Keeping it real: Marketing your business

In the moving industry, marketing efforts have to be spread across an increasingly diverse target group of customers. Meanwhile, a successful promotional should have a company’s staff – and authenticity – at its heart. FIDI Focus Editor Dominic Weaver reports

When it comes to marketing, moving is a bit different from most other businesses.

Managing Director at Henk International, says: ‘Marketing is absolutely essential if you want to stay ahead of your competition. It is how you make the company and the services you provide visible to others – and not only to customers. Today, you also have to be very good at marketing your company to get new talent and employees.’

At De Haan, General Manager, Household Moves, Linda Rovekamp adds: ‘A marketing strategy is important for any business – big or small – as it helps set direction by means of a marketing action plan to realise the company’s goals. Marketing can be seen as a set of tools a business has at its disposal to gain attention for the business with a desired target audience in a desired target market.’

However, says Henk, when it comes to marketing a moving business, the choice of tools is governed by one fundamental: ‘We can’t create demand. That’s something very, very unique for our industry.’

Traditional marketing companies Henk has come into contact with often have difficulty understanding this distinctive difference. She cites the time that Henk International wanted to relaunch its corporate identity and approached marketing agencies to support them. ‘I talked to several, and they just couldn’t think out of their own box,’ she says. ‘They tried to explain to us how important a website is, and how we could create a web shop and then we would attract more customers… no!’

The crux of marketing a moving business, Henk says, is about being visible in the right place (usually online) when a customer needs it. ‘If you’re not able to do that,’ she warns, ‘you’re out.’

Who are your customers?…

To be correctly positioned for customers to find you, you need to ask some vital questions about who they are. ‘If you want to do proper marketing, you need to do your homework,’ says Henk. ‘Who are your target clients – who do you want to address?’ In modern moving, this means defining not only broad customer sectors – corporate, human resources or commercial, for example – but also drilling down to specifics, including the language they speak and precise demographic information.

‘[Divisions of] customer groups have increased and become more detailed. Marketing now needs to be much wider and deeper,’ Henk adds. ‘For a moving company, say, 20 years ago, it was just people who wanted to move, who somehow came to you. Even if it was business to business at the end, at the beginning you were targeting the actual people who were moving. Today, however, it’s very different.’

…and who are you?

If knowing your customers is one half of movers’ marketing homework, getting to grips with what makes their businesses stand out from the crowd is the other. Movers are selling services, not products, so defining and presenting your company’s unique qualities – particularly from the staff viewpoint – is an essential differentiator, says Henk.

Doing this properly isn’t about involving an external agency, or even management – it’s about involving the people doing the day-to-day, customer-facing work, she adds. ‘If you just get an agency, give them some facts and say ‘develop our corporate identity’, they will do that. But the outcome isn’t really what your company is. Last year, we tried it with our management team, but we are not really ‘in’ the business anymore; we needed our people.’

For Henk, the answer was to organise a team weekend, with representatives of the company – including packers, team leaders and office staff – and a coach to moderate and guide the process of defining what (or who) the company really was. This was a difficult process, she says – a ‘tough and exhausting’ weekend, which involved one team leader facing up to the challenges of his work.

‘They were saying the job is really tough, it’s not well paid enough, customers are a pain in the neck sometimes, and that there’s pressure from the operations manager,’ Henk says. ‘The question then was: “Why the hell are you coming in every morning to do your job – and still seem to like it?”. Then he fired back at me why he liked his job – which was hearing, when we have finished a job, that our customers are happy and that we have made their lives easier.’

Moving people’s much-loved possessions and making them happy is central to Henk’s proposition and marketing messages.

At De Haan, Rovekamp agrees that internal reflection is necessary. ‘What do you stand for as a company? What is your mission, vision – and which set of core values are important to you?

‘Invest in people, they personify these chosen values and are the frontline of your business.’

Since the company was founded in 1777, barges have been replaced with trucks, but the company’s core proposition remains its people and their passion for the business, Rovekamp adds.

‘If you don’t do it with your people, the purpose – the vision of the mission – is worth nothing,’ says Henk.

