Why haulers must offer online self-service sales to their customers, now more than ever.
By K. Ryan Hasse
According to Forbes, 80 percent of buyers want to buy services online versus calling in for service. Therefore, haulers must sell their services online via a “shopping cart” on their websites where buyers can view an accurate quote, sign up and pay for new services. Your customers demand it.
Haulers must also focus on density, maximizing staff, drivers and trucks—especially in today’s extremely stressed truck and employment market. The right marketing approach (and software systems) must allow them to effectively target specific routes, neighborhoods, even exact houses in order to maximize their precious drivers and trucks.
This article discusses how to capture online buyers, combining shopping cart functionality with targeted digital marketing (call to action).
The Giving the Customer their Preferred Buy Experience, 24/7/365
Imagine yourself as a typical waste services consumer in 2022. You Google “waste service near me” or “dumpster service near me” and what do you see? You will probably see the big national companies with their paid ads at the top of the search engine results. You will probably even see “click here to buy” because the big nationals have online shopping cart functionality. Your choice: click a few
buttons and buy (from a familiar logo) or make several phone calls to smaller haulers without online purchase capability. What if it is 9pm? Saturday? New Year’s Day?
The online buyer desires a seamless self-service online buying experience when they are ready to buy. Many are specifically avoiding a conversation, especially with a sales rep, or the hassle of enduring a sales pitch. They might want three quotes, but will accept the first “reasonable” quote they see just to avoid talking on the phone.
The smaller hauler, without the ability to sign customers up online, will lose the Google search purchase more than half the time, simply because they do not offer “buy now” capability through an online shopping cart portal. The smaller hauler does not lose because the big nationals are better, or even cheaper. They lose because the smaller hauler does not give the customer the buying experience they want. Without an online shopping cart, even if the customer gets to your website, once they discover that all you offer is a “fill out this form and we’ll get back to you (maybe)” experience, the customer does not get what they want. In fact, that is the point where many online buyers abandon the website (you must track this!). I have seen it again and again as we work with haulers all over the country. Buyers do not want a “fill this out and wait” or “fill this out and we’ll call you back” experience. Some haulers might say “yeah, but our customers want to call in and speak to a real person because we’re a hometown family owned, etc.”
Amazon, Expedia.com and Angie’s List exist because of the demands of the online buyer. These seamless buying websites dominate their respective markets because so many people do not want to deal with a person. They just want to see a price, buy and move on with their day (with the expectation that your company will provide excellent downstream service). They want to shop at 3am, during the weekend/weeknights, or on Thanksgiving. They expect you to offer the ability to purchase 24/7/365.
Enter COVID. Touchless, contactless, social distancing—these are all words and concepts at the forefront of today’s collective consciousness. Buyers have learned, even more so, that online is where they get stuff—services included. Clicking buttons, entering credit cards, QR codes—all lead to purchasing systems. Add to this that call centers are closing and/or office hours are diminishing due to a lack of employees, or social distancing mandates, and online buying has become the solution. This is our world right now.
No Shopping Cart = Lost Revenue, Lost Density
Because of how the buyer wants to buy, haulers must offer the ability for their new customers to sign up and pay for service, 24/7/365. I call it “pay at the pump.” Gas station pumps stay open all night long, even if the store itself is closed. If you do not have pay at the pump, you are losing customers. A residential customer is worth $250, $350, $400+ on the books. A roll-off customer $100+ in a one-time sale. You have also lost the ability to market additional services to a newly acquired customer, so that is a loss of downstream revenue. Lose 10 customers a month and that is thousands of dollars lost. Lose 100 customers because you are a bigger operation and that is upwards of $40k per month lost.
There is an even more serious issue here. If you are a subscription residential hauler, and you lose an address in your routes, what is your chance of getting that address any time soon after they have signed up with your competition? Once you lose that opportunity to capture that address, you lose that chance at increased density. This affects overall profitability today. Haulers must capture every address possible by making it as easy as possible for buyers to purchase or face immediate and long-term density losses. Haulers must actively market to keep their existing service addresses, even when a customer moves.
