Smart thinking helps agency deliver hi-tech brand message
Sean Gallagher meets owners of small and medium-sized businesses and shares the lessons they’ve learnt in building their companies
The Smart Group is a specialist in providing marketing services to firms involved in everything from retail and pharma to technology and government services. Set up in 2009 by Tipperary man Tom Ryan, the company - which is headquartered in Nenagh but has offices in Dublin - employs 18 staff and has an annual turnover of more than €3m.
"Essentially, we help companies and organisations transform how they bring their marketing ideas to life. Acting as a company's virtual outsourced marketing department, our staff are experts in all aspects of marketing from initial creative design through to printed materials, promotional products, signage, retail displays and much more," says Tom.
"Using proprietary software and systems, we have created an easier way to ensure quick turnarounds, creative partnerships, and consistent successful execution of our clients' marketing campaigns. And we also offer our clients a 3D design service where we work mostly with retail businesses wishing to create visually impactful store fit-outs," he adds.
The company's clients include electrical retail chain Euronics, United Hardware, appliances firms such as Whirlpool, Glen Dimplex and BSH, food and pharma companies such as Kerry Group, Proctor and Gamble, Pfizer, and Abbott, tech giants such as Oracle and charitable sector organisations such as St Vincent De Paul, Barnardo's and the Irish Cancer Society.
And while their work is mostly in Ireland, the company has also recently begun working on a number of exciting projects in the UK through their multinational client base.
Tom grew up in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. After school, he went on to complete a degree in commerce and a masters in marketing practice in NUI Galway. From there, he joined hardware and DIY retail firm Stakelums in Thurles where he became marketing manager. He later moved to retail consultancy firm Instore Solutions, where he continued to advise large independent hardware stores on marketing strategies.
"I had some wonderful mentors in these years and gained exposure to all kinds of marketing from organising national advertising campaigns to co-ordinating in-store displays," says Tom. "However, I found it immensely frustrating that much of my time was spent being administrative rather than creative so in 2009, I decided to strike out on my own and set up The Smart Group.
"It was a tough time to start a business because the downturn was in full swing. However, I started off small, working from a desk in my house and gradually, over the next two years, grew the business to where I had four people working for me and had moved into new offices in Tipperary," says Tom. "That period, though challenging at the time, built up a huge resilience in me which has served me well ever since."
While he started out offering consulting and advisory services, Tom was soon being asked by clients to arrange their printing and promotional materials. It was then that he began to realise the gulf in terms of costs and quality that existed among suppliers. As a result, he selected the best across Ireland and the UK and introduced a detailed procurement and tender process to ensure that his clients were availing of the very best quality at reasonable rates. His reputation increased and so too did his turnover.
In 2011, Tom's wife Marie also joined the company full-time having previously worked in GlaxoSmithKline. "From day one, we decided to invest in clever software to make us as efficient as possible. Such is our belief in efficient software driving the future of business that we have now built our own, called OnBrand," says Tom.
Aimed at multi-site businesses, store owners or managers can now log onto this software and chose from a range of pre-designed templates and formats which allows them quick access to execute marketing collateral locally while, at the same time, reducing cost, mitigating risk, creating operational efficiencies and enhancing brand performance.
"We are working with Enterprise Ireland on bringing OnBrand to the market in the coming months on a software as a service (Saas) model and are particularly excited about the potential to internationalise this part of the business," he adds.
He is excited too to have been selected as the official marketing partner of the Pendulum Summit - the world's leading business and self-empowerment summit which takes places in Dublin in January - and sees this as a major opportunity to gain increased expose for the company.
"Our aim now is to grow in tandem with our clients where their success will be ours. We want to continue to develop our software and systems to deliver greater service, transparency and savings to our clients and to bring our new OnBrand platform to an international audience."
Sunday Indo Business