How to Survive as a Freight Broker in the 21st Century
Freight Brokers Must Change or Be Left Behind
Within the last 5 years, so much has changed in the freight brokering industry that if you aren’t changing with it, you’re going to lose your shirt. Not long ago all a broker needed was a phone and a fax machine. If you knew trucking, you could pretty much move right into the broker side of the industry with little additional knowledge. Your bookkeeping was done with a pencil and a ledger sheet. Not so anymore, much to the surprise of many. Most of you are now aware that much of a freight broker’s work is done over the internet. But even here, things are advancing so quickly that you need to keep up just to stay in business. Those who do stay on top of these advancements are reaping the greatest rewards.
The Great Software Dilemma
Today, the importance of having the right freight brokering software cannot be overstated. Your broker software is your most valuable partner in the success of your business. Your software is your personal assistant, your bookkeeper, your email, your fax machine, your source for finding carriers, your filing cabinet, and your biggest time saver. In a nutshell, besides your clients, your freight broker software is your most important asset! So what makes good software today?
The Old Software
Large, successful brokerages have long been using various forms of freight broker software. This software was developed to be installed on the main frame and/or on individual computers in offices to keep track of loads, accounting and other important items. The broker and each of his agents had to be individually trained to use the software. The software is complicated enough that the software company usually sends out special trainers to install the software on each machine, teach every broker and agent how to use it and constantly troubleshoot software problems unique to each machine. Just the training alone can sometimes take several days to complete. Of course costs put into the development of this software was large, the support staff required to keep it all running on the freight brokers’ computers is also large and the training and sales team is also expensive. These costs are then passed on to the buyer / freight broker which makes it an extremely expensive software (tens of thousands of dollars) and affordable only to those with deep enough pockets. The rest of us had to fall back on pencils, paper and generic business management software.
A New Age of Freight Broker Software
A few years ago began major innovations in freight broker software. DAS (Dynamic Application Services, Inc.,) a technologically advanced, online software development company began developing LoadPilot, an internet-based, online freight brokering software system. By using the same type of data protection systems that banks use and housing the software program on 24-hour, armed-guarded servers, LoadPilot could do many amazing things that other products didn’t offer. Every element of LoadPilot freight broker software was carefully developed for ease of use, functionality, and dependability. While developing LoadPilot, DAS consulted with some of the country’s finest freight brokers, freight agents, accountants and Mr. David Dwinell, one the country’s most well-known freight broker and trucking experts. These experts provided their “wish-lists” of what they would like to see in an all-new freight broker software package and provided their input throughout the LoadPilot development process.
The results are nothing less than amazing. For example, the entire program is internet-based. This means the user just needs a password to access the program from any computer in the world with a high-speed internet connection. And since there are is no software to install or upgrade, installation problems are eliminated. This also means that all the data a user has entered throughout the day is automatically backed-up every night on a highly-secure, remote server. So should anything happen to your computer, you simply move to another computer and pick up where you left off. There are other unique features like a fully searchable, 140,000 U.S. carrier database that is constantly updated by all the users through their regular program use. And if you need more, you have the ability to post the load you’re working on to the top internet load boards with one simple click of a button. The broker can see what any of his agents are working on, as they do it, and can actually assist them or correct their work at any time in real-time, even if the agent is across the country. The broker also has the ability to restrict agent access to certain parts of the program he desires. Since communication is important, the broker and agents have an internal email and message board system for communicating. Calendar features allow you to see at a glance any loads that are in progress and what stage of the process they are in. And learning the program is easy with online video tutorials on every page. So anyone can sign-up and be using the program in the same day. No more long teaching sessions with employees. LoadPilot is also set up to guide you through the load process, intuitively offering suggestions and corrections when something is accidentally left out or incorrect. This is very important for a freight broker with new agents coming on board. LoadPilot practically teaches them to move freight for you.LoadPilot’s auto-fill feature completes much of the information for you when sending identical or similar loads as those you’ve sent in the past. Forms such as Rate Confirmation Forms, Invoices, etc., are also provided and are sent via email or online fax with the simple click of a button. All forms are customizable with the broker’s logo, name, address, etc. The entire LoadPilot program is also customizable with the broker’s logo if desired. LoadPilot’s accounting program may be used as provided or with the simple click of a button, it will download everything to your computer in an Excel spreadsheet or to your QuickBooks program.
Because LoadPilot uses new technology, it is more efficient to manage on the corporate side, and less has to go into training, sales and service, so it’s affordable enough for a one-man operation and a “no-brainer” for a large brokerage. LoadPilot is also more efficient for the freight broker, with unique features designed for brokering in the 21st Century. What does this mean for today’s freight broker? Less work and more money!
Will the Old Software Catch Up?
Technology has moved ahead, but the older freight broker software companies simply have too much invested in their programs to keep up with the latest technological advancements. In order to make such major changes, they would have to almost entirely scrap the programs they have and essentially redevelop them from the ground-up. It would also require them to switch all of their users over to the new system and train them on its use. This is certainly no small task and would prove quite costly. Also, for most people, change just sounds like more work and means having to learn new ways of doing things. So larger brokerages with a lot invested in their current program would most likely buck such changes. As long as people keep buying the older programs, they will continue to profit. So it will probably be awhile before the older programs become antiquated enough to be put to pasture.
For the latest in new generation freight broker software click here.
