Categories
Virtual Events

Kitting, Dropshipping, and Fulfillment: A Step-By-Step Guide

This blog was supposed to be about why dropshipping and individual fulfillment for custom swag items can work for your business. However, when looking for resources to support my theories, I came across something interesting. 

There are close to no resources on the best practices for dropshipping or individual fulfillment – not on ASI, not on PPAI, not on PromoMarketing, not even on the third page of Google results. 

The “why” of offering these services is fairly simple, especially during a shutdown – people are working from home, and need a way to receive custom swag items individually rather than in large groups. Easy solution for a big problem. The “how” can be more complicated, so why aren’t there more resources for it?

I think the answer lies in the fact that it can be complicated. If you are trying to do all of this yourself or working with a partner who is inexperienced, the learning curve can be fairly steep. If you are working with a partner who knows what they are doing with fulfillment service, it is really very simple.

Sock Club started as a sock subscription service, so we do individual fulfillment on a large scale each month with a process that we have built to be fairly automated. Personalized letters, shipments of different sock sizes, international shipments, socks wrapped in kraft paper with a wax seal – all of this happens within a matter of days. 

However, we created this relatively seamless process by learning the hard way. We put this step-by-step guide together so that you can benefit from our experience. We walked so that you can run!


Step 1: Know your budget per piece.

Several variables can affect the final per piece price of your package. We have encountered the most surprise with shipping costs and kitting costs. 

Does one of your items require manual work like a bow being tied or other complicated assembly? What is the weight of the final piece? What is the size? 

The more manual work is required, the higher the kitting cost will be. Weight and size affect shipping costs in different ways. A package can be quite small and weigh quite a bit, making it expensive to ship. By the same token, a package can be very lightweight but be a larger-than-standard size (like a fully assembled puzzle, for example), and cost more than expected.

This, of course, is only important if budget is important. If the most important factor for the project is the idea or the items inside, and the budget is flexible, these are simply things to be aware of while working through the details.


Step 2: Source your items.

Once you know the most important determining factor in making your decisions moving forward, you can move on to the particulars. All of the items need to be able to withstand heat, be able to be packed together, be properly packaged/sealed to avoid contamination and be able to ship well or be packaged to ship well.

Another thing to consider is the country of origin of these items. If you are shipping some packages internationally, there might be different restrictions on imports depending on the country where each product is made. Hand sanitizer has been a very interesting item to learn how to ship safely and legally to different destinations. 

Your supplier should be able to walk you through any restrictions on shipping their product. If they can’t explain this thoroughly, it might be time to look for another source.


Step 3: Get the mailing addresses.

It may seem like we are mentioning this a bit early in the process. Trust us on this one. This is often the part of the process that is the most particular and takes the longest. Individual addresses need to be collected, have the data normalized, checked for deliverability, edited to be deliverable, and put into a fulfillment program. 

A step that is not mentioned there is that addresses will be added and subtracted several times along the way. Start this process earlier than you think!


Step 4: Choose your shipping service.

Based on the number of shipments, weight/size of the shipments, final destination, and speed with which you want your recipient to get the shipment, different shipping methods will be available for your project.

The easiest and most cost-effective method is generally the national postal service of each destination, but some restrictions may apply. Shipments containing hazardous materials or batteries present their own obstacles that can be avoided if addressed properly. 

Perhaps the most complicated request is ensuring that each shipment arrives to the recipient on the same day, especially if some shipments are international. This requires a combination of shipping services and shipping timelines, but it can be done with enough preparation and properly set expectations.


Step 5: Put the items together.

This is where you need to decide how valuable your time is, and how much space you have. Kitting items can be tedious and time-consuming, and it is important to determine if that is where your time is best spent. Sometimes the answer is that it is best to just do it yourself. However, more often than not, the answer is that your time is best spent generating new opportunities than putting your sourced items in boxes.

There are a few options for kitting your items. There are definitely kitting and fulfillment companies that do not make any items, but simply put them together for you. There are also suppliers that offer kitting, but many suppliers will not kit items together that they did not make. Sock Club has changed its policy in the last year so that we can proudly offer kitting of any item, regardless of source, into a shipment for you.

It is also important to make sure that your items are packed in the way that you want them to be. Sending a photo or a schematic to your kitter is the key to making each package come together as planned.


Step 6: Track your shipments.

Without a fairly robust shipping software or order fulfillment service, this is a close to impossible task. It also is not available with some services (standard postal service options in smaller packages). However, if you are sending higher value items, or if you want a follow up to be triggered upon delivery, choosing a shipping service and shipping software that allows you to have clear shipping and tracking alerts is key. 

