26 March 2014
Evolution takes Trico Group from printing to data-driven agency
OTTAWA—Printers have been exhorted to become marketing services providers for a long time. But so few have done it that MSPs have become a kind of urban myth. Trico Evolution, though, seems to be one company that has managed the transition.

Formerly known as Trico Group, and before that as Trico Printing, the traditional offset company with a focus on direct mail, has morphed into what vice president Dean McJannet calls a data-informed marketing company that happens to also print. It’s a strategy that’s brought in lower revenues, but significantly higher profitability.

McJannet is quick to stress that Trico doesn’t simply do variable printing. “1:1, by itself, doesn't work,” he says. Trico’s services are based on data. This includes collecting client data for marketers based on customer touch-points, analyzing that data, building customer profiles, creating marketing materials that are relevant to the recipients, and deploying them across multi-media platforms. “We have moved from delivery services to strategy engagement,” says McJannet.

The Trico transformation began about four years ago as its leaders realized the bottom was falling out of the offset business and change was needed. They brought McJannet on board and injected $2 million into the makeover.

Most of that financial infusion went into software systems, including XMPie, analytics and database systems, collaborative software tools and delivery platforms, says McJannet.

While the production facilities, including two offset presses, several digital presses, and an upgraded letterpress shop, was left relatively intact, the front end of the shop was totally remade. Instead of prepress operators, composition technicians now walk the aisles. Other new job titles include marketing IT specialists, database engineers, analytics specialists, and a creative team that knows how to execute design based on collected data.

In all, about 25 to 30 jobs rolled over, and the staff complement now stands at 65. Three of them are senior account executives. 

So how do you sell this to clients? “With a lot of hard work,” says McJannet. “A lot of talking and pushing for opportunities, and delivering results. Now we’ve reached a point of critical mass.”

Trico was able to retain most of its direct mail clients, but the traditional volume, commodity offset work disappeared.

McJannet grew up in the printing industry. His parents owned the now-defunct Love Printing in Ottawa, and he spent about 10 years at Gilmore Printing, also in the national capital, honing his vision for a data-driven company.

The journey to transform Trico hasn’t been easy, he says, but it has re-enforced one crucial belief: “I get tired of hearing the printing industry is disappearing. I see a world of opportunity, it’s just different.

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