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play like the big boys

Let’s say you’re with a company that lacks broad market awareness despite having a great set of offerings, a track record of success and satisfied customers. Your existing customers are ready to act as references, but it's an uphill...


Let’s say you’re with a company that lacks broad market awareness despite having a great set of offerings, a track record of success and satisfied customers. Your existing customers are ready to act as references, but it’s an uphill battle to convince prospects not familiar with you to give you a fair shot. And as for leads,  … let’s just say that waiting for your contacts to change jobs is your fastest way to get in front of new companies. Sound familiar?   

This is not far from the normal state of affairs for new service providers within established industries. Being innovative is not enough to garner the credibility to compete with more established players, and certainly will not overcome the skepticism most will have toward an unfamiliar name. So how can you rise above the noise of your cold-calling compatriots and claim the higher ground?

            This is the challenge the management team at Nulogx (www.nulogx.com), a Mississauga-based provider of transportation management solutions, had to grapple with several years ago. As a new name in the market, Nulogx was determined to leverage its technology and information-based processes to deliver value to a broader market. Ultimately, Nulogx needed to highlight the value of good information in transportation decisions and at the same time communicate to the market its capabilities in this regard.

            Part of the answer, as described by Scott Irvine, vice president of business development, came from a commitment to contribute to the transportation community as whole, including shippers, carriers, and even potential competitors. That’s when Nulogx launched the Canadian General Freight Index, the first resource of its kind in Canada. In addition to the CGFI, which would provide valuable and authoritative information to the market, Nulogx also launched a “thought leadership” program around this effort to help establish the company as a trusted source of information and best practices.

            Without realizing it at the time, Nulogx was tapping into the new wave in reaching potential clients: Content Marketing. As authors Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett describe in their book, “Get Content. Get Customers,” Content Marketing means understanding what people in your market want to know, and then delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way. This helps the company to become a trusted source of information, and a naturally preferred choice when someone in the market is ready to buy.

            As “Get Content” points out, advances in search engine capability, plus the increasing power of the Web as an information source, mean that even a small company can be as big as Microsoft regarding specific search terms, reaching a global market for its products or services.

            As the largest processor of freight bills in the country, Nulogx has access to a stream of freight transactions representing a significant slice of the Canadian market. This information is current and timely, and is an excellent source of intelligence. The CGFI (cgfi.ca) is based on this data, and offered as a free service that is published monthly and uses this information to chart changes in freight costs for Canadian shippers. It is also used to provide comprehensive benchmarking studies – where a shipper can see how its costs compare to the market in general. It has also spawned C-level discussions and increased overall awareness of transportation issues at the senior levels of many companies.

The Index now has some 3,000 subscribers – carriers, shippers, consultants, financial institutions, journalists and others (and included in all Transportation Media publications). It is also presented in regular newsletters and the company blog (Nulogx customers receive more detailed information and analysis not available to regular subscribers). In September Nulogx also announced that Ryder System has become a CGFI Data Partner, an important step in achieving its goal of becoming an industry-wide initiative.

In addition to the index information, Nulogx also provides informed comment on shipping trends and best practices. This information is carried in the blog, the company newsletter, webinars, published white papers, and is posted on the site of this magazine.  There’s also an annual seminar that brings in outside expertise such as economists, industry experts, as well as shipper and carrier representatives, who provide informed opinions on trends over the coming year with the Index information as a backdrop. The 2011 event saw over 160 attendees, Irvine says.

“We believe that the commitment to provide both our customers and the industry in general with information that is genuinely valuable and helpful needs to come first,” says Irvine. “If we produce content for the sake of content, we know it will simply be ignored. It takes a lot of work and time, but there are no shortcuts.

             “The biggest challenge is obviously creating the content, and investing the time required.  At Nulogx we are fortunate to have a number of resources able to contribute to generating content, however other organizations without this can easily utilize freelance or contract providers to help them create it,” says Irvine. “The most import thing is that it is a continual process. If it is a one-off or an occasional effort I would be concerned that it would not have any real impact within one’s intended market.

            “The impact of the increased awareness and presence within our market has been very beneficial,” he adds.  “General awareness of our company and our ability to help shippers reduce their costs has risen; doors have been opened; relationships with our current customers have been solidified; the information we have produced has enabled us to continually improve the value we offer; and we feel good about what we are doing.”

A good application of Content Marketing

Nulogx is “spot on for a company in that position,” says Bernie Thiel, Partner in Cleveland-based content marketing firm Alterra Group (www.alterra-group.com).

“It is creating something newsworthy and of interest to the media, which can help generate greater awareness for the company among current and prospective clients.  This is especially important given that its solution is not inherently newsworthy on its own. Nulogx is giving something of value to customers beyond the basic services it provides, which helps strengthen customer relationships.”

Nulogx is establishing itself as a voice of authority in the industry on a topic its customers care about, which helps to differentiate the company from its competitors, Thiel says, adding that the company appears to be very focused on marketing the content through all the channels its using.  

“In our experience, companies can struggle with effectively doing both aspects of content marketing — some may create great content, but then let it go to waste because they’re not marketing it effectively.  Others may have a great, well-oiled marketing machine but the content they pump through that machine is weak, half-baked or not especially interesting or relevant to their audience.  To be really effective, you need both superior content and superior communication of that content.”

Thiel says that for a company that engages in content marketing, it is key to keep the focus on how what the company provides benefits its customers.  It should not focus on features
and functions, but rather, how the company’s services help customers solve critical business challenges.

“Business people don’t care about features, Thiel says. “But they care about how a particular technology product can help them generate insights into their customers’ needs, spot an important trend in their market, or uncover ways they can operate more efficiently.  That’s what we call the “business utility” of the product or solution, and communicating that business utility is where content marketing can help.”

Carl Friesen is Principal of Global Reach Communications Inc., helping business professionals get noticed and stand out through helping them publish their ideas. Contact: 1.289.232.4057; carl@showyourexpertise.com; www.showyourexpertise.com.


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