Help your customers avoid these pitfalls and improve the ordering experience.

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: Sometimes, your customers need a little extra help to make the ordering process go smoothly. Help them avoid these pitfalls and give them an experience that makes you their go-to provider for all their printed merch for the busy Spring sports season.

Customers are part of what makes your business tick. They keep the lights on with the work they bring you. Plus, some of them help your business grow by referring you to new clients. So, it’s only natural to strive to print them the best products every time.

But no matter how good your business is at printing merchandise, you’ve probably encountered a few common pitfalls with the customer experience. Whether it’s confusion about image requirements, order costs, or a general lack of knowledge about business norms, they can cause frustrations both for you and your customers.

But you don’t want to tell a customer what to do, right? Sure. But you can also chat with them and educate them to avoid some common pitfalls with their orders.

Better yet, you can use some of InkSoft’s tools to get around these problems. It’s a win-win for both parties, and it’ll help solidify your reputation. Plus, the busy Spring sports season is starting to ramp up, so the sooner you have tools in place to stay on top of customer orders, the better.

Some of these hurdles involve decoration-specific factors, and some of them simply involve you communicating clearly as a business owner. Here are five common pitfalls that can hold up the ordering process and cause confusion, and ways to avoid them.

5. General Design Work

Most people coming to your shop for your services aren’t experienced in graphic design. That’s not a criticism but a reality. Especially graphic design for promo products and decorated apparel, which need a bit more attention than, say, a graphic for an Instagram post or an email. You’ve probably had your share of customers come to you with a design idea that even with the magic of Illustrator, there’s no way it’ll work as a printed graphic on a T-shirt, let alone a keychain.

Your customers may have their hearts set on a design. Still, if you’re able to put something together that mimics what they’re looking for, you’ll probably save them a bunch of extra time. Once you’ve talked to them about what they need for their design, try building out something that you know will fit the required specs for printed products.

You can streamline this process by using InkSoft’s online approval process. Send your customer’s design idea inside the platform, get feedback, and then you’re ready to move ahead to set the order up.

As we mentioned earlier, you don’t want to “tell” your customers what to do. But if you can help guide them towards a design that you know will work for the products requested, it’ll be much less work for both parties. The customer won’t have to go back to the drawing board. And, you won’t have to charge them additional labor hours for tweaking an image that’s got odd color combinations, wonky font layouts, and busy graphics.

4. Image Requirements

“Can you resend that file?”

How many times a month do you have to send an email like that? It’s not like you expect your customers to know all the ins and outs of optimal graphics. Still, you can help them avoid this pitfall in a relatively simple way- standardizing your process.

Have a set of print-ready dimensions you can share with your customer. One of the easiest ways is to set up a landing page or FAQ on your website. Use that page to list out dimension requirements for standard items you print, whether that’s a beanie, tote bag, hoodie, or coffee mug. You can also include a shortlist of what standard sizes are for popular items on your order form.

One other part of image requirement pitfalls involves printing licensed or copyrighted images. As a business owner, you know that printing copyrighted images on anything can set the stage for a legal nightmare. There are probably scenarios where you’ve had a customer bring you an idea that you knew was copyrighted right off the bat. Maybe it was a Star Wars character, a popular band’s logo, or an NFL logo. You promptly told the customer that it’s not legal for you to use that artwork, let alone print it on merch like hoodies or beanies.

You can also pair your team’s talent with InkSoft’s Online Designer to make the process even easier. Customers can choose from a massive library of vector designs, clip art, and fonts to generate a design for their product. It won’t necessarily replicate their copyrighted image, but it will make the process easier for both parties. It’s a catalog of professional images that’ll make designing easier for your team and keep both parties out of legal trouble. And with clients like team sports and league customers, the Online Designer creates a smoother process that would otherwise be a series of emails with countless attachments that both parties would need to keep organized.

3. Color Selection

Your customer wants you to print a yellow logo on a red shirt. Sounds simple enough, right? Here’s another pitfall your customers make, they have a different idea of what that red and yellow look like compared to what you’ve got on-hand in your shop for inks and fabrics.

But you can’t expect your customers to know what Pantone 107 is, so let’s keep it a lot simpler to avoid this pitfall. Instead, build your customer a mockup of the design and send them a proposal with InkSoft so they can review the colors. With this strategy, you can also preview the design across multiple types of merch, whether that’s a T-shirt, a tote bag, or a baseball cap. InkSoft Proposals also make tackling the busy Spring sports season more efficient, since there’s usually a point person at the school who manages the orders for the team, and a proposal makes it easier for them to relay information back to coaches and other school staff.

