Staying Grounded

We’ve seen a great shift in the photographic industry to self-funded assignment starts and on-speculation promotional marketing. These changes require bold new tools for the business owners who rely upon affordable methods to get the job done…efficiently.

I usually wouldn’t highlight one service provider versus another in a publicly disseminated blog post, but a recent request to write about tactics for using “snail mail” in a digital era perked my interest in a topic that could easily be adapted to “tips and tricks of the trade.”  My snail mail secret…Fedex Ground.  What I’ll share could be easily adaptable to any number of shipping services.  My aim isn’t to endorse one company over the competition, but rather to percolate some thoughts regarding your own shipping requirements as a business.

Ground Speed.
I have discovered that for many needs, Ground shipping is nearly as expedient as overnight express.  For example, recent shipping experiences that I’ve had for Fedex Ground from New York to a middle-America location such as Memphis have put delivery times at two working days!  This is half the time that I experienced a couple years ago.  In metropolitan areas, you may find that Ground shipping is more convenient (and less expensive) than a courier service…particularly if the overnight wait time for delivery isn’t prohibitive.

Ground Upgrades.
Fedex has greatly improved the customizable services offered for Ground packages.  This allows the shipper to save both time and money.  Ground allows for email notifications to both the shipper and the recipient, complete with tracking information.  Feeling high maintenance?  Ground shipping now allows for personal customer requests such as scheduled delivery times for both day and evening time slots, including weekends.  No one is required to wait all day for an important package because someone else resourcefully chose a less expensive method of shipping.  Don’t know where to ship it?  Have it “Held at a Fedex Location” and let your prop stylist/assistant/producer/client pick up a hefty box of assignment critical items at his or her convenience.

Ground Online.‘s services online are exemplary, and I promise that I’m not a shareholder!  Users can maintain their shipping address book online as well as an archive of customized individual client requests.  All billing is available nearly immediately (perfect for the quick invoicing of an assignment), and estimate forms provide advance notice of costs before you ship (thus, no surprises for your client).  Via Fedex Insight online, Ground packages may be tracked to your address even if no tracking number is known.  Create a shipment, print-to-pdf, and email a copy of your shipping label to your client…portfolio returns are now a breeze.  No forms to fill out, no missing line item mishaps on the delivery tags.

Ground Service.
The 1-800 number for Fedex has integrated Ground into the same high level support center that Express customers are privy to.  Requesting a customer representative results in a “hello” in seconds.  There’s no “special member” perking here.  Small businesses don’t have to spend thousands on shipping to receive a Fortune 500’s special attention.  Drop off locations are available via a vast network of “authorized ship centers”…i.e. the mom and pop local shipping outlet where you’re possibly already a regular customer.  And while I’m certain it’s not company policy…on more than one occasion, Fedex Ground drivers have provided me with their personal cell phone numbers in order to make delivery convenient and reliable for the both of us.  They know that I don’t maintain regular business hours.  Attention freelancers…it pays to know your delivery guy or gal! 🙂

Small businesses need concierge level support and guidance just like the big guy.  Fedex Ground delivers.  Their commitment to service is model behavior for all of us.

Shannon Fagan grew up in Memphis, TN; home of the largest Fedex Hub on the planet.  After a ten-year career in commercial lifestyle photography in New York, he recently packed up his belongings, printed some tracking labels, and relocated to Beijing to work in business development.

BTW: Shannon has offered to blog about the business opportunities he finds in China. Is that of interest?