Winning Strategies: To Be a Marketing Solutions Provider - Proceed with Caution

Many of our peer group members have considered or are considering becoming a Marketing Solutions Provider.” Why? For some, it’s simply a reaction to the erosion in traditional printing sales. For others, it’s diversifying their product offering. A few just want to create a whole new business model.

The question is whether you and your business are really positioned to become a Marketing Solutions Provider. This dilemma is very much like the one most printers faced several years ago when they wanted change their image to a “digital print shop” or “marketing communications company” by adding direct mail and fulfillment services. The thinking was if we change our image, then we can increase our sales.

Before I go any further, let me define what services a Marketing Solutions Provider could be offering:

  • Purchase of mailing lists
  • Database management
  • Personalized email marketing
  • Creating portals or micro websites
  • Utilizing PURLs
  • Variable data/personalized printing
  • Telemarketing
  • Internet advertising including using keywords
  • Providing content for newsletters, websites, radio,and public relations
  • Creating videos for point of purchase, trade shows, YouTube, and TV
  • Creating marketing plans for clients

Most of these services are usually provided by ad agencies, marketing companies, copy writers, graphic artists, and public relations firms. Many of these firms used to feed their printing needs to their local printers, although now some have begun using Internet printers to fulfill those needs for their clients.

Today, printers can’t simple change their company name or add a tag line to suddenly become a MSP. It takes a lot of planning and marketing, plus a commitment to hiring talented creative and IT employees, plus having to purchase new technology—mostly software.

Basically there three reasons why you should become a Marketing Solutions Provider:

  • Generate more work for your existing equipment
  • Diversify your product and services offerings
  • Become closer to your existing customers’ marketing efforts, which will keep those customers and lead to more opportunities for your printing company. In other words, create loyal customers.

Ready to Dive In?
If you are ready to take the plunge, please proceed with caution. Only a small percentage of printers will be successful in making the transition. If you want to make the move, here are some of the ideas we’ve discussed in our peer groups:

Decide whether you can do this alone or if you want to partner with a marketing company or ad agency. These partners are used to sitting down with clients and prospects, figuring out their needs, and even creating marketing plans. If you or your staff are not creative, then I would strongly suggest partnering with or hiring someone who is creative.

You will also need someone on staff or a partner who can create content. One of the main reasons companies don’t do more marketing is that they have no one on staff who can put together new marketing materials. Printers generally know how to make documents look good, but most don’t have the capabilities to write the text and come up with the marketing ideas.

Pick two or three areas where you want to start offering new services. The logical ones are variable data printing (beyond simple mail-merge applications), PURLs, and email marketing.

Your first client has to be your printing company. Learn at your expense and not at a client’s expense. Obtain the technology, start your own marketing campaign, execute the campaign, and measure results. Make sure you also use print media to drive other media and vice versa.

Once you are comfortable with using the new services yourself, you can start promoting it to selected existing clients. Pick a handful to start. Show them how it helped your company and how you measured the results.

Finally, with a few satisfied clients, you can then start widespread promotion and marketing, and even consider adding the MSP services as a new division of your company or even change your name to reflect the new image.

Add new marketing services as you get more and more comfortable, and where you see the best opportunities to fulfill your customer’s needs. Constantly solicit feedback.

The key today in marketing is the ability to measure the return on the dollars spent. ROI (return on investment) is what it is all about. Google zoomed to become one of the largest companies primarily due to the fact that advertisers can track their ROI and constantly optimize their marketing based on what is working and what is not.

Be prepared to have serious discussions with your clients and prospects about how you can help them grow their companies through marketing efforts that your company can fulfill. Show them the importance of using a cross media approach.

This plan may take you a year to complete. It’s a long process that may be well worth it for your business to not only survive but prosper.

Mitch Evans is president of Mitch Evans Consulting, which is specifically targeted to meet the consulting needs of the quick and small commercial printing industry. His areas of expertise are in strategic planning, valuation, mergers and acquisition, financial planning, new technology, and “1-2-1” coaching. Evans regularly speaks to printing associations and groups on these and related subjects. Contact him at 561/351-6950 or This article is available as a podcast at and from iTunes.