Every SME operator in the transport industry understands the importance of attracting new business. In fact, the scenario of a comfortable stable of regular clients who keep you busy with a steady stream of work every week is a dangerous myth to propagate – even to yourself.
Whether you're a start-up or an expert of the haulage industry, no matter how carefully you build and nurture your reputation and how loyal your portfolio of clients is, you can't afford to coast on assumptions and your own good standing indefinitely .
The key is networking. The Business Dictionary succinctly describes this as: "Creating a group of associates and being active through regular communication for mutual benefit."
Do I Need to Network?
Even if you're a self-employed 'man with a van' you can't ignore the importance of connecting with your peers and potential clients with the purpose of establishing new work opportunities.
In the case of the haulage and delivery industry, new business comes down to available loads – who's got them, who wants them, and how can you win them? If you commit to a strong practice of networking at every opportunity (this can be simply remembering to carry and hand out your business card) you'll be able to attract new work and not run the risk of having all your eggs in a few tenuous baskets.
Today's businesses need to understand the important role social media and online platforms now play in terms of promoting business. Even if you don't 'do' life online, you simply can't afford to ignore the fact that most of the free world does.
In terms of working to promote your haulage business, the single most effective step you can take is to become a member of a freight exchange. An exchange doesn't only allow you to look for available loads (in real time), but also provides a platform for the discussion of news, current affairs and technological advances. It is the ideal tool to make connections for sub-contracting or other mutually-beneficial liaisons.
No matter how humble, your haulage business should also have an online presence in the form of a simple website and at least one social media platform of your choice. Whether it's Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or another avenue, if you're serious about networking (and you should be) social media is the cheapest, fastest and most effective way of having a 'conversation' about your business.
A good strategy is a multi-faceted one and you should supplement your online efforts by connecting face-to-face with industry movers and shakers as well. Trade shows, business events, well-chosen social occasions and even the dreaded old school 'cold calling' has a place in the mix – it's up to you to work out what's most effective. And even if you only go along for the free food and wine, you're already guaranteed a satisfying ROI!
While the argument for business networking is indisputable the most important reason for the practice is best summed up by educator Bill Nye: "Everyone you ever meet knows something you don't."