Defining What MSPs Do —Sherburne

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;

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