E-Marketing – Deciphering the Vast Option on Online Marketing Opportunities For Courier Companies
It can’t be said too often, because so few owners in the Courier Industry even still understand its gravity: The adoption of technology in the realm of marketing is our industry’s biggest trend. In a matter of a few years, the Internet has consolidated itself as a extremely powerful platform that has changed the way we do business, and the way we communicate. The Internet, as no other medium, has given an International or global dimension to the world.
The Internet is actually the most democratic of all the mass media. With a very low investment, anyone can have a web page. Almost any business can reach a very large market, directly, fast and economical. Size and location no longer are a factor among competition in the domain of Online Marketing.
E-marketing or Courier Internet Marketing is a component of electronic commerce, better known as e-commerce. It is the use of the Internet to advertise and promote goods and services. Widely growing internationally, companies are shifting their traditional marketing dollars to a form of electronic marketing, using several different techniques to accomplish their goals. The Courier industry is no different. In fact, trends found in the courier industry today such as consolidation, product & service expansions and agent network growth compliment currents, successful trends in the world of e-marketing. This form of marketing has many benefits unfamiliar with traditional means. Foremost, e-marketing can help expand fro ma local market to both national and international, and in a way, it levels the playing field for big and small players. Unlike traditional marketing media like print, radio and television, entry into the realm of Internet marketing can be a lot less expensive. Furthermore, since exposure, response and overall efficiency of digital media is much easier to track than that of traditional offline media, e-marketing offers a greater sense of accountability for advertisers. Simply put, every act of e-marketing can be measured and monitored, in turn providing immediate results towards the return on investment (ROI) for the electronic medium at hand.
Since the birth of the public Internet in 1992, the paradigm shift in business behavior towards new marketing initiatives has experienced both positive and negative strategies. Like in all forms of business, strategy and planning are key elements to finding success on the internet. Unlike most businesses on the internet, the Courier industry is a very old, traditional business that generally requires a brick and mortar establishment strategically located to serve other businesses and individuals. However, as this industry is changing, reaching out to those who require to know about your business in many cases can be accomplished through new mediums. While it is relatively new, Internet marketing has just reached a point termed a growth stage of its life cycle. This is where economies of scale are evident, profitability is inevitable, public awareness is high and competition begins to increase. Gone are the days of this being a new concept.
Understanding both a push and pull marketing strategy, it is important to understand what methodologies are used to attract or persuade individuals to your delivery firm. More importantly, identify the demographic groups is crucial to building an effective e-strategy. There are four main groups that you can attract or persuade to your firm through electronic means:
Considering each group, different methodologies will be discussed in the latter relating to each of the four demographic groups. However, first consideration to each group is necessary.
These are businesses and individuals who are currently using or have used your service in the past. This is also the largest, most profitable group companies fail to effectively market to. Understanding your customers’ needs is paramount to success. Failure to do so, essentially, is planning to fail. Your clients have already agreed to do business with you, and not having an understanding of their needs means their may be opportunities lost. Simply put, does every single client of your know your business, where you’ve going, new services or even new initiatives. Do you know your client’s entire shipping portfolio and every one of their needs? Ponder on this, there isn’t a delivery company in the world that can not use more information about their own clients to their benefit.
While our industry is experiencing growth in national networks comprised of individual firms across the nation, the need to attract quality agents is high demand. This can be a substantial source of revenue for courier companies, especially those who have experience and network to pick and deliver from the local airports. Considering the changes in the public transportation network, it is cheaper than ever to get packages across the nation, giving the big boys a run for their money enabling smaller firms compete at the national level, in many cases with better service while keeping costs low.
With an average annual turnover rate of 20% for independent contractors, it is paramount delivery firms hire drivers who are a cultural fit their partner, the courier company. Although employee turnover isn’t as high, the same level of importance lies in hiring the right driver for the company, and your clients. In many markets, attracting the right people isn’t an easy feat. While over 90% of individuals in the U.S.A. have access to the internet, this is an obvious means to reach out and attract individuals fit for this role.
This shouldn’t be confused with clients, this is the demographic group courier companies have traditionally found revenue; through the growth and acquisition of new customers. Although these groups have not yet used your service, over 80% of courier companies use some sort of sale methodology whether it’s a sales team or simply one individual responsible or sharing their time in direct sales. Tradional means of sales such as cold calling is still key to generate leads, however leads can easily be generate through a variety of different means.
While there are dozens of methods for e-marketing, for the purpose of this article, the more popular and successful methods will be discussed for the uses with a courier company. Some of these methods include:
o Search Engine Marketing
o Email Marketing
o Viral Marketing
o Digital Presentations
o Marketing Research
SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the fastest growing form of online advertising in the world. If you want your business to be recongnized on the Internet, it is critical for your site to appear in the first three pages of a search on the major search engines, preferably the first. “Search Engines have created more awareness for websites than all other advertising combined including banners, newspapers, television and radio” IMT Strategies. According to the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, SEM methods include: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), paid placement (Paid Per Click or PPC), and paid inclusion.
Additionally, in business to business searches on the Internet, over 80% of users click on Organic results over pay per click results. Courier Internet marketing is growing at an incredible rate.
An Organic search result is the process by which internet users find websites having unpaid search engine listings, as opposed to using the pay per click advertising listings displayed among the search results. Pay per click (PPC) is an advertising technique used on websites, advertising networks and search engines used to generate traffic by placing advertisements in strategic locations across the internet. An advertiser pays a fee for each click on their ad and the fees are determined through a bidding process defined by their competitors for the keyword or phrase.
