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How to Ship Better As a Startup

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How to Ship Better As a Startup

Taking orders is easy. Fulfilling them is another matter. It seems simple enough: take the customer’s money and send him the product. The reality is that shipping problems are very common and gum up an otherwise well-oiled business machine. Failed shipping schemes also ruin relationships with loyal customers and force you to start over in the relationship building process. Of course, you can avoid all of this by developing a rational shipping protocol.

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Choose Partners Wisely

The U.S. postal service is the most obvious choice for shipping, but it’s not the only game in town. Most e-retailers use USPS for at least some of their shipping needs, but don’t forget about UPS and FedEx. Leading up the rear is DHL and other smaller players.

Experiment with shippers. You’re going to find something very interesting – not all shipping companies are the same. Not all of them will charge you the same price for the same package. In fact, it seems counter-intuitive, but private companies like UPS and FedEx are often cheaper on rates, especially for larger packages.

Every area of the country is dominated by a different carrier though. This is why it pays to test out different shipping methods. You might find that FedEx offers the lowest rates in your area, but UPS offers the best consistency and fastest shipping for the price paid.

Choose a Good Packing Scheme

Regardless of what you ship, you’re going to be using packing materials. Office supply companies will often sell you what you need – and then some. Don’t be lured in by “new” materials. Recycled materials are often at least as good at protecting valuables as “virgin” packing materials.

Scour the Internet for bargains on boxes, envelopes, and package filler. Ken Weinstein, co-owner of the Numero Group, a compact-disc label out of Chicago, claims that he was able to locate a company selling boxes dirt-cheap. It turns out that a bunch of boxes were made up for “Tide” (yes, the laundry detergent), but the manufacturer misspelled the name and had to get rid of everything. Weinstein snapped up the boxes for almost nothing.

Audit Shipping Expenses Regularly

Big shipping companies, like UPS, ship millions of packages. Figure that 5 to 10 percent of your billing contains an error or two. Make sure you read all of your shipping bills carefully. In fact, it might pay to do a formal audit once a month to make sure that your company isn’t being overcharged on shipping. The more you ship, the more important this becomes.

Consider Drop-Shipping

Taking a lesson from people like Alexander Bouri, sometimes it pays to pay someone else to do the shipping for you. Drop-shipping refers to having another company ship product for you. Usually, the 3rd party company maintains a warehouse as well. As customers pay for orders, those orders are forwarded to the warehouse where they are fulfilled and shipped.

To the customer, the transaction is seamless and everything appears to come from your company. It’s also one of the best ways to make your company look bigger than it really is.

Robert McCoy is a startup consultant. He loves to write about how to make startup life easier on business blogs.

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