This article is sponsored by your friends at Sortly

Why Organizing Inventory is Good Marketing

Click, clack, click, clack.

I didn’t realize until I stepped onto the shiny terrazzo floor that the plastic or rubber tips of my heels had eroded down to the nail.  So there I was clicking clacking my way into an important meeting. (Awkward)

The next day, I was off to the local shoe repair shop.  And when I walked in — I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to leave my favorite expensive shoes there because, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I would ever see them again.  The tiny shoe repair shop was completely filled from floor to ceiling with — shoes — in every state of repair and disrepair.  So I asked the owner — “If I forget my tags, how will you ever find my shoes?”

Messy Shoe Repair shopImage via Shutterstock By Jeff Schultes

“Oh, don’t worry”, she says. ” I remember everyone’s face and the shoes they brought. I haven’t lost a pair yet.”

This got me thinking about inventory and marketing.  Until now, it hadn’t occurred to me that marketing and inventory had much in common, but after this experience, I realized that it’s more important than many small business owners realize.

3 Big Ways Not Organizing Inventory is Costing You Customers

  1. How you manage inventory impacts how customers perceive you.  If you run a service business where your customers see your inventory such as a repair business, cleaner, contractor, restaurant or interior designer, how your inventory is presented is your best marketing.  It’s an invisible marketing message about how capable you are, how organized, how credible and how trustworthy.

    Inventory organization tip: Take the time to clean up and organize your space or your service vehicles.

  2. Searching for inventory is increasing your cost of doing business. Unorganized inventory is costing you time and making customers wait.  Too often we ignore the total time it takes to complete a job from start to finish.  Instead of only counting the man-hours where you are providing the service, consider that time invested in looking for inventory, ordering inventory and even over-ordering inventory that you couldn’t locate.  While these seem like a few minutes here or there, they add up.

    Inventory organization tip: Create a space in your business for inventory. Add shelving, containers, and labels to make items easy to find.  Place a sticky note or mark an inventory item to remind you that you when it’s time to reorder.

  3. Managing inventory is taking time away from marketing your business.  The most common complaint I hear from small business owners is “I don’t have time for marketing”.  When I ask where the time goes, it’s often in “servicing” customers.  And when we dig a little deeper, it’s taking care of administrative details. Clearly, inventory isn’t the only detail, but, depending on your business,

    Inventory organization tip: Start tracking (or at least noticing) how much time you are spending NOT related to actually doing what makes you money.  Look for tools that can help you automate these processes and free up your energy and your time.

Organizing inventory is one of those soft, invisible costs that doesn’t seem related to the process of getting and keeping customers.  But don’t forget that the most powerful marketing creates a customer impression and experience.  And if your customers’ impression of you is one of being disorganized or messy, you are failing in your marketing.

So let’s assume that you are ready to eliminate the clutter that your lack of inventory management is creating – where do you begin?

What Non-Retail Businesses Should Look for When Organizing Inventory

When you think about “inventory” you tend to think of “retail” — but only about 10% of all small businesses are classified as retail.  Yet, just about every inventory management system is created with a “point of sale” function — that is specific to retailers.

10% of all small businesses are classified as retail.  Yet, just about every inventory management system is created with a “point of sale” function

But what about the rest of us?  Here are just a few non-retail businesses and the inventory they handle

  • Distributor/Wholesaler: Managing the movement of products from manufacturers are moving to retailers or consumers
  • Manufacturer: Managing raw materials, tools, equipment, marketing materials and equipment
  • Service businesses:
    • Cleaners – Chemicals, materials, tools
    • Repair business – Parts and tools, service vans and vehicles, matching customers to products being repaired.
    • Restaurant – Tools, equipment, ingredients, decorations
    • Contractors – Tools, materials, vehicles with parts.
    • Designers – furniture inventory, antiques, decorative items
  • Network marketer
    • Product
    • Samples
    • Sales and marketing materials

How to Evaluate Inventory Apps and Platforms for Your Business

A few weeks ago, I tried out Sortly Pro and wrote an article and did a quick video about it.  It wasn’t until I got my feet wet with that platform that I got curious about what other choices there were and what would be the best way to identify a good platform that can help you organize your inventory.

When you’re evaluating inventory apps and automation software for your business, you’re going to find a ton of software platforms that all say that they do the same thing, but what you’ll find is that each platform has strengths and weaknesses that you won’t discover until you’ve had the opportunity to actually try it out.  This is why having a free trial period is very important.

Here are some of my tips for evaluating automation software platforms:

  1. Make a list of actual tasks.  Once you’ve decided that you need a platform, sit down and make a list of tasks and activities that YOU ACTUALLY DO as you’re managing the process you’re looking to automate.  In this case, document your existing process for managing inventory.
  2. Prioritize the most important.  After you’ve made your initial list, select those items that are must-haves.  Give each must have a weighted score from 1-10.
  3. Search and create a comprehensive list.  Armed with your prioritized list you are ready to hit the internet to see what’s available. Click and explore all the apps and tools that look interesting to you and narrow it down to 2-3 software platforms.
  4. Run each platform through your list.  As dispassionately as you can, run your top platforms through your list and give it a performance score from 1-10.
  5. Add up the scores. Now you can see exactly how each of your options compare.  You can choose the one with the highest score, or you can choose the one you REALLY want.  Either way, using this template will keep you focused on the features most important to you.

Download Evaluation Template


I’ve created an extensive video on the process I went through as I was looking for just the right app to organize my inventory.