90% of online startups fail; an intimidating statistic to be sure. It takes incredible courage and perseverance to develop a great idea from a happy hour chat to a real company with customers, products, and a reputation. Entrepreneurs are a tough breed who generally like to keep their hands in every aspect of the business, sometimes even to the detriment of their companies’ growth. A great product is only the beginning, to be successful business owners must keep their eye on pesky issues such as a sustainable business model, efficient processes, and scalability for future growth. According to Forbes Magazine “Successful entrepreneurs understand that they must work on their business, not in their business”.


For the Three Dog audience reading this, why does this matter to you? It matters because opportunity is knocking loud, but often we don’t hear it. As a printer or agency, you’re likely focused on offering customers the services you already provide, after all that’s what you’re in business to do right? Absolutely not. The role you offer is that of an expert consultant. Customers turn to you for assistance with activities they aren’t capable of such as printing, mailing, fulfillment, design, SEO, marketing, the list goes on and on. What might happen if, instead of waiting for an existing customer to come to you, you embark on a proactive campaign to partner with them by asking the right questions. Strategic partners listen and solve problems even if it’s not their core business. Think big. Join forces with other vendors, manage and bill for the entire process, and solve tough problems for your customers. Your bottom line and worn-out business owners everywhere will be eternally grateful.


There are millions of details in any business, for this discussion let’s focus on questions to identify operational concerns surrounding online e-commerce and fulfillment.


Strategic Partnership Questions to Ask Your Customers

  1. What made you start this business?
  2. Where do you envision the business growing? Are you on track to your goals?
  3. What are your greatest obstacles? If you could shed anything, what would it be?
  4. What is your current order fulfillment process? Is it working the way you want?
  5. Your time is valuable, are you spending it on tasks that you consider valuable to the future of the business?
  6. Are there expenses adversely impacting your bottom line I might be able to help with?


You’ll notice I didn’t mention any specific areas above, that’s by design. Open-ended conversations generate opportunities. Simply let the entrepreneur talk and note key areas your company might be able to improve an existing process or reduce cost. Then quickly find an experienced fulfillment or shipping partner to help deliver the perfect solution and earn immediate super-hero status. Who do you think they’ll call next time? A great example of this approach, a printer did what they do best printed a book for their client, but didn’t offer delivery services. So, the client used a large national express carrier for shipping at an enormous expense. This smart printer partnered with Three Dog to explore other options and presented delivery via USPS bound printed matter saving their client thousands of dollars per year. Slightly marking up delivery services on the client invoice increased their revenue while still delivering nice savings to their customer. We affectionately call this a win-win in the business world, of which typically earn lots of word-of-mouth referrals.


Complicated operational functions creating hardship for online businesses include website design, SEO optimization, e-commerce integration, product fulfillment including pick-pack services, warehousing, and domestic/international shipping. Most business owners start small and handle every aspect of the business on their own, perhaps from their garage until it gets so big they can’t keep up. This is the magic junction where businesses need partners capable of scalable solutions or they risk their reputation and future growth. To grow your consulting partnership (and bottom line), canvas your network in advance and select external partners with expertise so you’re ready for action after your next client meeting. Alongside your new partners, you’ll be positioned to advise your customers on the best strategy and cost efficiencies for their business.


Ready to join forces with a new fulfillment and shipping partner? At Three Dog Logistics, our consultants will help develop a plan that delivers client solutions at the lowest cost and fastest delivery speed possible. Remember, we take the bite out of postage and freight. Visit www.threedoglogistics.com or call 410-284-5494 extension 220 to schedule a complimentary consultation today.