One of the hurdles for entrepreneurs fresh out of freight broker training is establishing a solid reputation as a reliable service provider. Shippers want to be sure that you can guarantee their loads’ safety and carriers want to know they’ll get paid on time.
Small or new brokerage companies have a way of addressing these concerns and at the same time jumpstarting their earning potential the first year. They find a specific segment in the market that larger firms have overlooked or ignored and specialize in servicing that group. It’s called niche marketing and it’s the easiest path to beginning your brokerage business.
Marketing to a narrower niche has its benefits.
One, you get to know your market really well. Serving that market day in and day out, you learn about its standards, idiosyncrasies and special needs. Such expertise goes a long way in acquiring your customers’ trust and in establishing a solid reputation for yourself and your business. Eventually, you develop a profitable network of shippers, carriers, and strategic partners which you can easily tap for business and which can also be a springboard for future expansion.
Two, you can focus your marketing efforts with laser-like precision. Marketing dollars are usually wasted when you market to a broad audience that may not even be listening to you. Targeting a specific slice of the market helps in creating a characteristic customer profile, enabling you to craft messages that push their emotional hot buttons every time you reach out. And because your messaging resonates with their pain and pleasure centers, you get more positive response and more business.
How to Choose a Market Niche
Some freight brokers already know what markets to target even before they get the necessary knowledge from freight broker training. For others not so lucky, they start from the ground up.
If you’re from the last group, there are two ways on how to choose your market niche:
- Make an honest assessment of your skills, talents, interests and personality and determine how this will come into play in your freight broker business; or,
- Scope out the segmentations in the industry, choose a specialty, then learn everything you can about how to service that sector.
In deciding on a niche, find one that you like but have enough potential for growth to sustain your business over time. Some freight brokers, for example, choose to serve market niches or segments related to their passions and interests like antiques, microchips or cars.
By focusing on a niche that you’re enthusiastic about, you’re able to differentiate yourself from the competition with a can-do, bend-over-backwards type of service. And you know how it is: a satisfied customer is a happy customer is a repeat customer.
Freight Broker Niches
There are many ways to zero in on your market niche and find customers. Here are some techniques that old-timers use in finding their captive market and growing their business:
- Focusing on regional niches. Find customers in your immediate vicinity, whether it’s in your city or state. Your particular location may be a manufacturing beehive for cars, microchips, semiconductors, and other goods.
- Working with shippers who ship your favorite things. If you’re passionate about cars, you probably know a lot about their makers and can easily gain access to a contact person who can connect you to the decision-makers. Make sure you can grow with these customers and not spread yourself thinly—your enthusiasm must match your capability so you don’t destroy your reputation when you can’t handle loads satisfactorily.
- Servicing niches according to type of trucks used. Dry vans, flatbeds, tankers, dump trailers and everything else in between. You can choose to focus on using one or two types of trucks so you’ll be able to find shippers much more quickly.
- Brokering cargo that needs specialized handling. When you focus on a particular type of load, say dairy, you can quickly handle truck type to use, climate requirements, shipper preferences and the like.
When serving a particular niche, you become an expert on it over time. Before you know it, you become the go-to guy in your space for certain types of cargo. Once you’ve established a reputation for solid dependability, you can bet broadening your market or your reach becomes much easier.
There’s one danger in niche marketing though—you can become so focused that your total revenue could end up coming from a few sources. Learn from the niche haulers of the trucking industry. Less than 25%-30% of their revenues come from a single source; they keep it diversified even within the niche. With the vagaries of the economy, putting your eggs in one basket can spell disaster when something bad happens…a reality that even large freight broker companies are not immune to.