The online marketplace model was introduced and molded in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space, but today, a growing number of business-to-business (B2B) companies are successfully leveraging the power of the model, including several in the construction equipment rental industry.
While B2C and B2B marketplaces share many commonalities, it’s no secret that B2B relationships, partnerships, contracts and transactions typically create far more variables and complexities than B2C marketplaces do.
Specifically, in the equipment rental world, it’s difficult to imagine that technology and automation will ever replace the need for direct and open lines of communication. No matter how advanced, thorough and user-friendly the marketplace tech platform may be, there are still some best practices that both renters and suppliers can use to maximize performance and value.
Renter Best Practices
1. Communicate clearly—While each equipment rental marketplace offers a unique user experience, all of them offer ways for users to indicate their needs. The more thorough, specific and clear you are when communicating your needs, the more likely you are to locate the smartest possible solution and leave the least amount of room for error. Here are a few questions you can proactively answer to clarify your needs when submitting your request:
- What is the make and model of the equipment you need?
- Do you need or are you open to recommendations from suppliers?
- What are you going to use the equipment for specifically? (Frequently, suppliers can offer suggestions based on the requirements of your job.)
- Are there any detailed specifications related to features, functionality, capacities, service and maintenance, accessories, or add-ons that need to be included Is this a one-time need, or will you be renting this equipment regularly in the future? (Sometimes suppliers offer price breaks for long-term commitments.)
2. Leverage the network effect of marketplaces—The beauty of the marketplace model is that users have access to an entire network of suppliers on a single platform. Take advantage of this gold mine of various professional perspectives and expertise. Ask questions. Ask for recommendations. Find out which supplier will offer the best return on investment for you.
3. Consider all factors when making your final rental decision—The lowest rate is certainly one factor worth considering, but not the only one. The quality and condition of the equipment may vary. The attitude, quality and promptness of a supplier’s responsiveness to your communications are good indicators of how they will respond and provide service throughout the rental period. Sometimes, paying a higher rental rate is worth the higher quality of equipment and service you receive.
4. Respect the supplier’s time—Just because you’re interacting through a marketplace interface (website or mobile app) doesn’t mean those you’re speaking with aren’t real people offering their time and effort to respond to your needs. Wait to submit a full request for quote (RFQ) or request for proposal (RFP) until you are serious about renting the equipment.
5. Communicate all outcomes—Obviously, you’re going to let the winning supplier know you’ve chosen their rental offer. But, it’s a good practice to also inform the suppliers you didn’t choose that you went with another option and thank them for their time. If you end up not needing the equipment, let all of the competing suppliers know they can close out the opportunity. This is not only a courtesy to the suppliers, but it also saves you the time of receiving follow-up emails and phone calls from those suppliers.
Supplier Best Practices
1. Treat marketplace customers like your own—If the rental marketplace is offering enough value for you (as a supplier) to participate, then customers that originate through the marketplace are still your customers and should be treated the same as your direct customers. In other words, don’t change the way you service and sell to the customer only because they came through a different channel. Just because the request came from a marketplace doesn’t mean the customer isn’t still a human that responds to friendly service and follow-up calls.
2. Respond promptly—There is a direct and significant relationship between the suppliers that respond promptly to customer requests and their success at closing deals. Customers want to know they are being taken care of, and the first supplier to connect with them has a decided advantage. Even if you haven’t completed a requested task, like providing a quote, a quick note thanking the customer for the request and letting them know you are actively working to provide what they need goes a long way to establish trust and open the door for communications going forward.
3. Offer your expertise—Chances are there probably aren’t many people that know as much about the equipment you have in your inventory as you do—including potential rental customers. If you have some solid advice or suggestions about a certain make, model or type of equipment that is best suited for a particular job, don’t hesitate to share. Offering good advice builds trust, and once a customer trusts your expertise, you have an excellent chance of closing the deal.
4. Provide multiple quotes—This isn’t always possible, but frequently, suppliers will offer more than one quote. Sometimes, they’ll offer different quotes for various makes and models. And other times, they will offer different quotes based on the length of the rental or rent-to-own options. Customers like choices because it gives them the control to make decisions based on their own preferences and priorities.
5. Deliver on your promises—This may sound like a no-brainer, but this is not only referring to delivering the equipment for the rental. This applies to every step leading up to the rental. If you say you will return a call or send an email, make sure to follow through. As a supplier in a marketplace, you are competing against other suppliers, and missing a due date or forgetting to follow through on a promise is often enough to lose the deal to a marketplace competitor.
Even though marketplaces are tech-driven channels that automate and streamline many tasks and functions, many equipment rentals are B2B transactions that still require clear, two-way communications and traditional sales tactics for success.