Periodically, we poll the industry for common questions, and provide educated answers. This was one of those questions.
Question: How do I profitably sell retail?
This is a super common issue inside the sign and print industry. I can give you 3 consistent tips that I've used in both small, and very large shops.
1. Are you differentiating on free design? Is that how you're getting new clients? If not, then don't offer it. You can gain margin back by actually charging for design & repro services. If it's not a differentiator (as in, it's not how you're getting new business), then it's unlikely you will lose any sales.
2. Are you limiting revisions? If you're not, you should be. One of the biggest problems I see in shops is that they charge for their production people's time, but they don't charge for their designers, who are often some of their most expense staff. Even if you want to make some portion of design free, stop the "free"-ness at 2 or 3 revisions, tops. Start charging at that point. To date, I can't remember losing an order because I charged $50-$100 for 3 revisions (depending on the complexity of the design)
3. I'll preface this as a shameless plug, because I'm recommending our software, but hey, it's EXACTLY why we built it.... Invest in software for SPEED. Most of the Shop Management tools give you a million and one ways to do things, but they aren't focused on speed. Your order management software needs to make interacting with customers FAST, and preferably get them reviewing & paying from their phone, so you can get them out of the door quickly.
I hope that helps! And if you're already doing all these things and feel like you need other pointers, please let me know.
All the best!
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