Saturday, July 16, 2005

16. DOING THE DEAL

Congratulations! You're probably an experienced shopper already and armed with the information provided so far in this blog you should be ready to start calling patch companies. If you don't feel confident, you may want to skip this page. You'll find plenty of additional info about custom patches ahead. If you do feel confident about making the calls and doing the deal, check out the items on this page first and then go for it.

• The good question - There is a good question which people talking to any company about buying any product should consider asking. In spite of being a fair question which may reveal valuable information, it is too often not asked and too often not answered.

"Why should I buy from you instead of your competition?"

Most companies have a market position and are very much aware of what it is. In other words, they know what their niche is; what they do best and what they don't. If your contact is able to answer this question without hesitation you're talking to someone who is well trained or has considerable experience. In not, you may be talking to the bottom of the food chain and should be careful.

• The bottom line - When you're quoted a price but sure to ask and confirm what that price includes. You will want to know if it includes royalties, sale tax, shipping, art or setup costs, etc. It's always a good idea to do the math while on the phone, add up all the costs, and then confirm the bottom line with the patch company. Then, whenever you're charged, check to be sure you paid exactly what they quoted and no more. If there is any question regarding their credibility, ask for a written quote.

• Delivery benchmarks
- If you need your patches by a specific date, be sure to mention that and get a confirmation that you will have them by that date. For example; if your patch company tells you they can deliver in two weeks, ask them if they mean 14 calendar days or working day and at what point in the process are they counting. You'll want to know if they are counting from the time you place your order or from the time you approve the artwork. You'll want to take holidays and weekends into consideration and you'll want to know if the delivery date is when they ship or when you receive the shipment. Remember that you'll be part of the art process as you'll have to review the art and may want revisions. To keep your job on schedule, be responsive and avoid delays on your end. Ensure you are on schedule at all times and call the patch company if there are any unexpected delays.

• Avoid email - Spam filtering and virus blocking are only two reasons e-mail has become unreliable. e-mail should be used only for sending artwork files and quotes. The rest of the communication should be over the phone. Remember, e-mail is not 100% but phone calls are.

• Due diligence - Your part of the patch buying process is defining your requirement in an easy to understand way, approving art or requesting revisions, being available during the process, and paying for work done. Be sure you do your job and check the artwork carefully before approving it. Make sure, for example, that there are no spelling mistakes, colors are correct, etc. Whenever you ask for revisions, ask if there's additional cost. You might be escalating the level of difficulty of the job without knowing it which could result in unexpected charges at the end of the job. Avoid assumptions. When in doubt, ask.

• Trust - Remember that the creative part of the job is a collaborative process. It will involve some degree of mutual trust. You will be trusting the patch company to provide the best possible design given the criteria you have provided and your budgetary constraints. They will be trusting you to have reasonable expectations. This is why it is crucial to select a patch company with good credibility.

Good luck!!