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Learn about some of the trends in digital communication, and how it’s changing the way we sell parts.

Episode 148: The whole world has gone digital, and it is impacting how we support and sell heavy-duty parts to the trucking industry. What are the trends in digital communication in the trucking industry and how is that changing the way we supply heavy-duty parts?

In this episode we dive into the 4 main trends we see in the trucking industry, and how you can adapt to them.

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keep trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

The whole world has gone digital. The pandemic has certainly accelerated adoption of digital technology and things are rapidly changing with the introduction of new technology. So what are the trends in digital communication and how is that going to impact the way that we sell heavy-duty parts to the trucking industry? In this episode, we’re gonna talk about the trends in digital communication in the trucking industry in 2022. The first trend that I want to talk about is the different ways that people are communicating today using digital tools. The number of tools are multiplying every year. We still see that email remains one of the dominant digital tools for communication, but there has been a growing trend that is going to continue in 2022 with the use of video. Video has never been easier to record, and we’ve never been able to publish it so easily either. In 2022, we’re gonna see this trend continue.

And we are going to see that live streaming, doing prerecorded videos and editing them at a high professional level, as well as doing more short videos that are a little more entertaining, are all going to be tools that people are going to use to communicate with each other. And so heavy-duty parts companies that want to communicate with their customers are going to have to adopt video as part of their content marketing strategy, if they haven’t already. And those that have begun down the journey are going to have to take steps to improve the quality and the quantity of video that they use. It’s a powerful tool and there’s even tools that allow salespeople to quickly record videos and then embed them in to email. How great is that? But it’s not just the move towards video that companies that are selling to the trucking industry need to really start taking a stronger look at. For example, voice command is going to become, and has continued to be a growing sector and a growing way to communicate directly with consumers.

So how does that work? Well, your online content, your website, and your online content needs to be accessible via voice command. So think about all of the drivers that are driving hands-free with Bluetooth connectivity to mobile devices. Can a driver who is looking for a heavy-duty part or information about something that you sell, going to be able to use voice command and in conjunction with their Bluetooth, access let’s say their Google assistant or Siri and are they going to be able to use that voice command to access your content? If they’re in office or at home, will they be able to use an Alexa device or a Google device to be able to do the same thing? Voice command is an area that a lot of companies haven’t given a lot of attention to. Thinking through what your brand sounds like is going to be an important part of your overall communication and marketing strategy with your customers.

So this applies to manufacturers of heavy-duty parts who are trying to communicate with distributors and trying to communicate with end-users of their product and distributors who are selling to fleets and repair shops. As more adopt these different forms of communication, they need to really think through their overall strategy and their communication style to make sure that it matches up with the different types of digital tools that people are using in order to get access to information and communicate with each other. Of course, in the trucking industry, the internet of things and telematics is driving a lot of the technological advancements in trucks and trailers. And so fleets are using these devices and this expanded access to data to make better decisions. And so heavy-duty parts companies, whether they’re manufacturers or distributors need to think about how they can communicate and to sync up to the different ways that fleets are capturing data.

And you wanna make sure that your products and your information is easily accessible through whatever form the fleet is using to access data. So that could go all the way from, from telematics and diagnostics all the way through to pulling information through an e-commerce platform. But there’s also additional tools that are at our disposal, that many heavy-duty parts companies have not even begun to think about using effectively. For example, QR codes, chatbots, and how does your messages look on wearable content like smartwatches? There is a lot to think about when it comes to the ways that consumers are accessing information and how these ways continue to multiply. And so heavy-parts companies need to focus on developing good solid strategies for the types of information and the different tools people are using to get access to that information.

A second major trend is the amount of data that all of this activity is producing. There is an expression ‘drowning in data’ and most business leaders are experiencing that. Fleets have access to more data than ever before with telematics and heavy-duty parts manufacturers and distributors need to share product data with fleets in an efficient manner. But which information is important to which fleet is often dictated by the various needs of the specific vehicle owner. So understanding the data, and then being able to tell the story behind the data and making sure customers have easy access to exactly what they need is imperative. Having a good data management strategy, and also putting in place a strategy to interpret the data that you are receiving yourself is an important part of successfully communicating with customers in 2022 and beyond. So when you put these two trends together, you see where things are going.

You know, when I started in the industry, everything was done with a phone call, a fax or an email. Today, the number of devices and the methods, and the ways that we transmit data back and forth and communicate with each other has rapidly expanded. And when we think about putting together a strategy for this, we need to think about this strategy from end to end. All the while, keeping our ultimate customers in mind, making sure that we’re making it as easy as possible for them to communicate with us and get access to the information they need to become repeat customers of ours. We’re gonna take a quick break and when we get back from the break, we’re going to talk about the two other trends that we see coming in 2022. We’ll be right back. Having issues with your commercial equipment? You need ATAs Technology and Maintenance Council also known as TMC.TMC develops recommended practices, addressing the most pressing technology and maintenance issues affecting commercial vehicle fleets.

You can join TMC just pennies a day. And when you do, you’ll get access to thousands of pages of technical information, and you can attend events like the upcoming 2022 Annual Meeting and Exhibition March 7th through 10th in Orlando, Florida. For more information, check out TMC at TMCtrucking.org. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com, or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high quality fuel injection for heavy duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about two of the dominant trends in digital communication in the trucking industry, which are the ways people are communicating and how that’s multiplying and the amount of data that’s being generated by all of this communication.

