working for is worth their salt and providing a lot of traffic to you or a lot of high quality leads to you. You can kind of see and you can gauge that if you just turn those ads off for a couple of months and then come back to it and see what those results were. 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. And what 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 SPI three PL dot com. The second thing I'm seeing is a lot of y'all don't. A you don't have a website, or B it hasn't been updated in years. We are living in the age of fraud, double brokering, impersonation Lots of these things are going on all over the web, and if you don't have a website, then you're not able to establish what I like to call trust moments on your site. So think about it if you were trying to attract a shipper and you have been, maybe cold calling them, you've been emailing them, maybe you've been doing all of the right things and creating more brain awareness on social media. And when that shipper has had enough with their current provider and they're ready to start doing business with you, then they Google your name, they come to your site and they fill out a high intent form or they check to make sure that you are who you say you are. So what they're looking for on your site is they're looking for team photos. They're looking for bios. They're looking for what kind of equipment, what kind of experience? Are you part of any associations? Are you? Have you won any awards? They're looking for all of these different trust moments on your site in order to make the decision on if they're going to take that next step to do business with you. Now for a lot of websites, in the overwhelming majority of data that I see, someone comes to a freight website and they're either coming directly to their homepage or they're coming in through a blog post article. The second page that they're visiting after that is the about us page. Overwhelmingly, they want to come in, see who you are and then learn more about you. So, making sure that your website is been designed in the past three years, that it doesn't look like something that was built out of the nineties, you can do this at a very affordable rate. You know we offer these kinds of services I'll get more into that later on but If you have the capabilities, if you have the technical know how in order to revamp your website and it's been a few years there are plenty of tools out there that will help you speed up this process and help you get it done much more quickly. Long gone are the days that you need to pay five, ten grand for a site. If you do not pay that much for a website, specifically if it's just a regular website now, you might pay around that price. If you're looking for really like custom animations and custom design, you really don't need custom design. Because why? Because there's plenty of sites out there that have Made their business and building website templates that cost fifty anywhere from fifty bucks to a hundred bucks and so, thinking about it from that lens, you could go and you could purchase your own website template that you like and then you could install that on your own site and build up your site from there. Now there are other companies, of course, that will do this for you, but you shouldn't be paying any more than Three grand, I think is pushing it for a site. Five grand is you better? Have you know, a lot of content? That's that's typically what jumps up. The price is if you have a lot of content, a lot of videos, blogs, short form content, things like that that's what makes your price jump. Because if you're using, if you're creating more content, you're creating more data and that more data requires more server space. It requires more maintenance. So, just to keep that in mind, if you're paying more, if you're paying 10 grand or more for a site, that is crazy. If you spend any more than 10 grand on a site, unless you're getting fancy, you know API integrations, things like that that's when it can start to make the price jump. But I would argue that API integrations have nothing to do with the presenting website and has more to do with the back-end capabilities, maybe some TMS integrations or WMS integrations, anything like that. That typically because, again, api integrations typically means more data. More data means more maintenance, more you know server space, more just, more bandwidth, not just from a technical perspective but also from a people perspective. So that's where those, that's where you can kind of understand the fluctuations in price. But if you haven't had a website redesigned in typically three years, I typically do mine at least every year and a half, where I will be revamping the overall look of my personal sites. If it's been more than three years, I would seriously look at just purchasing a website template or hiring a company like mine in order to help you sort of facilitate that process. Because, again, if shippers are looking to do business with you, you know different partners. They want to make sure that they're working with a company that is up to date, that they know who they are, that they can have those, they can see those trust moments created throughout your site, and so that's another thing of what I'm seeing is that a lot of sites, a lot of y'all site if you even have one, it looks like it was built 10 years ago and that just doesn't scream that. You know we've evolved into a modern day organization where we're going to take care of your freight from you know, investing in tools and solutions that are going to help track your freight and keep it away from double brokers and keep it away from fraud and that you're keeping up with the times. I mean, frankly, your website says a lot about you and your company, and so if you're not keeping up to date with that kind of information, then it's. You're probably going to see a lot of missed opportunities and you probably won't even see them, because they won't ever take that next step to book a meeting with you