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Defining What MSPs Do —Sherburne

June 2010

OVER THE last several weeks, I have had a number of conversations with companies formerly known as printers that have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning, to so-called marketing services providers (MSPs). What I have found most interesting is the business diversity among these companies, and it made me wonder if there is actually a definition of what an MSP is, or even if that is the right term.

Common MSP Attributes

There are a few commonalities, though, that should be highlighted. These companies:

• Still print, for the most part, but most have taken the word "print" out of their names and off of their Websites;

• Are calling on marketing professionals, advertising agencies and line of business managers;

• Are offering "marketing services" at some level, most commonly direct marketing with output going to multiple channels, including personalized URLs, storefronts, collateral management services;

• May offer one-time, single-transaction products, such as mailing a postcard with a personalized URL, but more frequently offer programmatic services that extend over a longer period of time and tend to lock in the customer;

• Have added data and IT expertise to their staffs;

• Are escaping the "price per piece" question relative to printed components of the project, especially in programmatic environments;

• Begin a sales engagement with a discovery process that does not involve showing sample pitch books or talking about presses; rather, the first sales call is about listening to the customer's business situation, pain points, goals and objectives, and then returning on a second call with some proposed actions;

• Have found it difficult to transition traditional sales reps to the new model of "solutions selling;"

• Use a team approach, often with a traditional print rep being the "finder" who just identifies the opportunity, followed by a specialist team seeking business process discussions at the C-Level;

• Experimenting at some level with social media;

• Offer customer self-service via the Web and customer access to a wide range of data, including tracking of campaigns, the ability to refine and modify campaigns in real time, online, and more; and

• Walk the Talk: That is, they are using the tools and techniques they are selling to the customer to promote their own companies, with documented case studies they can use in their sales efforts.

 

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