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How Buyers View MSPs –Dana

August 2011

We’ve blogged about it, written editorials about it and debated it in town-hall-type meetings. The movement among printers to become Marketing Services Providers (MSPs) continues to spark controversy.

In May, I blogged about it for All hell broke loose. My concern was—and is—that some printers started offering one or two campaign-type services (like variable data printing or Web-to-print) and called themselves MSPs. It's this shallow, in-name-only rebranding that I object to, not the fact that printers must evolve.

I started wondering what print customers think about this trend. At our PBI Midwest Conference in Chicago, I introduced it in an open forum. That's when I learned of the resentment felt by some agency creatives. They told stories about printers going after their clients for design work, and said they'd no longer work with these printers.

A month ago I contacted a few print buyers for their opinions. What did they think? Are they working with printers who identify themselves as MSPs? If not, would they?

I asked these customers some key questions:

1) Are you for or against the trend of printers as Marketing Services Providers?

2) Have some of your print partners evolved in this way?

3) Do you actively seek out these "new printers" to work with?

4) Do you need, want and/or expect marketing services from printers?

5) What marketing services in particular are you now getting from printers?

6) What marketing services do you think is a natural fit for printers?

7) Do you want to work with printers that are MSPs? Why or why not?

The responses I received were interesting in how much they varied. Comments from three women, in particular, gave me a lot of insight into current opinions among buyers. They work in different industries and have different levels of experience. They prefer to remain anonymous.

The least experienced, with eight years in the business, works in production management for an Ivy League university. She's all in favor of this changing role for printers. She welcomes partnering with her printers so that together they can "develop and troubleshoot from the marketing side through to the execution side." Some of her printers are already operating as MSPs. They have helped develop direct mail campaigns for some of her clients.



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