9 Digital Marketing Strategies DHL Uses to Dominate the Logistics Industry

DHL is a logistics and supply chain powerhouse. They brought in a total of $102 billion USD in 2022, up 54.4% from 2018. They are the top dry storage warehousing company in the world, move the third most ocean freight each year, and move the second most air freight each year.

They’ve obviously done a lot of things right over the years, from business decisions to acquisitions and from hires to new divisions.

What we want to do in this post is analyze how they’ve approached digital, note the moves and tactics they’ve used that have had the biggest impact, and pull digital marketing insights that you can take advantage of to grow your logistics and supply chain business.

  1. Identifying eCommerce Prospects Using Traffic Data
  2. Segmenting Content Hubs Based on Audience
  3. B2B Growth through Personalization
  4. A Consistent Omnichannel Presence
  5. High Value Content Partnerships
  6. A Smart & Automated Lead Gen Workflow with Salesforce & Pardot
  7. A Unique Approach to MQLs and SQLs
  8. Landing and Showcasing High Profile Partners
  9. Hyperlocal Regional Presence

1. Identifying eCommerce Prospects Using Traffic Data

DHL has many different divisions. DHL Express focuses on parcel and express delivery services, so naturally eCommerce shops are one of their biggest groups of clients. 

A few years ago they set out to grow their DHL Express division significantly by focusing on landing more eCommerce clients. They put together a team made up of hundreds of sales reps to find, qualify, and win new eCommerce business.

But they didn’t have a reliable list of potential prospects to go off of. How could they identify good fit companies for their sales team to pursue? How could they find businesses who were a good fit and wouldn’t waste the team’s time?

They zeroed in on website traffic.

But more granularly, they looked at eCommerce sites getting notable traffic from geographical regions outside of their own. They then took this list and narrowed it down further by looking to see if the company shipped to these countries.

If they didn’t, they were able to pitch a strong value proposition: “Let us help you capture this business by shipping your products to them at an affordable price.”

This was a brilliant approach to prospecting. So DHL partnered with Similarweb, a website that estimates traffic data for just about every website on the internet, to filter and find their ideal client profiles.

DHL on Similar Web

How to Identify the Right Prospects with Public / Available Data

  1. Determine what website-based metrics your ideal clients might have. For example, do your best clients all use a specific type of software? Do they all have a listing on G2 or TrustRadius?
  2. Determine how to gather the data you need. Here are some examples:
    1. All your ideal clients use Shopify + Criteo. Hire a developer to scrape data from a site like BuiltWith and put together a list of all sites in your region who use that technology.
    2. All your ideal clients are listed within a certain category on G2. Hire a developer to scrape all the sites from that data and put them into a spreadsheet.
    3. All your ideal clients sell a very specific type of product. Use a tool like SEMRush to scrape the top 50 ranking sites for that product and export them into a spreadsheet.
  3. Once you have the websites, use a tool like Hunter to pull contact information for your sales team.

2. Segmenting Content Hubs Based on Audience

Rather than having a singular blog, DHL strategically segments its online content into tailored hubs, each serving a distinct audience and achieving a specific objective. 

Their “Insights” hub delivers thought leadership pieces, effectively cementing DHL as an authority in logistics and supply chain management, and subsequently attracting industry partners. 

Their “Discover” hub provides resources that enable small businesses and budding eCommerce platforms to streamline logistics, thereby fostering a broad client base for the DHL Express division. 

Last but not least, their “Delivered” hub, packed with inventive ideas and technology insights, serves to reel in their major clients, such as Walmart, Samsung, Philips, and Costco. 

It’s also important to note that these hubs aren’t just categories on a blog page. They’re uniquely branded, positioned, and marketed.

This content segmentation strategy, based on buyer personas and their specific needs, empowers DHL to engage with various audiences meaningfully, creating a robust and diverse clientele that has been instrumental to their growth into a logistics and supply chain powerhouse.

