Web to Print Business Plan - Targets & Timeframes

This section is all about setting sensible targets and how long those could take. It is very much written from the perspective of this being your first Web to Print software and we have assumed that you are a medium sized printer who can build one webstore at once. Explaining that a bit further, if one person is available for around 50% of their time to build products and webstores then what we have listed below should be achievable. Smaller printers that can't allocate that amount of time will take longer and companies with either a dedicated Web to Print person or a team of people can reduce the time we have suggested below.

A few quick points to make before we get stuck in:

  1. Not all Web to Print solutions are created equal, some are easy to use and some less so (some you can't even build the products yourself!). So ease of use is going to have a large impact on our suggestions below.

  2. Building your first storefront and products is going to take a lot longer than when you have experience in building both. We cover how you might plan for this in your targets below but what we have tried to avoid is coming up with timeframes that are unrealistic. For example you can build a simple storefront, add a print product and place a test order in less than 10 minutes, we know, we did it here (Check the video out to towards the bottom of the blog). That is not the speed we base our suggestions on below.

  3. The amount of time taken to build storefronts and products is actually going to be a relatively small proportion of the time taken to get a site up and running. Most of the time will be spent in preparation of artwork (site and product) along with a good amount of the time on testing products, dealing with any customer feedback on the site and products and even training your customer on how to use the software.

Targets

An impossible target is demoralising to everyone involved in the project. If Web to Print is new to you then the chances are higher that you will set a target that is too difficult to meet without even meaning to.

On the other hand, targets that are achievable or can be bettered are motivational to the team behind meeting them and inspirational (OK that is probably a bit strong!) to other members of you company.

The other thing to remember is that targets and their underlying business plans get more inaccurate the further they are in the future, our suggestion is stick to a one year plan, review your progress against that plan as you go through the year and use the discrepancies to feed into making the next year long plan more accurate.

Target 1 - The First Order

If you followed our advice in the pre demo guide about identifying your first customer and products then you know what needs to be done to meet your first target. So how do you know how long to budget for? For building storefronts ask your preferred supplier and then double it for your first site.

Say your preferred supplier says that they expect on average 10 products per day and the site and settings takes another half a day. So you should work on 1 day for the site and settings and 5 products per day on average. Remember this is for your first site, don't set an unrealistic target by trying to keep up with an average that someone who builds products all the time uses.

Your first customer site is 30 products so you are looking at 7 full days work, you can allocated 50% of your time to the build so budget 2 ½ weeks. So that means the first order within 3 weeks of signing up, right? Well short answer, no. Remember in the bullet points above we said that building products and sites is not the biggest part of the timeframe to first order, well you have to budget for that time too.

As a rule of thumb, break the project down into 3 equal parts. Part one is for learning/training, getting and preparing the artwork and making sure you know what the customer wants, for example approval process, who can order what etc. Part 2 is the site and product builds. Part 3 is for customer feedback, feedback implementation, customer training and some contingency time for unknowns.

In our example site above that's about 2 months to first order, an aggressive but very doable timeframe, certainly 3 months should be ample time.

A side note about Business to Consumer sites here before we move on to planning the rest of the first year. Consumer sites tend to have a lot more products at launch so build time is increased. On top of that you are probably having the site designed that sits around your Web to Print software and you can't start marketing your site to get your first customer until everything else is complete. Basically you need to add more time into your budget for these.

Targets for the Remainder of the Year

First for B2B sites, just using the above you could set your target of 4 customer sites online in the first 12 months of a similar size to the example above. You will probably have changes to current sites to make as well, hopefully new products that they want to buy from you online. It might be a case that you find as the number of sites you have grows, the amount of time taken to get new customers on board increases.

That all being said, budget between 3 - 5 sites in the first 12 months of a size similar to our example. Tend towards the higher target if it is customers that you already deal with and the lower if you are predominately going after new customers.

For a B2C site you are not building new sites, although you are probably adding more products and designs. It is now time to swap your budgeting to another indicator, volume of orders, value of orders etc. There are so many external factors that have a direct impact on this, not least marketing budget, that it is very hard thing to actually budget. Just remember that B2C sites typically expect to run at a loss for an extended period of time and your rate of growth should reflect it is long term project.

Summary

You should be in a position to work out a fairly good budget / business plan now, with realistic targets and timeframes for meeting those targets. Our top tip, put in real dates and real customers if you know who they are. Especially for your first customer be as specific as you can, so for example you might put a start date / sign up date, then meeting customer & preparation of artwork complete date, a finish site & product build date and finally a launch date. The more milestones you have the more opportunity you have to monitor your progress for over and underruns and know what these are and why they occur can really help future budgets be more accurate.

Next we are moving on to how Web to Print should be integrated into your organisation starting with a common route to failure.


Prv: Goals Next: Integration