This pitfall also ties back to the design concept. Customers may come to you very excited with an idea, but it might feature too many colors. Help them understand that too much color can make the design harder to match with substrate and fabric colors.

And, while it’s nice to land a job that’s going to make your shop a lot of money, make sure you’re honest with customers when it comes to colors. Some print methods, like screen printing, cost more money every time you add another color to the job.

You’ll undoubtedly have customers who are okay with paying the extra money for their merch. But letting them know upfront helps them avoid this pitfall. Plus, it sidesteps pricing confusion before you get to even drawing up a quote.

This leads us to our next pitfall…

2. Confusion on Costs

This one is simpler than the other pitfalls we’ve discussed to get out in front of. But, it’s also one that gets overlooked. And it’s the source of a lot of awkwardness between printers and clients. A significant customer pitfall with pricing is only seeing the cost of blank merchandise and apparel and not understanding the labor that goes into all your hard work. Whether that’s labor hours for printing, packaging, or designing, it all goes back into the cost of your customer’s order.

When drawing up a quote, make sure you’re communicating with your customer the total cost of what they’re ordering, not just the raw goods’ price. Think about other businesses you use in your community. When you take your car into the shop, you pay for the new brake parts and pay the tech fixing your car for their labor hours. Instead of getting into a lengthy explanation with your customer, simply add an estimate for labor on your job quote.

Part of cost also includes payment, another often overlooked component business owners don’t nail down. Clients sometimes might see a generic term like “upon receipt” and think they can pay you next week or next month. Or keep putting it off while your sales team has to make awkward calls every week to try and obtain payment.

This part of avoiding pitfalls shares a lot in common with everything else we’ve covered. Keep it as simple as possible so your customer knows when they need to pay you. Have it clearly stated on your invoice, whether it’s a week, 15 days, or 30 days after completing the order. Make it even easier for customers by giving them online payment options for faster checkout.

It might feel awkward requiring a client to agree to payment terms. Still, it’s another step to help your customer out and protect your business. Because realistically, no one likes getting a threatening email or phone call that they’re delinquent on a bill. And unfortunately, some folks who let an order reach that state are likely to skip out on payment.

Timeliness is also something you’ll want to keep in mind for the last pitfall…

1. Delivery Times

Because merchandise printing is different from other finished goods, customers often don’t grasp how delivery times work. Customers tend to think that every business provides a “get it tomorrow” service.

It goes without saying that cranking out orders at a print shop isn’t the same as shipping an Amazon Prime order. Sure, you might be able to push the occasional rush order out, but it’s not ideal. Too many rushed turnarounds lead to mistakes in production, botched print jobs, unhappy customers, and eventually poor online reviews, which hurt your reputation.

If it’s a new customer, they may not realize that there are 10 jobs ahead of them that need to go out this week, so even if you’re responding to their emails, they need to be added to the queue. What can you do in the age of two-day shipping and doorstep delivery?

You can get around this pitfall with a core technique we’ve been discussing throughout this blog. You’ve guessed it, clear communication.

 InkSoft’s production and order management tools improve communication with your team and your customers. Use these tools to give your customers realistic delivery dates, map out orders, and coordinate order production with your team. If you’re able to finish the job ahead of schedule, then you’re mastering the art of “underpromise and overdeliver.”

Bonus: Navigating E-Commerce

While it might not necessarily be a “pitfall,” another challenge both shops and customers face is mastering e-commerce. If your business needs a better solution for selling online, InkSoft Stores present a fantastic solution since they don’t require any web design experience to set up and include a robust feature library for creating a branded online store. Plus, you can set up online stores for your customers for everything from those upcoming school fundraisers and Spring team sports to corporate programs and local businesses. Your shop reaps the benefits since the more products your customers sell, the more products you print.

Helping your customers overcome these pitfalls will help you focus on printing more merchandise and less time dealing with confusion and friction. Plus, communicating clearly with your customers helps you stick out from the competition since it shows you’re interested in more than just getting orders out the door. You’re in the business of building long-term customer relationships that’ll bring you repeat orders. 

Want to outshine the competition with InkSoft and help your customers avoid these common pitfalls?  Contact an InkSoft Client Advisor for a personalized tour today and change how you sell online.

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