MSP : Now Leading, Not BleedingMarch 2011 By Erik Cagle
Lonely at the top describes some of the pressure associated with being in a leading position. And, in the commercial printing industry, it can be lonely AND painful at the top when you climb on board with bleeding-edge technology.
Love hurts? Try running at the front of the pack with a technology that may be fairly developed, but is serving a market that's not quite ready for prime time. That's pain. Just ask Richard Bushee III, president of MSP (formerly Mailing Services of Pittsburgh), who eight years ago led MSP's charge into the modern digital revolution by purchasing an HP Indigo press.
"Some people questioned my sanity for bringing Indigo technology aboard back then," Bushee remarks. "They call it bleeding edge...yes, we bled really well the first four years that we had it, because there wasn't a market for its sophisticated personalization capabilities. We had to develop the market while we had the expense of the equipment. But, today, we are positioned far ahead of our competitors."
The HP Indigo 7000 press that MSP added at the end of last spring, which joins a pair of Indigo 5000s at the Freedom, PA-based plant, provides more capacity and enables the printer to better handle its clients' highly personalized, data-driven marketing campaigns. MSP's digital division meets the needs of the customer base with direct mail production, Web-to-print programs, print-on-demand applications and general commercial work, including brochures, sales sheets, training materials and manuals.
What changed the most for Bushee, and allowed him to get more bang (and impressions) out of his Indigo investment? The market; in particular, his customers caught on with the capabilities—and potential—offered by one-to-one communications. They also became more comfortable with the technology, enabling MSP to bolster annual sales to the $40 million level.
Developing Detailed Data
"What's really evolved the most is the customers themselves. Back then, clients lacked the database structures and the wherewithal to mine the data that they had. We've been helping to build the market for variable data printing by teaching clients how to mine the data and better understand their software."
The company was founded by Richard Bushee and his son, Richard Jr., in 1954, as a lettershop side venture serving mainly not-for- profit entities such as the Pittsburgh Catholic diocese. MSP became a full-time concern in the 1960s and aided charities such as the Salvation Army with its mailing and fund-raising endeavors. Printing joined the menu in 1986. In recent years, the firm has turned into a three-pronged business: MSP offers lettershop, laser personalization and printing; Thornhill Printing (THP), acquired in 2008, provides printing services to the trade; and the digital division, founded in 2002, has its own infrastructure.