Finding freight leads is the most important part of starting a new freight brokerage. Without them, you’ll have no one to offer your services to. Even if you are an established broker, you should always be on the lookout for new customers to grow your business. What if a customer that makes up 10% of your revenue decides to part ways? Can your business be sustained?
There are many ways to find new shippers, and some are more effective than others. The key to finding an effective method is creativity to set you apart from the competition. Here are 8 quick and simple ideas that you can build off of.
1.) Contact The Consignee
If you are already moving some freight, you should take note of where the loads are delivering. Chances are, they have freight to move too. You’ll have an advantage when pitching this potential shipper because while you have not done business with them directly, you have provided a truck that hopefully served them well. You may even be able to get a truck loaded with a backhaul once it delivers. This benefits you tremendously as it also builds your relationship with the carriers.
2.) Purchase a Shipper Directory
You can purchase a freight shipper directory to give you a head start. It is simply a list of potential freight shippers and their contact information to help streamline your marketing efforts. They usually contain business names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and contact names if available. You can quickly cold call hundreds of shippers in a week if you are diligent.
3.) Take A Drive Around Town
This is probably the most simple but overlooked method on this list. Fill up your coffee mug, grab a notepad, and take a drive around town. Head towards the known industrial part of your town or city, and take note of your surroundings. Do you see many commercial buildings with loading docks? Are there any trucks parked there? Do they appear to be company trucks, or contracted carriers?
If you happen to see a mix of different trucks, they are probably owner operators that use the services of freight brokers. This means that the business is open to working with brokers, and may not be under contract with a large asset based carrier. Take note of the company name, address, and any other identifying information. If you happen to be full of confidence at this stage, you should go ahead and act on number 3.
4.) Visit Local Shippers
When you know where the local shippers are, you are at an advantage because you can go and visit them in person rather than cold calling them. This may impress the shipping manager, and gives you a human element. If you are charismatic and possess above average sales skills, you should perform well here.
I should note that there are some good shipper lists out there, and some bad ones. The bad ones are usually low cost and contain hundreds of thousands of freight leads. These are usually just a mass download from a business directory and have not been screened for quality. The higher quality lists in the $100-$200 price range usually contain a few thousand leads that are much higher quality. Less is more when purchasing these sales tools.
5.) Agricultural and Food Cooperatives
Each type of crop usually has its own cooperative or industry website in every state. In almost all cases, these websites have lists of their member farmers, growers, and packers. Every single one of these businesses are moving freight loads. If you have a large network of reefer carriers, this method of obtaining freight leads can be the most valuable.
The only downside to using these agricultural websites is that many other brokers are using them too. This is where your above average sales skills will help you. You need to set yourself apart from the competition. Fortunately, these growers and packers are usually tight-knight, and help one another out. If you provide exceptional service, they’ll likely recommend your freight brokerage to their friends and colleagues.
6.) Industry Forums and Social Networks
This next method produces very few results, but the quality of these results is among the best. Find an industry website, forum, or social network and make a profile that includes a picture of yourself. Browse the website, and get a feel for the layout and the general tone of the community.
Chances are, there are some members that may be asking about shipping options, looking for referrals, or just looking for general information. This is where your industry expertise can help this person out. Keep your replies free of sales pitches, and make sure they are unbiased. If you genuinely help this person out by answering their questions in a transparent matter, you’ll build trust with them. They might not be ready to move some freight right this second, but down the line, they’ll probably remember your name and come back to you when they need more help.
7.) Ask your Current Customers
Another simple but overlooked method. Ask your current customers if they know anyone that needs some freight moved. If you have a good working relationship, they might forward your information to their colleague, give your their information, or both. We all trust the opinions of our friends, so if you are recommended by their friend, a shipper has a high likelihood of giving you a chance to prove yourself to them.
8.) Ask Friends and Family
Friends and family are always supposed to look out for each other. We always want to see each other succeed. Maybe a family member is a shipping manager at a local business, or maybe a friend is close with one. It doesn’t hurt to ask them to pass your name along.
Just be aware of any conflicts of interests that could arise. Some entities frown upon using friends and relatives of employees as vendors. You don’t want your loved ones to be disciplined at work.
The Bottom Line
When you are looking to start a new brokerage, or grow your existing freight brokerage, you need to hit the pavement and find quality freight leads. The key is to be creative. Take one of the methods listed above, and add your own spin to it.