The mission of Ashore has always been to help our users get approval on their projects faster. We do this by helping creatives ask for better feedback, by making it as easy as possible for customers to review and give approval, and by keeping everyone up to date with the proofing process. Essentially, Ashore facilitates a more streamlined approval workflow.
No matter the nature of your print shop, workflows are a tricky thing to master. There could be several people involved internally that must review before you even send proofs out to your customers. And, when feedback starts coming in, and you have to create new versions, the process quickly becomes confusing. Juggling more than a few projects at a time may be your limit.
That’s why we made Ashore in the first place. While we have the privilege of seeing our mission fulfilled every day, it’s no less exciting to be able to share our successes – and our users’ successes – with the world. For one such company, Captain Notepad, we’ve seen their workflow transformed with the help of Ashore, resulting in faster approvals and a better customer experience.
This is how it went down.
Captain Notepad is a Colorado-based printing company that specializes in – can you guess? – notepads! Journals, stationary, prescription pads, booklets – they do it all. They actually first began making notepads as real estate marketing collateral, and now, the majority of their orders are notepads. Since it opened at the turn of the century, this small, local print shop has grown into a larger operation supporting customers across all 50 states and Canada.
They do the entire printing process in-house, from designing to pre-press to production, and from the very beginning, their website has been key to collecting customers. Years before eCommerce became the norm for businesses and companies like Amazon exploded into the online monoliths they are today, Captain Notepad saw the value of the web for expanding their customer base. You might think that this means they were always ahead of their time in all things technology, but finding a system that works for everyone, designers and customers alike, does not always allow you to embrace technology as you’d like to.
The Old Workflow
In the early days, Captain Notepad used their website as more of an online lookbook.
“It was essentially a catalog of images that customers could look at online,” explains David Betty, front office manager for Captain Notepad. “Then, customers would fax us their order and mail actual copies of logos and photos to be used in the design.”
You read that right: fax. Once an order was created, their in-house art department would email it to customers for approval.
“Sometimes, customers would mail us their approval,” David muses.
As eCommerce capabilities improved, customers were eventually able to submit orders directly from the website. Once an order was submitted, the art department got to work on the design. Once it was ready for review, the proofing process would be conducted over email, exchanging a long thread of emails with customers before they would give approval to take their project to proof.
Email is a very popular medium for orchestrating the proofing process, but it’s not well-suited for it. When the proofing process is conducted over email, it creates a bad customer experience. On top of regular miscommunications, email does not exactly encourage active participation from customers. It could take several follow-up emails before you finally receive a response from them. Then, there’s the technical mishaps to consider: emails sent to spam for whatever reason, relevant emails buried under a mountain of unread messages.
“Since all orders are custom printed,” David explains, “the biggest pain point is that when we send a proof, the person at the other end could miss it, causing them to forget all about it or become frustrated.”
Finding a Better Solution
They knew they wanted to find a better solution to manage their approval workflow, and about a year ago, they got their chance. With the hiring of a new lead graphic designer to head up their art department, Captain Notepad finally had the opportunity to embrace new technology and modernize their workflow. They promptly began looking at products that could help them.
They tried out a few software solutions, but none of them quite fit what they were looking for. For example, some lacked a modern user experience, making the product feel clunky and outdated. Or, the software failed to whitelabel emails, so messages sent to customers would come from the software’s address rather than Captain Notepad’s address. Issues such as these forced them to keep searching until they discovered Ashore.
For Captain Notepad, Ashore was the ideal solution.
“Instead of forcing our business into someone else’s idea, Ashore was able to easily integrate into our idea for our business,” says David.
Ashore bakes flexibility right into the platform. Users have the ability to customize almost anything: the tags you use to organize proofs, the workflow stages you create, the automated reminders you schedule for customers, the email messages sent to customers, even the logos and review links they see.
Captain Notepad particularly appreciated the white-labeling capabilities Ashore offered, as it allowed them to put their branding and logo front and center. At no point do their customers ever see Ashore’s name or brand. The easy-to-navigate UX and modern interface were also selling points for them.
A New & Improved Workflow
So, how did Ashore transform Captain Notepad’s approval workflow? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you.
1. After a customer submits an order, it takes about one to two days for Captain Notepad to finalize the artwork.
2. When the design is ready, the graphic designer uploads it to Ashore, turning it into a PDF. Then, they’re ready to send the proof to approvers. At this point, they utilize the email templates feature in Ashore to quickly create messages to send to customers when requesting approval.
3. To encourage their customers to make a decision on a proof in a timely manner, they schedule automated reminders to go out on a regular basis.
4. Each day, they log in to Ashore to monitor the status of their active projects. On Ashore’s dashboard, you have the ability to quickly determine which proofs have been sent or are waiting for review, approved, not approved or overdue. If something languishes unopened for too long, Captain Notepad will follow up with a phone call to that customer.
5. Once orders are approved, they’re sent over to pre-press.
And, how are their approval rates looking, you ask? About 50% of proofs are approved in about a day. Another 25% or so go through at least one revision and are approved within two days. The last quarter are either lost causes or go through intense revision cycles.
According to Captain Notepad, using Ashore has made getting approval faster and much easier for the art department to manage.
“We receive about 50 orders a day,” David explains. “With that many proofs being turned out daily, it’s quicker to send a proof this way than by composing and sending an email.”
White-Labeling: This was a deciding factor for Captain Notepad. Our white-labeling capabilities allow you to make the proofing process your own and give your approvers a curated experience. You have the ability to upload your company logo so that it displays on all review screens and emails sent from Ashore. By integrating your email, you ensure that all emails sent to customers come from your branded email address. You can even create a custom domain with your own website and white-label any review links created in Ashore.
Automated Reminders: According to Captain Notepad, reminders have been critical to their approval process. Ashore gives users the ability to customize automated reminders down to the day and time. You can select account-wide default reminder settings, or specify an approver’s unique schedule. For reminder emails, email template variables give you the ability to automatically customize any message with specific information including an approver’s name, the proof’s name and more.
Checklists: Ashore’s checklist feature has helped Captain Notepad improve the quality of the decisions customers provide by ensuring they’ve sufficiently reviewed every aspect of a proof. Creating checklists adds requirements to each proof that approvers must acknowledge before giving their approval.
What Will Your Favorite Features Be?
Captain Notepad is just one of Ashore’s thousands of users who have seen their productivity improved and their approval rates boosted. We’ve seen approval rates increase by an average of 50% for Ashore users, all by making it easier and faster to receive higher-quality feedback from customers. Of course, everyone will take advantage of Ashore and it’s myriad of capabilities a bit differently, and everyone will have their favorite tools of the trade. Perhaps you’ll love review links, or the audit timeline or all the possibilities available to you with our Zapier integration.
Start your 14-day free trial today to experience our proofing software firsthand.