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8 Ways Freight Forwarders Can Improve Sales in 2021

Tomas Swinburne
Mar 12, 2021
Freight Forwarder sales strategies in 2021

Competing as a freight forwarder relies on competitive differentiation. Some freight forwarders work in niches, while others offer value-added services to distinguish their services. However, despite all this, the trappings of servicing customers in a deeply commoditized market is a struggle for freight forwarders trying to acquire new customers.

Last year, we wrote about how freight forwarders can improve sales during COVID-19. However, the challenges morphed in 2021, and freighTech trends this year are showcasing some innovative and new strategies for freight forwarders to boost sales.

Freight Forwarder Challenges in 2021

Before delving into how freight forwarders can improve sales, it’s first important to understand the challenges in 2021, namely:

  • COVID-19 and high demand with less space
  • FreighTech and digitalization
  • Increased cybersecurity
  • Post COVID-19 boom

Freight forwarders need to adopt significantly more sophisticated tech and strategies to remain competitive. Adopting freighTech is not a complex endeavor. It’s about elevating current systems to be more tech-savvy in an increasingly digitalized logistics ecosystem. The first challenge is to integrate into this ecosystem with APIs.

The BlueX API gives freight forwarders this data and also facilitates API bookings directly with our affiliated ocean carriers.

1. Connect to Ocean Carrier Data Directly via APIs

Speed is the key when it comes to COVID-19, and transparent ocean carrier data is paramount. The FBX Global Container Index estimates that freight rates increased by a whopping 279% between January 2020 and 2021. Such demand has maxed out the availability of containers, and acquiring space for customers is already proving difficult.

To alleviate this stress on customers, gaining ocean carrier real-time data on the spot market and contract rates via APIs is vital. While cancellation rates are higher, offering the most up-to-date rates will give your customers the best possible freight procurement information they need to book shipments.

The BlueX API gives freight forwarders this data and also facilitates API bookings directly with our affiliated ocean carriers.

2. Digitally Transform Your Freight Forwarder Processes to Maximize Efficiency

Maximizing operational efficiencies via digital transformation is now an essential cornerstone for freight procurement. Many freight forwarders are already digitally connecting to ocean carriers via APIs and updating their transport management systems to offer real-time pricing, space, and schedule data to customers with electronic booking capabilities. Traditionally, ocean freight lagged behind others in the transportation industry.

The process to digitally transform your operations can be as straightforward as integrating with ocean carriers for direct and real-time rate and schedule data via BlueX. Such integrations also benefit freight forwarders with the following:

  • Access to ocean carrier digital spot markets
  • Instant search results for rates & schedules
  • Digitally faster bookings directly with carriers
  • Real-time schedule and tracking data

Distinguishing your business with the best-in-class and actionable data could alleviate issues associated with commoditization.

3. Adopt Predictive Analytical Tools to Enhance Freight Procurement

The variability in ocean freight at the best of times is complex. From exchange rate fluctuations, fuel costs, container supply, and even geopolitical factors, predicting the spot market can feel like you’ll need a crystal ball and clairvoyance.

With BlueX AI-driven analytics for dynamic pricing, you can accurately forecast spot market rates up to 12 weeks in advance by trade lane. Some other benefits include:

  • Integration with your existing system
  • Tailored AI-driven pricing algorithms
  • Enterprise-class information security

By effectively predicting spot market rate forecasts and offering greater transparency to customers, you can again differentiate yourself from competitors as a source of business intelligence.

4. Investing in Digital Marketing to Drive Leads

The power of digital marketing cannot be overstated. It is definitely a slow burner when it comes to results, but marketing efforts can drive the right leads with great results when executed successfully. An estimated 63% of marketers agreed that generating website traffic and leads was a big challenge for them, making it a little wonder that 86% of B2B companies manage a blog for this purpose. It’s also smart and cheap to distinguish your services via effective brand marketing if you understand which marketing tools to use.

We wrote an article explaining in-depth ten marketing tips to help freight forwarders drive leads, and some of those included:

  • Design webpages with an emphasis on UX
  • Develop an SEO content strategy
  • Utilize email marketing
  • Leverage an effective buyer journey
  • Publish content in high-value formats

While personal relationships and reputations are important in ocean freight, digital marketing can take them a step further by branding them and creating multiple touchpoints to keep your customers engaged while attracting new ones.

Be sure to learn more about the above tips here.

5. Digitally Network on LinkedIn

LinkedIn offers an impressive amount of reach once you’ve built up your connections, joined groups, and start to join and create discussions. Added to this, the social media network gives you tremendous power to create awareness about your services and brand. You can also utilize LinkedIn to establish yourself as an authority in freight or as a thought leader and influencer among your peers and potential clients.

The goal of LinkedIn is to use your status as an authority to drive traffic and leads to your website and inbox. LinkedIn ads can also be an effective means to target your followers and potential clients for leads with look-alike audience settings while also setting ad attributions to audiences with specific characteristics that match your client type. 

6. Join Freight Forwarder Logistics Networks

Joining logistics networks is a popular and effective way to connect with partners in other territories to help expand your business with mutual partners. One territory’s expertise may not translate so easily in others as regulatory frameworks for transportation may vary.

Having trusted members that you can call upon to benefit your businesses and customers mutually is something that WCA can help with. The WCA is a network of independent freight forwarders with 9,533 offices in 194 countries. They offer specialized networks to help members, along with a directory of members.

Many other networks offer a wide variety of services that can complement freight forwarders’ offerings and enhance customer service.

7. Use Digitally More Efficient Sales Tools

Just like marketing tools, there is no shortage of B2B sales tools to enhance your inbound and outbound sales strategies. As long as you’ve digitally transformed your operations, utilizing sales tools will be relatively painless.

What will be difficult to decide is which solution, or combination of solutions, will drive leads and sales. Your decision will come down to how your organization functions, its size, and ultimately your sales strategy and direction. Some options to consider when researching sales tools include the following:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  • Salesforce
  • Gong.io
  • Terminus
  • HubSpot CRM

At BlueX, we use a combination of digital B2B sales and marketing tools to help achieve our business goals.

8. Become an Authority on Social Media

Social media’s power cannot be underestimated, particularly in an industry where personal connections are the bread and butter of a freight forwarder’s business. According to Sprout Social, 83% of B2B marketers ranked social media marketing (SMM) as their second most successful strategy before search engine marketing.

Automation tools such as Hootsuite can deliver your content across various platforms while also providing valuable information on mentions, shares, and more. Instagram and Facebook now offer crossposting and cross-messaging while also giving analytical feedback on Facebook Business Manager.

While social media may not drive your sales, it will certainly create awareness and touch points with potential customers that you need to establish legitimacy and familiarity with your brand.

Boost Freight Forwarder Sales with the BlueX API

The BlueX API gives freight forwarders access to direct ocean carrier data. This data includes spot market and contract rates, schedules, tracking, and other business analytics vital for successful operations.

The BlueX API promotes synergy across supply chains and reduces unnecessary tasks with automation, creating greater transparency and data clarity. The integration also gives you a gateway to directly book online with your customers’ carriers and enhance your revenue by distinguishing your service.