An interesting discussion popped up on a LinkedIn group a few days ago: “What do you think of the moniker “Marketing Services Provider” to describe printing companies?” I thought, sure, this will be an interesting discussion. I read through it, taking notes along the way since Old Trail Printing is, like most printers, considering making the jump from PSP to MSP. I then opened the Printing Industries of America's July edition of The Magazine. Guess what one of the articles was about. That's right- “The Transition from PSP to a C-MMSP Takes Hold”. Ok, so clearly this is an important transition that is happening, and NOW. There were two more blogs from May I remembered reading concerning the same topic and pulled them out of my archived article list for review. A trend began to emerge... one that altered the way I felt about the term “Marketing Service Provider” and also my thoughts on the transition of becoming one. The term “Marketing Service Provider” is 1) an industry term 2) undefined and 3) controversial. These three characteristics combine to create one interesting “problem” for those of us considering calling ourselves MSPs. And the problem is just that: whether or not we should and should want to call ourselves MSPs.
Let's address each issue individually:
1) MSP is an industry term. One point raised by Chuck Gehman in the LinkedIn discussion is that “No CUSTOMER ever says, 'I need a marketing service provider to help me with...'.” He also explains that this is the biggest problem printers have when considering the transition from PSP to MSP. This is true. Customers of printers would not say something like that; only printers would think in those terms. Customers might say, “I need a printer who can offer assistance with a trans-media campaign.” Why, then, is the term MSP being thrown around like it is a part of everyday conversations? It is not- I had only heard it once or twice before I entered the printing industry, and only in passing, concerning the printing industry...
Now, the question is: what do customers call MSPs? Is there a different term that they use within the marketing departments of retail companies, hospitals, small businesses, b2b businesses and b2c businesses, etc? Shouldn't printers making the transition to trans-media services be gearing their re-branding towards their customers and what they would recognize rather than a term primarily known, but still undefined, within the industry?
This takes us to problem number...
2) MSP is an undefined qualification. Obviously a definition does exist for “marketing service provider”, however, with a changing industry, definitions are altered and adjusted to fit what we are doing rather than creating unique terms to define our capabilities and services. One term I really like, which I used earlier and is from Gehman, is “trans-media service provider”. This seems to better cover the possibilities of services printers are beginning to offer. Yes, most services are marketing-focused, but the ability to offer marketing services across a wide variety of outlets is what printers are beginning to do... not just provide marketing services. There is an additional dimension to MSP that is being left out, causing the definition to be insufficient and altered to the point of causing serious confusion and disagreement... essentially causing...
3) Controversy. I don't mean people are going crazy over the topic and actually fighting, but based on the amount of group discussions occurring and magazine features and blogs written about the topic, I would say that this has a lot more than a few people riled up and anxious to “defend” their decision to call themselves MSPs. The fact that there is even such a debate going on makes it clear that the term is faulty in even more ways than addressed here. Obviously the industry is aware of the need to grow and eager to get advice on how to do it, successfully, but it seems it is the industry itself that is divided, or at least confused, on the “direction” it has chosen. I am sure the inventor of the term “hamburger” was hesitant at first, given the burger was made from beef, not a pig, but it clearly worked out. If the title, or in this case, the moniker, does not fit the job then failure is imminent- not to say there are not plenty of companies out there who have been successful at making the transition under the “MSP” moniker- but the wrong term alone can cause failure (think about the Ugli fruit- do you really want to buy it).
So, clearly there are hits and misses out there. Personally, I think “MSP” might be more of a miss than a hit when it comes to describing where the printing industry is going as far as services and capabilities. What I say, which can be taken at a dime's worth, is that printing companies stop trying to fit into a pre-defined mold of “where they should be” as far as services offered, etc. and adopt a unique, fluid term that describes, easily and without confusion, what their company can do. It might even prevent the closure of those companies who insist on making the transition; a simple re-identification could direct their efforts better without creating the problem of undefinable, unmeasurable successes and failures. Perhaps “Trans-Media Service Provider” will catch on... it is, after all, a rather accurate term for where we are headed.
Written by Julianne Kaercher, Social Media/Marketing Assistant
“It is always the title that is the most difficult write, but it defines the entire direction of the paper.”