Marketing your business, Part 1

| September 05, 2012

Sue Burns sought a professional image for her website by posting contact information, a brief description of her hotshot hauling service and photos of her 2011 Dodge Ram 5500 and Maxey 20-foot flat flat trailer.

When Sue Burns started SMB Transport, based in Marlow, Okla., in January she had no advertising budget. So she took advantage of the free service Webs.com to launch a website, smbtransportllc.webs.com/, promoting her hotshot trucking business.

“The Internet to me is the equivalent of the Yellow Pages,” says Burns, a 52-year-old former police officer. “I take advantage of every free option I can find.” For example, Burns chronicled her CDL training period on a blog through WordPress.com.

‘The trucks with the paws’

Clay Allman started Road Dog Express two years ago with high expectations of his drivers. “They are expected to be well-groomed and introduce themselves to customers,” he says.

Allman didn’t stop with his drivers in his quest to emphasize quality service. His trailers are emblazoned with paw prints and a slogan: “We’re making tracks to be the best.”

“I get comments from other truckers, ‘Oh – you’re the trucks with the paws,’ ” Allman says of the popular motif.

Road Dog office manager Crystal Shafer says the display works: “It makes people think and they pay attention.”

Allman, a former nursery products and block hauler, had prior contacts and used them in his startup. He hauls wire, sheet metal and home improvement store displays from Chicago to Florida and Kansas and back. He started with one tractor-trailer. Soon after, he bought three new Great Dane trailers, adorned them with the paw prints logo, and now owns seven trucks. He plans to expand to 17 trucks and 30 trailers.

But her first load came through traditional means. A customer saw one of the fliers she distributed for her startup in Marlow, an oil-field region with strong demand for hotshot hauls.

As Burns has learned, marketing options for a small trucking business have proliferated and all have some value. Smart operators are taking advantage of many of them to establish their name, tout their equipment and services, and distinguish themselves from competitors.

Websites can be “a trucker’s front door,” says Ultimate Marketing Solutions CEO Landon Middleton. He advises the Texas Motor Transportation Association and spoke recently at the First Annual Truck Driver Social Media Convention in Tunica, Miss.

Middleton and other Internet marketing experts say independents with small budgets should use free websites, as Burns does, to establish credibility and make contacts. Content on websites, videos and social media outlets should be precise, with contact information posted clearly. Services, equipment and pertinent information should follow.

Having a website and linking to it from Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn boosts a company’s exposure. While it isn’t as widely known as Facebook, LinkedIn, a social media network for business, puts owners closer to brokers and shippers.

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