Has the 3PL Industry Been Left in the Internet Dust?

The growth of web trafficUnless you’ve been underneath some rock for the past decade, you’re probably fully aware of the accelerated growth of the Web and the significant number of businesses using the Internet to search for products and services. In fact, significant doesn’t adequately describe the extent to which businesses search online. According to Hub Spot, 57 percent of B2B businesses have acquired a customer through their blog and 41 percent of B2B businesses have acquired a company through Facebook. These numbers are staggering – so much so that it would be hard to believe that any B2B service company would choose to ignore this rich and plentiful prospect channel.

But that’s exactly what many 3PL (third party logistics) companies have decided to do, if not by default. Perform a quick search of the websites for the top 100 3PL companies in the US and something noticeable might be missing – namely content rich social media links and regularly updated blogs. Sure, you may find that the websites look good from a design perspective (although in some cases this isn’t even the case), but many of these top firms are choosing to ignore the vast potential that the Web and social media have to offer.

Stuck in a Rut

Many of the top firms are stuck in the “old” mindset of generating business. They focus most of their attention on cold calling targeted lists, direct mail, industry trade publication advertising, trade show advertising, and sponsoring local events in an attempt to facilitate relationships with larger prospects. By no means should these mechanisms be ignored. However, putting all of the proverbial eggs in these offline marketing channels will undoubtedly result in significant lost potential. And 3PL companies are missing out on more than just potential revenue – they’re also missing out on potential cost savings that online marketing channels offer. In a recent infographic published by Voltier Digital, blogs, social media, and SEO (search engine optimization) all cost less than traditional telemarketing, direct mail, and trade shows.

Where Are They Going Wrong?

Blogs represent an area of online marketing that offer one of the greatest opportunities for return of investment that 3PL companies seem to be ignoring. One of the reasons that blogs are so attractive is that they cost so little to produce, yet provide a high rate of return. Many content management systems offer built in capability of extending a blog onto the corporate site, and the only other cost involved is the time to create and publish content. If the blog articles contain relevant and useful information, others will link to and share the content – which not only drives interested people to the site but also helps to facilitate increased search engine ranking. Unfortunately, when you glance at many of the top 3PL company websites, you’ll either find no blog or a blog that’s stale. Consistently updating content each and every month is imperative to actualizing success.

Social media is often ignored due to either intimidation with the medium or a perceived lack of relevance. In particular, many 3PLs overlook this treasure trove because they believe that people on Facebook or Twitter among others won’t transition into a paying customer. This could be no further from the truth. And, as with blogs, many companies either don’t post their social media profiles on their websites or don’t push fresh content through the social media platforms consistently. Many of these channels require weekly, if not daily engagement in order to be successful. And quality is much more important than quantity. By actively participating in relevant groups and discussion, perceived industry expertise can be developed and powerful connections can be made.

Finally, SEO is such a powerful way of attracting prospects. With SEO, companies gain visitors to their website by optimizing their website to appear in the top search engine results for targeted and relevant keyword searches. Once obtained, all clicks to the website are obtained without a per click fee. If you conduct a search for industry related keyword phrases, you won’t see many of the larger 3PL firms listed in the top spots. More frequently, you’ll find the smaller and more progressive competitors occupying these much desired spots. SEO requires a significant amount of effort and takes an extended period of time to develop. So it makes sense that many companies would avoid this channel. But with as much as 94 percent share of all search engine clicks (eConsultancy), SEO is an area that can’t be ignored.

Moving an 800-Pound Gorilla Takes a Lot of Strength

The top 3PL companies have a blessing and a curse with respect to their size. While they have the capital that many of their smaller competitors don’t, change oftentimes takes significantly longer to implement and permeate throughout the company. More importantly – many of the top 3PL companies believe that their target audience, Fortune 500 companies and other large public and private companies, either don’t search the Web for these types of services or would be better targeted in more traditional marketing channels. This perception is completely inaccurate, as many large companies use the Internet to a great extent when searching for outsourced vendors and service providers. Furthermore, other online marketing channels offer great potential for customer service and relationship building, such as social media and content marketing. In fact, large 3PL companies would be wise to take a book out of some of the more sophisticated users of online marketing by integrating support responses through social media channels and regular pushes of relevant information via their websites and regular email communication with prospects and customers.

But not even money can make up for an extended period of absence. Timing is everything in the world of the Web. Changes take place at a breakneck speed and new trends emerge almost daily. It will be interesting to see if more of the largest 3PL companies start adopting the new wave of marketing. One thing is for sure – if they don’t start adopting it quickly, they just might be left in the dust of their more Internet conscious competitors.