The most important work we do with clients is at the beginning, when we begin to understand their business and the customers they serve. Our robust on boarding program includes the development of several buyer personas, or semi-fictional representations of ideal customers based on market research and real data about existing customers.
The following buyer personas were created for a North American logistics provider that had built a strong reputation among customers, but struggled to widen that perception and differentiate itself from competitors. Our strategy was to understand the kind of customers with whom the client had the most success and then to create a targeted content marketing campaign serving those customers’ informational needs.
Persona 1: John
Role: General Manager
Company: Callahan Tractor Supply ($200M annual revenue) – Callahan is a mid-sized, employee-owned American manufacturer and distributor of tractor parts based in Louisiana.
About him: John, 50, began working part time at Callahan Tractor Supply during college and has since worked full time in a variety of roles from the manufacturing floor to sales to, now, general manager. He knows as much about their specialty tractor parts as anyone in the company but admits his knowledge of technology and its manufacturing applications is lacking. He religiously reads several traditional industry publications and attends an annual industry conference, however, so he does have a general idea of trends and hot-button topics.
John is highly motivated by customer satisfaction. Because of his background in sales, he still has longstanding relationships with existing customers — though, in his current role, he is no longer able to call each one to make sure they received their parts on time. Callahan’s outdated TMS doesn’t provide end-to-end shipping visibility or integration with customer systems, causing occasional late or lost orders (his worst nightmare). He knows there has to be a better way. But he is wary of logistics vendors because he receives weekly cold calls from several fast-talking brokers, who don’t seem to understand him or his comfort with the technology they’re selling.
John is a relationship guy, so there’s been no impetus to change his long-standing relationship with the local rep for a major shipping vendor until recently. Speaking with a client, John learned that the agricultural-equipment manufacturer had been working with Evans to reduce shipping costs and improve customer service. Though generally wary of technology and its impact on the American worker, John was intrigued. Firstly, the potential cost savings was most appealing — both in how it would impact his budget and the savings he could pass on to his customers. He liked how the client spoke of Evans’ personal touch — he wouldn’t like working with a large logistics operation where he was one of many customers. And the fact that Evans’ technology was critical to improving customer satisfaction was surprising to him and very appealing. John also appreciates the fact that Evans has been in the business for a long time.
John believes in three things: Jesus, LSU football, and buying American-made. He is married with two children. He is on Facebook and has an iPhone but is by no means tech-savvy. He checks his email on his desktop several times a day but still prefers phone calls as a primary means of communication.
Persona 2: Celeste
Company: MALKy ($50M annual revenue) – MALKy is a private-equity-owned manufacturer of dairy-alternative ingredients. The brand is well-respected in the specialty foods sector, but recent dietary trends (like Whole30) have brought much attention to dairy-alternative brands, including MALKy, presenting a unique opportunity for growth.
About her: Celeste recently joined MALKy as its CFO after successfully bringing to market a number of specialty food products for a major American food distributor. She was brought on by new ownership to seize the unique growth opportunity head on, as she is well-known as an agent of change who is not afraid to disrupt the “way things have always been done” to improve operations and productivity.
Celeste is a data-driven person by nature, so she focuses on KPIs to know she is doing her job well. Scaling the business and formalizing processes are her main areas of focus, but she is challenged by MALKy’s still-small size. She strongly believes that smart investment in technology will separate best-in-class manufacturers from the competition. But MALKy can’t yet afford to invest in the technology that will take it to the next level.
Examining MALKy’s shipping spend and logistics strategy was one of her first items of business upon joining the company. Celeste saw the company spending far too much on freight due to lack of transportation optimization and buying power. Having worked with Evans at her former employer, she knows developing a logistics partnership can drive down costs and help MALKy’s long-term growth through operational improvement. Celeste is also interested in leveraging Evans’ suite of technology.
Constantly on the move, Celeste does almost everything (including checking email) via her mobile phone. She is an avid reader of industry publications and actively discusses news and trends on social media and online forums. She holds an M.S. in finance and an MBA from Michigan State. She is recently married and in her mid-30s.
Persona 3: Ben
Role: Co-Founder and COO
Company: Proctor Boards ($10M annual revenue) – Proctor is a nationally recognized surfboard manufacturer and watersport brand. Though the company is known for its top-of-the-line surfboards, Proctor Boards also sells other types of handcrafted boards, such as stand-up paddleboards and skateboards, and a limited amount of other surfing equipment. Approximately, 25% of Proctor’s business is direct-to-customers online; 25% of business occurs in their two retail locations (on either coast); and 50% of business comes from boutique board shops on both the East and West Coasts. The business seeks a multi-modal shipper that can handle Proctor’s various types of shipments to different locations in a cost-effective way on a transactional basis.
About him: Ben is the oldest of three brothers and the COO of their joint family venture, Proctor Boards, out of Ventura, California. Ben graduated from USC in 1995 with a degree in business. He worked for several national corporations in supply chain, logistics, and operations roles before moving back home to California in 2008 to start Proctor Boards.
Proctor’s steady growth over the last 10 years has permitted in-house management of shipping and logistics, and Ben has relied mostly on vendors he knew from his former roles. But, as e-commerce and demand for non-surfboard products have grown, he knows this is not the most economical solution. The business does not have the knowledge, relationships, or buying power to handle Proctor’s multi-modal shipments to so many different locations. Thus, he has begun to research outsourcing.
Being price-conscious, he seeks a logistics vendor with whom he can get the most bang for his buck. He wants each shipment to be as cheap as possible, sure but he also is willing to pay a little more if the vendor can fulfill all the company’s needs in one place (including various shipping modes and technology).
Ben is married with 4 children. He enjoys outdoor activities — including hiking and, of course, surfing — in his free time. He checks his email on his phone on a regular basis.