2012 was a huge year for Hollywood Monster, formed in 2009 through the coming together of Hollywood Signs and Monster Digital. During the past year it has invested £2m in print kit, announced the formation new digital sales team and the appointment of a business development manager to generate new leads, and forecast a £1m growth in turnover to take it to £6.5m. And behind all that was a canny marketing plan that put Hollywood firmly in the limelight. So have Hollywood’s efforts paid off so far, and what are its mission targets for 2013 and beyond?
Your company ‘vision’ is to “become the number one graphic company in the UK”. Last year you took on eight new recruits as part of a new digital print team. That took the total workforce to 80. Do you now have all the people in place to meet that vision?
Well our vision is certainly to be number one, but that’s not necessarily in size – we don’t believe being the biggest is being the best. It’s more about the service offering and being the first choice. And have we got all the people in place? Possibly not. But what we’ve embarked upon is a five-year plan – it certainly wasn’t envisaged that we’d be there by the beginning of 2013 but we certainly feel we’re making real inroads.
The aim of setting up your digital print team was to improve communication with your existing clients and get new ones on board. You also took on a business development manager to generate new leads in your target markets. Has that started to pay off?
Yes, I think so. I think the most important thing in our business is communication – both internally and fully understanding client requirements. A lot can go wrong so we set out to focus on getting things right from the off. If communication is right at the front end with the client there’s a better chance that the print will be delivered correctly and obviously that’s really important. We’ve probably seen an eight percent increase in gross profit – just by getting the job right first time, by improving on the quality side of things which has in turn resulted in much better customer service.
You have invested rather heavily in digital wide-format kit of late, providing you with the technology that would allow you the scope to develop new applications and enter new markets, but I understand that upselling to existing customers is more your focus?
Obviously we’re always looking for new clients as well, but the way the industry has gone means that prices have been brought down – they’re becoming lower and lower on a monthly basis because more people are competing for the same type of work. And in this marketplace the price point becomes the main driver. I think most people know that it costs more money to develop new clients than it does to sell to existing clients and we have an opportunity there because since the merger of the two business (Hollywood Signs and Monster Digital in 2009) we’ve found that there are clients who were buying other types of print from other companies and that we can now service those requirements within Hollywood Monster. So it’s been about getting out there and making them fully aware of the merged company’s full service offering. I think that’s a big key for us – and certainly during 2013
What are the benefits and frustrations of trying to upsell better margin products/services to existing clients?
As I mentioned, it costs a lot more to get new clients – all the wining, dining and getting them to really believe in us as a business. With existing clients you don’t have that but what really frustrates me is when they say: “Oh, I didn’t know you did that."
That proves that perhaps your marketing isn’t as good as it should be. But it still really drives me wild when people say that because we’re using social media a lot more now – even if it’s just to put out photographs of work that we’ve done – so the existing clients that do follow us can see what we’re doing, almost on a daily basis.
So when you see what money some clients are spending with other companies, that’s the frustration and of course we need to try and break down those barriers.
So do you think the print sector needs to change the way it ‘sells’ to get the most profit from the product/service solution it can now deliver?
I think print by itself is becoming a commodity product and it’s what added-value you can bring to the table that will drive things. As a business, we certainly do everything from design and conception right thought to engineering, planning, installation – all of which is led by a project handling team. They see the opportunities available and that’s really the main key – they look at the whole.
The project manager goes through everything related to the job including health and safety issues, plant hire for installations on sites where that’s a requirement, maybe looking at getting extra staff for specific installations etc. They’re responsible for coordinating everything and keeping the client up to date. But they’re also offering clients other services that we can deliver as a business because we don’t just do wide-format print.
All our clients we split into cells, and the cell concept works well because they’ve each got a project manager and a designer working hand in hand so the clients get used to working within a particular cell. It improves customer service, improves efficiencies and of course improves our bottom line.
Not only have you spent a lot on kit, and on people, but on marketing and a sustained campaign to raise Hollywood’s profile. How important do you think image is to a print service provider in today’s market?
I think it’s massively important - equally so in any business. But the way I see it is that we’re a brand company – we’re dealing with other people’s brands so if we can’t get our own right … it’s a bit like the plumber with the leaky tap – you’ve got to get your own brand right. And of course the Hollywood Monster name is only three years old so we have to inform the public, and certainly the trade, of what we do. So yes, we have spent a lot of money on marketing.
We do a lot with charity too which has really helped and it’s a great feel-good factor for the employees also. You look at the P&L at the end of each month and the first thing everybody says is “we’re spending too much money on marketing”, but they never complain about the charity side of things! So I think backing a charity is a win-win.
Have you noticed growth in any particular part of your business?
We’ve just come out of doing a lot of Olympics work worth over £1m, so that’s what really enabled us to invest. Trade work is also starting to come back, especially for the exhibition and event industries. That accounts for about 25 - 30 percent of our business now – in 2011 that was down to about 18 percent. So of course we’ve beefed up the business to deal with more trade work.
Textile printing is also becoming more required and requested. Had it not been for the recession maybe we would have been taking about textile printing five years sooner. I think people have shied away from ‘going green’ because of the cost and I think that’s delayed things but we certainly did a lot more in 2012 and I do see that as being a huge growth in 2013.
Maybe we need a bit more kit for this sector and it’s tentatively in the forecast but as you know we have invested heavily in kit so …
Given the still poor economy, do you think you’ve made the right investment and directional choices at the right times. With hindsight, is there anything you would have changed or adjusted along the way?
I don’t think we’d do anything differently. We’re a privately owned family business and we could have rewarded all the shareholders with big bonus but that’s not what we decided to do. Instead we decided to invest in the business for 2013 and beyond. And I think it’s wise in this type of economy to spend money on your marketing. I think it’s important that that is at the forefront of your armour really – if you’re in a recession that’s how you’re going to win.
In terms of investing in people, I think it’s vital that we have the best people and I do believe we’re certainly getting there. We’ve not just employed anyone that’s come our way – we’ve been quite strategic in who we’ve employed.
I think we’re set up for a good 2013. In terms of the economy I do think there are green shoots coming back. We do a lot of work for the property sector and we’re seeing green shoots there – the first tie I’ve been able to say that for five years. So that alone is good news – if the construction sector is doing well then that spills over into a lot of other sectors as well.
An edited version of this interview can be seen as a video.