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A late-night commercial that runs on the West Coast features a guy wearing a white cowboy hat, and his pet, Spot, by his side. But each time “Spot” is a different animal: a tiger, an elephant or even a large snake. Any TV viewer in California or Arizona, whether he likes or dislikes the ad, can immediately identify the company, the product and the guy who owns the operation. That’s known as brand recognition marketing.
What does it have to do with driving a truck? A lease operator or a company driver would probably answer, “Not much. The company provides me with the loads, I pick them up and I deliver them. Marketing isn’t my responsibility.” Really?
You drive a tractor with up to 53 feet of trailer. Think about it as more than a mere vehicle. It’s also a large, mobile billboard with your trucking company’s name on the doors and most likely the trailer as well.
Every lane change you make, each back to a dock, every time you enter or exit an interstate, you’re being noticed by customers, potential customers or folks who have influence with them. How do you want them to think of your company?
Successful marketing impacts the bottom line of the your trucking company, which in turn directly affects the stability and sustainability of the company. An independent driver should always keep this in mind. But even if you are a lease operator or company driver, a customer who remembers you positively can help secure your position, by providing the loads that create the revenue that makes your paycheck possible.
So while a company might take care of the big marketing strategy — promoting its safety record, its delivery time or its staying power in the industry — each individual driver can add to the effort with signature gestures.
One lease operator who hauled specialized components for several Fortune 500 companies made a point of purchasing postcards at each truckstop he pulled into. Then he mailed one to every shipper (usually the person he had direct contact with when he loaded), the salesperson or broker who booked the load and the receiver (the person he had contact with when he unloaded). On the postcard, he thanked them for the opportunity to haul for them, provided his own contact information in case there were any problems, as well as contact information for the customer service representative at his carrier.
It didn’t take much of his time, but years later he saw the impact. He attended a retirement party for a dock supervisor. The entire backdrop of the stage at the dinner was covered with the trucker’s postcards.
Later, this same trucker had gotten his own authority and was calling on a former shipping supervisor of one of his old clients. The supervisor was now the CEO of his own new company, and an entire wall of his office was covered with the trucker’s postcards. In both these cases, who do you think these customers thought of when they looked at the postcards? Now, that’s brand recognition, as only a successful trucker can market it.
Every time you climb in and out of the cab of your truck and interact with others, whether it’s a shipper, receiver, or just someone on the road, the impression with which you leave them can influence your success or failure and that of the company you represent. With a little effort you can distinguish yourself from the pack, and reap the rewards.