Why does the task of finding a new partner always feel so hard?
For distributors, whether it is searching the internet for a decorator, asking friends for a referral or reaching out to suppliers for suggestions, it can feel daunting. What questions beyond price, lead times and quality should a distributor be prepared to ask? What information is the decorator going to require from a distributor to produce the project? What communication style do I prefer versus the decorator?
For decorators, setting up a template or form that distributors can utilize to understand necessary information is essential for reducing friction. What does the decorator need to know to take an order and move it through the building? By generating a flowchart or process document that is distributor friendly, each party can be ready for a smooth(er) experience.
In general, not every project is production-ready and each decorator communicates differently. Let’s explore topics everyone should have ready to review and ways that decorators can use their websites and marketing efforts to support knowledge about the relationship.
Communication (aka Customer Service)
- What is the expected communication once a distributor agrees with a decorator on producing a project? Does the decorator provide updates throughout the entire process or specific benchmarks?
- Approval process
- First production piece provided as a digital sample (pic)
- Counting product in (received, pre- and post-production)
- Do you help resolve with suppliers or do I need to?
- Who owns errors in production?
- What is expected around spoilage?
- If overages are supplied, will you print all or just cover spoilage?
- How do you want me to submit an order/PO?
- How is the PO formatted? (Excel, PDF, Electronic integration)
- Key pieces of information on the PO
- Ship date (hard in-hands date if needed)
- Color, size, garment style
- Size breakdown
- Shipping information
- Billing information for shipping
Questions About Artwork
- Do you support creating artwork?
- Which formats do you support? (Vector, DST…not PNG)
- Who should I use to get artwork done?
Questions About Shipping
- Can I drop ship my orders from ‘x’ supplier to your building?
- Can I use a 3rd party shipping number?
- Are you able to ship outside of the U.S.?
- Are you able to ship small quantities to unique locations (at-home or regional offices)?
- Participation within supplier contract decoration programs?
- In-house services
- Website hosting and support
- Fulfillment (soft goods, hard goods, boxes, etc)
- Technology services
- Decoration techniques
No business is perfect for every customer. Understanding where to use discretion for one-off solutions versus daily standards to support your CSR and production teams is paramount. If a distributor requires artwork support, product ordering (single invoice) or fulfillment services, decorators should not be afraid to apply a cost for project support that goes above and beyond.
In today’s social media and smartphone environment, your digital presence (website, social media, marketing efforts) can also add significant value. Posting on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook or other platforms should be more about the personality of your team and business than your lead times or cost, with regards to contract decoration. It’s akin to finding a great restaurant in an area you’re less familiar with that sounds appetizing. Most individuals start by jumping online (Yelp) and searching for community-driven feedback (reviews) to narrow down or find a starting point. If the experience doesn’t feel right, then you will potentially be overlooked.
If, as a decorator, you are not able to put expectations on paper for a distributor on best practices for your business, expect to spend time for education and training. As the end of the fourth quarter approaches, start to build in time come January and February to map out or contextualize a document and/or website to enable distributors to be more self-sufficient. Time spent today will provide exponential time tomorrow.