Charlie Pesti is the co-organizer at the New York Supply Chain Meetup. He works passionately on being the world’s best publicist of logistics technology. He runs his own PR agency named after himself.
You have been working with logistics and shipping technology companies like Freighthub, Xeneta and Instafreight are amongst your customers. Can you briefly introduce yourself and the services you offer?
Charlie Pesti: I’ve been in the logistics and related technologies business longer than I want to remember sometimes. I started my career in logistics as a truck driver and worked my way up through the ranks. Now, I manage my own marketing and PR agency which bears my name, not for lack of something more creative but because I feel personally responsible for every project that I and my colleagues have ever worked on.
From an operational point of view, we help companies in the global shipping, logistics, and supply chain sphere write content, connect with journalists, with the media and generate qualified sales leads.
From a strategic point of view, we work closely with founders, investors, subject matter experts within their companies, helping them establish, build, and execute marketing and communication strategies.
Our priority is not only to get our customer’s products to market but to clearly communicate why customers need those products in their lives.
On your website, it says that your values are Generosity, Empathy and Emotion. How do you transfer these values into marketing strategies and what can logistics companies learn from that?
Charlie Pesti: Everything around us is marketing. It has been done to us for so long and so effectively that we don’t even notice it anymore, like free samples from your go-to grocery store, or the commercials that seem to play after every other song on your favourite radio channel.
If you want to grow your business, you have to do things differently. You have to care about the people you want to serve. So, the best question to ask is: Who can you help and how?
Generosity: Generosity builds relationships. In turn, those relationships help to build great businesses. Marketing should be a generous act. You want to help others to be able to do more, to be more, and to help someone solve a problem.
When you build a business relationship on generosity, you bring more to the table than people expect. You create personal engagement instead of just sales figures; partners instead of customers.
Empathy: It’s kind of an issue en masse with most industries. Empathy has been kicked to the curb in favour of a profit line. This is especially true for marketing tactics. Effective marketing is about understanding our customers’ worldview and desires, what they think about, what their fears and biases are, what they will respond to. It’s not mass, not spam, not shameful marketing, not tricking, profit-maximizing short-term mindsets. Empathetic marketing allows you to connect with your customers on their level. It’s easier to make products and services for the customers you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services.
Emotion: People don’t want what you make. Theodore Levitt, a marketing professor from Harvard, once said that people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit, they want a quarter-inch hole. The lesson is that the drill bit is merely a feature of means to an end to what they really want. But even that stops a few steps short of the real reason. What they really want is the family picture on the wall once the hole is drilled. They want that warm feeling of a family home.
Even though logistics is traditionally more relationship-based, what online marketing channels should logistics companies focus on to reach their target audience best?
Charlie Pesti: This is a myth. Every business is relationship-based. I’ve never seen a company communicating and doing business with another company. People build relationships and do business with other people.
By now it’s clear that social media determines success or failure. We utilize several social media outlets for our customers. Preferences and the used channels may be different from business to business. Here is a quick overview:
Twitter is a great platform to stay on top of minds and keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. Here you will find, connect with, and engage journalists and industry thought leaders. However, it won’t move the needle at the bottom of the sales funnel.
LinkedIn has a serious and professional nature and it is a good place to make targeted connections. Outreach through LinkedIn Groups that have thousands of targeted members, with over 65 Supply Chain & Logistics groups made up of millions of members and is a great way to stay connected with people on a professional level.
PPC (Pay Per Click) advertisements can capture people in targeted ways. Facebook or Instagram, LinkedIn, or Google Ads —you name it. With these tools, you can seek out and target very specific demographics, like grandmothers in Berlin who love to bake cookies.
SEO tactics will make a bigger impact on the bottom line. People have already identified the problem and they’re already in search mode, actively looking for solutions. Once they have found you, it’s more likely that they will pick up the phone to talk to an expert and see the demo.
Email marketing is crucial. This is your owned media, your community. You have already established a relationship and trust. You can contact them and, if you manage them carefully, you’ll find a very receptive audience to whatever you are selling. But make no mistake, there is no shortcut to this stage. You have to identify your target audience, build the database, nurture your community and earn that trust in your brand.
What are some mistakes that many logistics companies make with their marketing? Can you give us a few examples of such campaigns?
Charlie Pesti: Content marketing is probably the most common, and most companies get it wrong.
The problem is that people expect it to be the shortcut to generate qualified leads overnight and make lots of money. Generally speaking, writing and publishing articles doesn’t make lots of money at all. Rather, it’s your chance to speak up, to stand for something, to teach, to connect. It gives you the chance to talk to other people, receive feedback, to lead, to build trust. It is based on generosity that we talked about earlier. It’s a transformative effort by you to spread an idea and be recognized and remembered in the shipping/logistics world.
What are the main challenges for marketers in logistics and what marketing techniques can companies use to stay ahead of the market?
Charlie Pesti: We live in an age of choice. There is now more competition in the marketplace, on both global and local levels than ever before. Consumers are overwhelmed with different options to their particular problems as there are exponentially more options to choose from. Moreover, consumers are more concerned with what they’re buying and where they’re buying it from.
It requires a real survivor mentality for entrepreneurs in the market. You either make your environment work for you and fight for continued existence, or you let fear stifle you into inaction. Action, even if it’s not perfect, means you are alive and moving. Your chain of actions needs to be directed at making your company and services different; something unique that stands out from everyone else. Differentiate. Stand out. Be unique. —In true Darwinian fashion, you either evolve or die.