Target consumers direct with bespoke products they will pay dearly for. That’s what Matic Media did when it realised it needed to fill printers with higher margin work. Richard McCombe explains how.
Why is it we never acknowledge our achievements? Why do we underplay what we have managed to do so successfully? Recently I have taken some time to think about how our little business is doing pretty well… all things considering.
On reflection it was great that Matic Media identified and would prepare for troughs, the hard times – July to August and then December and January. We had few contracts in place of a nature that would keep us all going in these months but they dilapidated the reserves we’d accumulated in high profit months which was really frustrating. We have invested in the best plant to provide the best print quality, but this can mean printing 20 different types of media a day, so we don’t have high run POS contracts that run continually. In 2011 we made the decision to fill our machines with marginal costed products to keep everyone employed and not lose our hard earned cash. We also increased our sales by 35% but no, this did not result in a 35% jump in profits!
The result was the launch of the brand Photort Warehouse, a website that would produce wall art for Mr Joe Public. Yes, we’d decided to target the consumer market with all the stuff we had been producing for sign and display since we were incorporated in 2006. The outcome was the manufacture of 25,000 unique pieces of wall art with an average size of 30” x 20” to over 20,000 unique customers. In December 2011 we were sending 250 packages through the door daily. Now, on reflection, this was impressive.
We developed the software in-house to create a Web-to-press print facility with barcoded products which all integrated with an online CRM system to keep our clients updated on the progress of their job. Our little, family run business could not cope with hundreds of phone calls a day so it was all processed online. Cashflow was great and the money rolled in.
Now, on further reflection, we realised that we had ticked some pretty important fundamentals of business: protect your team; extrapolate the most from your existing plant; don’t allow marginal costing to damage the rest of your business; think outside the box in the hard times; use large-format printers for goods never before considered.
By dealing with consumers we learned they love personalisation. We sold over £5,000 worth of keyrings as an add-on to a printed canvas in December. Without sounding like that guy Ratner who brought down his gold empire, it may not be a product to our taste but if the consumer loves this stuff who are we to argue?
In February 2012 we took delivery of Scotland’s first HP L28500 latex machine. Contracts we had secured with Glasgow City Council and Glasgow 2014– the company organising the Commonwealth Games - meant we would be anticipating a growth period over the next two years. However we were so impressed with our B2C achievements we were anxious to find higher margin products to take to market which were personalised but just smaller versions of what we would usually manufacture.
Our internal software developer, Robert McCombe, sat next to our shiny new latex machine and tested materials for our new product range: nail wraps – self adhesive stickers to be used as an instant manicure or pedicure. We had seen these on TV and in supermarkets and the market leader was Myleen Klass Nails. We discovered the material used for these was an Oracle product, the media we had been using for sign writing vans!
Thus we launched NailArt Warehouse. We continued to develop our software which allowed the client to either upload an image to our website, edit the image and pay online for their purchase of a completely customised nail wrap pack or, alternatively, they could interact with existing designs and change the colours to whatever they wanted and then add to their shopping basket.
Software was our initial challenge, then the print media, but the one thing we had no challenge with was the printing. Our latex wide-format printer and the inks it uses handles the jobs without issue.
Now, had I done my market research properly before embarking on this journey I would have realised that the software I needed for this venture did not exist and it may have put me off. But we are now talking to companies worldwide on how this software - which has full Web-to-print integration - can use latex ink and print technology for consumer personalised products.
On reflection, I think that is good use of a large-format printer.