Everyone has an opinion on public transport, varying from frustrated to over the moon. Love it or hate it, the transport sector plays an important role in the UK’s economy. The most recent statistics, according to Trading Economics, is that the transportation industry was worth £1.6942 billion in the second quarter of 2023. And, according to Statista, the gross value added (GVA) of the UK’s transportation industry in 2022 was £70.6 billion.
Any way you look at it, the public transport sector is an attractive prospect for those who want to make a name for themselves in public procurement.
Unfortunately, you have to walk before you can run. You have to break into the market to trade in the market. A strong marketing strategy is one of the most important tools that can help in this regard.
We’re going to look at how to create an effective transport marketing strategy that will help you stand out from your competitors in the highly competitive industry.
How To Hit The Mark
You must understand two things before you can start marketing your transport services.
1) How public sector marketing works.
2) Who’s your audience?
The UK’s public sector is enormous. You’re looking at over 20 counties, 190 districts, boroughs, or city councils, and 9000 parish and town councils. Central government alone has more than 450 departments. As you can see, unless you narrow down your target audience significantly, your transport marketing plan will be a mere drop in the ocean.
You must get down to the key decision-makers either at the council or local government level.
Public sector contracts
GOV.UK is a wonderful resource with information on any aspect of public sector tendering, from contract alerts in the logistics sector to legal compliance in road freight regulations.
You can find information on the different public sector contracts, bidding and procurement processes, and recommendations for high- and low-value contracts for large enterprises and small businesses.
You also have the option to outsource transport marketing services and hire an agency that specialises in marketing public transportation services and Business-to-Government (B2G) procurement. Cadence Marketing, for instance, provides a range of public sector marketing services across all industries.
Building Your Public Transport Marketing Strategy
There are several steps to take when developing an effective marketing plan for the public transport industry.
Find your niche
You’re in the transport sector, but what exactly do you do, what services do you offer?
Perhaps you manufacture steering wheels for public buses. Perhaps you want a large-scale contract in air travel because you’re leaving low-value contracts behind.
You need to find key central government decision-makers who manage the procurement of public vehicle components.
If you can’t find key players in a straightforward search, contact the department to ensure you’re searching correctly (you might be looking in the wrong sub-sector) and ask for the decision-maker’s details.
Research your niche
This is getting down to a micro-level.
GOV.UK will direct you to the Department for Transport page on the GOV.UK site, which features information about the department, transportation infrastructure, news, and guidance sections on transportation and logistics.
You will also be guided to a list of agencies and public bodies involved in the logistics sector and transportation industry, where you can pick your target; British Transport Police Authority (BTPA), for example. You’ll be directed to the relevant page on the GOV.UK site, as well as the official BTPA website.
The website should provide you with almost all the information you need to start tailoring your transport marketing strategy. If not, you can contact the department directly for the missing data on transport and logistics services.
Engage early for a deeper understanding
Early engagement is highly recommended as part of a marketing strategy. It has many benefits beyond the scope of this article, but the most pertinent for our purposes is the insight gained.
You can get plenty of important information regarding your audience’s needs, pain points, and capacity. This provides a deep understanding of the department and key players in your sector of transport services.
A deeper understanding enables you to further tailor your marketing strategy to really target their pain points in the transport and logistics market.
One of the best ways to engage the public transport industry is to attend live events. Live events are experiencing a resurgence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic with increasing interest in conferences, seminars, workshops, and expos.
Events are perfect opportunities to meet decision-makers and stakeholders and sell your brand – but not in a smarmy way. Rather position yourself as a thought leader among competing transportation companies that use innovative technologies and provide an innovative product or service.
This leaves them with a favourable impression of your transport company, which is a key factor in all marketing strategies.
Live events are fab, but there’s still major demand for digital marketing. Digital marketing is a term that covers an enormous number of services.
Paid (PPC) ads
- Sponsored ads on Google
- Paid ads on Facebook
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Website design
- New product announcements
- Guest posts
- YouTube videos
- Facebook Business Pages
Crystal clear simplicity
Keep your language clear, leaving no room for ambiguity. Steer clear of jargon. Yes, you are marketing to parties in the transport industry, but you’re not targeting staff in the tech department. Key players have a working knowledge of their department or agency, but they aren’t likely to know their multimeter from their Allen wrench.
Clearly state the benefits your business provides. Demonstrate your success with testimonials and reviews from past clients and back up all claims, including testimonials, with proof. You needn’t explain your processes in-depth, but it must be obvious how your Service A filled their Requirement B.
