9 Marketing Strategies and Tactics that Made Flexport An $8 Billion Company

Flexport did $3.3 billion in revenue in 2021 and $5 billion in 2022. They’ve raised over $2 billion in funding since inception from some of the highest profile investors in the world.

And most impressive of all – they’ve done it in a highly competitive industry: logistics. 

How did they do it?

And more importantly, what can other B2B companies learn from their growth?

We’ve spent the last few months watching Flexport very closely – pouring over their growth, history, website, advertising, PR, podcast appearances, market positioning, and more – and we’ve uncovered 9 key marketing factors that have led to their huge success. We break down each of them and give you some practical advice on implementing similar strategies and tactics.

Who is Flexport?

Flexport is a global corporation who focuses on supply chain management and logistics. A trailblazer in the industry, Flexport has leveraged technology to revolutionize freight forwarding by building a modern platform that provides visibility and control. 

Traditional freight forwarders have been reluctant to embrace technology, relying on outdated methods such as phone calls and faxes. However, Flexport’s innovative approach, driven by a dedicated engineering team, has allowed it to stand out. 

Though headquartered in San Francisco, Flexport has a key presence in Singapore that’s been central to their fast growth. 

But their aspirations go way beyond just being an innovative logistics company, they want to create a comprehensive global trade platform. Valued at a staggering $8 billion in their Series E funding round, investors are confident in CEO Ryan Petersen’s vision and ability to transform the industry. Their valuation has only grown since that funding round in early 2022.

flexport growth
Flexport’s massive growth in 8 short years

Disrupting the Market through Tech

In competitive industries, differentiation is key. And in today’s market, that differentiation can often come in the form of technological innovation.

While many key players in the logistics industry continue to rely on traditional freight forwarding, Flexport set out to disrupt the market through digitalization. They’ve committed to building a big engineering team, creating a modern platform, and offering their API as a central part of their product.

Flexport’s digitalized logistics dashboard

Flexport’s innovative software integrates data from various companies involved in each shipment, bringing the vision of a real-time digital replica of the physical supply chain closer to reality. A survey revealed that, in comparison to traditional freight forwarders, Flexport’s digital approach saves clients an average of four hours per week.

A Big Vision Backed by Intentional Hires

Making intentional hires based on the company’s long term vision may seem like a no-brainer. But plenty of executives try to carry their vision on their own, rather than bringing key hires on board who are far more equipped to take the company where it needs to go.

To achieve a bold vision, you can either bring people along for the ride and chart a new path as you go, or you can intentionally hire key employees who have already proven their ability to execute the vision.

Flexport is committed to disrupting the industry through technology, so they brought on James Chen as CTO in 2019. Prior to working with Flexport, Chen managed the tech side of Amazon’s logistics business.

And it’s already been mentioned Flexport continues to hire engineers, setting the goal to add around 400 engineers to double its technical team by mid-2023.

They continue to make key hires who add ample knowledge and relevant experience to help them disrupt the logistics industry.

But it’s their marketing that’s really catapulted them into holding legitimate market share.

Flexport’s 9 Key Marketing Strategies, Plays, and Tactics

We’ve identified 9 key strategies, plays, and tactics that have fueled Flexport’s massive growth. We’ll break down each one and give you some advice on how you could implement something similar. 

Before diving into some of their key marketing strategies, it’s worth noting that Flexport has received billions in funding. Much of that funding has gone to their marketing. We realize not every company can access this kind of capital, so the 9 strategies we highlight are some of Flexport’s more lean marketing tactics, that anyone could replicate – even if you don’t have billions in capital.

1. Blending Targeted Outreach AND Broad Inbound Marketing

Some business owners and marketers want to commit to either a targeted marketing strategy (going after accounts you want) or take a more inbound approach (putting out marketing material and waiting on leads to come to you).

Flexport has proven both strategies can work together for maximum growth.

They’ve committed to going after some big brands as key accounts AND creating marketing content for broader audiences with an inbound approach.

They work with some huge brands, no doubt gained through account-based marketing strategies and hyper-targeted prospecting. 

But they also have thousands of small business clients who found Flexport through:

  • Content marketing and SEO efforts (blog, videos, email newsletters, etc…)
  • Broadly targeted LinkedIn ads
  • Free monthly webinars
  • A glossary that attracts 40k visitors per month

We’ll look at each of these in more detail, but the idea is that highly targeted sales can work nicely with broader, inbound marketing methods. You don’t have to choose one or the other. 

But you do need to realize that unless they’re in the market to buy, inbound methods might not land you your top accounts. And hyper-personalized, highly targeted campaigns are probably a waste of resources for smaller accounts.

How to Effectively Balance Targeted Outreach with Inbound Methods:

  • Keep a running list of 50-100 key accounts you’d love to work with (these are your dream clients).
  • Target them through hyper-personalized methods (like direct mail, giftings, cold emails, etc…).
  • Be willing to invest more toward reaching these prospects.
  • Use inbound marketing methods to target the rest of your TAM.
  • For your inbound marketing, focus on evergreen content and easily replicable processes. To some degree, it should run on autopilot compared to your targeted methods.

