MSP: Path to the Future or Rotten to the Core?

Is your business becoming a marketing service provider (MSP), or is it in the process of dying?

It’s a stark choice, but one you’ve heard before and one being heard incessantly by those trouncing around GRAPH EXPO 2012 at McCormick Place this week.

Our industry is a tough one—always has been; always will be. If you consider the print industry within Porter’s five-forces framework and you’re reading this blog, you’ll probably conclude that you were either born with ink in your blood or you inhaled far too much type wash back in the day and have since become too fuzzy in the head to look up to see the “EXIT” sign.

By way of quick background, Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter introduced his “Five Forces” analysis as a practical tool for industry analysis and strategy development, claiming it to be much more rigorous than SWOT analysis. Porter’s forces include horizontal competition, such as the threat of established rivals, the threat of substitute products and the threat of new entrants to the market.

In our business, I’d say the competition is fierce, digital substitutes are growing, and I’ve talked about low barriers to entry in the past—nothing here looks too bright for us printers.

Porter’s fourth and fifth forces are vertical competition and include the bargaining power of customers and suppliers. Given the swarms of reverse auctions and RFI/RFQ mania besetting our industry, customers seem to have plenty of purchasing leverage. Although a lot of consolidation and restructuring has taken place, suppliers don’t seem to have fully gotten their act together just yet, however.

So, four out of five of Porter’s forces probably should be keeping you up at night, thinking about how to shift your business, find market power and exceed the normal returns of the industry. Conveniently, there are technology providers out there feeding you ideas, products and training to help you get there.

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC

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