Goals are great motivators. Without them, there is nothing to aim for, strategies go off the rails and behaviour becomes vague and non-committal. However, when there is a target to reach, all parties involved invest time and energy into realising the strategy’s goals.
It’s important to set short-term goals, which could be anything up to six months, so teams can reach milestones that demonstrate progress and maintain motivation.
Milestones, which are a cause for celebration, should be set throughout the strategy on a regular basis. It maintains a winning attitude, which is very important if you want to succeed in the public transportation industry.
You also need long-term goals, which could be anything from 18 – 24 months.
You can see why short-term goals are so important. It’s easy to lose sight of a goal if the end is a whole two years away. It can be demotivating to work your heart out and not see quantifiable results along the way.
You need to have realistic expectations. Unreachable goals are also great demotivators. Take a good look at what you want to achieve (end goal) and reverse engineer or backward chain steps and solutions to create achievable mini-goals.
Remember to celebrate the achievements. It needn’t be champagne and caviar. Some eats in the meeting room will do.
As a whole, the public transport and logistics sector faces an array of challenges. Your strategy should detail how your business resolves the challenges that apply specifically to your target market.
3 Common challenges include:
- Environmental impact. According to the UN, the transportation sector is responsible for a quarter of all carbon emissions (greenhouse gases) in the world. Your strategy for marketing in transport must describe how you intend to address climate change problems as they relate to your market’s core activities.
You could, for instance, sponsor charging stations for electric vehicles or solar panels that provide the energy for charging stations.
- Efficiency. Public transport, especially rail transport, isn’t well-known for sticking to schedules. The reasons are various, including vandalism, repair work, and delays at stations.
Technology presents several solutions, including developing apps that keep commuters updated with real-time information regarding delays, such as which roads in your location are congested. They can also suggest alternative routes that might be longer but still save time.
- Skills gap. The transport industry is just one of the public sectors experiencing a shortage of talented graduates and other skilled employees. A potential solution is developing apprenticeships and hands-on training programmes for air, rail, and road transport services.
Many communities have job centres, you could set up shop in a centre and provide evening courses on different topics, like transport policing and preparation for heavy goods vehicles (HGV) licences, as well as licences for other large commercial vehicles, including buses.
3 Top Tips to Make the Most of Marketing in the Transport Industry
Here are three things to remember that will help you as you develop your marketing strategies for your transport business.
1) Be patient
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It takes time to gather the information you need to develop a marketing strategy and then you still need to interpret the data so you have a sound foundation upon which to build the rest of your transport marketing plan.
Give yourself time to complete the steps. Early engagement opportunities don’t just fall into your lap. You have to find them and then cash in on the chance to meet the movers and shakers in the transport and logistics industry.
It takes more than one event and you must develop more than one relationship for your transport strategy to succeed.
Remember, however, that the steps aren’t done in isolation. You can have several steps on the go at the same time. Just make sure that each is on track to reach its deadline and that you have suitable analytics tools to measure their success.
2) Stay current
It’s very important to keep up with industry trends. Current trends, for instance, centre on the digital transformation of procurement processes, and the intimacy of small to medium live events to optimise early engagement and relationship building.
Market strategies are more customer-centric than ever before. This means it’s vital to refresh your market research and buyer personas to always reach your target audience.
You must also keep up with regulatory changes, such as those in the new Procurement Bill scheduled to come into effect in October 2024. Compliance with the new regulations is essential to avoid costly penalties and disqualification from certain government contracts.
3) Include social value
Emphasis on social value is one of the changes brought about by the Bill. Social value now has at least a 10% weighting in contract awards. Your transportation marketing strategy must include your ability to deliver social value goals, whether they’re environmental, economic, social or any combination of the three.
Remember that your social value initiative must have tangible benefits for the community. It’s no good talking a good talk if you don’t have the capacity to walk the actual walk. Ensure that results are quantifiable and that you have the measurement tools in place to indicate the degree of success.
Note: The degree of success is what counts, not the size of the project.
A Comprehensive Marketing Strategy For The Public Transport Sector Delivers Results
Creating a comprehensive transport marketing strategy takes time, diligence, dedication, and ongoing monitoring and management. It also requires a great deal of skill, specialist knowledge of public procurement processes, and the tools and technology to optimise each step in the plan on the way to the ultimate goal.
Not many dedicated public transport suppliers have the time, skills, and tools necessary to do a bang-up job. Cadence Marketing specialises in many types of public procurement marketing, including email and content marketing, and marketing research.
Whatever your sector of public procurement – transport or otherwise – contact Cadence Marketing immediately and book a free consultation to find out how our niche services will benefit your transportation and logistics company.