Julie Selby of Selby Marketing Services explores how clients and fulfilment houses can best work together to build effective and creative promotions
As a ‘fulfilment practitioner’ for over 20 years, I’m often asked if I find my job fulfilling. I should hope so – otherwise what’s the point? What’s more, with all the creativity in the industry – as demonstrated by the entries to this year’s IPM Awards – no two days are the same at Selby Towers and there is a real feeling of satisfaction when a promotion or marketing piece runs through the building from the print room to the despatch vehicle with no hiccups!
The secret is in the briefing
This happens more often than you might think – and the first secret to a hiccup-free job is getting a good brief from you, the client. Share any information as early as possible in the planning process, the earlier the handling house is involved the smoother the promotion will run.
Tell us how you want the job to go. When does it start and end, when does it need to land with the recipient and have we agreed how it should go? What are your thoughts on packaging and delivery method?
This is particularly crucial. There are so many options available, and which choices you make will all impact on the finished product. It might look great on the screen, it might still look good sat on the bench in our workroom; but will it withstand the rigours of several conveyor belts and a trip across country? Will it fit through a letterbox?
Think of the “what if’s”. If you think you have it all covered, run it by your handling team for a second opinion. Of course, things can happen that no-one could foresee; but generally it’s better to have a contingency before the event than to have to deal with the fall out when it’s gone “Pete Tong”.
Start at the end, and work back. Your fulfilment house is there to help with all aspects of the handling and fulfilment process; think of them as an extension of your own team. They will have had their ears chewed when a premium has arrived damaged and, believe me, they will have thought of a solution so it doesn’t happen again.
After all, we are the last partner involved who has any investment in the product and the promotion and like you, we want success.
The customer is not always right
With all the will in the world, you will still come across the serial cheaters! Though in a minority, they do exist and they know every trick in the book. They can also spoil the promotion for legitimate entrants, so make sure your Terms & Conditions are as tight as possible. Again, think of the “what if” scenarios. Consider your tolerances. How many times will you send a replacement to someone? How strict are you going to be?
An example of strong decision making came via a radio phone in with Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary. A lady rang in to complain that he had ruined a holiday for her husband and herself because when they got to the airport they were fined for not printing their boarding cards in advance. She claimed that the fine was so high they could not go away!
And his response to the disgruntled customer…
“We try to encourage people to avoid the ticket desks, to avoid the check-in desks. We’re trying to make the experience easier, but if people agree to check in online and then stop at the airport and then go ‘Oh, sorry. I didn’t do it…’ despite being sent multiple messages, emails and text SMS messages, then I’m afraid that’s the policy.”
His company had, in my opinion, done everything right; yet she failed to comply and refused to take responsibility. The customer is NOT always right.
However, you need to decide with your CRM team how you want to approach customer services. Benefit of the doubt is always a good place to start, and is most often the right approach; but an experienced team will know when to listen to the alarm bells and will look to you for guidance on how you want things to play out. Be ready and avoid delays in getting back to the consumer at all costs; it’s just not pleasant!
So how many redemptions do you expect? Have you insured against over redemption? Are you confident in your calculations, or have you made it clear in the Ts&Cs that it’s while stocks last? These are considerations for both a successful promotion and one that might not be so popular.
Communicate with your handling house
How quickly can you replenish stock? What are you going to do with any leftovers? Both involve an extra cost to the promotion, so read the reports that the handling house provide. They will be able to provide the current and forecasted levels throughout the activity, but, most importantly, will highlight potential problems well before they become an issue.
Share the delivery information well in advance of the activity and be aware that not all handling houses have the facility for indefinite storage after the event so ask about storage and related costs.
So, the promotion has gone really well, customer queries were low, redemptions were on the money and all the stock has gone, bar those few you kept back ‘just in case’. What next? Raise a glass with your handling team – and start planning the next big promotion!
Julie Selby is Director at award-winning handling and fulfilment providers Selby Marketing Services. The company has been in the handling and fulfilment industry since 1989 and is still family run with a long-standing management team. The whole team are fully engaged in the promotions that come through the doors and a friendly atmosphere makes every day ‘fulfilling’. If you require any information, call Julie on 0161 339 5132 or drop her a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
Selby Marketing Services is a sponsor of the IPM Awards 2016.