Henk International’s brand ‘key visuals’, which the company uses to illustrate its core values – in areas including leadership, team work and development of its staff – on social media, trucks, sales materials and around its own office

Tooling up

Once you know what you want to say and to whom, you need the right tools for the job. Today, the most relevant of these are online. Although brochures and other printed material still have a place, the internet allows business to target, more precisely, different and diverse customer groups.   

This will invariably mean your company website – or websites – but it can also mean investing in content-led marketing tools such as blogs or corporate newsletters. Henk says her company implemented a web-based lead generator last year, which is already providing good contracts.

Rovekamp says social media’s importance in your marketing mix will depend on which market and audience you are targeting – and she recommends using Google Analytics to help make well-informed decisions on this front.

For Henk, a company presence on social media is about supporting the overall brand image, but doesn’t really help with targeting customers. Social media, after all, is about having friends and ‘following’, while moving is a one-off – or, at most, infrequent – occurrence. ‘Once the move is done, what do they really want to know about moving?’ she says. ‘You can’t give them any added value in terms of information. From my point of view, social media [targeting customers] is just a little add-on to be “out there”.’

With a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and the German platform Xing, however, the company is harnessing the power of social media for recruitment, with short posts that showcase the interesting stories of recent moves. ‘We are also considering going to Snapchat and other social platforms where younger people are present,’ says Henk. ‘Not because they are our future customers, but because they are our future employees.’ She adds that the company also uses LinkedIn to stay in contact with international agents and to raise brand awareness.

Counting the cost

While social media and other marketing tools aren’t necessarily expensive, investment is essential, says Rovekamp, and, if carried out correctly, will help your company thrive. ‘Marketing is not an optional extra, or an added cost, but a necessity and a sales tool for your business – more so, if the market is very competitive,’ she says.

FIDI Marketing and Communications Manager Magali Horbert agrees: ‘Investing in proper marketing is worth the price. It’s not just a question of designing a logo, it’s the whole work of creating the brand at the back. You can get free websites and free logos on the internet, but it is worth investing in a proper marketing strategy, because that’s what’s going to set you apart from the rest and carry you through in the long run.’

The smaller, often family-owned businesses that make up much of the moving industry can struggle with the concept of marketing, and can mistakenly view it as an optional extra, says Horbert. ‘Their core activity is moving – they’re not marketers,’ she says. ‘They often don’t have the time, or resources and  knowledge, to get into big branding and marketing strategy.

‘But, nowadays, the first thing that sets you apart is your brand, especially in the online world; that’s what we see with the disruptors, for example. Of course, you’ve got the Amazons and Ubers, but you’ve also got the small man-with-a-van company with no proper infrastructure or experience, but excellent IT and/or web-design skills to come up with a wonderful website.

‘When a client is looking for a mover, they will be attracted by that great web design. Our members need to learn that, nowadays, word of mouth is not enough – you need to work on your image and your marketing. For a small company without an in-house marketing department or access to that kind of information, it can be very difficult.’

Supported by FIDI AND FAIM

To support its Affiliates’ marketing, FIDI has developed a suite of tools underpinned by FAIM certification. This includes a revamped www.fidi.org website, with an interactive members-only section containing practical tools and information. Within this is a ‘marketing toolbox’ with brand guidelines showing how to use the FAIM logo, and resources such as PDFs of promotional customer leaflets and a FAIM corporate video.

‘We want to help Affiliates educate their clients and stakeholders about FAIM – why it’s important and why it adds value – and help them promote this,’ says Horbert. A good first step is to carry the FAIM logo on your company website and marketing material. ‘Lots of Affiliate websites don’t include the FAIM logo,’ adds Horbert. ‘Only a few show the logo on their website, with a hyperlink to a page where they explain, in their own words, what the standard means and why it sets them above the competition.’

FIDI supports this with a downloadable PDF, which explains to the end-customer what FAIM is, and which Affiliates can, for example, attach to every quote for a contract. It has also relaunched its ‘Find an Affiliate’ directory, where affiliated companies can pay to include resources such as photography, videos and hyperlink banners. Smaller businesses that need help with developing such resources, or with marketing in general, should start by contacting FIDI, says Horbert.

FIDI’s resources are available to all Affiliates and, from a quality point of view, will help them highlight to customers what makes them stand out. Add these to diligent homework on your customers and developing authentic brand values – as well as the right tools for the job – and marketing will make a real difference to your bottom line.

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