Freight brokers connect shippers with carriers (trucking companies and owner-operators) and act as middleman, typically making a commission for the arrangements.
The market size of the freight brokerage industry stands at $98.8 billion in 2022. With more growth expected, the trucking industry is bound to flourish in the coming years. Nevertheless, finding loads has become more competitive with an increasing number of freight brokers.
Securing a good customer base, having a reliable pool of carriers, and finding suitable loads is necessary to ensure that freight brokers remain profitable. This article will cover the best ways for freight brokers to find loads and what some of the best practices are to secure them.
1. Look Up Shipper Lists
Industry sources such as a shippers list can be very beneficial for freight brokers. These lists can help you find shipping, manufacturing, and distribution companies near your locale or nearby cities and states.
You will also be able to filter shippers by type and location, and can even find out more about their products and contact information. The best thing about searching for shippers using a shipper list is that you can sort your prospects according to your business needs.
There are several shipper lists online that freight brokers can use to their advantage. MacRae’s Blue Book is a directory containing information about several manufacturing and distribution companies. You can sift through these companies to check which products they manufacture and their freight rate estimates for price comparison.
Another great resource is the USDA Business Listings. They can help you find valuable information about agricultural companies, where you’ll be able to browse through the list according to types of products, local farmers’ markets, farms in the area, and more.
Other lists such as ‘The Industry Week 500’ can help you find companies that are often in need of supplies from other businesses. There are also various other types of shipper lists that you’ll be able to find online.
2. Do Market Research
Market research for freight brokers is vital as it can help your business learn more about your competitors and customers. It helps you understand the reasons behind prospects choosing one broker over the other.
You’ll also be able to conduct comprehensive competitor analyses to find out how and where your business is positioned. Here are some of the most common and effective methods to conduct market research:
- Surveys – Creating a set of closed-ended questions can help you understand how you are performing against your customer’s expectations, whereas creating a set of open-ended questions would give you a deeper insight into how you can further improve your service to cater to the industry. Designing the right set of questions can give you a clear direction in areas to improve and opportunities to seize.
- Observations – This method may be vague in comparison to surveys and meetings but it is not to be underestimated. Carefully observing methods used by your competitors and the trends of your customers may pay off as you would be able to react swiftly to keep up with the changes in the industry. By observation, you would also be able to learn from mistakes made by other parties and work to improve on them, thus, giving you an edge in the market.
- Meetings – Avoid being comfortable and complacent, instead, meet with your existing and previous clients. Talking face-to-face or even in a video conference, understanding and empathizing with their experiences may open doors to more opportunities and business relationships. This is an excellent method to get updates on industry changes and what pain points your competitors are catering to. This method would be further elaborated on throughout the rest of this article.
In essence, market research can help you stay ahead of other brokers and determine if you can haul more loads within the same industry. This way, you have the chance to become an industry expert as you work within similar industries for multiple clients.
Alternatively, if a market segment becomes oversaturated, your market research may even help you make the decision to tap into less competitive ones.
3. Advertise Your Service
Organic and paid posts on social media platforms and advertisements on search engines can help companies find your brokerage business easily. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can also bring traffic to your website and help attract new shipping, distribution, and manufacturing companies.
Contrary to what some brokers may think, there are costs associated with organic advertising as well. Freight brokers will have to find a professional who can create content, know good SEO practices, and engage audiences on different platforms.
With an expert, you can start a targeted marketing campaign online on different platforms or directly mail potential clients to cover a larger customer base to find suitable loads.
Direct mailing can help you stand out from your competitors and reach shippers you are interested in. By purchasing mailing lists, you can send different offers and catered packages to your choice of shippers and follow up with a call to see if they are interested.
4. Contact Previous Customers
Customers you’ve worked with previously also hold the potential to be your clients again. Check what went wrong in your business relationship, reassure them that the problem has been resolved, and ask for a second chance.
It also might be the case that your primary contact at the client’s company switched to a new position, or the business is under new ownership. This might mean that the client might be re-evaluating and exploring other freight brokerages, or perhaps have already switched to your competitor.
In such situations, consistently approach them to show your genuine eagerness to provide them with your services once more. If your primary contact from a client has left for another firm, you could ask them about where they are working presently.
Leveraging with your former contacts can help you get in a good word at their new company where you might win a contract.
5. Search Within Your Locale
If you are looking for loads through new clients, you may have to employ some unconventional methods. Google has a satellite view of maps where you can view streets and buildings in an area.
Explore the area near your brokerage to find shippers, carriers, and even large manufacturers or distribution warehouses nearby. By doing so, you may come across a new company that might need hauling services.
You can also utilize the features on Google when you are preparing to establish contact with a potential client. It can help you learn about the business and whether they have a sizable loading dock, parking lot, or access that can aid in the hauling process.
This way, you can determine whether your freight brokerage would be a good match for the shipper beforehand.
6. Build & Expand Your Network
Building your network is one of the best ways to find new and quality loads for your brokerage. This approach focuses more on building long-term relationships with shippers, which is less time-consuming and greatly profitable in the long run.
