“Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success.”
– Henry Ford
Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, was a visionary on innovation whose love for learning and perseverance profoundly shaped the 20th century.
Ford, and innovators like him, have the self-confidence, vision, and leadership abilities to see things differently, and the courage to change them.
Innovators give themselves permission to think out-of-the-box, and they let their ideas percolate into fruition.
So, ask yourself: Are printers innovators? Are you an innovator?
Mike Jensen, President and Owner of Tri M Graphics in Owatonna, Minnesota, believes that innovation can not only help printers stand out, but it helps their print buyers as well. In fact, the foundational mission of Tri M Graphics is “Building Relationships through Innovation and Integrity.”
But let’s back up a little.
Centrally located in southern Minnesota, Tri M Graphics has a rich history.
Like many family-owned printing companies, the beginnings of Tri M Graphics started as a garage hobby and quickly escalated into a future-changing family career.
“My dad, Jon, was actually a sider before starting his printing company,” explains Mike. “In 1985, while hanging some siding on a rural church, he and his coworker fell from some scaffolding and landed two feet away from a stake in the ground. After that, he felt God telling him to get out of the siding business, and he started M&M Printing.”
Three years later, M&M Printing moved from the family garage into their existing location in Owatonna. Around that same time, they changed the company name to Tri M Graphics. The three M’s in the name represent Jon’s kids, Mike and Mary, and the family dog, Max, who later became an iconic mascot for the business.
In 1989, Mike joined his father in the family business, and Tri M continued to expand. In 1991, they renovated the existing building into the two-story structure there today.
Innovation is a core value at Tri M Graphics, and they have done several things over the years to “think beyond ink” and grow their business. Here are a couple of the innovative initiatives they’ve implemented along the way.
In 1995, Tri M Graphics had an idea to reach more people, get more leads, and show off their printing capabilities by starting a calendar photo contest.
“This year is our 28th annual calendar photo contest. We collected 790 photos from all 50 states and had a panel of 13 judges go through six or seven rounds of photo reviews until they were able to select the final 13 photos for the calendar,” says Mike.
“Our calendar contest has not only brought in new leads for us, but it’s also mushroomed into a community-driven event. When we unveil the calendar for the new year, we do a complete community event where we’ll give away the calendars and award cash prizes for the winning photos.”
“We’ll put all 790 photos on display, have make-and-take activities for kids, horse-drawn wagon rides, live entertainment, police cars and fire trucks the kids can explore, and more. It’s been incredibly successful for us, and we’ll see 500+ people for the event.”
To staff the event, Mike and his team reach out to non-profits in the area and have them oversee the different activity stations.
“We like that they get to promote their organization as well. It’s really a win-win for both of us,” says Mike. “It’s important to us to give back to the community and to be good stewards to the community we’re in.”
Your turn: Are you involved in your community? Think of ways you can double up and multiply your marketing efforts, such as getting involved in your community and prospecting at the same time.
Did you know that Henry Ford didn’t invent the Model T or even the assembly line? Rather he transformed an obscure invention into something that everyday people could use and see the benefit in.
Tri M Graphics has been able to do the same with direct mail. While every printer might be able to print and send direct mail, many struggle to turn the everyday invention of direct mail into an innovative communication tool that print buyers can see the benefit in.
“We do well over a million pieces of mail each year. We’ve done a lot of our own direct mail, and we’ve helped our clients reach out,” Mike explains. “But we knew we had to add more. Direct mail has to have a greater impact. We made direct mail the foundational part of our operations and then added new mailing options to stay as relevant as we can. We became a seamless provider with the United States Postal Service and started partnering with clients in the digital realm. Now, some clients are able to have a one-stop-shop with us; from gearing up for a campaign to the ease of distribution to providing contract-based social media, we’ve become more relevant.”
Your turn: Take some time to review your own relevancy. What are some of the needs of your print buyers that you could meet by adding a service or product to your offering? Are there vendors or partners you could integrate with?
When asked what words of wisdom Mike has for other printers, he says,
“I would tell other printers to change their mindset to communications. Everything you’re doing is communication. When you think about what you do as communication, it opens you up to a whole new world when it comes to printing,” Mike explains.
“I think it really comes down to thinking ‘beyond ink,’ as our own company tagline says and focusing more on building relationships and communication.”
“If you want to succeed, go beyond the printed piece.”
Mike Jensen, Tri M Graphics
This article originally appeared in the December 2021 issue of NPSOA magazine. For more information on how you can become an NPSOA member and enjoy the many benefits offered there, contact Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or head to their website at NPSOA.org.