The team behind Cut Media have travelled all over the world in the name of international trade and the company has recently been crowned Micro Exporter of the Year at the Scottish Export Awards. Founder and director Stu Thomson explains how he started exporting and gives advice to other micro exporters.
Creative content agency Cut Media has grown from a team of just two filmmakers in 2014, working with no office space and a handful of clients, to a full-time staff of eight, a Glasgow studio and an impressive list of clients.
Stu Thomson, founder and director of the business, says that just being based in Scotland was a huge benefit when the company first started to export. He explained: “We first started exporting in 2012 when we got a client in the US. I had met the director before, so he was already aware of our work.
“It really helped that we were from Scotland, we filmed that particular video in Scotland so even though we exported the finished product, it was all created here.”
And since winning that first US client, Cut Media has gone from strength to strength, winning work from high profile names such as Adidas in Germany and Red Bull in Austria. Stu said: “We actually made Red Bull’s biggest ever YouTube video, it has more than 85,000,000 views on YouTube, so that has been a success story and has helped us win some new pitches too. We also work with a big conglomerate that owns a lot of cycling brands. The big names definitely help to bring more work in.”
Stu found that the business grew organically from there, in part due to marketing efforts. He said: “Back then we were very proactive in the marketing side of business because as soon as we did some work for an international client we would shout about it to as many people as we could, and not just in Scotland.
“We even wanted our client’s competitors to know it was us who made the videos, because we knew it was good and they might have been interested in us.”
Part of Cut Media’s successful marketing and export strategy is to enter the business into prestigious awards, and Scottish Enterprise pushed the team to enter the Scottish Export Awards to share their story.
Katie Wright, Cut Media’s head of production, said: “Scottish Enterprise said, ‘you’ve got a great story, here is something you can do about it.’ And we thought, why not?”
The business’s story is one of considerable export success, having increased its export sales to international brands from 35% to 55% in 2017 and more than doubling its annual turnover from 2016.
Stu puts some of the business’s exporting success down to the help and support it received from Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International (SDI).
“We have worked with Scottish Enterprise and had a relationship with them for a good few years now” he explained. “They made us aware of the awards, and we realised that we had grown this successful business but still weren’t really that well known in Scotland, so we felt like it was time to shout about ourselves at home as well.”
Although Cut Media grew overseas naturally, Stu says that it doesn’t come without hard work. He said: “You have to identify the prospective clients and then work really hard, just bite the bullet, and travel.
“The more you can build a relationship with people the better. There’s nothing better than just popping in sometimes.
“We feel that we have a leading product internationally and that our work stands up right around the world, but I think building relationships with clients is the challenging part. The more face-to-face meetings you can have the better. You can email and you can phone but sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and travel. Especially if its new clients, if you really want to win the work you need to take the gamble and just get on a plane.”
And this attitude of being willing to travel for business has seen Stuart visit some far-flung locations for some short periods of time. He explained: “We did something for Adidas where we went to Lake Baikal in Russia, which is the largest lake in the world, and it was beautiful. But you end up doing crazy things as well. I have just been to Detroit in the USA to look at a location and I went on Monday, viewed the location on Tuesday, and flew back Tuesday night!”
Now Cut Media plans to expand its international footprint, with plans to move into the Middle East and China, although Stu and Katie can’t always say where they’re planning to go next. Stu said: “We’ve got some really good projects with overseas clients at the moment – but we can’t say what they are yet!”
As well as having some exciting international projects in the pipeline, the company has also boosted its reputation in Scotland as a result of winning Micro Exporter of the Year. Katie said: “A couple of the other companies who were at the awards have been in touch to as about our services, it was great to be there on the night and meet other people.”
You can get support to find out more about exporting, develop an export plan or grow your current export sales by visiting the Scottish Enterprise website.
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