7 tips to beat the post strikes

We’re told the strikes at Royal Mail are hitting small businesses hard but we also know that SMEs are at the powerhouse of innovation. Should we really rely on the post for the smooth running of our operations?

28th October 2009 at 1:46 pm

The following 7 ideas may help your business avoid disruption during the postal strikes. They won’t apply to all businesses, but I hope they’ll give food for thought.

1. Ditch the cheque. The new Faster Payments service is easy and it works. Even BACS payments only take three days. Ask your clients to pay you electronically – offer them support if they’ve not done it before. Electronic payments are cheaper and faster for all concerned. If your bank don’t help you switch away from the cheque ditch them too – they don’t deserve your custom.

2. Talk to a courier firm. Couriers are more expensive than first class it’s true, but what is your product worth to your customer? Why not give them the choice of a guaranteed delivery for a little more cash. If shipping lots of low value items is your bread and butter this isn’t likely to be an option, but people know that the supply chain is disrupted and will respect you for offering alternatives.

3. Compensate your customers for a disrupted service. It’s all about taking control. Some subscription magazines have opened up free access to their online content to compensate print subscribers for delayed delivery. Think of low value solutions that could mean a lot to your customers. If word gets out it could be great publicity and will put you ahead of the competition.

4. Send documents electronically. PDF is a great format for securely exchanging documents with people, and it doesn’t need to cost a thing. There are free PDF tools available to download which will create PDF files from any application (see www.cutepdf.com). If a document needs to be signed will the recipient accept a scanned copy? Scanners are cheap and will output in a variety of file formats (including PDF) ready for you to email.

5. If you’re sending out marketing material by post consider changing to an online/email campaign. The web is awash with ideas about using social networking and web 2 applications for marketing and it doesn’t need to be costly and time consuming.  Ask a designer to help you develop a simple HTML email campaign or blog and twitter about your services. If you’re smart the results can be instant and powerful.

6. Study your supply chain. If you send products locally can you deliver in person or invite customers to collect from you direct? Again everyone knows there’s a strike on and people will respect you for giving them options. It could be a great way of building stronger relationships with your clients. If you ship a lot of “stuff” long distances have you considered a distributor? With great economies of scale they can secure better prices with carriers other than Royal Mail and it might free up your precious time to work on new business.

7. Relax! In this “just in time” world everyone wants everything now. However if you have a good relationship with your customers and are honest with them, you might find them to be more compassionate and forgiving than you would expect.

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Managing director of publishing project management business Out of House Publishing Solutions providing content services to the publishing industry. http://www.oohpublishing.co.uk

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