Dr. Philip Kotler revolutionized the marketing world in the early 1960s with a defined and simplified approach to the consumer marketing world by evangelizing the 4 P’s of Marketing: product, price, place and promotion. While this model has evolved over time, the 4 P’s are still the core of all consumer marketing; and I would suggest should be the core of your efforts to attract safe, productive and loyal drivers1 to your trucking company.
Consumer marketing: A product is seen as an item that satisfies what a consumer demands. It is a tangible good or an intangible service. An automobile is an example of a tangible good; your cable television subscription is an example of an intangible service.
Driver marketing: The product a truck driver is “buying” from a trucking company is complicated. It is the sum of the driver’s perception about the company: the quality and cleanliness of the truck to which he is assigned; the appearance, professionalism and friendliness of all the company’s associates including drivers, mechanics, operations folks, payroll, president, etc.; the cleanliness and quality of the company’s facilities including the facilities set aside for drivers; the verbal, written and electronic communication the driver receives from the company; the company’s home time policy and practice; etc.
Perception is reality, and for a driver his or her perception is his or her reality. Further, first impressions or perceptions are very important. Make sure the driver’s perceptions are positive from first contact through termination; especially important is the perception during the first 90 days where turnover rates are the highest. It is critical that there is an expectation exchange prior to the driver getting in the truck; make sure the driver’s perception from recruiting, orientation and word of mouth is consistent with whet the company believes to be reality.
Consumer marketing: The amount a customer pays for the product. The price is very important as it determines the company's profit and hence, survival. Adjusting the price has a profound impact on the marketing strategy, and depending on the price elasticity of the product, often it will affect the demand and sales as well.
Driver marketing: Economics 101 states that markets are rational and that the market sets the price. Attracting qualified drivers requires a competitive pay package starting with the base pay, pay for performance, tenure increases, insurance and other benefits. It is critical that carriers understand the competitive landscape and benchmark their “price offering” to prospective and current drivers. An excellent source is the National Survey of Driver Wages published by the National Transportation Institute.
Consumer marketing: Refers to providing the product at a place that is convenient for consumers to access.
Driver marketing: There has been massive change where the product is introduced to and analyzed/ reviewed by the driver. Today it is all about the internet. Carriers use all facets of the internet (e.g., websites, social media, messaging, etc.) as the place to display their product and entice drivers to take the next step and talk (e.g., email, message, voice) to a recruiter for more information and hopefully close the sale. Both drivers and carriers have become more sophisticated as the world has become more virtual.
One area that has not changed is the power of driver referrals. Referrals are very powerful as the prospective driver has an opportunity to preview the carrier’s product by talking to a current driver and possibly observing his or her tractor and trailer. Do not discount referrals; they should be a part of every carrier’s marketing mix.
Consumer marketing: All of the methods of communication that a marketer may use to provide information to different parties about the product. Promotion comprises elements such as: advertising, public relations, sales organization, word of mouth, etc.
Driver marketing: Similar to the change in “place” above, the promotion of driving jobs has changed as our delivery of information has become faster and more frequent. Gone are the days of newspaper and truckstop magazine ads. Today’s promotion is direct to the driver’s smartphone, tablet, or laptop via Facebook, LinkedIn, Craig’s List, Instagram, recruiting portals, carrier websites, etc.
Again, with all of the technology available, do not discount the power of word of mouth and driver referrals.
Carriers need to employ all four elements (product, price, place, and promotion) as they craft the marketing mix to create a balance of the four elements that provides the carrier the maximum return. This is not a “one and done” effort; carriers need to continually test and analyze their marketing mix and results and make changes to improve their results on a regular basis. There is no one marketing recipe for success; carriers that adopt a marketing mentality, understand the elements and analyze cost/effort/results will achieve superior results.
1. The marketing concepts presented herein apply to all categories of truckload drivers: company, lease purchase, and owner operator. To simplify, all categories are referred to as “drivers.”
2. Source of consumer marketing: Wikipedia and Kotler, Philip. Marketing Management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1984.