Managing Growth and Time: A Balancing Act

Can you have too many customers?

A new customer of ours found Local Line while searching for a solution to a problem he had: his business was growing and it was difficult managing increased sales and marketing demands, while also managing the demands of running a successful farm. It was the classic Catch-22 for a small producer: he needed to serve his customers through the entire ordering process, which cut into the time he could spend farming, the very thing his customers pay him to do. Of course the customer relationships couldn’t suffer, but without sufficient time to plant, tend and harvest, there wouldn’t be enough product for projected customer demand.

If more hours cannot be added to the day, creating your products take a set amount of time, and your existing customer relationships require consistent maintenance, then when do you find the time to also focus on growth?
Our customer realized that while he had a defined process for planting, growing, and harvesting his products, there was no defined process for sales and marketing. Customers found it difficult to understand his changing inventory, were always calling or texting orders, and there was no real-time system to track this info for both the grower and the customer. The more customers he got, the more he had to scramble to maintain service levels.

Balancing Time and Growth

Anyone with established customers knows it can be difficult to get your customers to change their habits, but there comes a time when you have to ask yourself: how many customers am I losing just by continuing to do things the same old way? In other words, the best way to make room for new customers on your roster sheet is to better manage your existing ones.

The first feature that our customer used was the online catalogue. A large portion of his office-time was spent updating and sharing his product list with his current customers. With Local Line, our client was able to create just one product list that automatically updated according to seasonal availability and current available inventory and was able to share that list with all his customers to easily order his products.

Make product list management easier on yourself.

With an online catalogue you’re no longer deciphering voice mail orders, or having to call back customers to ensure order accuracy. You will have a consistent way of accepting orders 24/7, 365. Most importantly, you are removing barriers for your customers to order from you. They’re only ever one click away from giving you a sale. The days of “here’s my fax number” are behind us.

A store-front so your customers can always access your products.

For our customer, the icing on the cake was Local Line’s ability to move beyond order acceptance and into order fulfillment. If you have field hands picking for you that work from lists you provide them, it’s important to know how much effort goes in to maintaining that process. When orders come in, how are they aggregated? Who gets what information? And what about those pesky late orders that happen everyday? What’s needed is a monthly outlook that aggregates your orders and displays the proper packing information to your staff. Staff are automatically notified when orders come in, which means effective and accurate communication during the order fulfillment process. This is especially important when dealing with a new customer. You know more or less what to expect from your existing customers, but new customers are not yet part of your routine and need to be managed with extra care early on.

Use your monthly outlook to aggregate your orders and plan deliveries.

The Bottom Line

By setting up an online catalogue, our customer was able to simplify his order taking and product list management process. This gave him more time to focus on harvesting products and gaining new customers. The online catalogue added more value to his customers because they now had an updated product list with appropriate inventory and pricing at their fingertips. Our customer receives increased order accuracy and aggregates all orders in his monthly calendar, cutting down on redundant communications and order errors with his staff. By understanding his need to find a better way of dealing with his customers, this supplier has so far been able to take on 5 more restaurants as customers, while improving the state of his business relationships with existing customers.