When Scott Pearce and business partner Mark Gamble bought what was then called Datumpress in an MBO in 2008, due to the retirement of boss and company founder Alan Willis, it had a relatively small offering including small-format POS products, training manuals, brochures and stationery.
Today the pair – who started as apprentices at Datum when it was founded in 1988 – have grown the business to incorporate a raft of additional services including large-format printing and project design for cutting-edge digital campaigns and boasts names such as Swatch Group, McDonald’s, John Lewis and British Gas among its clients.
The problem until recently, though, had been that most existing and prospective clients were simply unaware of the breadth of Datum’s services and capabilities. A problem Pearce and Gamble began to consider solutions for around two years ago.
“Traditionally Datum was a pre-press and digital printing firm, but we saw the opportunity quite quickly to start offering other in-house services like email marketing and website design and build,” says Pearce.
“To push the print side along, we started outsourcing augmented reality and app development around 18 months ago and brought that in-house a year ago. It was all going fine but it was like we were running two different businesses under one roof: our print clients weren’t asking us about apps or websites and our digital clients weren’t asking about print,” he explains.
Pearce says they were too often being pigeon-holed for certain services and that despite a steady 10%-15% annual increase in turnover, sales weren’t “setting the world alight”, so they decided to enlist external help to shake up their marketing strategy.
The pair considered three of its own clients to help deliver the work and decided on marketing consultancy, Gilmar Wendt & Co (GW&C), with whom they’d collaborated on campaigns for a variety of clients.
The first thing Pearce did was to take GW&C to Dscoop Budapest in June 2014 to help its designers really get under the skin of the industry. “They got to talk to a lot of our peers and it turned out to be a great learning process for them,” he says.
After that the hard work began. Pearce and Gamble were put through a series of workshops with the consultancy during which Datum, its business processes and its relationship with clients and suppliers, were put under the microscope. “We had to answer a barrage of questions basically about absolutely everything we were doing within the business,” Pearce explains. “They pulled out our strengths and weaknesses and then worked with our staff to understand their thought processes and aspirations for the business and to see whether they aligned with mine and Mark’s.”
The team from GW&C was given access to a range of Datum’s clients, large and small, existing, waning and prospective as well as a number of industry peers who all provided opinions on how the business was operating and what they felt it was getting right or indeed, not so right.
“We were able to read every single response, which was really interesting,” Pearce says. “Some were what we expected and others more surprising. One for example said he predicted the end of print management within five years and that it was a good opportunity for a company like Datum to do print and digital buying as well as being a production house.”
After the information gathering phase the Datum team selected one of two final ideas offered by GW&C for the rebranding and repositioning of the business, with the aim of boosting sales and ensuring new and existing clients are given a clear message about the company’s offering and capabilities.
“I’d say that not all the staff bought into it straight away,” notes Pearce. “Some felt it was a bit of a waste of money, but they just needed to understand that it was much more about how we sell ourselves and the whole customer experience than a new logo, and once we did a couple of workshops, everyone backed the idea.”
The final plan included a completely new website incorporating an A-Z guide to Datum’s services as well as extensive social media implementation including a new blog and a regular presence on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. The company branding received a complete overhaul with the vehicle fleet, product packaging, stationery and building exterior all getting a facelift. The online A-Z guide was also produced as a small printed handbook and sent, along with brochures giving an overview of the company, to each of its clients.
“We fully embraced everything they said to us except for one thing they initially asked us to do, which was to change the company name,” Pearce explains. “We spoke to a few clients and industry peers and it seemed to be a well-known name so we felt it was a touch too far,” he adds.
One other potential sticking point was the addition of the tagline ‘cross-media producers’ to the company name. “We really had to work ro buy into that if I’m being totally honest,” Pearce remarks. “The phrase ‘cross-media’ was being thrown around a lot about four or five years ago and it also sounded to us like we were in the film industry, but we ran it by a number of marketing experts and clients and they all felt it fitted, so we went with it.”
The ultimate goal was to attract more integrated print and digital campaign work and Pearce says that although it’s still early days, conversations are going in the right direction.
“The new clients we’ve taken on over the past couple of months know everything we offer from the word go. We’re having conversations with them about the whole package, as opposed to just print or just digital.
“We’ve also been invited back to see a client, whose work has been tailing off with us, to discuss an augmented reality project with them. So it’s having the desired effect,” he adds.
Feedback from clients has been extremely positive too, says Pearce, and the company has even received calls from a couple of rivals to compliment Datum’s new look.
Another win has been that much of the cost of the rebrand, which totaled around £140,000 and was provided by peer-to-peer funding organisation, Ratesetter – one of Datum’s own clients – has been met by work from a significant new financial client gained in the midst of the rebranding process.
“Initially they just wanted us to do their artwork, but because of the process we were going through they quickly learned about our other offers and then invested in a large amount of work,” Pearce explains.
He admits that the rebrand has taken a lot more work and staff involvement than they had expected. “We were naive to think we were fixing the marketing issue with one stroke when actually we opened a bigger can of worms and created a load of work for ourselves,” he says. He adds, though, that the results, the team-building and the buzz created among the staff has made it all worthwhile. He and Gamble are now targeting a turnover of £1.5m this year and plan to double the size of their premises within 12 months.
“It’s really given me and Mark a lift too,” Pearce says. “Believe me you do think at points ‘Oh god, what have we done?’, but it’s made all of our jobs in relation to sales, a lot easier because suddenly everyone knows exactly what we offer. We now have the tools for the customers to see.”
Location Hatfield, Hertfordshire
Inspection host Joint managing director Scott Pearce
Size Turnover: £1.2m; staff: 14
Established 1988, bought in an MBO by Pearce and business partner Mark Gamble in 2008
Products Posters and signage, leaflets, brochures, handbooks, stationery, packaging and boxes, cards, foiling, perfect binding, pop-up stands, vehicle graphics, wall textiles, web banner adverts and website design and build, animation and video, augmented reality, direct mail, e-shots, print and digital marketing campaigns, POS design consultancy, and brand and campaign management
Kit HP Indigo 3050, Konica Minolta bizhub C554e, Screen Truepress 2500 hybrid flatbed, Epson 9800, three Roland VersaArt 640s, Canon Colourwave, Kongsberg 2.4XL cutting table, BeDigital Liquid Laminator UV varnishing, Seal 600 laminator, Polar EM92 guillotine, Artic Titan 165 mounter, GMP Excelam 1400 laminator, Vivid EM-1600 hot laminator, automatic eyeleting machine, ACM edge-folding machine, GMG Colorproof, full print media and web design and creation set-up
Inspection focus Implementing a rebrand
Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved and make sure you and your team are completely prepared for what you all need to do to make it work. Don’t assume because you are using a consultancy to guide you through the process that they will do all the work. They are there to come up with the plan and help you implement it.
It has to be a real team effort so you need to involve your staff in the whole process – communication is key. You need to have 100% buy-in from everyone before you start to sell it to others.
“Embrace the change. Some things won’t feel right and don’t be afraid to question those things – we refused to change our name for example – but trust the expertise you’ve gone with and believe in what you are doing,” Pearce says.
Do your research on marketing firms before you decide who is going to be in charge of the future of your business. You must find the right fit for your company and your aims.
It’s not just about your clients, make sure your suppliers are part of the process too. Tell them what you are doing and get their feedback. They’re an important part of your business as well. Make sure you communicate with them equally as with your clients.