Executive Briefings

Third-Party Logistics: Aligning Sales and Marketing with Business Strategy

Analyst Insight: Entering the second decade of the 21st Century, logistics service providers' mindsets are focused on growth. There has been a lot written about shipper and LSP relationships - what's working and what's not. But there is plenty of room for improvement. Over the last few years, LSPs focused on cutting costs and improving customer satisfaction by standardizing operating procedures, streamlining and integrating IT solutions, managing with KPIs and implementing scorecards. So what is next on the minds of LSP executives - sales and marketing?

LSPs were hard hit by the decline in shipper volumes that began in late 2008. Now, after a brutal year of cutting costs and recession recovery, LSPs that are focused on comeback are seriously focused on growth strategies. In late 2009, signs began to show, such as Echo Global Logistics completing their IPO, Saddle Creek Corp. acquiring Service Craft Logistics, Greatwide Logistics acquiring the fleet business from YRC Logistics and, most recently, Transplace announcing it is being acquired by CI Capital Partners. And there will be more.

Many LSPs fall short with aligning sales and marketing strategy with business strategy. There is a tendency to undervalue sales and marketing. And with so much focus placed on day-to-day operational execution, the "big picture" sometimes gets lost. When that happens, LSPs and their clients get out of alignment. The LSP thinks they are doing a great job while the client thinks, "What have they done for me lately?"

The Outlook

In 2010, smart executives are:

• Going back to the basics by assessing their customer base, talent base, market position and capabilities;
• Looking deeper at customers and their needs, while also evaluating new markets and new services;
• Defining what really makes them unique;
• Working hard to quantify their cost-to-serve, so they can truly understand where the best opportunities for profitable growth lie;
• Developing go-to-market plans to drive growth for 2010 and beyond; and 
• Assessing and acquiring sales talent.

All these efforts take time away from the market - and away from the customers - to work on the business, test hypothesis, develop strategies and tactics, and identify gaps and plans to fill them. Teamwork is essential for this effort; it cannot be done in a vacuum. Engaging those closest to the customer and investing in the required support and tools needed to create the future state is critical. Finally, looking closely at sales - people, process and technology - ensures they have the best talent, utilize appropriate sales methods and take advantage of great CRM tools.

LSPs were hard hit by the decline in shipper volumes that began in late 2008. Now, after a brutal year of cutting costs and recession recovery, LSPs that are focused on comeback are seriously focused on growth strategies. In late 2009, signs began to show, such as Echo Global Logistics completing their IPO, Saddle Creek Corp. acquiring Service Craft Logistics, Greatwide Logistics acquiring the fleet business from YRC Logistics and, most recently, Transplace announcing it is being acquired by CI Capital Partners. And there will be more.

Many LSPs fall short with aligning sales and marketing strategy with business strategy. There is a tendency to undervalue sales and marketing. And with so much focus placed on day-to-day operational execution, the "big picture" sometimes gets lost. When that happens, LSPs and their clients get out of alignment. The LSP thinks they are doing a great job while the client thinks, "What have they done for me lately?"

The Outlook

In 2010, smart executives are:

• Going back to the basics by assessing their customer base, talent base, market position and capabilities;
• Looking deeper at customers and their needs, while also evaluating new markets and new services;
• Defining what really makes them unique;
• Working hard to quantify their cost-to-serve, so they can truly understand where the best opportunities for profitable growth lie;
• Developing go-to-market plans to drive growth for 2010 and beyond; and 
• Assessing and acquiring sales talent.

All these efforts take time away from the market - and away from the customers - to work on the business, test hypothesis, develop strategies and tactics, and identify gaps and plans to fill them. Teamwork is essential for this effort; it cannot be done in a vacuum. Engaging those closest to the customer and investing in the required support and tools needed to create the future state is critical. Finally, looking closely at sales - people, process and technology - ensures they have the best talent, utilize appropriate sales methods and take advantage of great CRM tools.