One of the most common dilemmas for small business is price vs. quantity. Getting a good price can result in ordering more product than you need. With the advances in digital printing technologies over the last 5 years and the increased flexibility of fulfillment companies, the benefits of on-demand printing along with just-in-time fulfillment outweigh the disadvantages.
Ordering large quantities of print can result in companies having to purchase more than they need, and this can lead to having outdated materials taking up costly warehouse space. It also leads to higher costs for companies as they are purchasing items that they do not need. Even though it costs more per piece to print smaller quantities, the savings from eliminating obsolete inventory, reducing warehouse space and increasing flexibility can make it more economical.
More and more fulfillment companies are now offering a one-stop-shop for print-on-demand, kitting and assembly and just-in-time fulfillment. This means that you can print just the quantity you need on a regular basis and have it delivered to the end user/customer all from the same provider. The pick, pack and ship fees may be a bit higher but overall you could be paying less simply from eliminating the transportation costs from the printer to the kitting and assembly facility and finally to the fulfillment center.
The value and flexibility of digital print on demand make it a valuable service, but print on demand truly shines as a business option when it is fully integrated with fulfillment.
In a recent Business Insider article, Richard Branson, Virgin Records Founder and CEO, briefly described the challenges of forging a successful business start-up. Specifically, he mentioned that, “It’s far more difficult being a small-business owner starting a business than it is for me with thousands of people working for us and 400 companies. Building a business from scratch is 24 hours, 7 days a week, divorces, it’s difficult to hold your family life together, it’s bloody hard work and only one word really matters — and that’s surviving.” This perspective really puts into focus just how difficult it is to get a start up “off the ground.” Starting a business literally takes a monumental effort to succeed. But even knowing how much effort is required, still many talented people fail. At the core, here are three critical reasons why talented people can’t translate understanding into practice.
Even Talented People can be Afraid of Risks
In some ways, business is quite like religion in that it requires a healthy dose of faith – the kind of faith that forces action even when the destination can’t be seen. Take the small business, Toydle (www.Toydle.com), for example. Owner Robert Brownfield has seen his kids forts business transform from near death to unexpected growth in a short period of time – but only after he took a leap of faith and started implementing some strategies that exhausted the company of money. He started investing more in advertising and marketing, and the sales of his product that helps children and adults build a fort using a fort building kit starting growing. “I decided to give it one more try, as we’d done advertising a couple of times before without any luck. It took a lot of faith, but the risk paid off,” said Mr. Brownfield. And there are more famous stories – such as the owner of FedEx risking it all in Las Vegas only to win enough at a gambling table to keep the business going. Business success requires calculated risk, which is an especially difficult thing to implement when you can’t tangibly see the reward.
Even Talented People can Quit on the 5 Yard Line
One undeniable truth of business is that it takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and momentum to get a business off the ground. Oftentimes, we hear a great deal about success stories without the mention of how long it took the business to achieve success. And you’ve probably heard the old adage, “it’s always darkest before the light.” In this sense, many business owners get caught in a very difficult period of time and decide to quit rather than continue along with the business. Oftentimes, they quit shortly before a new break though, simply unable to withstand the pain and turmoil any longer. On the other hand, successful business people have proven time and again that they rose to the top because they found a way to keep going when they wanted to give up.
Even Talented People can Run Out of Funding
One of the biggest reasons for business failure is under-capitalization. When a business isn’t properly funded to execute a successful game plan, failure becomes more certain. But the strange thing is that many successful businesses have had to find extremely creative ways to finance their business, and oftentimes have had to sacrifice in ways that many people just can’t conceive. Regardless, an underfunded business is destined for failure, so finding creative ways to keep things going and using a budget process keeps successful business people on the right track.
There are many other factors that can lead to business success. But these three factors are so common that we thought they were worth mentioning again in the off chance that you find yourself at a difficult crossroads in your business. In the end, it’s kind of refreshing to know that there aren’t any real “secret” to success – just the successful implementation of some very difficult principles.
So you’re considering sending out a direct mailing to prospects and/or customers? Before you take the plunge, it’s important to understand what’s involved in the costs and also what the expected return on investment would be for the mailing.
As for the costs involved, you’ll be looking at two main components when doing a direct mailing. First are the costs related to printing the mailing. This cost varies depending upon the type of mailing, whether that’s a letter, post card, or other type of correspondence. Other things that can impact the cost of the printing are the type of the stock of paper you use (higher quality will cost you more), as well as whether or not you choose to use color instead of black and white. And finally, with regard to printing, you can either choose to do a self-mailer (which does not require an envelope), or insert the direct mail piece into an envelope or box, depending upon what it is.
Second are the costs related to actually sending the direct mail piece in the mail. Of course, this will depend upon the size of the piece.
