2021 Innovator of the Year: PrintComm Inc. Is Committed to Growth and to the Greater Good
In today’s printing industry, the concept of innovation is wide in definition, but rather narrow in its goal. Leading companies have grasped many tools to define themselves, increase profitability, and differentiate. They utilize new technologies, systems integration, an expanded product mix, exemplary customer service, and more.
As a group, the eight companies included in the 2021 class of Printing Impressions’ Innovators of the Year demonstrate new approaches that can move printing businesses forward and possess strong insight into where the industry is going. Even amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, these companies succeed, grow, focus, and inspire.
This year’s innovators were nominated by a group of printing industry experts and consultants, who identified them as notables. The summary of PrintComm Inc. that follows shares what makes this company innovative, interesting, and exceptional. The insight it presents may provide the inspiration you need to take your company to a new level, or in a new direction.
PrintComm Inc. | Flint, Mich.
Founded in the 1950s, PrintComm Inc., a direct mail printer, has been owned by Kevin Naughton since 2011. Technologically, Naughton describes the company as running both offset and digital processes.
This is done, “with an emphasis on their unique core competencies” contends industry consultant Mike Philie, of the Philie Group, “PrintComm has transitioned from a general commercial printer to a data-driven, direct mail provider.” Both focus and growth are key elements in their objective of providing good jobs in their marketplace.
The company’s digital presses include systems from Canon, Ricoh, Kodak, and Konica Minolta. Naughton adds that in the past year, the company purchased 10 Ricoh machines, envelope inserters, and a Canon VarioPrint i300 sheetfed color inkjet press. For future purchases, Naughton is considering a web-fed inkjet system, but has concerns based on current paper shortages.
As a company, Naughton says PrintComm maintains a strong focus on systematization, automation, and results. This facilitated PrintComm’s shift from “doing anything for anyone, to building a core business of data-driven direct mail.” He adds that the company also expanded its reach by pursuing national accounts.
PrintComm has been highly successful in maximizing postage savings for its clients, thus helping them better achieve ROI goals for their direct mail campaigns. The company has made a strong commitment to automation, thus eliminating a key pain point — proof automation — that printers producing high-volume, triggered mail often need help in solving. The company’s efforts, according to Naughton, eliminate that step: “We set it up, proof it, and then we feed it over and over again.”
Another innovative approach at PrintComm involves its commitment to “make a difference” in its Flint, Mich., home-base — a city well-known for its economic decline. To do so, the company has adopted a “6x” philosophy: striving to employ six times as many people by 2030 as it employed in 2020, the year the plan was conceived. To date, PrintComm has increased its workforce by 39% in the initiative’s first year — and is currently seeking additional hires.
The printer’s commitment to a greater good is also illustrated by the donation of a generous portion of its profits to causes, including homelessness in Flint, and supporting orphans and orphanages in Uganda.
Looking ahead, Naughton would like to see an annual growth of 18% year-over-year, with the goal of doubling the business in roughly five years’ time. To do so, “It’s a matter of keeping the sales funnel going, and we’re working on that.” He adds that, during the COVID-19 crisis, B2B marketing was essentially “in chaos,” requiring many salespeople to pivot in their techniques.
For the industry, Naughton sees further, tighter “dialing in” on direct mail, so marketers will have more data they can work with. He believes that those who can use data to drive omnichannel communication and marketing will hold an advantage. “I’m very bullish on the future of direct mail,” he proclaims. “It’s really effective for specific objectives.”
Further, Naughton echoes the opinions of industry consultant Barb Pellow, claiming that direct mail printing is becoming a convergence of print, marketing, and data. To help customers manage this new reality, he says it needs to be “ingrained through the idea of ‘serving,’ through asking questions, building trust, and helping them do what they need to do.”