Note: This article appears in The Laser Engraving Report, a supplement to the November 2019 issue of A&E magazine. To ensure that you can access this and other industry-focused pieces, be sure to subscribe today!
Assuming one has the good fortune of having a large-format laser in your inventory, the word “volume” has a certain ring to it. A door chime that equates to a large invoice if you will. A crack at a single job that can pay big bills. Volume can speak volumes when it comes to your P&L statement.
Large-volume orders come in all shapes and sizes, from blank products waiting to be engraved to stainless-steel mugs and tumblers or even custom goods that we as awards and signage shops design from scratch. The same orders also come with challenges, pitfalls, and opportunities.
As in all of our work, the task has to fit in our business model before we hit the start button. In our case, we look at requests for high-volume orders as opportunities. In many situations, large order requests may not necessarily be in our wheelhouse, but we never close that door without exploring further. Oftentimes, by qualifying the customer and understanding their expectations, we can steer the client to a product or concept we are good at and still manage or exceed those needs.
Large-volume orders can be overwhelming at first, but if you’re primed with the right equipment and know-how, they can greatly benefit your bottom line. (All images courtesy Amie Roberts)
Two Important Rules
Rule one in our business is mentioned above: customer expectations. Rule two is to verify, verify, verify. What does that mean? It means two things, both of which are critical to us as a business and to our client. They are:
- Understanding what the client wants to the point where we can supply a sample for review.
- Our due diligence in what is involved on our end so we can exceed expectations and make a healthy profit.
Let’s talk about those two points.
Point One: Needs and Samples
The client’s needs rule in virtually all aspects. This is the front end of the job. It’s time consuming, a bit frustrating at times, and it likely means you step away from machine time to a nonprofit interim status. But it’s at the top of the list in terms of priorities because that is when it’s make or break time.
If the high-volume job isn’t a fit, this is where that becomes clear. If the stars and moon line up and the job fits, then that becomes clearer, but make no mistake, this part is about communication and relationship building. It’s called opportunity. If you step away from the job, and do it correctly, then you have a potential client. You have gone the extra step and made an impact.
Large-volume orders come in all shapes and sizes, from blank products waiting to be engraved to stainless-steel mugs and tumblers or even custom goods that awards and signage shops design from scratch.
If you are dialed in with the client and understand what they need, then you can move to the next priority, which is to supply a sample. Done properly for the client, this is like opening a Christmas gift. In hand, you know what the needs are. Your quick turnaround in getting that sample into the client’s hands can be the wow factor. Bundling these two areas gives your client the feeling that they are your only client.
Point Two: Due Diligence
Parallel to the first point and in conjunction with it is the part where you make money. For many of us, this takes self-discipline. By nature, we are all creatures of habit and oftentimes we take the path of least resistance. Translated: we take the easy work that comes through the door. The routine work, the daily dribble.
Think about that. Many of us can do a walk through the park filling our day with the mundane. Mundane that pays bills, fits our comfort zone, and doesn’t upset the apple cart. Then, bingo! someone wants to know about doing 750 widgets we know nothing about. Now we have to break routine and try to address that?
True, but for a percentage of us, it’s opportunity we want to tackle. Large-volume orders have all of the above concerns, but they also have much more. The setup part of the operation entails all of what’s been discussed so far (understanding the customer’s needs and providing samples). Sourcing the right substrate, the artwork, trial and error, samples, cost of goods, machine time, cutting for yield (to name a few) are also part of the formula. All of these are why some of us stick with the mundane, the daily ritual. It can be overwhelming to process all of these factors.
For those of us who chase those large-volume opportunities, we see something different. We recognize the labor-intensive front-end work, but we strive to achieve it knowing the benefits that can come with such orders.
For starters, if we meet our goals, we likely have landed an exceptional client. Large-volume orders are usually the product of companies that are looking for repeat orders or come back for something similar. That relationship-building discussed earlier, combined with the “Christmas gift” sample, combined again with the quick turnaround all separate us from the big box stores.
The appreciation for a gift for a family member is nice, but the hand-written thank-you card from a client that placed a large-volume order for personalized cutting boards can be rewarding beyond that good feeling.
Exceptional clients usually not only have that eye candy impact when that finished product is delivered, but they also put your product in the hands of large numbers of potential clients in and of themselves. If you are on your game, then somewhere on your product is your business name. It’s called advertising without the money — word of mouth can’t be beat, especially with these types of orders.
There are quite a few benefits to taking on high-volume orders other than landing a long-time client or scoring word-of-mouth advertising. One side benefit of large-volume orders is efficiency. Efficiency in your shop when your equipment has a full table of profitable items on it doing its machine magic gives you open time to multi-task on other jobs. Sourcing your substrate and purchasing with volume discounts is another plus. Oftentimes, leftover substrates can be turned into another profit item.
There is no question that a request for 750 unfamiliar widgets can be a head scratcher. It’s not for everyone, and that’s fine. Knowing one’s limitations is important. Having said that, stepping out of our comfort zone, armed with due diligence, and into the large-volume arena can be rewarding in so many ways.
Case in point? We love those acknowledgements from grandma about that wonderful plaque so expertly done that went to Aunt Betty. But how about that bank on the corner who sends you a note that says, “Just wanted you to know that you exceeded our expectations on the cutting boards with our logo. The feedback from the 750 boards that went to our customers is amazing. We will chat again soon. Job well done!”