Marketing Services – the Myth, the Reality and the Truth

With all of the hype and talk in the industry, you would think that becoming a marketing communications or marketing services provider is akin to the Second Coming.

The Myth

If I become a marketing services provider and start acting like an ad agency, it will turn my business around overnight, and customers will flock to my doorstep and/or Website and flood me with business.

So, I guess I should change my name to something fancy, give new titles to my sales and customer service staff, revamp my signage and lobby, launch a new Website and start marketing to an entirely new prospect list. Cross-media campaigns, variable content, personalized URLs, QR codes, social media and almost anything that does not touch a sheet of paper with ink or toner on it will bring salvation to my business.

If I don’t do this, my business is destined for the scrap yard or will soon become “consolidated” with one of my competitors. I’ll join one of those 1,000 or so printers that the industry pundits like Dr. Joe Webb, Frank Romano and Andy Paparozzi predict will exit the market each year for the next few years.

The Reality

This industry has always gone through dramatic changes ever since the days of Gutenberg. The changes we are going through now and how they impact the marketplace are not all that different from the changes of the past.

One could say that the main difference today is that everything just moves faster, and the time to react is shortened. Many printers will successfully make the transition to marketing services providers.

• Some (probably fewer than most realize) have already made that transition. Call them the innovators.

• Others will make the transition quickly, if they have or can access the required resources. Call them the early adopters.

Carl Gerhardt is the chairman of Alliance Franchise Brands LLC, the parent company of Allegra Network LLC and Sign & Graphics Operations LCC, and a world leader in marketing, visual and graphics communications, linking more than 600 locations in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. The company’s Marketing & Print Division, headquartered in Plymouth, MI, is comprised of Allegra, American Speedy Printing, Insty-Prints, Speedy Printing and Zippy Print brands of marketing, printing, mailing and Web services providers. Its Sign & Graphics Division, headquartered in Columbia, MD, is comprised of Image360, Signs By Tomorrow and Signs Now brands of sign and graphics communications providers.

Carl and his wife, Judy, owned and operated their own successful Allegra franchise for nearly 20 years before selling the $2.3 million operation in 2003. He is a PrintImage International/NAQP Honorary Lifetime Member and was inducted into NAPL’s prestigious Soderstrom Society in 2010 in recognition of his contribution to the industry.

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  • http://CraigKevghas Craig Kevghas

    You wrote, “Could some or even all of these companies be even more successful if they at least partially adopted the marketing services concepts? I think the answer is clearly, Yes!”

    Last October, the people who conduct the On Demand show gathered some of the best minds in the industry and discussed this same issue. They agreed with your assessment. So how do companies learn how to become a marketing services company, and do it without making all the same mistakes others have?

    It may sound like a shameless plug, but the Publishing Xchange Conference (at On Demand 2011 beginning March 23rd) does just that. It’s the next step that every service provider should be considering. This conference brings the best together to explain the how’s and why’s, as well discusses the potholes to avoid.

    Check it out… the revenue streams are there for the prepared and informed.