Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ordering Late: What To Do When Time… Isn't on Your Side

Let me ask you this question – What portion of your overall responsibility would you say includes purchasing promotional products for tradeshows, mailings or other company functions? Probably less than 1%, right! This is probably the reason why so many buyers find themselves ordering late and paying for rush service and overnight shipping.

So Why Does It Take So Long?

Think about this - every promotional product I sell is customized. Unlike retail products, these products aren't just taken off shelves and shipped. The reality is that they require time to produce.

So what should you expect when it comes to timing? Well to start, you should figure on the art preparation (1 to 3 days) the production (standard 5 to 14 days) and the shipping (ground 3 to 5 days).A good rule of thumb is standard production on most items with shipping and art prep require 3 to 4 weeks from the time you order to the time you receive your goods. Keep in mind some products require more or less time.The bottom line is this - If you order early, you will save money and eliminate unnecessary stress for both of us.

Rush Jobs Go Bad

Consider this! If you think paying through the nose to rush an order is your biggest problem, guess again! The fact is- rush orders have twice the risk of creating much bigger problems. Imagine getting the wrong product, having a misprint, or even missing a delivery in time for the show.

So what should you do? Remember, there are approximately 5000 manufacturers in this industry. The problems start when you pick a product you see on a large website or catalog and your distributor has to deal with a manufacturer they have no experience with. The solution! Keep it simple… like my Blog Postings. And believe me when I tell you to trust only about 50 of them.

Here's a True Story

I had a customer who ordered luggage tags requiring a special imprint. So I called a manufacturer I found who could print them. They assured me the order would ship on time with a 30% increase in the price. It was a large order and it absolutely had to ship on time, so cost was not an issue. Just to make sure, I would call every couple of days to see that we were on schedule. Needless to say, they assured me everything was O.K. You can probably guess what happened next.

I called on the day the tags were scheduled to ship and what did the customer service agent tell me? "We don't guarantee any order would ship when it is scheduled. Just because you have a scheduled ship date doesn't mean it will ship on that day" They conveniently forgot to mention this "Company Policy" when I was calling around with this large order.

Now, I'm a guy who is always honest with my customers. I like to keep them informed of the status of rush orders. So I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I felt sick to my stomach over this. So completely nerve wracked, I had to wait until the next day (the day my customer was expecting the shipment!) to find out if it had shipped out or not. Meanwhile my client was in Las Vegas anxiously awaiting the product at the hotel where the trade show was located.

Fortunately, this story did have a happy ending. This order did ship that day and the customer was happy. But make no mistake about it - it could have been a disaster. I'm a firm believer in the "under-promise," "over-deliver" philosophy. If I can't say with confidence that I can't get an order to them on time – I will tell them that. Better that, than let them down and ruin my customer's confidence in my service.

Believe me when I tell you again - there are a large majority of manufacturers in this industry who simply do not care about you or me. But always keep in mind that there are 50 great suppliers who do and I do a lot of business with 33 of them.

Times Have Changed

Here is the good news! Because of the nature of the Promotional Products Industry, (and our customers buying habits) companies that can turn things around quickly, with quality, have risen to the top.

Standard production times over the last 10 years have been cut in half. Rush service has been built into production schedules and some companies have mastered it without charging you an arm and a leg. Believe it or not, one of the leading manufacturers in the industry now offers all of their products available to ship in 4 days at just a small additional cost. (And YES, you will find them at
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