SyncShow B2B Marketing Blog

Transportation Market Downturns: Strategies for Resilience and Growth

We love our transportation clients. They’re the backbone of the supply chain sector. When they have something to say, we listen. So, this blog will answer a question submitted to SyncShow by a Transportation Marketing and Sales Association (TMSA) member. 

The Question Is:

“When the market "goes south" what does my leadership do with the marketing budget, sales, and travel budgets as well as association activity? What do I do as a business development professional to bring "my view" to the table in the corner office and "get heard" within the leadership network that is also suffering from the downturn?”

An Unfortunate Truth

When times get tough, marketing and sales budgets are often the first to be cut. But when you think about it, that strategy doesn't make much sense. Downtimes are when you should ramp up promotion! But, alas, many business leaders get stuck in short-term "stop the bleeding" tactics instead of long-term strategic planning.

Don't worry. We've got you. An industry downturn is an opportunity to show leaders how crucial you and your business development team are to your company's future. Our recommendations will help you leverage your skills as a salesperson and a strategic planner to drive your company through the downturn and emerge stronger and more profitable on the other side. 

Plan Ahead

Our best recommendation is to plan for downtimes. They’re inevitable. If you aren’t thinking ahead, trouble will find you. Don't wait to craft your case until your boss calls you to schedule a meeting. Create a story about the value of your team, in good times and bad. 

Build Your Value Story

Many transportation leaders view marketing and sales as cost centers. They know they should staff the functions and establish budgets for them, but they don't know why. It's up to you to make your leaders understand how integral marketing and sales are to your company's success and sustainability.

Leaders love metrics. Build your case by establishing, tracking, and reporting critical KPIs that show your team's worth. For sales, track lead generation data, average order value, close rates, and lifetime customer value. For marketing, track online visibility metrics like search website traffic or engagement metrics such as website downloads or social media engagement. These metrics demonstrate that your team actively engages, nurtures, converts, and engages customers. 

Measure and Report Metrics

One of the most important metrics to track is ROI. Leaders will resist spending money on marketing or sales when they’re confident they'll see a return. Show them how attending conferences and in-person sales calls brings dollars into the organization. If these efforts generate sales, the expense shouldn’t be a barrier.

For all metrics, make sure each ties back to an organizational goal. An expense may not directly produce sales. But, if it drives your company towards another essential goal, your leaders may decide to keep it. For example, if being seen as a thought leader is a priority for your leaders, then social media content marketing is justified.

The key is consistency. Create a dashboard for your KPIs (including ROI) and set up a reporting cadence that regularly puts it in front of leaders. The goal is to keep your functions top of mind with your C-suite.

Need help deciding what metrics to track? Download our whitepaper, 6 Marketing Metrics Cheat Sheet. 

Prioritize Channels and Strategies

While you want to focus on keeping or enhancing your budget, you'll show strategic foresight by presenting a meticulously planned strategy to the C-suite. This strategy should prioritize the channels and messaging vital for success. Use your dashboards to choose the marketing and sales channels delivering the best ROI. Analyze each campaign to uncover the messaging that resonates the most with leads and customers. Streamline your marketing and sales efforts to hyper-focus on only what is delivering results. However, remember to be flexible and nimble. As the market shifts, so should your marketing and sales efforts. 

Defend Your Territory

Retaining customers can build company resilience during a downturn. Studies have shown that improving retention by just 5% can increase your profits by more than 25%.

Be ready to do whatever it takes to retain your customers during a downturn. Extraordinary customer service and consistent communication will deepen those existing relationships. Personalized messaging shows you care about your customers' pain points and needs. Offering value without being prompted or asking for anything in return shows you understand their point of view. Meet key customers in person as often as you can. This shows you’re committed to the relationship and have a stake in their success. The more trustworthy you are to your customers, the more engaged they become.

Don’t forget that your customers may be experiencing similar economic challenges in their sector. Now is the time to reach out, offer support, and provide solutions customized to market challenges for them and you. Be a partner for your customers, not just a vendor. 

Capture Market Share

While retaining existing customers is essential, a downturn can offer your company a unique opportunity to win new customers away from competitors. If you can provide capacity and services that others can't, take advantage of the opportunity Launch digital marketing campaigns targeting those customers and highlighting your capabilities. Send sales professionals to meet with them to show your commitment to winning their business. Again, when you can prove the ROI of these activities, it should be an easy yes from the C-suite. Make sure to serve those new customers with the best possible customer service so they stay with you (and possibly bring other customers) when market conditions improve.

Downturns are also an opportune time to consider mergers, acquisitions, and expansion. If your competitors are struggling, they may be available at attractive valuations. Acquiring their assets, talent, and capabilities in addition to their customers can strengthen your company's bottom line and increase sector resilience. These decisions will take strategic planning by the C-suite and with every department in your company. However, when leaders are busy with short-term struggles, this vision may need to come from someone closer to the battle. Namely, a sales pro like you. They need help to see a merger or acquisition as a strategic investment in the future.

Working With a Marketing Agency

This might be one of the most challenging conversations you’ll have with your leaders, but it can be critical. A market downturn isn’t the time to suspend working with your marketing agency. Your agency partner is invested in your company’s future success. A good partner can help you build a strong business case to share with leadership and align on the strategies and tactics that’ll generate the best ROI. 

Ask your agency for help and be transparent about the barriers and struggles you’re trying to overcome, both internal and external. Collaborate with them to prioritize the activities that bring the most value to your business. If you need to cut costs, ask for flexibility and payment terms. Use your agency to create a bespoke marketing and sales plan that leverages your company's unique strengths and value.

Downtimes Are Unavoidable, Yet Temporary

History shows that change is constant, and economic and market downturns are temporary. Transportation companies face unique challenges during economic downturns, particularly in managing marketing budgets and sales strategies. Here at SyncShow, we see these challenges as opportunities for growth and resilience. Navigating the current market downturn requires proactive planning, strategic thinking, and effective communication.

We understand the dynamic nature of the transportation market and stand ready to support your company through these uncertain times. Together, let's transform challenges into opportunities and emerge stronger, more agile, and better equipped for the road ahead. Schedule a discovery call today. 

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