All Websites Are NOT Created Equal
Why You Need A Website
Wake up and smell the Starbucks. It seems like within just the past 3 years the rest of the entire business world has gone to the internet. Where do people now go to find a new service? The internet. Where do people go to find a phone number or more information about a company? The internet. Where do people go to comparison shop? The internet of course.
Surprisingly, there are still freight brokers out there without a website. These are the same brokers going out of business every day because they can’t find shippers anymore. Most of those that do have websites have sites created by amateurs and very few broker websites are being properly marketed. The best a site like this will do for a freight broker is nothing at all, the worst it will do is actually drive business away. There are also a large number of freight brokers who had a website at one time, saw no value in it and abandoned it all together. Now they’re in the same boat as the broker with no site at all.
Still not a believer? Try this test:
- Ask an out of town friend or relative who doesn’t know the name of your business to find the names of 5 freight brokers in or around your city. If you’re in a small town, ask them use the largest city near you. Give them 5 minutes to do it. That should be plenty of time.
Is your brokerage one of them? If so, good for you, you should be getting your share of new business. But if they didn’t find you, why not? You need to be in that first five. What search tools did they use? Was it the phone book? Was it the internet? Odds are, it was the internet.
- Now give them the name of your brokerage and ask them to use the internet to see if they can find any information about you. Give them 3 minutes. No customer will spend more time than that.
Did they find you? If so, what kind of information did they find? Was it good enough to make them want to call you? If they didn’t find you on either try, congratulations, you don’t exist to the majority of your potential customers.
Why Not To Design Your Own Website
This section could also be called “Don’t Let Your Nephew Do It.” We all want to save money. That’s just fine if you’re buying a new pair of socks, but not when it comes to your website (the face of your business) or your freight broker software (the heart of your business.) This is your livelihood and when done right, your road to riches. First of all, you need to come to terms with the fact that you do not know what makes a website good. Just because you think it looks nice, you are not a web design professional. Second of all, you need to accept that the majority of website designers, your nephew included, do not have a clue about how to create a website that is effective, puts you on the first page of the search engines and provides you with leads. There are however, some website design companies out there with the right kind of experience and understanding to create an effective, business website. Finding a company or individual designer with this ability and who specializes in your industry is the needle in the haystack. Don’t look past a designer or web design company like that. The inside knowledge they possess is extremely valuable to you, for instance knowing not to intermingle your trucking company website with your freight broker website and how to get around issues like that. You will pay more for a site designed by a company like this, but it will pay off tenfold. That’s why they charge more for their services. Whereas a poorly designed site will just sit there on the internet gathering dust and giving a good chuckle to the few unfortunate souls who happen upon it. These are the sites designed by website designers who charge less for their services. They have to. Even then, you’re probably paying too much. These are also the sites owned by brokers looking to save a few bucks, the same ones going out of business.
The Biggest Misconception
Perhaps the biggest misconception about websites is the belief that once it is designed and “live” on the internet, there’s nothing else to do. This is the “design it and they will come” belief. Here lies the biggest problem and the primary reason a website isn’t generating business. You need to view your website as a living element of your freight brokerage. It needs to be marketed online in numerous ways. It needs to be cared for and regularly updated for search engines to move it up the ranks. It needs to link to and from other relevant sites. It needs to be interactive, providing useful information. And it needs to gather visitor data such as names and phone numbers, which is far beyond a simple tracking program. Things like this move your website up the ranks, make it easily found and frequently visited while providing you with valuable leads.
For professional help with your freight broker website click here.
How to Make Them Want You – Your Company Identity
Every freight brokerage must have a name in order to do business. But for most freight brokers, that’s where their identity ends. They’re banking on customers and potential customers remembering their name when it’s time to do business. That’s not an easy thing to do even in the best situation. But there are so many trucking companies and freight brokers out there with similar names offering the same services that you need to make yourself memorable. Unless you set yourself apart, you are just another “me too” freight broker.
What You’ll Need
To get started, you will need the following items for your professional appearance:
For professional help with the above items click here.
You will also need promotional products like pens, rulers and other items with your logo and phone number on them.
The Clincher That Makes Them Want You
Whenever possible, personally drop by the office of your clients and potential customers. Stop by unannounced with some donuts or cookies, just to get your face in front of them every so often. Ask the receptionist if your contact is available for a second. If so, keep your meeting light. Don’t stay longer than 5 minutes. Don’t talk directly about business, if at all, unless they bring it up. Make a connection outside of freight broker talk that they can relate to, such as how bad the traffic was at the nearby intersection, or ask if they had tried the new restaurant you were going to tonight. People feel a sense of warmth toward you when they’re giving you advice. You get the picture. Then just before leaving, ask if they have any upcoming shipments they might need help with.
If your contact is unavailable, tell the receptionist you just stopped by to drop off some cookies for the office. Make sure you put a hand-written note on the box so they know it’s from you. You will be surprised at how instantly well-liked and memorable you become. And well-liked, memorable businesses are successful. Don’t follow up with a call though, this will make the whole thing appear sales-like which will make it look like you’re after something from them. You can bet the next time you drop in, that person will probably make some time for you. Most people will feel a sense of indebtedness to you whether they realize it or not. This will also make them think of you first when looking for a freight broker. That is as long as the rest of your materials looks professional, like you aren’t some fly-by-night operation. Even if a business uses another freight broker exclusively, still try this with them a few times. They might be willing to give you a shot when they see the kind of personal attention they will be getting. I bet their other freight broker doesn’t bring them cookies and donuts. Best of all, you can have all of this for a few bucks and a half hour of your time.
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