Top 5 Tips for Digital Marketing for Logistics Companies in 2024

Digital marketing for logistics companies has evolved, and we want to help guide your business to evolve with it

Written by Kathy Kassera Mrozek
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Logistics companies have long since been the backbone of product-based manufacturing and retail companies in the United States. Logistics companies provide inbound product receiving, ongoing storage, fulfillment, and distribution services, as well as returns management. Carefully crafting logistics strategies, managing complex processes and procedures, and implementing best-of-class technologies to orchestrate a flawless supply chain, these highly valued outsourced services companies are called upon to deliver on their customer’s promises, often under challenging circumstances and exceedingly high expectations.

While operators of third-party logistics companies are highly sophisticated at their craft, oftentimes like most industrial businesses they are less than confident when tasked with the growing expertise required to manage ongoing sales and marketing tasks to grow their company revenues. From social media (in particular, LinkedIn) and email marketing, to search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, logistics executives and managers are not only challenged by a lack of deep expertise in these diverse fields but also a lack of time. Frequently, small boutique and even mid-sized 3PL companies lack the internal resources to adequately manage marketing and sales functions – leaving the bulk of the work to the president or a fragmented combination of internal staff.

Unfortunately, if left to chance or as an afterthought, marketing efforts for logistics companies will ultimately result in a lack of performance, and worse yet, declining sales should the company lose customers or should the broader economy struggle due to forces like a recession. Since our country is currently undergoing a period of economic uncertainty, it’s particularly important for logistics operators to take a hard look at their marketing operations and make improvements where possible to best position themselves for the future.

In this article, we will discuss the top 5 strategies in digital marketing for logistics companies that you can tangibly implement in 2023 to help build a solid marketing and sales foundation for future success. With a little planning and a determined long-term and concerted effort, these valued companies can shield themselves from economic challenges, create systems for continued growth, and ultimately hedge the risk of going out of business should the economic climate worsen.

Where Should Logistics Companies Invest In Their Marketing?

Before we delve into specific strategies, it’s important to understand the most beneficial marketing investments for B2B-based logistics operations. In terms of achieving the highest rate of return on investment, B2B companies, and 3PL warehouses and shipping companies specifically, benefit most from the following channels:

  • Their Website as the Hub of Their Marketing
  • Referral Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Digital Marketing, including SEO (content marketing) and PPC Marketing

The above marketing investments are tried-and-true methods and worthy of consideration and testing, as evidenced by recent studies. Just as important as the tactics, however, are the overall strategies that guide these various investments.

Without further ado, below are the Top 5 tips for digital marketing for logistics companies to implement in 2023 for achieving marketing success.

Quality First: You Have to be the ‘Best’ to be at the Top

To lay a proper foundation for marketing success within this industry, the first and most important tip for 2023 and beyond is to simply be great at what you do. While this sounds extremely simple, it is oftentimes overlooked, ignored, or minimized. No longer is it achievable to be “okay.” Even being “fairly good” isn’t enough in this competitive environment. The reasoning behind the necessity for achieving best-of-class performance and operations in the logistics industry is twofold.

First, this industry is both highly competitive AND low-margin oriented. With tens of thousands of 3PL companies in the US alone, this mature industry has a fierce level of competition. However, this isn’t the only hurdle – logistics is also a very low-margin business, with companies having to compete extensively on “price”, offering competitive rates or risking the loss of customers who move to another, less expensive option. Unfortunately, this industry is viewed by many as a commodity, with price as the primary differentiator. While it is possible to show additional value and, therefore, compete on other levels outside of price, at the end of the day logistics companies still must deliver unparalleled value within the context of a reasonable pricing structure.

Second, with the growth of user-generated content and reviews online, reputation is impacted significantly by the perception of the quality of an organization as well as the quality of content that an organization produces. The quality of operations of a logistics company is largely established by reviews of its customers, and the quality of the content (written content, video content, podcast content, etc.) largely dictates the success of a digital marketing strategy (whether that is based upon conversion rates, organic ranking, online signups, etc.).

Marketing success in the third-party logistics industry is contingent upon delivering a best-of-class operational experience for clients, as well as a best-of-class marketing experience in any channel it decides to pursue. If a logistics company fails to operate consistently and/or deliver content that is worthy of rising above the noise, there should be no expectation to outperform the competition regarding sales and marketing.

Care Deeply About Reviews and Referrals & Create a Formal Process

As mentioned above, positive customer reviews are of paramount significance when it comes to growing sales. Ask most operators of 3PL services where they gain most of their new customers, and an extremely high percentage will indicate that they get most new business via “referrals.” There is no better indicator of quality service than a customer who ends up recommending a colleague. Furthermore, online searchers for outsourced logistics services rely heavily upon online reviews in the decision-making process. In fact, a whopping 49% of users of online reviews trust them as much as a personal recommendation!

