This is a guest post written by Knoxville-based Red Stag Fulfillment.
Entrepreneurs and Fulfillment
How many steps does it take from someone clicking a “buy” button on your website to them getting the product in their hands?
For the customer, it’s about three: purchase, ship, get.
For you, it’s plenty more: record order; process payment; send that order to your warehouse; pick and pack the order; make a shipping label; pay for shipping; get the product to the truck on time; have the product delivered; hope that everything went smoothly, and that the customer is happy.
Order fulfillment can be as simple as putting a product in a flat-rate box or as complex as creating custom boxes, negotiating freight rates, and having hundreds of goods move across the U.S. before the week is done.
As an entrepreneur, that can be a lot to handle on top of your existing needs to find leads, grow sales, creating marketing, be active on social media, meet payroll, and the thousands of other things that came up just today.
We at Red Stag Fulfillment know what that’s like, and we’re thankful that Knoxville had our back. So, to help our fellow Knox entrepreneurs, we’ve put together a few thoughts on how to take your fulfillment game to the next level.
The one thing that matters most, and can help most, is to find a partner or mentor who is entrepreneur-focused. There are many development paths that are unique to the startup world.
Fulfillment partners who’ve been there or specialize in this area already will have a plan to help you meet current demand and scale when you hit the big time.
3 Things a Knoxville Entrepreneur Needs to Know about Order Fulfillment
1. Ask for Help
Logistics and fulfillment were probably the furthest things from your mind when you started your business. You began with a great idea that people needed and worked to make it a reality. That last mile, making it easy for the customer to get their hands on your actual product, is usually one of the final pieces of the puzzle, and that’s perfectly okay.
For most entrepreneurs, orders start out with a small trickle, and you can pack and ship everything using a garage as your warehouse. Things grow, and you get on a roll, asking friends or your first employees to help and maybe getting a larger space.
Bootstrapping is the name of the game, and you’re killing it. But, orders are piling up, and you’re not sure what’s next or if you’re ready to hand things off to someone else so that you can grow even larger.
Here’s the only advice you need when you reach that stage: ask around.
We hear from different types and sizes of companies every day about what it means to be ready to move to a warehouse someone else runs. Our mission at Red Stag Fulfillment is to be honest and provide that help when we can. If you don’t fall into one of the four business categories that almost always need to outsource their fulfillment, we’ll talk about your options and let you know the right move, even if it isn’t us.
We’re also not the only people you should ask. Your fellow entrepreneurs and local businesses are facing many of the same challenges and growing pains. We were a startup once, too, and we owe the Knox community a lot for how far we’ve come.
2. You Can Improve Customer Retention with Exceptional Fulfillment
You know how important customer retention is to the success of your business. As a young business, you’re spending time and money on a great website and strong marketing to make it easy for people to find you locally, nationally, or internationally.
Better results, both in terms of a customer’s experience interacting with your business during the research and purchasing phase, as well as when they receive their products, leads to happier, more satisfied customers. Your product’s order fulfillment operations are the key to bringing all this together.
People hate late products, and we expect everyone to get things to us in just a few days because Amazon made that feel normal. Those expectations can be threats to your business’s health if you’re shipping things out slowly, have damaged goods, or consistently make mistakes.
Seek a fulfillment partner who knows your industry and can give you guaranteed dates and cut-off times for shipping. That’ll help ensure that you’re setting realistic expectations for your customers. Plus, shipping that uses custom labels, boxes, stickers, or product inserts can improve the experience of opening that package. When the experience is good and feels luxurious right away, you’ve got a great recipe for satisfied customers.
3. Knoxville, You Deserve the Best
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we’re the best at making order fulfillment easy and beautiful for entrepreneurs and mid-size businesses. We specialize in growing sales and orders, and we’re especially handy if you’re shipping large or uniquely shaped objects.
When you’re choosing a fulfillment partner, ask those vendors about their operations and their ideal customer. They may not be able to meet some of your needs, like special refrigeration or keeping costs reasonable if you are only shipping a few packages each month.
Every day, you sweat the small stuff because your customers matter. When it comes to fulfillment, you’re now the client, so find a partner who treats you the same way you treat your customers, and you’ll be doing something amazing for your business.
Reinvesting in Local
Knoxville is just about the best place to be for any budding business. The knowledge and experience of this community have allowed us to continue to grow by hiring entrepreneurially minded people. For other entrepreneurs and growing businesses, there’s community support here that helped us get to where we are today.
Besides Red Stag’s local management team, the company is also locally-owned by Mollenhour Gross, which was founded by two Knoxville-area natives (Jordan Mollenhour and Dustin Gross).
Their unique approach, which includes an entrepreneurial mindset, permanent capital, predictable ownership, a lack of bureaucracy, long time horizons, and operational autonomy have provided us with the environment necessary to think and act in a way that is truly best for Red Stag and its customers over the long term.
About Red Stag Fulfillment:
Knoxville-based Red Stag Fulfillment is pleased to announce that we’ve been awarded the #89 slot on the Entrepreneur.com 360 “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America.” Red Stag Fulfillment provides order and eCommerce fulfillment, as well as 3PL services, achieving a 100% on-time shipping rate, with 99.997% order accuracy last year.
Our success has been very much thanks to the local talent we have here in Knoxville, plus the community support we see everyday. This recent recognition is just one example of the success of Knoxville’s growing entrepreneurial community, so we wanted to share the good news with you.