or to, you know, fill out a request for quote or anything like that. They're just not going to. They're going to move on to the next person because they're getting all of those contacts every single day, either through cold calling or emailing or, however you know, stopping in through the front door that you know shippers are getting hounded and they have the luxury to sit back and pick the one that they like the most. So that's another thing that I'm seeing. Now, next one that I'm seeing is a lot of companies and this is really frustrating to say a lot of companies are still asking about organic SEO. Now, I kind of mentioned this in the first part of the show is that for a lot of companies, you are investing in a tactic that is a decade old, it's past its prime and currently we just do not see a very clear path towards relevancy if you are only focusing on creating SEO blog content, and what I mean by that is that you can have a website and you can optimize one time your site for organic keywords and the reality of what you want to do on those pages is for your brand name and then for the main services, equipment that you offer. You do that one time on specific pages on your site and then that's it. You don't, you shouldn't, be touching regular SEO keywords, research, writing, blog content, things like that. You shouldn't be regularly doing that. There is a better way, and that is by going to social media. Social media is where your audience is already hanging out. They can see your profile, they can see if you are a real person you are who you say you are. They can read your thought process, they can see what kind of messaging that you're putting out into the world, and then when they're actively in a buying cycle because, keep in mind, 95% of your audience, probably more than that, is not in an active buying cycle, and so when you focus on SEO, you are focusing on them. One to 3% of your TAM, your total addressable market who is actively in a buying cycle, and if they're going to Google, you have to compete with every other person. Every other ad that is on that main page Also videos YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet and Google owns them. And so when you are competing for the attention of that one to 3% that are actively in a buying cycle, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead, you should be using social media in order to communicate what your customers are care about, what your customers are wanting to see. You can communicate that messaging on social media to that 95 plus percent of your audience that is not actively in a buying cycle, because when they do get into a buying cycle, when they are tired of their current provider, if you've done your job right, then they'll remember you and they'll come to you before they ever go to Google, and so keep that in mind. And so the next step in this process is well, how do I figure out what my customers care about? And this is the most, and if you've listened to any of my content, then you know that I have shouted this company out. They don't pay me to say this, but Otter AI. It is the best kept secret in sales and marketing and it is the single biggest helper in order to creating a content plan that your customers and your prospects care about. So what you want to do is you want to take a group distribution emails maybe it's sales at your freight company dot com or whatever. You want to take that email and you want to sign up using that email for Otter dot AI. I swear by them. They do not pay me to say this, but I use them every single day and the way that I use them is that it's a note taking app for your meetings. It auto joins your meetings tape records the entire thing, takes notes during the process so you can focus on who you're talking to and not writing down a million notes after the meeting is over. Everybody who was in on that call gets a copy of that transcript, gets a copy of the takeaways and on the takeaways, it typically has questions, main themes that were talked about, and it has a drill down to where you can find that exact moment in that conversation of where that moment was referred to and so what it is what you do afterwards as you take that and you share it with your marketing team. You take all of those insights and you share it with them, because then they know what to post a social media, what to create email campaigns, maybe videos or blogs. Everybody has one of these cell phone if you're listening and instead of watching, everybody has one of these, has one of the best cameras on the market, right here in the palm of your hands. Take that order, a transcript of those common questions that you're asked over a week's time, over a month's time, and you could turn that into an FAQ. You could turn that into a landing page on your site and then you can take all of that content. You can turn it into social media content. You can turn it into email campaigns. It is the single biggest missed opportunity right now going on in freight is that you don't you're not using some kind of an AI note taking app If you just sign up for one of those. I know there's more than auto AI. Maybe there's better ones out there, but frankly, auto AI does more than everything that I've needed, so I swear by them. I use it religiously in my content marketing plans and I'm able to use those conversations in order to drill down and really refine what I talk about on shows like this, on, on you know, on guest appearances, what I communicate to my audience and what I communicate to my clients and customers. It is essential. I know how much it costs about a hundred thirty dollars a year. It is, hands down, the best investment that you will make. Another great thing about it is that you have the ability to export those transcripts from those conversations and then say you hire a marketing assistant and that marketing assistant can then take those transcripts Uploaded to chat to be T cost twenty bucks a month. They can rewrite that entire transcript and make a content plan out