What do we call the new successful (a.k.a. profitable)
organization that we keep hearing about? What do we call the company
that is receiving and manipulating digital data and driving digital
presses and making their customers deliriously happy with results? We
can’t call them just printers, agencies, service bureaus, designers,
database managers, “communication companies”, CRM companies, one-to-one marketers, relationship marketers, web developers, variable data
digital printers, imagers, content managers, etc. This space is begging
to be identified with a clear and concise description of the companies
that occupy it.

Well, for what its worth, I call it a Marketing Solutions Provider. In
reality, my definition of a Marketing Solutions Provider is all of the
above listed entities plus they all have the following profile – a
profile that has been developed by TrendWatch Graphics Arts (TWGA).

  • Tends to be a startup digital printing operation or spin-off from a
    commercial printer.
  • Is very strategy and marketing-centric in its business philosophy.
  • Has own IT department.
  • Is focused on creating applications, not selling products.
  • Has a very intimate, consultative relationship with its customers and
    understands those customers beyond an “over the counter” relationship.
  • Is willing to spend months, if not a year or more, developing
    applications and educating customers before the final sale.
  • Is focused on creating long-term programs, not one-off applications.
  • Has in-house skills or a close strategic relationship with a
    third-party firm that does.

My personal additions to this list are:

  • Has a creative core that is focused on partnering with their clients
    to create the “solutions”. In other words, they all have an individual
    (or individuals) who is an “imagineer” - a creative thinker who focuses
    on the needs of his/her clients and the clients’ clients, thinks
    outside of the box, and becomes a member of the client’s marketing team.
  • Utilizes cross-media publishing – publishing via multiple media
    outlets, such as printed materials, electronic media and/or the

(See TWGA “Cross Media: Reformatting the Future” at

In my view, the possession of a client-centric creative core, and
TWGA’s attribute of possessing in-house skills or partnering with
someone who does, plus utilizing cross-media publishing are the three
key elements of the most successful Marketing Solutions Providers I
have encountered. Although there are some, it is rare indeed to find
any one organization with all of these attributes. More often one finds
that most Marketing Solutions Providers have only several of these core
competencies and partners with organizations that complement their

So there you have it. Try it on for size. Let’s see if the term
“Marketing Solutions Provider” gains any traction as the name for this
new industry. I know several of these MSP’s, and I would also be
interested in hearing from anyone with the names of organizations that
fit this profile.

Also, since the upcoming OnDemand Show draws end users as part of its
audience, I will be looking to see if any of these MSP’s are exhibiting.