We at Sock Club use ShipStation for this purpose. We love their platform and their service, and they have a flexible API that can connect with your systems.


 

The real key to having a successful drop ship program is planning and really paying attention to the details. However, there are experts that can do it for you. Our dedicated Account Managers can walk you through the ins and outs of your order to make sure that each part of the process is seamless and transparent. Just shoot us an email at custom@sockclub.com or call us at 512-981-6437 to talk to a real person.

Categories
Virtual Events

How To Make A Virtual Event A Success

2020 was on track to being the best year yet for most businesses. Buyer confidence was high, and the proven methods of sales and marketing were working. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought that to a screeching halt. Buyer confidence plummeted, and most companies are in survival mode.

The important question, really, is what does survival mode mean? Does it mean that your business shuts down all efforts for expansion, or does it mean you fight even harder to grow your business with more creativity?

The “proven method” of hosting events is perhaps the sales and marketing effort that has been hit the hardest. Hosting events, whether it is trade show or a national sales meeting, has become not only difficult but illegal in some cases. For smart and nimble sales and marketing professionals, this is an obstacle that can be overcome.

In a time where most internal meetings are had over video chat (see: the endless stream of Zoom memes), why can’t we turn trade shows and national sales meetings into virtual conferences? What are the keys to making every virtual event successful?

Engineer connections.

One of the most under-planned and underestimated aspects of in-person events is the social component. The person-to-person connections that are made at events often produce more solid relationships than any sales pitch. How can those be replicated virtually?

The real key to this is that it needs to be natural. How are you connecting with the people in your personal life? What methods of communication seem organic? Pre- and post-event communication facilitation is key. 

Start a Slack channel for attendees, or a LinkedIn group, and post and engage often. Share helpful content, but also content that makes your participants feel at ease with the process, like industry-related memes or funny (and SFW!) videos that deal with the common experience of working from home. Make it easy for people to engage and feel included!

 

Make virtual real.

More often than not, your participants fall into one of two categories: they are ordering so many things from Amazon that they are forgetting what is showing up to their house every day, or they are strictly not ordering anything unnecessary at all. 

Either way, receiving a gift, unprompted, from the sales or marketing team that is excited to include them in an upcoming event will be welcomed and appreciated. And, likely, posted on social media (free press!).

Sending all attendees a pre-show package (like this one from Microsoft) allows people to enter into the virtual event feeling confident about the experience. Bonus points for including a branded badge like the one in that package!

 

Choose the right event platform for hosting a virtual event.

It’s important to reach people how they want to be reached, to speak to them the way they want to be spoken to. Is your event going to be mostly older C-Level Executives? Providing a WhatsApp group is probably not the best way to engage with them, and planning networking events during the time when they are trying to have dinner with their families is not going to be successful.

Trying to engage with Millennials and Gen Z? Providing them with a mobile-first experience with a lot of opportunities to navigate independently is probably your best bet for engagement. Send them a cocktail kit for a virtual happy hour to encourage social interaction! Use event technology that provides a platform for smaller group chats to really get the networking started.

If you don’t want to invest too heavily in the technological platform to facilitate your virtual event before actually hosting one, you can pull most of this off with free or low-cost programs. A combination of Zoom, Houseparty, Slack, and LinkedIn can accomplish most of these goals. Bonus points for a Netflix watch party!

Follow up and follow through.

What is the goal or marketing strategy of your event? Is it a virtual trade show designed for lead generation? Is it a company-wide meeting designed to build company culture and disseminate new information? Is it a strategic planning session for your top-level executives? 

No matter what the goal is, follow up is key to pushing that agenda forward.

Often, events are so jam-packed with information that attendees leave feeling energized, but without a specific direction. Provide recordings of sessions and message board highlights so that the information gleaned from the event is easy to find and easy to reference. 

Building a post-virtual event landing page is a great way to keep people engaged and coming back for the valuable information that you provided. Hubspot does a great job of this with their Inbound Event.

If you have made some valuable connections, don’t be afraid to send them a follow-up gift! Swag.com has some great ideas for ready-made gifts for high-value clients that you can use throughout the year. You can also find some ideas here!


The bottom line is that each new obstacle that the pandemic presents to sales and marketing professionals is an opportunity to flex our creative muscles and find opportunities where there were none before. Focusing on the attendee experience for online conferences and virtual events is the best way to get some real time ROI. With the right attitude and focus, this can be a great chance for growth!