Every year, the United States exports billions of dollars worth of forest products — everything from the raw timber used in construction to the reams of paper used in offices all over the world.
Most people don’t give much thought to how all those boxes of copy paper make their way to the warehouses and shelves of their local retailers. But these questions keep Steve Zambo, founder of Ally Global Logistics (AGL), up at night.
Founded in 2013, AGL began as an exporter of goods for manufacturers in the forest products sector. In 2020, like most businesses around the world, AGL found itself facing a pandemic crossroads.
This is the story of how Zambo and his team at AGL not only weathered the most economically disruptive event in recent memory, but grew their business and increased revenue by 275% in just three years.
Steady Growth, Unprecedented Change
Logistics is among the most complex of industries. Coordinating the shipping of common everyday goods across even short distances requires sophisticated inventory and fleet management systems, which makes exporting specialized cargo such as timber that much more challenging.
Shortly after AGL was established in 2013, the US forest products industry experienced a period of sustained growth. Between 2016 and 2018, total US forest product exports increased from about $37.7 billion to about $40.9 billion, and AGL grew along with the rest of the industry.
That growth, as well as virtually everything else in the world, was stopped in its tracks by the emergence of COVID-19. As the world entered various degrees of lockdown measures in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, international commerce, including much of the import/export industry, ground to a halt.
Almost overnight, AGL’s business was faced with perilous uncertainty. In an attempt to mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic, AGL decided to diversify its business operations to include a new, domestic arm.
“COVID was the catalyst for creating a new revenue stream. If we were going to survive, we would need to diversify our business,” Zambo says. “This is when we decided that launching a domestic division to serve customers in North America would not only expand our opportunity, but also provide a layer of stability for our business moving forward.”
That decision was just the first step. If AGL was to successfully make the transition and survive, the sales team would have to identify new potential customers, as well as services beyond AGL’s core expertise.
“Not only were we looking to prospect into companies located in the United States, but we also decided to start exploring new opportunities for serving industries outside of forest products,” Zambo says.
Zambo and his team at AGL needed a partner to help them navigate this period of intense uncertainty.
That’s when Zambo discovered ZoomInfo.
New Opportunities, New Ways to Sell
Like many industries prior to the pandemic, business in the import/export sector was largely driven by in-person relationships.
Before COVID, conferences and trade events were crucial to AGL’s networking efforts. The sudden introduction of travel restrictions and limits on in-person events forced Zambo to reconsider how AGL would identify new markets and close new business.
“We didn’t have a formal prospecting strategy,” Zambo says. “We operated in a traditional manner, leveraging existing relationships and pitching to prospects in face-to-face scenarios. Now, with ZoomInfo, we’re able to easily identify key prospects in new markets and export their details directly into our CRM for our sales reps to begin prospecting.”
Using ZoomInfo, AGL refined its prospecting to proactively target companies that had demonstrated strong buying intent, and aligned closely with the profiles of AGL’s preferred buyers and best-fit prospects. Zambo’s sales team could now analyze previous deals including missed opportunities, to identify areas of improvement and maximize the impact of their go-to-market motions.
Zambo’s team wasn’t just reaching more leads, they were engaging stronger leads with better information, resulting in larger deals and higher revenues.
“ZoomInfo has given us a better understanding of who we should be targeting, helping us further home in on the key attributes that make up our ideal customer profile,” Zambo says. “This has been incredibly helpful as we continue tapping into new areas of our total addressable market.”
More Shipments, More Revenue
It didn’t take long to see the impact of the new data-driven go-to-market strategy on AGL’s bottom line.
After the first 12 months since becoming a ZoomInfo customer, AGL’s domestic revenue was $800,000. In its second year, AGL achieved revenues of $8 million — a tenfold increase. Zambo says AGL anticipates exceeding $12 million of domestic revenue in 2023.
“ZoomInfo is helping us tap into new markets and build a closeable pipeline at scale,” Zambo says. “In 2020, we did 959 shipments in the entire year. So far this year, we’ve done 3,300 shipments and are on track to cross 4,000. We’re also now the [second-largest] forest products exporter in the United States, and are continually building up the verticals that we support.”
Few industries have experienced as much disruption in recent years as the logistics sector. The pandemic revealed fragility in global supply chains in ways that are still being felt, from sharp increases in the cost of shipping goods overseas to heightened consumer demand for paper products such as toilet paper.
But startups in the logistics sector had been hard at work innovating under challenging conditions even before the pandemic. Rapid advancements in automated trucking technologies, increased demand for seamless real-time inventory and fleet management technologies, and ongoing environmental and geopolitical pressures are all transforming the logistics sector, creating problems as well as opportunity.
With ZoomInfo, AGL isn’t just sourcing new business more effectively and closing larger deals. It’s fulfilling its mission to serve as a trusted ally to its partners navigating a period of immense change — a promise that has been central to AGL’s philosophy from the very beginning.
“When I formed the company, I named it ‘Ally’ because we wanted to be more than just a logistics company,” Zambo says. “We wanted to truly be an ally. It’s not just transactional. We really care about what [our customers] are doing.”