Marketing Service Providers : How Can We Help You?

Bob Kraft, president and CEO of First Edge Solutions, is a firm believer in holding strategic discussions with clients.

When an idea takes hold in the printing industry, it becomes difficult to shake. Before you know it, a catch phrase is born. In the last 15 years alone, we’ve been bombarded with a few admonitions.

Diversify into ancillary products and services, like mailing and fulfillment. Change your company name, but just make sure you remove the word “printing” from it. Add wide-format output services. Digital printing will replace offset, so lose the big iron.

Then there was NAPL chief economist Andy Paparozzi’s warning shot heard round the world at the onset of the Great Recession: A rising tide will not lift all boats. He was correct, as evidenced by the great number of SS Minnows that have come apart and now sit in the bottom of the printing ocean, awaiting their liquidation auction.

The crippling recessions of 2001 and 2007-2010 cleared the field considerably. The Internet revolution threw some staggering punches, as well, knocking loose market share like teeth. So, as the industry slowly emerges from its prolonged funk, some pundits are advising printers to expand their horizons into becoming the nebulously named marketing service provider (MSP).

The name, in itself, is a disaster. There are a host of services that could fall under the heading, and some observers scoff at the level of expertise most printers actually have in areas such as marketing strategies and advertising campaigns. Until some universally recognized (or at least widely accepted) certification service steps forward to determine who gets a nicely embossed and suitable- for-framing MSP gold seal, these capabilities—and determining who should stake claim to their mastery—are going to remain contentious.

Point of Engagement

Finding consensus here is difficult, but suffice to say that even those who scoff at the thought of printers referring to themselves as MSPs will all agree that, at some point along the marketing hierarchy, is a level for printers to become engaged with clients seeking assistance with their campaigns. The conversation can no longer start with “what do you need printed?” And, while it may be nice that you know how to do an e-mail blast and you have your own Facebook account, think long and hard before you don the MSP cowboy hat and bellow “lookee here.”

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