Branding is a very important part of a company’s marketing efforts. As companies grow, oftentimes “swag” or promotional products are used to further brand awareness via both customers and employees. Depending upon the size of your organization and the amount of items that you wish to offer, managing the ordering process as well as the fulfillment process can take up a great amount of time. Even if your company is smaller in size, you may not have idle staff time to devote to these tasks. For these reasons, many companies opt to outsource the entire process – from ordering of promotional items to the creation and execution of an ordering and fulfillment platform.
Are There All-In-One Solutions for Merch and Company Store Fulfillment?
Marketing departments and Crowdfunders are looking for fulfillment partners who understand their marketing needs, help with their branding, and have access to creative reward options. Many fulfillment companies are equipped to handle transaction mailing but do not have printing expertise.
On the other hand, companies who are experts in printing t-shirts or giveaway items lack a complete fulfillment solution. To be your complete fulfillment solution, a fulfillment organization should have expertise in the following:
- Dedicated Graphic Design Team – Good design is an essential part of presenting your business and governs your marketing. A fulfillment house that has a dedicated graphic team can provide a constructive eye on your print elements and give input on what would print effectively. A good graphic team can make sure whether a particular font or text size will print correctly or catch simple spelling or grammar errors. These simple corrections can save an organization from costly mistakes. A dedicated graphic team can check the artwork and also if the artwork is setup on the correct template. Also, a proper archival system ensures that the files are available for future print runs if needed and future re-runs should look same as the first run.
- Onsite T-shirt Production – Custom printed t-shirts are not only an important giveaway but also used by organizations to raise additional revenue. A custom printed shirt offered for sale for charity or an artist selling shirts to his/her fan base must be produced cost effectively. Most custom t-shirt print houses fulfill T-shirts on demand which is expensive and does not help organization raise money effectively. A good fulfillment house should have ability to produce custom printed shirts onsite so the shirts can be printed with lower cost and quicker turnaround.
- Promotional Printing – A good fulfillment must have a good print department. Catalogs, brochures, info and sample packs, branded premiums, and coupons are common examples of printed items used to promote a product or company. A promotional fulfillment program could be a one-time event or an ongoing campaign. Promotional fulfillment could be targeted at new prospects and/or existing customers. Other popular items distributed through print fulfillment programs include educational materials, repair and training manuals, sheet music, calendars…basically any printed item that is offered to consumers can be part of a print fulfillment program. A fulfillment department with print capability to help support these marketing initiatives.
- Consultative Approach – A fulfillment partner is an extension of you business and should be readily available to take a phone calls or answer email. There are an overwhelming amount of options that you do not have time to go through yourself. You should be able to rely on their expertise in recommending solutions and products and trust them to cut through and let you choose from a handful of the best options.
It is huge value add when you have a partner who has made the investments and connections to smoothly handle your needs for now and in the future. The right fulfillment partner can do more than just pick and ship.
What Are My Options for Ordering Promotional Items?
There are a couple of options for ordering promotional products. Of course, we’re going to assume with your limited time or staff that sourcing items on your own isn’t an option. First, you can find a promotional products company. They specialize in procuring swag items and can have your company logo imprinted on them. Because they specialize in this business, they can get the job done well and they will likely be able to get you some of the best rates. Second, there are some fulfillment companies that also offer promotional items services. Usually, these companies either have their own promotional products division or they create a partnership with promotional products company. There are a couple of things to consider when using a fulfillment company that has promotional products capabilities:
- Make sure that the company is good at both services. Oftentimes, fulfillment companies are great at fulfillment and then might not be quite as good at helping with promotional products – so just be on the lookout for great service in both areas.
- Be aware that a fulfillment company will most likely not be the cheapest option. Oftentimes, they will mark up their costs so that they can earn a profit – which may end up costing more than if you went direct to the promotional products company. This isn’t always the case, but it does happen quite frequently.
My Swag is Ready to be Shipped to Customers…Now What?
Once you have your promotional items imprinted and ready to ship, then you’ll be ready to get it into the hands of your customers and employees. For many companies, offering an online web store where either customers or employees can order is the best option. Many promotional products companies and fulfillment providers can help you with building a web store for ordering. And sometimes promotional products companies will offer to ship your product for you to customers and employees. Be careful, however, when making the decision on fulfillment and distribution. Here are a few factors to consider:
- Promotional products companies may not have the best infrastructure to perform near flawless order fulfillment, especially as your needs grow or change.
- Consider using a third party web store or shopping cart solution so that you’re provider agnostic if ever you decide to change vendors.
On occasion, the best solution is to use an ‘all-in-one’ provider. However, avoid the urge to jump right in with both feet – do your due diligence. While it might be a good situation, separating these two distinct functions has a number of advantages and may be more cost effective in the end.
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