Mike McCarron is president of Rite Route Supply Chain Solutions and a partner in Left Lane Associates. You can reach Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org
Profit: Where’s the app for that?
The Canadian Trucking Alliance Blue Ribbon report on the driver shortage has been the rage of social media sites recently. To sum it up in less than 140 characters: the pay stinks and no one wants the job. It’s hard to get excited when you’re all over the continent for weeks on end and earning about the same as someone who flips burgers for a living. A better bottom line is the only way we’ll ever have the coin to attract the human capital we need. Most of us have been trying to figure out how to get new customers and add revenue using social media. Even the Tyrannosaurus truckers have come to grips with the fact that their beloved CB is being replaced by Twitter. However, my spidey-senses tell me it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that social media is only a marketing tool. And why not? “Media” means marketing and marketing means sales. But of course, sales and profits are two different things. If your company has assigned its social media efforts to the sharp, young up-and-comer in the Sales Department, then social media is costing you money. You won’t start getting an acceptable return until you stop thinking “social media” and start thinking “social profitability.” Here’s what to keep in mind: 1. Get social media into the C-suite Get social media out of sales now. It shouldn’t be a line item on your P & L. Social media has to be about profit, not marketing. That won’t happen until it’s a priority of the big dogs every Monday morning in the boardroom. 2. It’s a strategy, not a tactic Most companies (not just truckers) only use social media as a tactical sales tool. They haven’t integrated it into their business planning and systems. It needs to be viewed as a strategic tool that can improve your brand, profitability, and drive EBITDA in every single department. Think what you’ll save in cell phone bills by training your drivers on Skype and other messaging tools. 3. Don’t master the software By the time you figure out that sexy new app, there will be a better, cheaper one out there. There is nothing to be gained by becoming an expert on every shiny new technology. Focus on finding opportunities that exist in every nook and cranny of your terminal first, and then look for the technology to help you achieve the desired results. You get no competitive advantages by having an office full of Twitter gurus. 4. Blend the new and old Once the savings washcloth is thoroughly wrung out, the only way to make more money is to increase top-line sales. Social profitability can help you accomplish both—but only when you blend it with proven, old-school, relationship-building sales systems. Not too many customers want to go for sushi and a ballgame with my iPad. 5. Measure the cost Social profitability is not cheap. In fact, a properly executed strategy is surprisingly expensive and hard to measure. Mining compelling data, monitoring the social spheres to see what’s being said about your company, and working the blog circuit is time consuming. Time is money, and time spent on social media needs to be accurately measured. 6. Social catastrophe @yourcompany Loose lips sink ships!! Social profitability can turn into social catastrophe quickly. Imagine the damage that can be done to your company’s reputation by some wiener on the dock who’s unhappy with his 1% raise. Before Suzie starts hammering out tweets for your business, you need to make some critical decisions. Who “owns” social media at your company? What’s confidential and what is not? How do you monitor your customers and competitors? What’s your crisis plan when the line gets crossed? I have yet to hear of any company that truly understands how to use social media to increase its enterprise value. I do think our industry is behind the times and has yet to even begin to understand how it can help solve our biggest challenges. Unless you just got back from the moon, the fact that we have a serious driver shortage should be no surprise. Thinking social profitability and not social media alone will not put bums into our empty seats. But it should add some zeros to the bottom line and help us begin to pay our drivers what they truly deserve while attracting the new entrants we desperately need to survive. Mike McCarron is the managing partner at MSM Transportation (www.shipmsm.com) in Bolton, Ont., which specializes in moving products between Canada and the rest of the world. He can be reached at email@example.com or @AceMcC on Twitter.