For most of us having “the big idea” is the hardest part. Coming up with a novel concept for a personalised product, or the characters and plot for a personalised book, is the stuff that dreams are made of. While they say that everyone has at least one good book in them there’s little proof that that’s in fact the truth. But if you’ve found your muse, have been inspired and are convinced the world’s ready and waiting for your idea, what’s next?
Here’s 14 questions you need to ask to ensure you’ve found the right manufacturing partner to help bring it to market and make the dream a reality;
- You don’t want to fund someone else’s “learning curve”. Do they have relevant and recent experience and knowledge of your market and consumer?
- Is it proven? Recognised quality standards, existing examples of similar mass-customised products as well as documented Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are a must.
- Disregard planned or future capabilities. Are the facilities already in place and up to speed not just for production but also management of the process and for dispatching the final product?
- You’ll need to work closely with these people and so honesty, integrity, trust and transparency from them is key. Are they happy for you to visit the factory and see for yourself their processes and people?
- Do the Account Managers have good communication skills? Are they problem-solvers with an appetite to learn? Without business acumen and a can-do attitude there will be holes in the service your customers enjoy.
- Is there visibility of the production process to support the customer service function? Knowing, rather than simply guessing, what’s going on is imperative.
- Your product will have competition, inevitably. But that shouldn’t be in the form of your manufacturing partner. Do they compete directly in your market place? Walk away unless that’s an unequivocal NO.
- With personalised gifts time’s always of the essence. Does the workflow adequately automate and streamline print production to get products out of the door as speedily as is required?
- Similarly, what about APIs and system integrations? Blips and blockages between systems and software will jeopardise your success.
- Your idea is brilliant… of course! What protection is in place to safeguard it, your intellectual property and the data that is being supplied?
- What payment options are there? How flexible and, critically, secure are these?
- Being optimistic and focussing on the positive is a trait of all good entrepreneurs but, should disaster strike, what business continuity measures are in place to minimise the impact on your income and customers?
- What regulations and regulatory bodies do you and your partner need to satisfy? Conformance is not just a “nice to have” but vital.
- SLAs aren’t simply a big stick to beat suppliers with. They’re an important, quantifiable measure of success for both parties. Is monthly, or at least quarterly, performance reporting available to keep everyone in the know and in the loop?
Committing to a manufacturing partner may not be for life but it’s certainly a long term relationship. As with any other, be thorough, choose wisely and don’t be won over by superficial looks and a convincing chat up line. Along with your ideas, your biggest and most important assets are your customers and your brand. Choose wisely and your partner will care as much about those as you do.