Customer-centric content helps freight broker's clients navigate the pandemic
How do you plan when uncertainty is the norm? This is not just a challenge for marketers in the COVID-19 era, it is a challenge for every business, especially those dependent on a complex supply chain. As businesses closed offices and workers went remote this March, moving goods from one place to another suddenly became a logistical nightmare.
At the center of this challenge is a division of UPS called Coyote Logistics, which provides a centralized marketplace with freight and supply chain solutions. Coyote’s Chief Marketing Officer Christina Bottis, recognizing that this was not a business-as-usual situation, launched a number of customer-centric content initiatives that included calls, emails and a trend-tracking microsite to address rampant uncertainty. “What we don't want to do is just be a redistributor of news,” explains Bottis, “We are passionate about the fact that everything, during a pandemic or not, really has to ladder up to ‘Here's something that can help you solve a problem.’”
What was the situation like when you joined Coyote Logistics in 2018?
When I started at Coyote, the majority of the marketing strategy was communications-based. Next year, we'll be 15 years old. The business and the market and the customer have changed. There are more options. They're more comfortable with e-commerce, digital. When we looked at where marketing really needed to shift, it was to truly support sales and be that growth lever so, for us, it was building that infrastructure. Step One was getting really insightful information into what we call "value factors." Doing the research, getting internal buy-in and educating the different teams and the leadership was really the first step for us.
How did you determine your value factors?
If you're not delivering on the orthodox expectations of a customer set, you've got big problems and need to focus your time on that. Where the real beauty of this starts to begin is once you've got those managed—where are the things that are either unmet needs or are facets that, today, are the things that sway a decision? How do you overachieve in those areas or in the areas of unmet need so that you can start to carve out your space in their mind? I expect a business to be trustworthy, dependable, good customer service. The stuff on top of that really is starting to separate you from the pack.
What were some of your key insights?
We’re no longer the small Chicago startup but now a global enterprise, so the question was, 'How do we build on what made us great to get here, but continue to evolve and provide more value and differentiation to our current and future customer base? The next step from all of us was the positioning, to say, "Now that we know what they want and what's important to them, we are better suited to serve at a higher level, but we have to be able to deliver on it."
We'd been doing this for more than a decade and had gone through a number of different evolutions already. The data intelligence component of who we were, what we knew, and what our data showed was incredibly valuable. How were we getting that into the hands of not only our customers, but into the community? Being able to unlock the intellectual property of some of the smartest people in the company has been a huge win in positioning us as a thought leader and somebody that you could trust to do business with.
What's changed in terms of your 2020 marketing plan after COVID-19 struck?
The biggest thing that has changed is the frequency of our communication with not only customers, but also prospects and the supply chain community overall. We do weekly calls and interviews with customers, including market updates, thought leadership and webinars. Prior to this time period, our customers may not have needed such frequent communication. Some people are just hungry. They're hungry right now in a time of uncertainty.
How are you making sure that content is useful to your customers?
What we don't want to do is just be a redistributor of news. As marketers—and probably for anybody right now—we're in a time of ruthless prioritization, the difference between just putting content out for content’s sake. We are passionate about the fact that everything, during pandemic or not, really has to ladder up to “here's something that can help you solve a problem.”
We know that Coyote uniquely has a perspective on the freight market and supply chain industry because of who we work with every single day. We really tried to add that level of "Here's the data point, here's what is happening, and here's what we think," and that really has shown to be very valuable. Because in a time when no one really has a playbook, what you really appreciate is somebody who has a number of years of history and experience in any sort of specialty saying, "Here's my educated guess, and hopefully you can do something with that."
How are you making your brand promise real?
If we can't deliver on our core competency, we don't get the chance to do all the other stuff, so delivering on what we promise and actually getting the stuff where it needs to be and doing that with a high level of service is absolutely No. 1. No. 2 is our launch of the Coyote Curve. Effectively, our chief strategy officer looks at the ebbs and flows of the market and helps people plan in a time when planning is not easy. When you talk to people in supply chain, planning and forecasting for the future is so critical to both sides of the market. Not only for the carrier who's driving the trucks and getting the stuff there, but for the folks who are thinking about demand planning and making sure they have the capacity and the partners to get that done. So we took a hard look at what information could we provide people and what insights we had that are really helpful.
What are your metrics for success?
We started with just looking at usage metrics—downloads and people tuning into the webinar. Now, the marketing KPIs are always the foundational things that our team is looking at to make sure that we're optimizing and growing exposure and awareness. But really, what I love most about things like the Curve are that they present an opportunity for us to have a conversation with our customers that's about how we can help them plan. We talk to our customers quarterly, and it has become a foundational part of how the market discusses what's coming next. The idea of using content and arming sales with the data to empower their customers and have that conversation is a natural form of lead generation rather than a forced point of a sales process.