Operator CPC Training
This week, we move in to the world of marketing. Without proper attention to marketing, a small business can expect poor trading results and, at the very worst, fail in today’s fast moving, communication based environment.
Marketing, as we know, is a method of connecting a company’s products and services to both new and existing customers. It can help identify client needs and gaps in the market. It can also provide feedback on customer satisfaction and industry rankings. Marketing can be considered under the following 4 main headings which we will look at in more detail:
1. Knowing your market
2. Products and pricing
3. Advertising and sales promotion
4. Selling and distribution
Knowing Your Market
An operator will initially need to decide which segments of the road haulage industry they intend to focus on. They may have certain specialities or skills they wish to offer to customers. These may be specific services such as bulk haulage, tippers, computer transport, parcel deliveries, groupage, storage, contract hire, and so on. The maxim to follow is “find a need and fill it”.
In order to understand their market and conduct their own research from scratch, a haulier can obtain information from sources such as a local reference library, chamber of commerce and trade associations. The internet can also provide a wealth of information on the market in general and competitors.
Additionally, more specific information can be obtained from The Business Statistics Office Census of Distribution and by market research which can be conducted face-to-face, in writing, online or telephone. A carefully constructed questionnaire containing key questions can return relevant and enriching results.
Products and Pricing
When a haulier enters the commercial transport market, they are entering a cut-price industry. In order to stay ‘one step ahead’ of competitors, a haulier could offer a service that is unique and superior that is not just based on price.
New ideas should be constantly developed. These can be produced on the back of market research or industry growth. A haulier must also decide on the correct price to charge for their services.
Advertising and Sales Promotion
An operator must choose to advertise their services in the most effective, yet cost-efficient way.
Effective advertising involves 3 essential factors:
1. Good copy. A well written press release, advertisement or promotional article will attract Attention, arouse Interest, create Desire and stimulate Action. These 4 steps in the sequential order listed, are known as the AIDA sequence or selling system and is used widely and successfully by many organisations.
2. Choosing the right medium. A haulier will need to decide on the best form of advertising. Should they advertise nationally or locally? Is it best to advertise in newspapers, television, radio or the internet? A small haulier may well decide to use local newspapers and trade journals, instead of national advertising.
3. Advertising at the right time and with the right frequency. It is essential for a haulier to repeat an advertisement to keep their name to the fore and to ensure the message is successfully relayed to the customer. However, too many adverts could result in a negative effect and make the customer ‘switch off’.
Here are a few advertising suggestions. Read through them and imagine how these methods would work best for small and/or large hauliers:
– Direct mail advertising is an easy way of reaching customers. A list of existing customers can be used or one can be purchased from specialist companies such as Yellow Pages, BSO’s List of Manufacturing Businesses, Kompass Register, Dun and Bradstreet directories, etc.
– Sending customers ‘evergreen’ reminders such as calendars, desk diaries, etc.
– Press releases to local newspapers and trade journals.
– Company presentation. Creating a good image is important, so operators would benefit from clean vehicles, smart and polite staff and good communication skills. All of these factors can improve a corporate image.
– Using vehicles as travelling advertisements.
– Sponsorship of local events.
– Selling and Distribution
A team of well-trained sales staff can promote an operator by personal contact. The sales team must know their product, establish good customer relations, be self-disciplined and plan their work.
As mentioned above, operators may decide to carry out market research to find out about the market they are in. They may decide to use primary or secondary data or conduct reactive or non reactive surveys (see terminology below).
The operator may carry out a ‘SWOT’ analysis, which looks at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
When keeping a database for market research purposes, the following information should be contained within the customers’ records:
name of the organisation
Name of the contact
Position of the contact
Details of their business
Type of product/service
Previous business transactions
To conclude, the following list covers some of the key terminology we’ve covered in this article and will provide you with a revision list for future use.
A method of asking existing and potential customers their needs and finding out about the market.
A percentage of the total of the United Kingdom market.
A store of information which includes customer lists, computer records, etc.
A confidential list of customers, which contains their addresses, telephone numbers, contacts and business classifications.
A survey of a small number of people to check on the suitability of a questionnaire or product.
Unique selling point
A special feature that distinguishes an operator’s business from its competitors.
Sending information on company services directly to new and existing customers by post. These are also know as mail shots.
Grouping customers according to their common characteristics and requirements.
Information obtained by direct customer contact, e.g. a questionnaire.
Information derived from previous experience, e.g. sales records.
Information obtained from reports, trade press, sales information, etc. This information is obtained without direct contact with customers.