"They do require that you take a few additional steps here and there, but overall they have a high probability for success and will certainly add to your company’s bottom line."
While we all love to land those high-profile clients that make us feel like the “celebs” of the wrap world, the truth is, they only make up a small slice of our business pie. At bluemedia, our bread and butter are those wraps that aren’t set for primetime, but rather are destined to be workhorses, sent out into the world to get a job done.
Some wrapped vehicles carry tools to a jobsite while others carry patients to hospitals or suspects to jail. A few carry passengers to the airport and others carry food to grocers. These are the heart and soul of the fleet market and, in the macro-sense, America – our “blue-collar” wraps if you will.
We typically define a small fleet as a team of 10 to 50 vehicles. While I don’t have any hard data on the percentage of the typical total fleet makeup, I suspect that these small fleets comprise the majority of the fleet market. Let’s take a look at the inner workings of a small fleet project, and you’ll see why we love these jobs. They do require that you take a few additional steps here and there, but overall they have a high probability for success and will certainly add to your company’s bottom line.
Landing small-fleet clients
The first step is no different from any other vehicle-wrap job: You have to land the client. Luckily, one of the primary things you’ll probably notice when looking for potential small-fleet clients is that they’re everywhere. You probably drove past 10 examples of these on your way in to work this morning. Popular industries to look for include: landscaping, roofing, appliances, pool service, IT service, copier sales and service, job placement, wholesale foods, catering, audio/video, tire repair – the list goes on forever. And that’s the point – these small fleets are incredibly easy to find.
Take note of potential or existing small fleets; develop a plan to go after them. Try offering a special for that industry – explain to them that you are aggressively marketing to their industry, which means you will be making this offer available to their competitors, too. The client’s “off season” is the best time to make the sales call because this is when they’re most likely to have the time and money to invest in their fleet.
Next, identify the client’s needs. How many wraps are we talking here? What is the estimated timeline? What is the purpose of the fleet wraps? How long will the fleet remain wrapped? It’s best to get all of the client’s expectations upfront so you increase your chances of bringing their vision to life. It will also help your shop better plan for the job ahead.
After you’ve made the connection and identified the client’s needs, the next step is estimating. This is where you will need to be very organized. First, create a system to identify and keep track of each vehicle. You’ll need the year, make, and model to pull the correct template and you may want to get the unit number, license-plate number, and possibly even the VIN, as well. Tracking this data in a place that the customer can log into and view is always a good idea – I recommend something like Google Doc, a free tool that allows you to create and share your work online.
Once you’ve organized the details of the vehicle, you can pull all of the required templates, calculate the square footage, add time and materials, and determine the price point for each vehicle. If I were that customer, I’d expect to pay a little less per vehicle if I am sending you 30 of them to be wrapped. So pay attention to quantity discounts, but only to a point because you will still have to complete these one at a time. We’ve made the mistake of giving too much of a discount when pricing small fleets and later determined (after it was already too late) that we did them far too cheap.
Make sure your customer knows that this is a fleet price and that if vehicles get cancelled, the “per-unit price” on each vehicle will go up. We negotiate how long the clients have to place the orders. A good rule of thumb is to reconcile the contract on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. Always keep in mind that a major portion of the discount offered for high quantities is in exchange for the efficiencies you gain as the shop owner by being able to produce the materials all at once. So, if a customer gives you one vehicle a month for a year you could miss out on that advantage, unless you can still produce them all at once and just install as needed. We have encountered customers who get a price on 30 vehicles and instead send us 15, expecting the same pricing. That doesn’t fly in our shop. Make sure contracts and pricing are based on quantity and if that quantity goes down the price goes up.
To provide a financial safety net for your company when dealing with small fleets, write up very specific terms that address all possible problems that may arise. If your client commits to 30 vehicles but has only brought you nine vehicles by the end of a year, you’re going to wish you had put in better terms. Always mind their total awarded credit limit – a creditworthy customer may be awarded a credit line of $20,000 and terms of Net30, as opposed to a COD customer or a Net60 customer. Also take a look at the client’s timeline: Will your guys need to work overtime or weekends to get the job done?