How to Meaningfully Segment Your Marketing Content

  1. If you haven’t already, clarify your Ideal Customer Profile and establish your buyer personas. If possible, segment your personas into 2-4 different groups or types of businesses that you’re focused on.
  2. Ask yourself and your team, “What type of content would this group be most attracted to?”
  3. Either categorize your existing content into these “buckets” or create a content calendar that focuses on these subjects for the next three months.
  4. Break up these hubs into different sections of your website, and work with your marketing team to develop a unique marketing strategy for each, to help you get this content into the hands of your ideal customers.

3. B2B Growth through Personalization

Another of DHL’s primary divisions is Supply Chain, where they target B2B clientele and aim to keep their clients around for years at a time.

To increase brand awareness around their supply chain offerings a few years back, they rolled out what they called the “Ultimate Sidekick” campaign, generating content around 8 very unique buyer personas, ranging from a Head of Logistics to a Real Estate Director. The company matched these personas with eight different ‘ultimate messages,’ reflecting what each persona sought from their ‘ultimate sidekick.’ This led to highly targeted engagement with DHL’s B2B segments.

To bolster the ‘ultimate sidekick’ image, DHL created a cinematic, comic-book-inspired visual language with carefully crafted guidelines for imagery and text. Every global solution had its unique ‘power shield’ graphic logo, accentuating DHL’s red and yellow brand colors, and each message followed a defined tone—consultative, confident, but not arrogant.

Here’s just one example of a customer profile and key messaging within this campaign:

  • Title: Real Estate Director
  • What they care about: “Technical expertise.”
  • What they want to hear: “We have the expertise and technological edge to help you build a more streamlined and resilient supply chain future.”
  • Message theme: “Optimising efficiency and ROI: Distribution network design.”
  • Message: “Mastermind real estate solutions with your #ultimatesidekick”

The personalization effort extended beyond content creation—it was about reaching the right person at the right time. This was achieved through AI-assisted content delivery on multiple landing pages, each one designed to meet a specific client challenge, leading to a tailored, engaging experience. The content was distributed across 8,000 publishers, and once an audience member became a known contact, DHL could track their behavior and continue to serve personalized content to convert them into its ecosystem.

This campaign helped them land 5,000+ new leads in Salesforce in 2021.

How You Can Use Personalization to Land and Keep Clients

  1. Again, ensure you’re crystal clear on your Ideal Customer Profiles and buyer personas.
  2. Establish very clear messaging to each of your buyer personas. Work with your team on this and document it all.
  3. Choose a few channels to market to these personas.
  4. Ensure all of your marketing material across all channels line up with your established messaging for each persona. Task someone from your sales or marketing team with owning this.

4. A Consistent Omnichannel Presence through Internal Alignment

Lots of companies try to employ an omnichannel marketing approach, but the biggest mistake many of them make is to only roll it out for a season – perhaps a month or a quarter. The secret that DHL recognized is to keep a consistent omnichannel presence – especially when it comes to building B2B brand awareness for their Supply Chain division.

And the key to being consistent across all channels is to ensure all sales and marketing teams are intricately aligned.

So instead of investing heavily into new tech or talent, they invested significantly in improving the internal infrastructure of their marketing division. Here’s what their Head of Global Marketing Campaigns said about their emphasis on internal alignment:

“Our mantra is customer-centric, insights-driven, and digitally enabled. To deliver this we needed to bridge a gap in our workforce. Firstly, we employed digital specialists. These were omnichannel managers who had experience in delivering consistent messages to every touchpoint. Secondly, we invested in digital training for our existing marketers. We needed to make sure our internal skills are robust enough to cope with the new digital landscape where clients experience our brand at every turn. We also invested in our digital infrastructure and ecosystem. We moved our reporting away from individual channels to a holistic overview of how all channels are doing on one page. It was a matter of shifting our viewpoint to see the whole picture rather than one pixel at a time.”

How to Keep Your Sales and Marketing Teams on the Same Page

Pulling from some of DHL’s approaches, here are a few tips for keeping your marketing teams aligned to maximize your omnichannel marketing:

  • Keep a master messaging document or wiki so everyone is on the same page about what messaging is being pushed to each customer segment
  • Centralize reporting. Don’t allow silos within your marketing team, and make sure everyone is on the same page about key metrics and goals – even across divisions.
  • Up train your teams. It’s okay for some teams to have specialists, but ensure there’s a baseline understanding of key marketing tenets like branding and digital.
  • If it’s not already a role someone holds, employ someone to be an “omnichannel manager” and oversee messaging across all channels and divisions.

