Are you sure your prospecting efforts are reaching your ideal shipper? When I was doing sales for One Horn, I embarked on a networking frenzy which was fun. I met a lot of really great people, but I didn’t reach my ideal shipper. Now that I am targeting freight agents using avatars, I wanted to share the idea with you, since it could be a helpful tool for freight agents to target shippers.
So what is an avatar in the marketing world? It’s a description of a specific individual who is your ideal customer. Applied to freight sales, the idea is to identify key characteristics of a composite person who is your ideal shipper. And you can have multiple avatars. The important thing is to tailor your sales pitch so that your prospect feels like you are talking to them as if you can read their mind. They should think “Wow, how did you know that?” Here are several components you can use as you create your ideal shipper avatar:
- Name: It’s important to give your avatar a name, like Sandy, so you can ask yourself how Sandy would feel about this or if Sandy would want to buy this. Now that we are no longer targeting shippers directly, our avatars are freight agents. When we first started using avatars to target freight agents, we picked a gender neutral name so our avatar could be a man or a woman. Marketing purists would disagree, but since we are not buying millions of TV advertising, for our purposes, this is fine.
- Position in the Company: Next, figure out what level of decision-maker Sandy is in the company. Is Sandy a traffic manager or a VP of Logistics. Depending on the level a person is in the company, the way you address him/her differs because their concerns differ. One agent avatar is already an agent at another brokerage, while another is an employee with a book of business s/he wants to take out on his/her own.
- Industry: Here you choose whether Sandy works in a very narrow specialty like steel beams or a broader industry like building materials. Our agent avatar has customers who are mainly full truckload.
- Pain Points: In my ninth blog, almost a year ago, I wrote about diagnosing your shipper’s pain points. Sandy could be particularly frustrated because his/her current transportation providers are not delivering in a timely manner, so his/her sales department is constantly on his/her back because of customer complaints. Our agent avatar is frustrated because the back office of his/her current brokerage is so inefficient, s/he has no time to grow his/her book of business since s/he is spending so much time processing live loads on an antiquated “blue screen” computer program that has not been updated since “the Internet” and getting approval from “corporate” for his/her carriers and shippers. We know our proprietary software, Stratebo, helps our agents be more efficient with their loads, so they can find time to grow their books of business. How do you address the timely delivery issues for Sandy?
- Desires: If Sandy wants to move higher up in the company, s/he could also desire more freedom to start working on other responsibilities in the warehouse, so s/he is looking for more of a turnkey solution. Our agent avatar wants to have the freedom to prospect for new customers and to approve his/her own carriers so he/she make more money better to provide for his/her family. One Horn can offer both. Can you offer more freedom to your shippers?
- Where to Reach Them: Does Sandy attend a lot of building materials trade shows? Perhaps by attending industry events, you will be able to get in contact with more Sandys. Networking events are great places to meet Sandy, so long as the content of the meeting will be of interest to help Sandy improve his/her performance. Our biggest challenge is that freight agents don’t congregate in physical locations. They’re too busy booking freight from a home or small office and don’t typically leave their shippers hanging. So finding them is our main challenge. Once we find them and they hear the story of how we help them make their dreams a reality, they’re sold.
Here is an abbreviated example of a shipper avatar: Sandy is a traffic manager at a mid-sized building materials manufacturer. S/he is frustrated because s/he has to deal with a lot of complaints from his/her company’s sales department due to the issues s/he has been having with on-time delivery. Sandy wants to move up in the organization, but s/he is buried and needs a more turnkey solution. You can offer that solution. As you question your prospect to identify his/her pain points, you can determine whether s/he is a Sandy or one of your other avatars, and then really speak to his/her desires, like you can mind-read.
One of our agent avatars is currently an agent who is frustrated because s/he can’t grow a larger book of business due to the inefficiency of the current brokerage’s back office. S/he really wants to provide more for his/her family. We can answer that issue by offering the most efficient back office due to our proprietary software written by my business partner/husband Louis. Another avatar is frustrated because s/he feels like a number. We offer direct access to the management team and owners of One Horn, so s/he feels like s/he’s found a home. So you can see how multiple avatars can come into play.
The purists would say you need to decide if it is a man or a woman, the age, and be more specific. But for our purposes, just orienting yourself will make Sandy feel like you are talking to him/her specifically, way more than your competitors are. So now you can look at your activities and ask if you would effectively reach Sandy? Would your sales and marketing communications speak to Sandy as if you knew him/her? If so, you’re doing great; if not, now you know how you can adjust your efforts to become more effective towards reaching your goals.
Speaking of goals, in my next blog, I will address why back-to-school is the perfect time to assess your goals.
– By Cheryl Biron, President
Click Here to subscribe and receive our blog every other week.