So many carriers ask us, “How do you get your customers?”
Then those same carriers tell us they’re relying on load boards as their primary source of revenue. Insane! This is a guaranteed way to get frustrated out of the business after you jump through so many hoops to get in, dealing with equipment issues, other drivers, changes in the law that affect your business, and the list goes on. All to grab the leftovers of greedy brokers who either don’t pay well, or even pay at all.
The margins on these loads are typically so low that it’s impossible to make them profitable. Most of the time when I ask a carrier what their target gross revenue is in a week, I get crickets. They’re running their business like it’s a hobby and have no clue what to aim for
If you want to survive in today’s marketplace, you better start paying attention to your numbers and stop booking loads you find on a load board just because it’s convenient. Know your numbers; know what you’re worth; don’t be afraid to say no! An experienced carrier knows that once a guy says yes to a lower number, most of the large brokers know it and it becomes the next “going rate,” for not only him, but the rest of the lot who rely on the back hauls. This is why you’ll sometimes hear older drivers refer to the load boards as a “race to the bottom.”
But we haven’t answered the core question yet.
How do we get our customers, if they’re not from load boards? It all boils down to relationships.
On the way to visit Frank Sr.’s favorite food truck, (can’t take the driver out of this guy), he goes, ” I wonder if ______ is still in this industrial park around the corner here? Let’s stop by.” We walk in and introduce ourselves to the owner, who is extremely busy as you can imagine. After a brief explanation of what’s in it for him, he picks his head up and says,
“You know what? I’m happy you stopped by. I deal with ______, and I’m constantly having problems with him.” He took out a pad and pen, wrote down a customer’s name and number, and said,
“I’m easy. I’ll start calling you guys from now on. Here is someone; let’s see how you do.”
The good news, at least for you, is that most of the brokers in this business are not very passionate about what they do. Many of them are weak business people, and a lot of them do not understand what a carrier goes through having never been a carrier themselves. You already have a head start. All you have to do is ask.
And this is not a new concept. This is business. Look at the most successful small businesses in your area and consider how they have survived and flourished over the years.
For example, successful photographers don’t invest in a brand new camera with all of the most modern technology and then sit down in front of a screen to see who’s asking for pictures. Likewise, you shouldn’t spend all of that money and time on your truck and then just take whatever is given to you. Load boards are a convenience and a luxury, when used sparingly, but the real business comes from putting yourself out there. It’s through the relationships you create and the value you bring that makes them pick up the phone and call time and time again.
The bottom line is, get on the phone, and/or go visit people who need your help in your lane. Not just once, but consistently over time. Put in the effort and they’ll take notice. Relationships take time, so have patience and make it a priority.
There is nothing more satisfying than establishing a new relationship with a client who mutually benefits from what you do best. Win-win situations are real, and the right people will value them. Stop hiding in your office or in your truck. Get out there and ask, and do good work to back it up. That’s how we get our customers.