5. High Value Content Partnerships

It’s no secret that content pieces like whitepapers and eBooks are becoming commonplace. They aren’t what they used to be in terms of lead generation. 

Unless they are chock full of value.

But for most companies, it’s difficult to produce something unique and valuable enough that their top leads are willing to fork over their information in exchange for the download. 

DHL recognized this, and so they began to partner with other companies to help them produce valuable content. One great example is their collaboration with Capgemeni Invent, a digital innovation group who commissioned a big research project for the whitepaper. 

This whitepaper wound up being 40+ pages long, each page full of data, research, industry predictions, expert commentary, and more. DHL benefited from the incredibly value research and data, while Capgemeni benefited from the exposure gained through the partnership.

So if you want to produce better content, but don’t have the expertise or bandwidth, consider partnering with another brand who can.

How to Create Profitable Content Partnerships

  1. Determine a few topics or subjects you want to focus on.
  2. Research around the industry for companies who are subject-level experts in the niche you want to cover.
  3. Reach out to them about a content partnership (be up front that you’ll be looking to them to produce the bulk of the data and research).
  4. Be clear about how partnering with you will benefit them. Not everyone has the reach of DHL, so if you can’t offer mass exposure, be sure to offer them something else in exchange.

6. A Smart and Automated Lead Gen Workflow

A ton of B2B companies offer whitepaper downloads on their sites and throughout their content. Plenty of others offer webinars for prospects. 

But DHL has a really streamlined offer flow with a handful of what we’ll call “offer clusters.” 

Rather than having one or two downloads and one or two webinars strewn throughout their ads and blogs, they have a series of specific topics they cover, with one offer leading directly into the next.

For example, they run LinkedIn Ads promoting a “Logistics of the Energy Revolution” whitepaper. Upon downloading it, you’re immediately offered a “Logistics of the Energy Revolution” on-demand webinar, which was pre-recorded and available on-demand.

So they now have a clear cut content offer cluster, and prospects who both download the whitepaper and watch the webinar get further information emailed to them and an offer to connect with someone on DHL’s team.

The specific content cluster instantly gives DHL’s sales team a big leg up knowing exactly what the prospect is interested in. And the cluster gives a streamlined path for the user to move further into the topic, without having to go look for additional resources on the subject.

How to Create Offer Clusters to Generate MQLs

  1. Choose a specific topic your company has expertise in, that your audience is interested in. It needs to be fairly specific and unique – don’t go too broad. For example, one of DHL’s top clusters is on “Logistics and the Energy Revolution.”
  2. Outline at least 3 types of content to produce on your topic, and then order them in order of depth and comprehensiveness. For example, you might start with a blog where you cover the basics, move into a content download where you offer unique research / data, and then offer a webinar where you interview a panel of experts on the subject.
  3. Create a gated flow of content where a prospect has to access the first in order to access the second.
  4. Choose some kind of sales follow-up for MQLs who make it through the funnel. Whether that’s a Calendly invite, a manual task to email or call, or a general outreach email asking about their needs.

7. A Unique Approach to MQLs and SQLs: Suspects and Prospects

DHL keeps a very close eye on their MQL and SQL data, and they take a unique approach to it. In fact, they don’t even refer to them as MQLs and SQLs, but as Suspects and Prospects. Suspects are marketing qualified leads, and prospects are sales qualified leads.

They evaluate all marketing activity – especially their digital advertising – through a lens of suspects and prospects: total gained, close rate, acquisition cost of each, etc…

It’s normal to track MQLs and SQLs, but what DHL does sets them apart. 

They track and report on their Prospect and Suspect data with another level of acuity. It helps them determine which campaigns are truly most successful, which keywords lead to real business, and which content has the highest ROI.

They’re obsessed with optimizing their lead flow and qualifying only the best leads they have.

In fact, they frequently hire “Lead Qualifiers” to improve this process.

While many companies automate much of their lead qualification or just have their sales team handle it, DHL is so committed to it they dedicate roles specifically for qualification.