2. Leading with the Product in Marketing Material

Plenty of software and product-focused companies want prospects to book a demo – so they’re hesitant to give too much of the backend away in their marketing material. They may show a grainy screenshot here or there, but you have to take a big step in order to see more.

Flexport goes against the grain by showing off their full product – on their website, and more notably within digital ads.

Sure, having customers get in touch in order to demo your product is a great way to get them into your marketing funnel, but how many customers fail to take that step? How many prospects move on to your competitor because they aren’t clear on what your product looks like?

This tactic is even more effective when you have a disruptive product. If your prospects and potential customers aren’t familiar with a digital freight forwarding dashboard, they won’t have the mental model to understand what you’re offering. Show them!

How to Showcase Your Product in a Way that Leads to More Demos

  • Work walk-through videos and screenshots of your product on your website, in ads, and within your content. 
  • Implement CTAs for “full demos” within this content. You don’t have to give your prospects a full walkthrough, just give them a taste that makes them want more.
  • If you really like the idea of having prospects opt into a demo, set up a pre-recorded demo they can watch any time. Your conversion rates will go up if your prospect doesn’t have to schedule a call and can watch on their own time.

3. Crafting and Distributing Story-Centered Case Studies 

Publishing case studies is a no-brainer. But Flexport takes theirs to the next level through thoughtful videos featuring both parties.

They don’t just detail the key metric improvements – they clearly take their time to craft a storyboard and narrative to thoroughly tell their client’s story in a compelling and moving way. They focus on big picture impact and really draw the viewer into the story, making it seem bigger than just logistics.

This video is titled “How Bombas Donated 75M Items to Those in Need.” It’s not, “How Flexport Increased Bombas’ Shipping Volume.”

There’s a lot to learn from this angle – people are drawn to stories. Metrics are nice, but stories take case studies to the next level.

flexport marketing case study

And they don’t just leave the case studies buried on their website, they thoughtful distribute them through ads and within content.

flexport linkedin ad

How to Turn Your Case Studies into Compelling Stories:

  • When considering clients to feature in case studies, ask, “Which of our customers did we help leverage impact the most?”
  • Before starting on a case study, craft a story-focused angle. Ask, “What’s the big picture here? How can we take an aspirational angle that will move our audience?”
  • If you have the resources, and your customers are willing, consider filming your case study and focusing on the impact throughout.
  • Once you’ve published a case study, have a plan to distribute it. Place it strategically throughout your site and consider running ads featuring it.

4. Strategically Empowering Partners

Flexport truly believes in the global digitization of logistics, and they recognize that much of their success depends on it. So instead of trying to move the industry forward on their own, they commit to partnering and empowering logistics startups who carry the same values and vision for the industry. They’ve become a prolific investor in early-stage logistics startups, and they partner with On Deck to offer an incubator for supply chain startups. 

Flexport directly targets their big channel, tech, and investment partners, but they’ve also developed a network of regional partners across 89 countries through their Certified Partner Network. This not only helps them move large volumes, but it infuses their vision and values into markets all around the world.

They attract partners for their Partner Network through their extensive commitment to logistics and supply chain education (more on this below). They have a clear and simple onboarding process to get partners up to speed on Flexport’s expectations, so they can start improving the ecosystem and benefiting Flexport in no time.

How to Create Your Own Network of Partners

  • Determine the most effective types of partnerships your company could build that would both impact sales & marketing and push the industry forward. For example, Flexport invests in early stage logistics startups, partners with shippers to build their ecosystem, and partners with tech companies to enhance their offering. You may also decide to roll out a referral partner program or something similar to directly make more sales.
  • Decide on an incentive to offer potential partners to entice their participation.
  • Roll out a program with clear and simple onboarding to get partners up to speed on expectations and how the partnership works.

5. Committing to Education for Top of Funnel Awareness

Flexport isn’t just offering a product, they’re trying to radically change the industry. And to do that, they know they need to be on the frontlines of educating the industry.

One look at Flexport’s website makes it clear they’re committed to education. They offer multiple newsletters with market insights, regularly host free webinars, offer valuable eBooks, and have a huge blog full of helpful resources (more on all of these below). They even offer FlexU, a full (and free) freight forwarding curriculum.

flexport glossary

Flexport is establishing themselves not only as a tech disruptor, but one of the leading voices in the industry as well. Establishing this kind of trust with the industry-at-large will yield marketing and sales dividends for decades to come. Their commitment to education is a really effective way to attract top-of-funnel prospects and introduce them to the brand. 

How to Improve Brand Awareness through Education

  • Ask yourself and your team, “What are 2-3 topics in which we are experts?”
  • Commit to educating your audience on these topics through 2-3 mediums (check out the next 3 marketing tactics for inspiration).
  • Commit to putting out content on a regular basis for at least 3 months.
  • Then, evaluate the results and make adjustments as necessary. If you see some results already, consider scaling it and expanding beyond to additional distribution mediums.