But just as frequently as logistics companies will indicate that sales are far too reliant upon referrals, they will also begrudgingly indicate that these referrals happen by chance. As much as 3PLs know inherently that their online reviews are very important, most do not have a strategy to get happy customers to leave a positive review – and most people, even if they are thrilled with your service, will not proactively provide a review without at least a gentle nudging.

Simply put, most logistics companies fail to create and implement a review and referral strategy. What a lost opportunity this is! After all, creating and implementing a review and referral strategy is very simple.

The timing of your review and referral strategy is significant – giving new customers enough time and experience with your organization. A review program encourages them to spread those good reviews for you. Setting a simple follow-up with new customers after they join and asking them to give you feedback is all it takes. This feedback opens a healthy dialogue for reviews and for 3PLs to extend services to anyone the customer knows who needs help. The whole process can be calendared – such as 3 or 6 months after onboarding. A referral program method can easily be added to this correspondence, letting customers know that referrals are not only welcomed but also rewarded with a perk for such an introduction as well.

Even if a review or a referral from a customer isn’t achieved, the feedback may prove to be priceless in value.

Find Your Marketing Niche and Go “All In”

As a reminder, outside of referrals, the most impactful marketing investments for logistics companies include having a quality logistics web design, intentional social media marketing, email marketing, and SEO and PPC marketing. Each of these tactics has its own set of “pros” and “cons”, and they are all worthy of consideration and investment. However, for many logistics owners and operators, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to invest in them all.

Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly research each marketing channel, and pick the avenue that appears to be most beneficial to the business. Not only is it important to consider which channel will provide the most “bang for the buck”, but it’s also important to consider the level of comfort that one has with each strategy. For some professionals, using social media is like second nature and has a definite appeal. For others, those who aren’t active on social media at all, crafting an email marketing or SEO strategy may fit more within the “comfort zone”.

Developing a great strategy with a stellar 3PL logistics web design, social media marketing, email marketing, and SEO and PPC marketing, may require the use of an outsourced marketing company or agency to manage. However, that doesn’t mean the 3PL can be asleep at the wheel. To adequately manage an outsourced provider, a baseline level of understanding of the marketing channel and how it works must be achieved. In other words, the only way to properly manage an outsourced provider is to know enough about what they’re doing to hold them accountable and keep their feet to the fire. Therefore, 3PL operators must budget enough time to learn and grow in knowledge with the respective marketing channel.

As a result, picking one marketing channel to master and deliver quality website traffic may be more than enough given time constraints. After all, additional channels can be added after a certain level of mastery is attained.

Build Relationships with Key Industry Players

Building face-to-face relationships is another sound strategy that can ultimately lead to new customers. While this methodology takes time to develop, it can be a very lucrative practice in the long run. In the world of 3PL logistics solutions, there are a few key industry players that can unlock the key to new clients – namely commercial real estate brokers and shipping sales managers.

Commercial real estate brokers have a finger on the pulse of tenants and prospects looking for warehouse leases. In some cases, current tenants may be looking to downsize, eliminate warehouse operations altogether, or tap into short-term overflow warehouse space. In these cases, a solid rapport can translate into an introduction.

Similarly, shipping managers, such as small parcel managers (FedEx, UPS, etc.), LTL (less than truckload) carriers, and freight forwarding companies are a goldmine for customers that ship products. As opposed to commercial real estate brokers, however, shipping managers may be less inclined to share potential contacts for fear of earning lower commissions. Nonetheless, they are a very good set of contacts to nurture that could lead to a positive introduction.

Finally, as counterintuitive as it may seem at first glance, building relationships with other 3PL logistics solutions companies can prove to be extremely valuable. Most important, choosing companies that aren’t direct competitors is a wise practice. For example, if you are a boutique 3PL serving smaller clients, reaching out to other large providers in the local area could offer a synergistic approach. Exchanging large prospects for smaller prospects may be enticing for both sides.

Invest in Your Business and Marketing During Challenging Times

Finally, it’s important for logistics providers to invest as much as possible during challenging times. The reason is simple – most companies flat out will not invest anything extra when times are tough. Therefore, whoever does choose to invest during a period where most others are on the sidelines, will have the greatest chance of increased market share both during the challenging economic period and after the economic recovery. In essence, by investing when no one else chooses to invest, more momentum is built, and further distance is attained.

For example, regarding SEO marketing, many companies will opt out of monetary spending, viewing it as a “nice to have” rather than a mandatory investment. After six months or a year, companies that continue to invest in this strategy will achieve higher results and thus produce a great lead funnel.

Final Thoughts on Digital Marketing for Logistics Companies in 2023

All in all, a less-than-stellar economic environment represents a tremendous opportunity for 3PLs. Most companies will reduce spending during these times, giving those that do invest a key advantage. By fine-tuning the business to achieve best-in-class operational results, implementing a review and referral strategy, investing in a key marketing strategy, building relationships with key industry players, and spending money when others aren’t, momentum will be built for future success and increased market share and leadership.

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