Tips to Prioritize Lead Flow and Qualification for Higher ROI

  • Ensure you’re tracking everything. If you want to know the true ROI of your campaigns and content, you need to be tracking everything back to MQLs and SQLs.
  • Report on MQLs and SQLs by campaign and channel.
  • Cast vision across your sales and marketing teams. If the terms feel stale, like DHL, consider calling them something different.
  • Debrief your campaigns regularly, with MQL and SQL information front and center.
  • Keep an incredibly clear checklist on what constitutes a Sales Qualified Lead. Update it regularly and ensure whoever is qualifying leads has it memorized front and back.

8. Landing and Showcasing High Profile Clients

DHL has some massive clients, and they highlight these partnerships with excellence.

It’s almost strange to think of having high profile clients as a marketing strategy, but when done well, it certainly can be.

One of their most well-known clients is Formula 1, the racing circuit and brand. DHL handles much of the shipping and transportation for each week’s race. That alone helps establish them as a true industry leader, and gets their brand in front of hundreds of thousands of people each week.

But that’s not all. DHL highlights their partnership with tact and style. An entire section of their website is devoted to it.

They sponsor awards at each week’s race:

They partner with Formula 1 to do beach cleanups at each race location:

They’re assisting Formula 1 in becoming net-zero carbon by 2030:

The list goes on and on and on. DHL is taking full advantage of this partnership by soaking up each and every brand building opportunity – and then marketing them. 

Another example is their partnership with Coldplay’s tour.

Similar to Formula 1, they’ve launched multiple marketing campaigns through their partnership with Coldplay, including a sustainability feature and a quiz that enters you into a drawing for free tickets.

They’re even running ads in each major city of Coldplay’s tour, cross-promoting their services alongside Coldplay’s performances.

Smaller logistics companies obviously can’t drop the capital DHL has on something like this, but the principle holds true: partnering with big name brands – and telling the story effectively – can have a huge impact.

How You Can Choose Strategic Partners and Cross-Promote

  1. Think through your current client base. Do you have any well-known clients (locally, regionally, or globally) whose values closely align with your own?
  2. If you can identify anyone, consider where your values overlap, and brainstorm some kind of campaign with them. For example, if you have a well-known environmental client, spin up a campaign focused on how you help them ship goods sustainably. Invite them to promote the campaign on their channels as well.
  3. If no clients come to mind, consider putting extra resources toward landing a big named client. Don’t go after them solely for the brand exposure – ensure your values align first.

9. Hyperlocal Regional Presence

Despite being such a global brand, DHL doesn’t neglect local advertising. And not just regionally – they hone in on and focus on the specific countries they operate in. 

And it goes beyond simply having a Facebook or LinkedIn page for the country. They actually run culture-specific campaigns. Here are a few examples from Singapore, Turkey, and Brazil.

Many multinational companies have a single marketing team at their central office who handle most of the marketing across all their locations. They might set up social profiles for each country, run some local ads, distribute some content… But to truly run culturally appropriate campaigns requires significant investment.

DHL saw it as an investment that would pay off – and they’re right.

They clearly employ local team members for their marketing, rather than having all marketing come out of their central office.

This allows them to build real brand trust and equity everywhere they operate. 

How to Stay Culturally Relevant with Your Multinational Marketing

  1. Do your cultural research: Gain insights into local customs, languages, and values of each of your target markets to inform your strategy.
  2. Segment and customize your campaigns: Tailor marketing messages and campaigns to resonate with each cultural context.
  3. Localize your branding: Adjust your branding to align with local aesthetic preferences and cultural sensibilities (where possible).
  4. Engage local teams: Collaborate with local experts for ground-level insights and to avoid cultural faux pas. Even if you don’t hire a full time on-the-ground marketing team, definitely consider contracting local marketers.

DHL has done a lot of things right over the past 10 years to grow into the logistics giant they’ve become. Although many of their marketing strategies and tactics require massive investment, a lot of their successes can be replicated by even the smallest supply chain and logistics businesses.

We hope this list has been helpful. If you need help implementing any of these tactics, our marketing team would love to help. 

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