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FastSigns CEO Catherine Monson on Co-branding

Published on November 9, 2012

CEO of FastSigns Catherine Monson talks with Eric Vessels about their recently announced co-branding program for existing printers wanting to get into the wide format space.

Eric Vessels: Hi, it's Eric Vessles with WhatTheyThink, and I'm here with Catherine Monson, who is CEO of FASTSIGNS.

Catherine Monson: It's good to be with you, Eric.

Eric Vessels: Thanks for talking with us. I understand recently at GraphExpo you guys made an announcement about your co-branding opportunity. A program for existing printers who want to get into the wide format space.

Catherine Monson: We sure did. For about three years now we've been focused on converting existing sign shops to FASTSIGNS and through that process we had printing centers come to us, folks in the sheet-fed space, asking to convert but still also wanting to be in the printing space. So about a year and a half ago we converted our – not converted, we co-branded with our first printing center and if you go to his location in Pittsburg, on one side of the building it says Kromhaly's Printing and on the other side of the building it says FASTSIGNS and you walk in to his location and there's a FASTSIGN showroom and then there's the reception desk for Kromhaly Printing. It has worked out very well with him and as we thought about that, we thought well why don't we take this opportunity, which we tested with this one gentlemen, and take it to the industry. So this last GraphExpo was our first time really taking this co-branding opportunity to the printing space, we exhibited at GraphExpo. We had a press release. We had an invitation only lunch, and I have to tell you had some really good response. One of the things that occurs in our conversations with sign shops thinking about converting is there's an emotional attachment to the name that they have to overcome, if they're going to become a FASTSIGNS. But with a printing center, since it's a co-brand instead, there's not that difficulty of giving up the name or making the change of name. Already we have several folks that we're having very serious conversations with and we think this is going to be a very successful program. It allows them to continue to be in the printing business under their existing brand and then they can use the FASTSIGNS name and all of our training, all our tools, all of our marketing, all of our resources to really grow into the wide format signal and visual graphic space. So we're excited about it.

Eric Vessels: So is there a hesitance still to have the mixed branding or you finding, obviously, it's easier than giving up your brand and taking on a new one. Is there still a barrier there?

Catherine Monson: We have not encountered that barrier. What we found is talking to printers at GraphExpo was a lot of excitement about this opportunity. If you take a look at the sheet-fed small format business and the signal and visual graphics business, certainly there are buyers in common, but there are a lot of buyers of wide format point-of-purchase materials, fleet graphics, way finding signal that are different than who you're selling printing to. And a lot of printers have had a very difficult time engaging those buyers and knowing what to say if they want to get in to wide format. They're really just selling wide format kind of as an extra piece to an existing customer. Someone says, "Can you do posters, banners, and signs?" And they, "Sure." Well we're going to bring them through our entire training program, we're going to teach them how to sell the vast range of visual graphics and signal and let them really grow a brand new revenue stream for their business.

Eric Vessels: Right.

Catherine Monson: And we've seen a lot of excitement and expect that we're going to have several sales close before the end of the year.

Eric Vessels: So instead of just going after vertical sales and increasing business with their existing customers, they're actually –

Catherine Monson: Diversifying.

Eric Vessels: They're separating the brands and getting a whole new customer base.

Catherine Monson: And then they have some great economies of scale because their outside salespeople who are selling sheet-fed can also be outside selling the signal and visual graphics and the wide format work. And we'll teach those outside salespeople who to go after to sell the large format, the wide format, and the visual graphics.

Eric Vessels: And that's always a barrier, is the training salespeople, the approach, and it's a little bit of a different market than your traditional printing.

Catherine Monson: It is. And one of the things we do at FASTSIGNS is we have a very robust outside sales training program for the outside salespeople of our franchisees. We hold an annual sales training conference. We've got conference calls and webinars constantly 'cause we know that is the hardest position to fill. I was in the sheet-fed printing industry for 28 years before I came to FASTSIGNS and I know it's the most difficult position to hire and to maintain and to grow. So we want to provide those tools to our franchisees.

Eric Vessels: Well that's an exciting program and we'll look forward to seeing how you do with that.

Catherine Monson: Well, I'm looking forward to getting together with you this time next year and reporting great success.

Eric Vessels: All right. Sounds good.

Catherine Monson: All right. Thanks.

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Wide Format Editor

Richard Romano

Richard Romano, Section Editor/Senior Analyst
Richard has written about communication, graphics hardware and software trends for the past 15 years.

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