103: FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson Talks About The RIght Way To Implement a Digitization Project
Are you considering a digitization project to give your audience the wow factor? Consumers now have higher expectations than ever before. In fact, most consumers have better technology than they do in the workplace or public spaces that they actually visit. For example, the likes of Pokémon Go and Snapchat have now put augmented reality into the mainstream. This is our expectation, and yet we go to a public space and very often we just see screens everywhere without any real thought to what they wanted to achieve from those screens.
These will be very familiar problems for anyone who has worked on a digitization project. They will know it’s not about just putting screens everywhere it’s very often about wayfinding or delivering that wow factor that will impress those hard to please consumers. Digitization often helps businesses improve how they communicate to customers, and it all starts with technology.
There’s a company called Fast Signs starting a technological revolution that has really helped other businesses communicate with their audience in an effective, meaningful and probably most significant measurable way. The CEO of Fast Signs, Catherine Monson, is here to talk about her journey and the most common mistakes businesses make.
Can you tell the listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I’m CEO of Fast Signs which is the world’s largest signage and visual graphics company. We have over 630 locations in nine countries. Our franchisees help small to mid-size businesses with any kind of signage or visual communications. Whether it’s informing, directing and selling, helping people get from one end of the area right on down to environmental graphics and décor that helps communicate a company’s brand or culture. I have been in the printing and franchising industry for more than twenty years.
What differences have you noticed with our growing reliance on technology and how businesses communicate with customers?
It certainly has changed dramatically. I can remember when I started in the printing industry we literally printed hundreds of thousands of envelopes and letterhead a month because people and businesses communicated by typing letters and putting them in the post. Today all of that has been replaced by email. We used to print catalogs and directories and all of that is on the internet today. So it’s been drastic change going from paper to now really everything is mobile. Not only do we rely on things like email and the web but we do it in the palm of our hands with smartphones. The change has just been amazing, exciting and dramatic.
Can you tell me about how these changes have transformed Fast Signs?
Before 1985, which was the year Fast Signs was founded, there really was no easy way to put signage on the sides of vehicles or on windows. There were sign painters that would sit with paints and paint messages on windows. Then in about 1984 with the desktop computers, a new capability came out to cut adhesive backed vinyl based on what you typed into your computer. You picked the font and put the color vinyl you wanted into your plotter and that ability to cut vinyl into the exact shapes and letters you wanted essentially put the sign painters out of business. Then came large format digital printing.
In the beginning, it was water based images and inks that had to be laminated so the ink wouldn’t run. That moved to solvent inks that are extremely durable and will not run. Now it continues to evolve to where now we have flatbed printers that can print on any rigid sub straight even up to two or three inches thick. The most exciting new trend now is digital signage where you’re really using large screens and rather than having a static image you’re having moving messages and images.
What advice would you offer any business thinking about embarking on a digitalization project?
I think before you jump into digital signage you really need to have a supplier that you trust that understands you, your business and what you’re trying to accomplish.
What’s next for Fast Signs?
We’re going to continue implementation of digital signs with new technology such as the beacon technology, audience analytics and greater involvement with touch screens. We’re very excited about the ability to print on textiles and how that can bring a whole new kind of visual graphics to our customers. We’re also looking at some great new technology that will help our franchisee show a customer using augmented reality how a finished product will look in their space.
If anyone listening wants more information or is even considering being a franchisee what is the best way of reaching out to you guys?
You can go to www.fastsigns.com. If they want to learn about becoming a franchisee, they can go to the franchise opportunity section of that website. If they want to find a local Fast Signs to support them they can go to the center locator and if they want to get general information about the broad range of products or services we offer they will find that there as well.