So You Want to Be a Marketing Service Provider

In a recent conversation with QP columnist Nancy DeDiemar she mentioned all the excitement about printers becoming marketing service providers (MSP). Nancy observed that some people will jump on any boat that floats down the river if they think it will get them out of having to actually go out and sell something to someone. The funny thing about the whole MSP concept is that it requires printers to take selling to a whole new level. Later it occurred to me that this whole MSP concept is reminiscent of the on demand printing frenzy that passed through the industry a few years ago. All of a sudden, everyone had to be an on demand printer. The funny thing was, if you really stopped to think about it, they already were. Bob used to say in his seminars that quick printers invented on demand printing. People needed jobs turned around in a hurry—often “while you waitâ€â€”and quick printers delivered. It was the concept our industry segment was founded upon. The only thing that had changed was that digital equipment had finally reached a level of sophistication that allowed printers and their customers to kick it up a notch. So now everyone is going to be an MSP. Well, you know what? You probably already are. Quick and small commercial printers have been turning out high-end marketing materials ever since it became feasible to bring full-color work in-house. The only difference is that, once again, we’ve kicked it up a notch. Now, we have to add VDP, PURLs, QR codes, and a lot of other bits of alphabet soup into the mix. Success in MSP-land will require printers to stay one step ahead of their customers in technology. It will require in depth conversations to learn about the customers needs. And it will require turn-on-a-dime adaptation to an increasingly sophisticated marketplace. Just like it did when DTP came along, and digital printing, and affordable color, and rudimentary variable data, and a hundred other innovations. Believe it or not, quick printers have a much better chance of success than large commercial printers. And the reason for that is also the same as it has been all along: You can turn around a speed boat a heck of a lot easier and faster than you can turn a battleship. One word of warning, though, if you’re still just rowing along in a canoe, you'd better get out of the way!