Now let’s talk about a digital sales channel. If you, as a company have not already begun setting up your digital sales channel, you are now officially behind your competitors. Most companies have at least looked at setting up eCommerce and those that have already begun down the journey are understandably concerned with managing channel conflict. The traditional distribution channel has always allowed manufacturers to sell through distributors and those distributors would sell to repair shops and fleets and vehicle owners. This three step marketplace was very clean. You know, you had manufacturers in their position making the products, distributors distribute, and vehicle owners buy the products and install them. But with the introduction of digital tools, the lines between one channel and another have begun to blur a little bit. Digital tools are enabling manufacturers to have access to end users in a way that they never did before.

And so then there is the decision to make, do we maintain a B2B distribution relationship with the end users where we only use distributors to move our products to them? Or do we open up a B2C channel where end users can buy the products directly from us? Managing channel conflict and setting up a digital sales channel within your business is a subject that has caused a lot of leaders in a lot of companies to lose some sleep, but there is solid strategies that allow companies to move forward. Let’s just look at B2B. First of all, setting up a B2B eCommerce platform for your distributors is a really smart thing to do because it allows you to organize your data and your product information and access to your products for your distributors in a way that is more efficient and will cost you significantly less to accept orders from your distributors.

This also will allow you to make a lot of product information available without including pricing, because with a B2B eCommerce platform, typically once you log in, then you get your pricing. So this is really good for manufacturers because they need to be generating demand for their products, with vehicle owners and fleets. And so that pull-through marketing can be done without upsetting the distribution channel that maybe has taken decades to establish. On the other hand, having a B2C channel directly to consumers might be advantageous for manufacturers and is a necessity for distributors. And so in order to do this effectively, then good communication with your distribution channel and setting up pricing in such a way that it protects your distributors is essential to maintaining a good relationship and a healthy channel of distribution for your products from you to your distributor, to the end user, and possibly from you directly to the end user. Embracing a digital sales channel is absolutely imperative for long term success.

As the baby boomers retire faster and faster and faster between now and 2030 digital natives are taking over decision making roles. And they want a good digital experience. Salespeople who have been working in the traditional distribution model, whether at the manufacturing level or at the distributor level sometimes are a little nervous that perhaps a digital sales channel will in some way outsource their job. But data has shown that that is not the case. If we look at our cousins in the automotive industry, they’re quite a bit ahead of us in the adoption of digital sales channels. We have not seen a mass replacement of parts people or sales people. Why? Because a digital sales channel makes the purchasing of repeat products and commodity-type products, more efficient. It reduces the cost of accepting those orders by as much as 30%. And it clears up time for parts people and sales people to do higher value work with customers.

So parts people have more time to work with their customers on more difficult projects. Sales people have more time to focus on business development type conversations with their customers in helping them lower their total cost of operation instead of just focusing so much of their time on things that could be classified as account management type tasks. So this is a big trend it’s going to continue in 2022. And if you are a manufacturer of heavy-duty parts of your distributor of heavy-duty parts, if, if you do not have a solid strategy for putting a digital sales channel in place, you need start working on it immediately. The fourth trend that I want to talk about is personalization of the customer buying journey or the customer experience. This is something that now is becoming an expectation. In the past you could make one piece of marketing and send it out to many today.

People want to have a personalized experience with the people and the companies that they’re buying from. And this has a carryover from B2C into the B2B environment that most of us are working in the trucking industry. But think about the monumental task of personalizing, every piece of marketing or every piece of communication with a customer. Many of us deal with a many different types of customers. So for example, you might be manufacturing products that are purchased by national mega fleets and smaller, independently owned regional fleets. You might be manufacturing products for over the road type customers and ones that are in severe vocational type work, where the demands are quite different. You are probably selling to owner operators and, and company drivers. Those are two different types of customers, and you’re probably working with independent repair shops and dealership groups and independent aftermarket parts retailers.

So there’s many different types of customers inside the overarching trucking industry and personalizing something for each one of those customer segments admittedly is going to be a challenge. Fortunately, with the advancement of so many different digital tools, the opportunity to maintain some form of a system and picking up efficiency gains with automation, can be blended with personalization in order to give each one of your customers a really personalized feeling where they feel like you are addressing them and them alone and directly. A good strategy needs to be put in place to manage all of this and one of the real fundamentals in business is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. And so when setting up a combination, a hybrid of automation and systemization with personalization in your sales and marketing and overall communication efforts, it is essential that metrics are put in place to measure the results of what you’re doing, to make adjustments, to accept feedback from customers about what they want and what they like and dislike about the way that you’re, you’re communicating with them and to make necessary adjustments.

As you can see with all four of these trends, the digital communication and the advancement in technology is having an effect on how we approach the trucking industry and how we sell truck and trailer parts to this industry. The good thing is that these tools are actually enhancing the level of communication, the type of personalization that we can do, and we can put better quality data in the hands of people who need it to make good decisions so that they, as the trucking industry, can continue to do what they do, which in essence is the backbone of our society, because they provide us with everything we need to make our world go round. So these trends are pushing us to innovate and to change the way that we do business and the way that we communicate. But I think the net result is that it forces us to get better, to create a better customer experience, to be more efficient and to provide better quality information to the people who need it the most.

If you would like some assistance in any one of these trends or with your overall sales and marketing efforts, we are offering our listeners a consulting service that focuses on these things. So go over to heavydutypartsreport.com/consulting. And this will allow you to learn a little bit more about what we do. You can go ahead and schedule a meeting with me directly where we can talk about your specific situation. And then from there, we will provide a proposal for you so that you can move forward with our assistance and execute on some of these digital strategies to enhance your business and your business results.

Thank you so much for listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And again, if you’d like to take your digital communication strategy to the next level, head over to heavydutypartsreport.com/consulting today. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you soon.

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