These terms are custom for every shop, every client, and every fleet. But all terms need to share one common attribute: ensuring that you’re covered for all contingencies. Consider deposits on the entire fleet. Or consider partial payments or progress billing. Trust me, when a problem arises here you’ll be very glad you did.
Perfecting the design
With all the logistics taken care of, next comes the creative part. The key to any good wrap is a solid design. I see two common requests when working with small fleets: First, they need to professionally deliver a message; and secondly, all small fleets want to look like a big fleet. The second request requires a bit of finesse in toning down some of the outrageous requests you might receive.
The elements we use for the custom motorcycle painter’s truck or an SUV for the local hard-rock radio station shouldn’t be inspiration for any small fleet. The crazy fonts and obnoxiously loud color schemes are typically avoided for these small-fleet projects. We like to make these very clean, very professional with easy-to-read text in standard positions to project a feeling of security and trust. But, even with a conservative design, it’s still your job to make the wrap look as cool as possible. No company wants an ultraconservative boring look. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but I think you get the point. It’s always best to lean toward a more professional look while still putting out a design that will get the company noticed and convey the appropriate message.
Another design issue often seen in small-fleet wraps is that the fleet is made up of multiple vehicle types, so the design must translate across different vehicle styles. Make sure you don’t close them on the greatest truck design ever made that doesn’t translate to the passenger cars and vans in the fleet. I recommend presenting design options as mock-ups on each of the vehicle types. The customer should be judging how the entire fleet will look when they make their final decision. This takes a little more work, but keep in mind that you will be issuing a higher priced invoice, as well. Take the time to do this and you will prevent having to re-do it later.
The last design item to pay extra attention to is the approval signatures. With high dollar amounts involved, you have to require real signatures on the final proof as insurance in case there is a typo or mistake. We always approve content by PDF and color by an Epson match-print. We tell customers that we don’t want them to “have to pay twice.”
After the design is approved comes the “easy” part – printing. I would recommend printing as many of these vehicles at the same time as you can. We all know that color likes to drift as time passes and the environment changes from hot to cold or dry to humid. Printing a fleet as one big job saves time and money and has the best chance of maintaining color values. Items printed and laminated together also reduce the chance of a wrong material accidentally being used in the process.
Then, last, but certainly not least in the process comes installation. This part is usually dictated by the customer. In some cases, they can only be without one vehicle per day. In other cases, they will want 30 vehicles done over a three-day period when all of their reps are in town for training. The best advice I can give here is to have these discussions before you submit the estimate. How the install goes down is a vital parameter in the specs of these projects.
The more input and communication here the better. Fleets have the highest probability of using multiple installers; this means that your install diagrams and mockups need to be more thorough than usual. Diagram each piece of the project, the order the pieces should be installed, and include photograph mockups to show how the completed vehicle should look. Don’t forget to include unit numbers or required Department of Transportation numbers for tracking, as well. After each install is complete, update the online spreadsheet to reflect this and take professional photos from all sides.
One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is to make it a point to have a wrap-up session with your client. This is the perfect opportunity to provide them with use and care information and to thank them for the business. Better yet, send a small appreciation gift like cookies.
And don’t make the mistake in thinking that the job is over once the fleets are back on the road. You need to remind them to keep an eye out for any lifting or peeling in the first few weeks of owning the wrap and that you are more than happy to do touch-ups free of charge. Set reminders for yourself for when to contact them about removals before the warranty expires. Stay on your client’s radar so that you’ll get the call for the next round of wraps and develop a life-long client.
Jared Smith is president of bluemedia (www.bluemedia.com), a leading provider of design and printing for use in vehicle, large-format, and enviornmental applications, in Tempe, Arizona.