If there’s something that the pandemic has taught us, it’s the interconnectedness of the world. A slight disruption in the supply chain could be of grave implications in another region miles away.

Effective courier services are a solution to this problem. And it could also be an opportunity for you.

It’s easy to start, requires little capital and no formal training and is always in demand.

I’m about to share with you the teeny, itty, bitty details of starting a courier business, starting with what it really is, how you can get started, and some secret tips that could give you a competitive edge.

Let’s get started, shall we?

To put it simply, a courier service is a company or private business, that helps to transport parcels and other consignments, across borders (trans-national) or within a country (national).

Although they have similarities with the postal service, they surpass the latter in terms of efficiency and speed — but at a higher price.

I’ll take it that you’ve already done your preliminaries such as market research, risk assessment, and capital acquisition. Hence, I’ll be sharing some tips you’ll be needing down the road, for your courier business to succeed.

The fact that everybody is doing it the same way, gives you a headway: choose to do it in a different way, with a different result.

Take a look around your target area:

what section of the market has been left unattended to by your competitors? What are the complaints have they been unable to resolve?

Answer these questions voila! You’ve got a niche and a USP to focus on.

For instance, you may notice the absence of courier services, specifically suited for delivering confidential documents, for professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and so on. Thus, this is an open market you can take advantage of.

You can cash in on the opportunity and institute a system, that ensures the security of their documents.

Your Unique Selling Proposition — USP — could be prompt delivery, professional service delivery, etc.

It must answer this question which is in the mind of every customer: why should I use your service instead of others? And solve one or more pain point/s

If it’s not convincing enough, then it won’t fly. No one would be convinced.

An important note, however: do not base your USP and niche, on assumptions. These decisions must be data-based.

Have a chat with your prospective target market, to get a feel of their needs, complaints, and struggles. Read reviews on competitor sites. Ask questions, until you haven’t asked enough: it never ends.

A business proposal is the first thing you should work on before beginning your courier service — or any business for that matter.

A major component of every proposal is a budget. And in your case, it wouldn’t be too high. For a start, you wouldn’t need much.

To further lower your capital, make use of the vehicles and equipment you have at hand or rent some. And you can set up shop at home to eliminate costs on housing and get tax rebates down the line.

At this point, it’s best to adopt a mantra: If I can avoid spending, I’ll do so at all costs.

An important component in any business is branding. The name of your company, the logo you’ll use, and the language you’ll adopt, determine the mental imprint you’ll have on your customers — otherwise known as the brand perception.

You determine your brand identity via your branding efforts but your brand perception is simply the imprint you leave on the minds of your customers, via your branding efforts.

Truth be told: choosing a name and a logo isn’t all there is to branding. However, it’s the fundamental and most important step in the process.

The types of packages you’ll be carrying will greatly steer your subsequent business choices.

Large packages need large vehicles: small packages need small vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles, and so on.

The tools are the bones of every courier startup. They include radios, cars, bicycles, GPS units, mobile phones, office supplies, cargo straps, dollies, and the likes.

For a start, you can use your personal vehicle or buy a second hand. You can also use your home as your base. All these are an effort to spend less until the business is strong enough to support other expenses.

Lastly, although having a warehouse is important, it may not be necessary at the initial stage. You’ll need it when you start getting Amazon-Esque, large volume orders. For the moment you can make do with storage spaces that you can secure.

Your prices should be competitive: not too low or too high.

Since you’re looking to price away customers from your competitors, you can set your prices a little lower than others and review upwards later.

However, do not run at a loss. When setting your prices, factor in maintenance costs, running costs, office maintenance costs, and so on. Then reduce the profit you’ll be making per delivery.

Finally, as tempting as it may sound, competing based on reduced price is like running a race on a single leg: you may get a headstart, but you’ll fall out sooner than later.

It’s better to sell to your customers, using your USP such as prompt delivery, home delivery, and so on.

You have three options: operating as an L.L.C, a sole proprietorship, or as a corporation. You can read up on the perks that come with each of them.

After you’ve decided on the legal structure to adopt, registration is the next thing to do. After registration, you’ll get your business license, tax identification number, etc.

Since you’ll be doing deliveries, it’s essential to treat your target area like a new house you’ll be moving into. A tour is essential to know the locations of major reference points, shortest routes, and the market for your services.

Although Google maps and a GPS would come in handy later, personal knowledge of the area would make you avoid falling into errors due to equipment malfunctions.

It also allows you to plan your deliveries better, lower your cost per delivery, and employ route optimization for multiple deliveries.

A business is only as good as the quality of the workers.

If you hire the wrong people, you’ll be doing your business disfavour.

First of all, structure your job description to reflect and perfectly explain the type of individual you’re looking for. The role should be succinctly explained and expectations in terms of pay should be spelt out.

Drivers must be familiar with the area. As an added advantage, they could be present or previous residents of the area.

Although we don’t hope for unfortunate occurrences, life is full of them

Take out insurance for your business, to be prepared for any eventualities and ensure the long-term safety of your business.

According to recent surveys, having a website boosts the integrity and trust of businesses.

And in this internet age where most transactions occur online and customers rely on online reviews to make buying decisions, having a website is a must.

Websites do not cost a lot to build. Since you’re keen on cutting down costs, for now, design a low-cost website by using freelancers.

In the long run, you can make upgrades and incorporate a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy, to put your website right in the face of your prospective customers.

Customers make businesses. They are the sails that keep a business running.

You can use social media and your website for advertisement. Run radio ads. Use billboards. Spread leaflets.

The most effective channel of marketing, face to face meetings with your prospective clients. Visit them and let them know how you could help them. Remember: being helpful is the best form to sell without selling.

You could also employ cold calling or sending emails.

After you’re done setting up your courier business, implementing these tips would help you greatly.

Requesting for referrals should be a conscious effort. Waiting for your clients to refer others to you, may take longer than you’re willing to wait.

Take note: building a relationship comes before requesting referrals and not the other way around.

They must have become a core customer before you make the request. To turn a normal customer into a core, loyal customer, you should:

  • Overdeliver on services: if delivery time is 2 hours, aim for 1 hour.
  • Urge workers to build cordial relationships with customers
  • Use SMS to send notifications. It adds a personalised touch and limits the potential of your clients getting distracted by notifications, messages, and the likes.

When making the request for a referral, incentivize them with commissions or discounts for each referral.

As a business owner, keeping track of your expenses is critical.

Keep receipts. You can use them to claim tax deductions when filing your tax returns. You can also use software to accomplish this.

Finally…

Every successful business starts somewhere. Paris wasn’t built in a day. Take the little steps and create a big business tomorrow.

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