Keys to success in strategic partnerships

May 9, 2023

It’s hard to measure the value of strategic partnerships in the transportation industry. In an increasingly tech-driven world, important strategic partnerships are giving way to business relationships that are strictly transactional. This shift can lead to negative outcomes for both carriers and shippers.

“Shippers assume it’s a one-way street where carriers are just there to lay down and do whatever they need,” says Glenn Koepke, GM of Network Collaboration at FourKites.

As a shipper, taking your carriers for granted is a good way to get burned. Instead, Koepke suggests that shippers take the time to build relationships with the carriers in their network. It’s also important to understand how carriers perceive your business to be sure that the relationship is a good fit. Establishing this foundation is the key to building a lasting partnership.

“You look at your carriers, you segment them, and you play to their strengths,” adds Joe Lombardo, President of Ege Avenue Associates. “On the carrier side, they’re looking at you. Are you consistent? Do you always nickel and dime them? Do you come in at the last minute on a Friday with ten loads for them to cover? Their pricing to you reflects all of that.”

How has technology impacted the relationship between carrier and shipper? Watch the latest episode of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast to learn more.

Segmenting your partner base as a shipper or carrier can help set expectations and ensure positive outcomes for both parties. Koepke segments his shippers into four broad categories and suggests that carriers do the same in the inverse. The categories include:

  1. Key partners. Proven carriers you can depend on to handle your most demanding customers. They will also be a go-to for consistent business.
  2. Niche partners. From carriers with specialized equipment, legacy relationships, or carriers with access to certain facilities, partners in this category fill in important gaps.
  3. Challengers. Partners who are unproven but show potential for greatness. Giving the challenger a chance could spark a relationship that grows into something more permanent.
  4. New Providers. Continuously testing the market is important for growth. Not every new partner will go on to earn your regular business, but some could be the key partners of tomorrow.

Knowing who you can depend on in a given situation is the key to consistency, which helps drive costs down and maintain profitability. Partners who consistently demonstrate value will rise to the top of your network, while those who underperform fall by the wayside. Taking the time to make new connections can also help strengthen your position.

What does it take to form lasting strategic partnerships? Find out in the latest episode of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast.

“I always return phone calls from carriers. You never know what you’re going to find if you don’t talk to new people,” says Lombardo. “For a lot of shippers, their time is short, and they may want to deal with their regular carriers. But [talking] to new people gives you new ideas and new ways of doing business.”

Building a network of partners and working to maintain those relationships separately from lane-level, transactional relationships will help shippers maintain consistency. Shippers must also make the effort to present themselves as carrier-friendly to attract and keep the best talent. It’s this give and take that helps ensure the best outcome for both parties.

“We all want to run our business flawlessly, but we need each other to improve,” says Koepke. “Creating that marriage between buyer and seller, we challenge each other to find out what we can do.”

Technology has streamlined interactions between carriers and shippers while introducing complacency from a relationship standpoint. Advantages such as real-time tracking a greater overall efficiency mean technology is here to stay but, the value that established partnerships bring to the equation is important to maintain. For a partner you can trust to handle all your 3PL brokerage needs, look no further than the logistics pros at Triple T Transport. Contact us today to learn more about our full range of services.

back to the list