So should you proceed with your direct mailing? That really depends upon the potential return on investment! In order to determine the return on investments, you have to compare the cost of direct mail to the expected return. Return can be quantified in terms of how much business you can expect to get from the mailing. The latest averages indicate that around 1.75% of all direct mail ends in a sale. So for every 100 pieces sent, you might get 1 person to purchase.
The last step in determining whether or not to use a direct mailing is to calculate your potential sales that could take place and compare that with the costs of the mailing. So if your average sale is $100, and you expect to send 100 direct mail pieces, of which 1 will purchase, your total sales would be $100. If the costs of sending the direct mail piece is $50, then your return on investment is $50.
Knowing the costs involved and making a decision based upon potential return on investment will help you make wiser decisions regarding direct mailings.
Each month, quite a few start up businesses visit our site looking to find information on whether or not it makes sense for them to use outsourced warehousing and fulfillment services. Usually, they’re looking for the costs of fulfillment services to see if they can afford to use them. In our opinion, there’s really two good reasons to do the warehousing and fulfillment internally to start. And we believe there’s one good reason to outsource from the very beginning. Let’s explore the options…
There’s really two good reasons to not use outsourced warehousing and fulfillment services as a start up. First and foremost, if you’re core business involves distribution or if you believe that the logistics are so important and critical that you cannot outsource, then by all means keep it in house. However, most companies don’t fall into this bracket. Secondly, we totally understand that your start up may be constrained by capital, and therefore you may not have the funding to be able to use a fulfillment service. In this case, the only option is to use your own labor – which, by the way, isn’t FREE!
Which brings us to our last point – why we believe that many small businesses would be best suited by outsourcing fulfillment. If fulfillment and warehousing aren’t your core business and if you at least have enough money that outsourcing is an option, we believe that it can be the best option for you. Why? Because of that beautiful thing called “opportunity cost.” A lot of small business owners like to have control over all aspects of their business. But by keeping control of the fulfillment and therefore processing orders yourself, you lose valuable time that could be spent elsewhere – like in sales and marketing.
It is absolutely true that the biggest problem that most companies will face is a “sales problem.” And by sales problem, we mean not enough sales! Think of it, what inhibits you most in your business? Not having enough funding (or sales) to expand and do what you need to do to run the business the best way possible. By getting the warehousing and fulfillment of of your shoulders, you’re much better suited to spend time where it needs to be spend – in growing the business. And if you’re not growing as a business, you’re shrinking.
Especially in this economy, it’s vitally important to make sure that your company is doing everything that they can to keep costs in line, including making sure that your using the best merchant accounts. Credit card processing fees can add up significantly, especially as your monthly sales increases. For every $10,000 in credit card payments processed, you can expect to pay $300 to $400 per month in credit card processing fee – or more! So saving even a half of a percent, while not seeming like very much, can add another $50 per month into your pocket. This translates into $600 per year! And that’s only at a $10,000 per month level. Think if your business starts accepting significantly more in credit card payments.
So when you’re looking for the best merchant accounts and comparing among many different options, be sure to read all of the fine print. Like many other industries, merchant account companies like to play the shell game. Oftentimes, they’ll lure you in with low rates, only to hammer you with per transaction fees or monthly fees as well. And sometimes the opposite is true – they’ll promise not to charge you extra fees, but will increase the transactional fee percentage charged. Either way, pay close attention to all of the fees when comparing different credit card processing vendors.
And one final thing when making a choice: don’t mistake convenience with the right choice. Many merchants simply use the merchant account option that is provided through their platform, such as eBay or Amazon. While it is easy to use these options, they may not be the lowest priced option. So be extremely careful when looking at the options, and you could end up saving your company a great deal of money over time!
Using call centers to take a load off of your shoulders for your small business is one option that can truly help. All of you small business owners out there know just how valuable your time is – balancing the duties of many different functions within your company. This balancing act can become literally exhausting, not to mention close to impossible. And granted, it’s totally understandable how important answering phone calls from customers can be – this is the face of your company and can include sales, taking orders, handling complaints, etc. But the things that call centers can do to integrate within your business are astounding, making it seem as though they are contacting your own people.
In the beginning stages, these outsourced providers work closely with you in order to script and document all the different types of scenarios that can come about on a phone call. They can document exactly how you wish for them to respond to your customers, so that it closely mimics how you would respond yourself. This is a great fear of many business owners – letting go of the control for fear that they won’t be able to direct the process completely. In addition to scripting, they can also transfer calls to certain individuals in certain circumstances, so that important calls can be taken care of by someone internal to the company. This offers a high degree of flexibility and customization that makes outsourcing more of an option for some.
Add to this flexibility online integration and reporting – and you have a powerful tool to take a load off of your business. call centers can integrate with your shipping and crm systems, and the best companies offer online reporting of all of the call metrics. This helps you to have control and oversight over the process, instead of feeling like you’re on a remote desolate island without any information. It can truly be a powerful tool to help you run your business more efficiently – because then you can use this new found time on a key area of your business. And watch your business grow from there!