6. Capturing Top of Funnel Traffic with a Glossary

As mentioned, Flexport is committed to both strategically going after big brands and executing inbound marketing tactics that draw their audience into their funnel.

One of their most effective inbound marketing assets is their glossary.

flexport glossary

It features definitions, helpful resources, and related terms for hundreds of different logistics concepts and topics. 

Many of Flexport’s clients are small businesses, with limited supply chain knowledge. They know enough to help manage their own, but they would benefit from a digital partner like Flexport. The glossary is the perfect onramp into Flexport’s ecosystem.

And a lot of people are finding it.

flexport seo ranking
Flexport’s Glossary ranks #1 for “what is an isf form,” driving
at least 600 visitors to their site each month
They also rank #1 for “what is blank sailing,” driving at least
250 visitors to the site each month

Their glossary alone leads to nearly 35,000 website visitors each month. Sure many of these are just going to learn about the topic and move on. But there’s no doubt it leaves an impression and boosts Flexport’s brand awareness around the world.

How to Create and Drive Traffic to an Industry Glossary:

  • This is a fairly lean and simple marketing tactic – most of the pages within Flexport’s glossary are 100-200 words total.
  • Come up with 20-40 terms that are relevant to your industry and likely to be searched for regularly.
  • Create pages for each with a simple definition, some examples / use cases, additional information for someone wanting more detail, and links to related terms in your glossary.
  • Create a hub page that links to each of them, and make sure each term page interlinks to 3-5 other term pages. 
  • Even if it doesn’t wind up driving a ton of traffic, it will help your credibility and authority in the industry. 

7. Holding Free Monthly Webinars to Attract and Educate

Continuing with the theme of top-of-funnel education, Flexport holds monthly webinars to attract and educate their target audience. 

Most of these webinars are only 30 minutes long, but they’re packed with recent, relevant, and actionable insights for the freight industry.

They feature multiple team members across different disciplines to give well-rounded insights for viewers.

flexport webinar linkedin ad

To boost signups, they run targeted LinkedIn ads to those in the freight industry and make signup incredibly simple and easy.

These webinars accomplish a few things for Flexport:

  • They collect email addresses for ongoing nurturing
  • They help establish themselves as experts in the industry
  • They give them a chance to highlight some key features of their product in a non-sales driven atmosphere

How to Host Regular and Relevant “Market Update” Webinars:

  • Ask yourself and your team, “What’s an area of business our target audience needs to be kept informed about, but would require a lot of effort for them to stay up-to-date on their own?”
  • Recruit 2-3 team members to gather insights each month and create an outline for a 30-minute webinar.
  • Sign up for a tool like Zoom Webinars on GoToWebinar and assign someone on your team to “produce” it (get familiar with the platform and feel comfortable going live).
  • Schedule your first webinar.
  • Send an email to your list to attract attendees. Have your sales team personally invite anyone currently in negotiations.
  • Plan to host at least 3 consecutive webinars before making any adjustments.
  • Create email nurturing campaigns to stay in front of attendees post-webinar.

8. Sending Multiple Newsletters for Different Target Audiences

Just about everyone is pretty familiar with using email newsletters to stay top-of-mind with prospects and potential clients. But Flexport takes this strategy to the next level by segmenting their newsletters based on target audience. They don’t simply send one newsletter to their entire list.

They have three primary newsletters:

flexport marketing newsletter
flexport economics newsletts

Each strategically caters to a different target market and a unique buyer persona. This allows them to only deliver content their prospect cares deeply about, resulting in higher engagement and a greater likelihood of converting these prospects to leads.

How to Segment Your Email Newsletters for Maximum Impact:

  • If you’re not already, get clear on your target audience. Build out 2-3 buyer personas representing people involved in the sales process.
  • For each buyer persona, ask, “What topic are they most interested in learning more about?”
  • Create a biweekly or monthly newsletter committed to covering those topics for each of your buyer personas.
  • Create a landing page to attract subscribers. Consider running ads to the landing page as well.

9. Implementing A Robust Chatbot

Many websites now use chatbots for customer service, to answer general questions while visitors are on your site, and to guide users to specific content.

But one thing Flexport’s chatbot does really well is nurture prospects on the site. 

flexport chatbot

If you’re not sold on Flexport, they give you a brief description of the product, offer a demo, point you to a case study, and offer to connect you with a sales member. Within one chatbot response, they can take interested website visitors from awareness to sales conversation. 

And the best part? It does it all automatically, while the sales team sits back and waits to talk to a semi-warm prospect. 

How to Implement a Helpful Chatbot on Your Site

  • The best part about chatbots these days is you don’t have to develop one from scratch. There are plenty of chatbot platforms that make implementation fairly easy, like Drift, Intercom, and Qualified.
  • Explore some of your options, and let their support team (or a digital marketing team) help you implement it for maximum impact on your site.

Give some of these strategies and tactics a shot this quarter, and let us know how things go. If you’re not sure how to approach them, our team would love to help!

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