A version of this blog was featured on the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association blog, which can be read here.
Transportation and logistics companies are under more pressure than ever to reach equilibrium in a mid and post-COVID world. These new supply chain challenges shifted the paradigm for manufacturers, distributors, eCommerce sites, and their third-party vendors. For businesses like Saddle Creek Logistics, COVID-19 sparked an increase in client demand.
When operations and client service demand more time and energy from the marketing team, projects and initiatives often fall to the wayside. Outsourcing marketing is an option, but companies risk losing time, money, resources, and brand identity during the vetting and trial process.
Creative partnerships or long-term relationships between a company and their chosen marketing agency may require a larger time investment upfront, but they can save companies real time, money, and peace of mind. Saddle Creek Logistics counts on the support of their creative partner, Roger West, for web development, graphic design, paid media, SEO, content and messaging support, and quality lead generation.
In this interview, we spoke with Jill Jones, Sr. Program Manager of Digital Marketing at Saddle Creek Logistics about how she makes the most of a creative partnership.
In your opinion, what’s the difference between outsourcing marketing and forming a creative partnership?
We were looking for a partner who could help us across all initiatives, instead of agencies who would work on disjointed projects here and there. Saddle Creek needed a partner with the flexibility to work on those small projects, but who could also tackle larger things like web design and development. Our website is the biggest inbound lead generator we have, so we wanted to make sure it was optimized. Creative partners take the time to understand your business and how you communicate with customers. In my mind, that commitment is the difference.
What made Saddle Creek want to prioritize a partnership over outsourcing from project to project?
We’d gone through the outsourcing process, giving one-off projects to agencies while working with another. None of them felt like a true partnership. I had to manage those relationships, and it was becoming a big piece of my job.
Maintaining a creative partnership with a company like Roger West feels more like adding people to the team than anything else. They’re an extension of Saddle Creek and have the same goals. I’m not managing Roger West; I’m working alongside them and using their expertise. I can bring an idea to the team, and they’ll know how to execute it and turn it up to the next level.
I never have to assign tasks. Instead, I explain my initiative, and they run with it. This creative partnership is more about collaboration than delegation. There’s also the added level of expertise from web development, creative and SEO perspectives.
Describe your selection process for choosing a creative partner.
We went through the process of interviewing different agencies. We wanted a partner with the same work philosophy as us. Goals and business operations were discussed at length, but what it came down to was what felt right. Roger West presented us with a strategy, and we knew it would help us get to where we wanted.
What are the biggest business benefits you’ve experienced since engaging a creative partner or digital agency?
The biggest benefit is the trust I have in my creative partners. It makes my job easier. I trust that the agency is invested in Saddle Creek’s success. I trust them to guide us based on expertise, and I know that the job will get done and deliver measurable results.
Saddle Creek and Roger West have been working together for almost 5 years. The agency has learned about our business and the audiences we want to reach. We’re not always looking for 100 “OK” leads. We want 3 good leads. Our target profile changes, too. Roger West helps us pivot. We’ve grown, and we need to focus on how to grow our customer base. When we encounter a customer who isn’t a good fit, the agency helps us understand why so we can alter our strategy and capture the leads we want most.
You mentioned needing quality leads over quantity. What does a quality lead look like to you right now?
Quality lead criteria changes. Right now, it’s a business that needs eCommerce fulfillment or warehousing space. Clients who have good returns on their margins based on their space requirements. We are strongest when we have solid relationships, and we like to find long-term partners. That can look like a growing company with small space requirements now but will scale in the future, or a large retail company with a bigger footprint.
Roger West also helps with content, messaging, branding, and website design and development. How do you determine what projects you’ll keep in-house and what you’ll work on with a partner?
Saddle Creek values the strategic guidance offered by a creative partner. If we need a fresh perspective on something, we’ll reach out to Roger West. We can do these things in-house, but our partnership allows us to strategize, evolve, and gain a better understanding of marketing initiatives. The agency recently took us through an audience research project to learn more about our clients and how they want us to communicate with them. This informed our strategy moving forward.
Even our brand has evolved from this partnership. Roger West created brand guidelines in online and PDF formats. We selected complementary colors to add more dimension to emails, social media, and other assets. The brand is now modernized to reflect our growth. Roger West re-did our website to create a cohesive brand experience. There’s a clear sense of consistency and evolution seen in all branded materials.
How does a creative partnership support your business from a strategy and revenue perspective?
In a creative partnership, you should know each other’s business and goals. We’re open with one another and develop strategies together. We look to Roger West for guidance and a digital strategy that supports our overall business plan.
From a revenue perspective, we can generate better leads because we know exactly who our customers are, and how they want to be engaged. As we grow, this partnership has helped us stay nimble.