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Founder, Print Buyers International (PBI)

Margie's Buyer Insights

By Margie Dana

About Margie

Margie Dana, a former print buyer, is the founder of Print Buyers International (PBI) and its member-based organization, Boston Print Buyers. These professional organizations cater to print customers worldwide through education, an annual buyers conference, Print Buyer Boot Camps, and networking opportunities.

Margie's perhaps best known for her weekly enewsletter, Margie's Print Tips, which she's published weekly since 1999 in an effort to build bridges in the industry. For years, Margie has been a popular speaker at industry events here and abroad. Her clients include print company executives who rely on her to help steer their marketing campaigns and make their online efforts more customer friendly.


Printers, a.k.a Marketing Services Providers, Beware

It used to be that the topic of print brokers vs. printers generated the most heated discussion in an audience of print buyers.

Hold onto your loupes; I think I’ve found the newest debate trigger for this crowd: “Printers as MSPs (Marketing Services Providers).”

At our PBI Midwest Conference in Chicago on May 19, I led an hour-long brainstorming session. Turns out, one hour wasn’t nearly enough time to cover my slides—or the additional issues generated in the room filled with print buyers and service providers. (Note to self: extend this session by at least another hour next time.)

Most of the time, audience comments in these sessions don’t surprise me. But at this time, the reaction to printers as MSPs generated a point of view I’d not thought of before. In the interest of making printers aware of a sentiment among design and other creative agencies, I want to share what I learned.

Printers as MSPs mostly got a thumbs down from this audience, comprised of about 70 senior-level print buyers, production managers, creatives and marcom specialists. A few buyers at agencies spoke up to share that they view such printers as competitors—and, therefore, won’t deal with them. Others said that they prefer “printers as printers.”

In my May 23 “Print Tip” column, I listed a few highlights from the show’s sessions, including this particular point from a reader:

“I missed the conference, but can imagine why this was a hot topic. Two printers.. that we used to work with are not only permanently off our bid list, but have been discussed with others at creative club meetings. Both tried to reinvent themselves as ‘full service’ printers, offering ‘design’ work. They both made the mistake of approaching clients of ours (knowing full well they were our clients), and in one case actually won business that we also were bidding on.

“One of these printers went out of business last year, and the other is, reportedly, not in good shape. Maybe the printing business is down, but cannibalizing work from agencies is going to backfire. Agencies and design firms don’t want to be watching their backs when working with printers.”

These are the opinions expressed by a small sample of creatives. I’ve no idea (yet) how widespread they are, but it seems to me that printers need to know what some customers and prospects think about the trend of evolve into marketing services providers.

I am gathering comments from customers about this subject for an upcoming column in Printing Impressions magazine. It will also be addressed at our 6th Annual PBI Print & Media Conference at GRAPH EXPO in September.

Let me ask you: Is this a concern for printers who are evolving into MSPs? If so, how are you addressing it? What’s your response to creatives and ad agencies who now see you as their competition?

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