of that transcript. I've done it myself. I've taken Not dozens, but I took the other day I took seven to eight transcripts that were all based in one specific category and I said, let's make a content plan based on the conversation and the takeaways from these transcripts. And you know it sent me an entire content marketing plan based on transcripts and conversations I'm already having. So these are tools that I wish I would have had when I was working inside of an asset based three PL, because it would have made my job so much easier. I would have known exactly what kind of content to create, because those are the exact conversations that your sales team is already having your leadership team is already having, so Give your marketer marketing team a break. If you have a marketing team or maybe it's, you know it's somebody that is handling marketing in addition to their current role, but using that is such a game changer. And if you couple that with order, I set 130 bucks a year. Canva is about $100 a year and that's a Graphics tool that you can use to create different social media graphics. That's about a hundred bucks a year and then, with those two tools plus chat, to be 20 dollars a month. Right there, you have an entire marketing suite Of tools that you could be using in order to fuel your entire marketing ship. So that is one another big takeaway. Now maybe you're in a situation where you don't have anybody that is in charge of marketing, that you don't have the resources to hire somebody to in order to help. That's where making some of these budget cuts like what I talked about with the PPC campaigns shutting that off and devoting that budget to something else, shutting that off and devoting that budget maybe a thousand bucks a month to a part time social media coordinator where they'll be able to use order, ai and canva and chat to be teach, create a resource hub, a you know Google dry folder drop box folder that is filled with social media post ideas that come directly from the conversations that your team is already having. So that's another option that you could be thinking about for the new year. Or really just to hone in on your current marketing team. Maybe you already have a couple people that are in charge of marketing and you're looking for ways to cut costs because, that's frankly, it's a tight market and marketing is typically the first thing that is cut. So you can make a justification of making your current team more productive by being able to use some of these newer tools that have just hit the market in the last year, so that can really bump up your productivity and really put your marketing on steroids, and Using those conversations that your sales team is already having. So that's what I, that's how I would approach it, that's how I would choose to conquer my marketing for the rest of this year and in the new year. Make sure that you're mapping out your processes before you cold call, before you send an email, before you write a social media post. What are those steps that you're doing in that process, write it out and then C where each of those three tools that I just mentioned in order, ai and canva and chat, gpt see where they can replace any of those other marketing tools or software that you may have bought, and you thought it was going to solve a lot of problems, but then it just created an issue where you have all the software and you're not using it because it's confusing and it takes time to learn, and you can cut some of that out in order to make your current team more productive. So that's where I would. I would reevaluate my entire marketing and sales processes. I would immediately purchase order, ai or another similar note taking app tool and then I would copy in my marketing team or marketing person On all of those different conversations so that they have a, they have some kind of a database that they can pull from without bugging you nonstop on how to make different marketing plans. Now, maybe you don't have plans to hire any kind of marketing person and maybe you just want to handle it all yourself. You could follow that exact same playbook and gain those insights and then dedicate An hour and hour and a half the first part of the day in order to conquer a lot of those different goals. So, after you've established your processes, you're going to trim the fat from your marketing budget and then you can use some of these tools, especially chat GPT. In the last couple of weeks they have made A tremendous amount of improvements to the platform, so highly highly advise you getting you know, just coughing up the twenty bucks a month. It is well worth it. Now, if you're interested in anymore from you know my services, my team everything is logistics is taking podcast sponsorships in case you want to reach a highly engaged audience, because that's actually a direct quote from a guest that recently appeared on the podcast. We can help you increase your brand awareness through podcast sponsorships. They said, appearing on your podcast sent us the most leads out of any campaign we did all year. And then another guest closed the largest customer she's ever had simply by coming on this podcast. Now, that's one caveat. That's one revenue stream for me. The other revenue stream is helping great companies get online and grow through digital dispatch. You can check out some of our website plans. A lot of the same things I talked about in this episode are exactly the blue book or playbook that we follow over on digital dispatch dot IO. So you can check out both of those things. I've got them linked in the show notes, so hopefully that helps you sort of craft out your marketing plan for the rest of 2023 and beyond and stay tuned for everything is logistics for more content like this. 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 logistics dot com. 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 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 dispatch dot IO. 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.