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.
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.
Burns uses free services transport911.com, truckingplanet.com and hotshotcarrier.com to advance her visibility. She also has a Facebook page devoted to the business and still blogs regularly.
Videos, whether posted on YouTube or a business website, provide immediacy. They give viewers the chance to see an owner speak about his values and services, as well as to see the appearance of equipment. Often cited as effective tools are Schneider National’s YouTube videos for driver recruitment. Less than two minutes long, each explains the company’s mission and provides useful information.
Those who can’t afford to pay a professional to design and maintain a website can establish one themselves for free. Thousands of people use websites such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com or Webs.com to build their own website. Using instructions on those sites or tutorials available through Google searches, someone with basic computer skills can create a website.
Having a weekend to work on the project and getting outside help can be productive, too. “If you’re not computer savvy, find a kid in your family or someone who is,” Burns advises. “Don’t be afraid of it. It’s a virtual reality we all need to be tapping into.”
Still, successful websites and social media pages need ongoing attention, so expectations for online marketing should be realistic. “A one-truck guy is not going to have the time to manage a website,” says Joe Rajkovacz, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s regulatory affairs director. “He’s going to spend a lot of time during his day just getting loads.”
Mark “Gator” Arnold, 53-year-old owner of Bells, Texas-based All Ways Trucking, launched a Facebook page to help build his reputation.
“I can have a new broker signed up before most guys can find a truck stop,” Arnold says, noting he can often find food loads for his 2007 Volvo and reefer within 100 miles of his home.