It also helps your company appear more friendly and less pushy to clients while pitching. Freight brokerages can join events relating to their desired industry niche to meet prospective clientele.
Networking at expos and registering in freight associations are great ways to connect with new shippers. While building a network within your industry is essential, it’s equally important to consistently maintain and expand it.
7. Cold Call
Cold calling is a well-known method in sales for getting in touch with potential clients. You can get contact information for shippers from satellite maps, shipper lists, and search engines.
After obtaining the contact information of a few shippers that may have suitable loads, begin reaching out to them. While it can be quite frustrating initially, cold calling can offer great results if you are dedicated and patient.
Cold calling will require you to have the ability to receive rejections and also require you to contact a large number of shippers for good results. New freight brokerages may have to face higher rejection rates before landing their first contract successfully.
As cold calling is a form of unsolicited communication, it’s important to remain friendly and not too pushy at all times. If a lead is not interested, it’s best to move on to another prospect.
8. Warm Call
Warm calling refers to reaching out to a potential client by mentioning a mutual connection or referral. This approach is more well-received by companies in comparison to cold calling as they have already established a sense of trust with mutual connections.
Freight brokers can contact current and past clients for referrals or identify business leads that might require their services presently. They can also get in touch with their customer’s suppliers or clients to see if they may have any loads.
For example, if you have a client who is expanding operations to a new location, you can use that information to have a friendly discussion with them. A current client who refers you to neighboring companies may also benefit themself as you would be servicing the area more frequently.
These are just some of the ways warm calling can give you the ability to find new loads. It’s important to always mention your mutual connection to the prospect before leading them into your pitch.
9. Connect Through Load Boards
A load board is an online marketplace that connects shippers, brokers, and carriers. Brokerage companies can use load boards to find new loads for their carrier partners and boost their business. At the same time, attempt to establish a connection with shippers directly.
The best load boards even have dedicated accounts for freight brokerages, allowing them to find suitable loads with ease. Use this opportunity to join multiple load boards and connect carriers with shippers.
The more experienced a freight broker becomes with load board platforms, the more easily they will find the right loads for their business.
10. Ask for Referrals
If your clients are satisfied with your services, you should consider asking them for a referral. Using referrals to find more loads in the industry is highly effective when done correctly.
When a current client refers your business to a potential new client, this referral acts as an endorsement of your services, establishing credibility and trust. With a good image, more shippers are likely to trust your freight brokerage and may even pass your loads more consistently.
11. Ask to Be a Backup Freight Broker
When speaking to prospects, it’s not uncommon to hear that they are already working with a freight broker. This answer should help you note that the company is actively shipping loads.
Instead of ending the conversation to call your next lead, you may ask them if they would consider your brokerage company as a backup option. In case their current broker is unable to fulfill the shipper’s requirements, your brokerage company can step in and take over any loads.
Also, remember to ask them if you can send over your contact details to be on their backup list. Follow up with them every now and then to show that you are committed and willing to work for business.
12. Continuously Follow Up
Successful freight brokers also focus on repeat customers rather than just looking for new load opportunities. Constantly connecting with your existing customers builds a strong business relationship, whereas reconnecting with old customers can help you discover your shortcomings and determine how you can improve on them.
Moreover, talking to prospective clients who have rejected your proposals in the past, can give you the ability to learn the reasons behind their decisions. It’s important to learn from this information and improve.
Best Practices for Freight Brokers to Secure Loads
Finding loads may be a challenging and tedious task for freight brokers. However, with the right practices, your brokerage can not only find new loads but also retain and grow the existing business relationships with shippers and carriers.
- Specialize – By being a specialist in a particular type of freight, your freight brokerage can become a trusted industry leader. It will instill confidence in potential clientele and help them gravitate towards your brokerage due to its reliable image. By specializing in a specific industry, you can secure a higher number and similar category of loads and expand to other market segments in the future.
- Offer Top-Notch Services – Offering a great service can set your company apart from your competitors and have your current clients raving about your business. More satisfied clients in the service industry can mean more referrals for your company which can help bring in new contracts for loads.
- Be Flexible – Freight brokers can offer flexibility to their shippers according to the carrier company they’d prefer to work with, the payment option that works best for them, the schedule they prefer, and more. This can help brokers find more loads and establish a more reliable relationship with their clients.
- Expand Your Network – Freight brokers should build good connections with shippers and carriers. When a broker offers a favor regarding scheduling or connecting with the right carrier or shipper, the other party may return the favor with something similarly advantageous. Take this opportunity to also expand your network to other clients.
- Have a Loyalty Program – With a loyalty program, a freight brokerage can reward existing customers and gain benefits through referrals. Loyalty programs also help retain customers long-term and deliver better services. New clients can take advantage of a sign-on bonus or discount for the first few loads, which can help them develop trust with the broker. Volume discounts and extended customer support are additional options to consider.
Finding loads as a freight broker may seem challenging at first, as shippers may eventually want to work directly with carriers to save costs. Therefore, it’s important to always highlight your value contribution to their supply chain and employ the best practices mentioned above to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
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Co-Founder & Writer
About the Author
Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 12 years of experience in the fields of logistics, trucking, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.
Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire to educate others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.