The Right Kind of Shopping Cart for Haulers
So, you are convinced that you definitely need an online shopping cart. Now what? Build your own? A proper shopping cart and lead follow-up systems can be extremely expensive to build and maintain. Why? Because it must give your prospective customer everything needed to complete the purchase and allow your CSR/Rep to follow up (in multiple ways) with customers who do not follow through with a self-service purchase. At a minimum, shopping cart functionality must include:
• A step-by-step workflow that guides your customer through the purchase process (easy to use user interface)
• Map-Based Service eligibility so that the system knows what addresses are serviceable based on the service address the customer enters
• Mapping capability that allows you to lay out exactly where you want to sell service with sophisticated geo-fencing technology (not by zip code or by a city list)
• Exact pricing with taxes, fees, delivery charges (by mile, for example) based on service address location
• Day of week service is available (for weekly routes)
• First available start date and/or date selection for customer service request (perhaps based on cart delivery routes)
• Additional options available (like recycling, extra cart, or walk-up service)
• Promotions capability (for offering discounts, or tracking lead sources)
• Longer term agreement ability (usually for a discount)
• Referral tracking (to give a free month or discount to the person who made the referral)
• Lead tracking/pipeline management for abandoned shopping cart follow-up capability
• Quote adjustment for the ability to resend edited quotes to customers who did not buy from the original online generated quote
• The ability to send data to your existing software systems (like billing, routing, operations type software)
• Flexibility with payment portals (and the ability to send transaction data to your billing systems
Of the many items listed above, the most complicated and expensive (and yet, absolutely crucial) element is the mapping component. A map-based shopping cart must be able to accomplish all of the service, product and pricing variations a hauler may have in a manner which is “parcel perfect”—meaning the ability to define the exact boundary between where you service, and where you do not (that could literally be divided by a street, county line or city boundary). If you are a roll-off dumpster provider and you price your dumpsters with a delivery charge based on miles, the online shopping cart must be able to calculate that distance charge. If you are a residential hauler, and you have pricing differentiation within your service footprint, the shopping cart must quote the customer accurately based on the service address. This is very expensive to create and maintain.
Labor Efficient Sales
I mentioned COVID. Haulers are facing challenges with truck and driver shortages, as well as unprecedented struggles in getting employees, including CSR/Sales Reps. Yet, the consumer is still buying waste services. They are moving into new homes needing weekly service and/or a dumpster. The transaction side of the waste services space is still very strong. How do you maintain this volume of transactions in a world where office employees are hard to get? How do you ensure quote accuracy when CSR turnover is high? By selling your services online (with the right type of shopping cart) and creating data flow efficiency.
Selling your services online 1) produces an accurate quote based on service address location, 2) completes the transaction without staff, 3) creates the ability to pass sales data from the shopping cart into your routing/billing system digitally, reducing keystrokes/labor hours, 4) allows for a myriad of digital marketing capabilities that leverages the “buy now button” of the online sales system, which allows you to 5) focus your marketing on in-route sales for increased density (more stops per driver hour). The fourth and fifth items are where growing the topline and scaling your business without more staff/drivers/trucks is possible.
Targeted In-Route Marketing via Online Campaigns
For the purposes herein, I define “online campaign” as any marketing campaign that places a “buy now” button in front of a potential buyer. There are many ways and campaign strategies to reach the
online buyer. These might include:
• E-mail campaigns
• Social media marketing
• QR codes
• Affiliate website marketing
• Any digital media campaign that places a “buy now button” in front of a potential buyer
The most effective campaigns must be coupled with a call to action backed by “buy now button” capability to complete the sale. Digital campaigns that require the buyer to call in, write a letter, send a carrier pigeon or smoke signals do not count. There must be a seamless digital experience between the marketing campaign, call to action and final purchase. I will discuss a few (of many) that become possible when a proper digital marketing campaign is launched. *It is important to remember that these campaigns are targeted to routes, neighborhoods and houses where the hauler currently services so that they can maximize density.
Move Out/Move In What is Your Recapture Strategy?