Among the 180 plus search engines used in the U.S.A., the top three share approximately 90% of the search market. Those three are Google.com, Yahoo.com and msn.com While sources vary in terms of actual market share among those three, there is no question that those three share 9 out of 10 searches.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a subset of search engine marketing. This is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ (sometimes referred to algorithmic) search results. SEO is marketing by understanding how search algorithms work and what human visitors might search for. SEO efforts may involve optimizing the website’s code, presentation, structure, robot file but most importantly the number of relevant inbound links, or reciprocal links.
Nearing the end of the millennium, the term ‘page rank’ was derived by two individuals while attending Stanford University. This term, some say, changed the world. In fact, it did since this is the foundation of the Google company and their algorithm used by Google today. The idea of basing the relevancy of a website’s placement on the search engine on inbound links gave human web surfer the most relevant search results. IN simple terms, this is a voting competition. The more inbound links to a website, the more popular it was, and in turn the more favored that website was by the search engine. This however is only at the remedial level, Google considers hundreds of factors to determine the page rank, including the relevancy of the inbound links to the search word / search phrase used. Having a link from sony.com to your website doesn’t help for the search ‘courier service’, but an inbound link from say a national courier organization is extremely relevant.
This is neither a straight forward or perfectly calculated practice. As firm emerge claiming to offer SEO services, search engines are banning websites from their own sites due to SEO firms deploying black hat techniques. These are techniques that try to improve rankings that are disapproved of by the search engines and involve deception. This can be ‘hidden’ text in the background, redirects, doorway pages, keyword stuffing, duplicates and interlinking to name a few. White Hat techniques conform to the search engines’ guidelines and involve not deception. It also ensures as creating content for users, not for search engines. In February 2006, BMW Germany were banned by Google for deploying Black Hat techniques. Be very careful of your SEO firm.
According to Forrester Research, 83% of all companies in the U.S.A. are using some form of e-mail marketing, while Jupiter Research specify that 38% of companies have a centralized e-mail marketing department. These figures are staggering. Additionally, e-mail marketing is the most effective of all eMarketing tactics. While it is a form of direct marketing, it is very cost effective, highly targeted and measurable. One can measure bounced emails, read receipts, click through, downloads and then easily correlate that to your sales and marketing efforts. While increasingly being used in the courier industry, firms are finding much success in marketing to existing customers to market new services, existing services unknown to their customers, promotions and new programs.
Although this may sound like a new disease or virus for your computer, this refers to ‘word of mouth’ in an electronic context. Traditionally there has been little arguments over the best form of marketing, ‘word of mouth’ and viral marketing utilizes this form in a concise, targeted, planned fashion. While there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of digital domains to create this buzz, allocating a couple of hours a week in a planned fashion towards viral marketing can greatly improve your awareness both locally and nationally. Utilizing online news groups, online local publications, online industry publications and groups, online blogs, distribution groups and forums, a courier company can manufacture a buzz.
While a website is simply a minimum requirement today for a courier company, digital presentations are still only being used by a few. First, it is crucial to have an effective website, and surprisingly most courier companies in the U.S.A. have poor websites. Very few people track, measure and analyze the traffic flow, seldom do websites employ basic tactics taught in ‘web design 101’ and very few conform the minimum requirements of the search engines to be deemed ‘search engine friendly’. For an industry with mature technology such as online order entry and developing technologies such as GPS tracking, its amazing the e-marketing domain with websites is so poor. In fact, many have opportunities against your competitors. Effective website design and deployment is crucial to recognize your ROI, however, this article is intended to identify the means of e-marketing, not effective use such as effective design. Although, it is imperative you consider this about your company and rethink your e-strategy every 3 years.
As a complimentary solution to your website, is your digital brochure. This isn’t an image of your paper based brochure; this is a full interactive digital presentation. Such presentations have different distribution methods as well, such as downloads off your website, email attachment, CDs, DVDs and memory sticks. In fact, some couriers have their drivers carry business card sized CDs with digital presentations to distribute to non-customers, and in turn provide an incentive to the driver for each new customer closed by the sales team where the driver left a non-customer with a digital presentation. In fact, each presentation can be tracked where it came from, who viewed it, who they forwarded it to and what they viewed. This information is a very powerful tool for your sales team while generating new customers. Additionally, digital presentations aren’t solely being used a marketing vehicles for courier companies. With the growth of the technology available for couriers, many are creating their own digital training presentations to fill the gap among their current software operations the courier company’s business processes.
Acquiring crucial information from your existing customer base can provide you with the artillery to fight the battle among your competitors. Whether you provide only on-demand service or you have diversified into warehouse services, document management or perhaps mail room services, getting this message to your customers is more important than the decision to launch that service was in the first place. Additionally, understanding the needs of your customers is crucial to know to be able to effectively launch new services. While your competitors are growing into new markets to sustain their business growth, reaching out to your customer’s needs you may identify new opportunities to help your bottom line. Perhaps you have a ‘gut feeling’ on customer satisfaction, service knowledge or competitive and service usage, but hard data is the quintessential piece needed by business managers to answer the business questions as hand. Extremely cost effective and quick, electronic surveys for example are a form of research that can give you the answers to these questions. While giving immediate results, electronic surveys can be an extremely powerful tool of couriers. Furthermore, such campaigns are the beginning to determine and build other campaigns such as your email marketing campaign.
All said, the time that traditional industry’s such as the delivery business need to rethink their marketing strategies has come. No longer the times of yellow page advertising is the vehicle to acquire new business, and couriers need to squeeze every dollar of profit from their precious existing base. Shrinking margins, increasing regulations and an industry with low barriers of entry means you must have an e-marketing strategy. This is not something you should be thinking about, e-marketing is something you need to be deploying to remain competitive and in business.