About one in seven home buyers move every year (this varies by market). That means one in seven of your existing in-route service addresses will be looking for waste services every year. Fourteen to 16 percent of the homes that you currently service might move to your competition this year simply because the current homeowner sold, and the new homeowner did not select you. What is your recapture rate? Do you keep one in three houses that change owners? One in four? The first task is to track this metric (a CRM is perfect for this) because you cannot manage what you do not measure, you must focus on this lost in-route business.
Your task is to make it easy for the new homeowner to resume service with your company. How? Make it easy to buy. Why not stick a QR code on the waste container for the new homeowner with a sign that says, “Use this container for 30 days. Be our guest! Hover your phone here (over a QR code) to continue service.” This is not possible without the shopping cart to process the sale.
- Social Media: Were the Buyers Are
Social media has become a powerful selling tool. There are many ways to leverage social media accounts
- Social Media Platforms: When a big national buys out your
competition, that is when you should pounce on the social media platforms. Tell your story. Show pictures of your family, and your dog. Call to action: “Click here” to buy from us.
- Next Door App: Seek out your champion, offer a free month for every neighbor that signs up. A buy now button with tracking capability is required.
- Charity and Special Events: Join those groups. Make donations for each in-route sale that occurs through that channel.
- Video: YouTube can be used to show why you are better than the rest. Call to action: “Click here to buy from us!”
You run a hauling business with multiple service types: residential with optional yard waste, roll-off service and commercial (front load) service. You have amassed an e-mail database of customers, tagged by service type (a CRM would be a best practice here). Now you can use an e-mail-blast service to send out targeted emails to your in-route customers: “Hey! You have our weekly pickup service, but it’s springtime, do you need a dumpster? Click here to rent a dumpster” or “It’s fall, add yard waste service. Click here”.
This is old school, right? Well, yes and no. Although a typical print media campaign can have low success rates, when coupled with a QR code and promo-pricing, traditional mail campaigns can be
significantly more effective. When route addresses are targeted (and scrubbed against existing customers in that route), mailers can bring in new customers, closed by your “buy now” button technology.
Charities love coupling a donation to an essential service. Work with local charities so that they write beautiful articles about your company in their monthly e-newsletter. “Click here” to purchase from this hauler, and that will benefit the charity. Of course, you will want to promote your relationship to charities via social media.
Buyers Google what they are looking for. Run pay-per-click ads with “buy now” capability just like the big nationals do. Focus the ad radius in routes where you need density!
Route/Location or Address Specific Pricing
The previous campaigns are easy, with the CRM/Shopping cart combination. This one, pricing per route, or location, can get more complicated. However, it is route density we are after, so it may be worth it. Technology allows us to pull specific service addresses from a given map area (called a “polygon”). The right shopping cart will be programmed with the price associated with that route, or—literally—that single address. If you want density, calculate the price needed at that address to maintain profitable service, and create marketing campaigns that allow the buyer to buy at that price.
Shopping Cart + Targeted Marketing = Success!
I could go on and on about how to leverage your shopping cart functionality via online marketing campaigns. There are literally hundreds of digital marketing approaches to reach the online buyer. However, none of them are as effective if you expect your customer to pick up the phone and call. All of these campaigns should focus on where you need density, specifically where you need to infill customers to maximize the number of stops/tips per driver hour. If drivers and trucks are your pain point, you must focus your marketing on density. Nothing is more effective than map-based marketing with “buy now” functionality as the call to action.
In an era where buyers want to buy online, and waste haulers need to maximize staff, drivers and trucks, the online shopping cart combined with targeted online marketing campaigns are more
important than ever. | WA
K. Ryan Hasse is CEO of SalesStryke Software, creators of the TrashBolt Software Online Shopping Cart System for haulers. Hasse was part of the GarbageMan, Inc. team, a Minnesota-based hauler. Garbageman was sold to Waste Management in 2018 after amassing more than 110,000 customers in just nine years. He now leads hauler clients to their growth objectives. TrashBolt Software has made its mark in the waste services industry by offering affordable, rapid deployment “buy now” functionality for haulers to deploy on their websites. For more information, visit www.trashbolt.com.
For a more detailed look at how an online shopping cart for haulers should be configured, visit https://wasteadvantagemag.com/sales-and-marketing-best-practices-capturing-online-buyers/.