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A Renewed Focus on Core Print Services and a Slowing PSP-to-MSP Migration

The transition from a Print Service Provider to a Marketing Service Provider has been a topic of discussion for several years now. Although some businesses are making this shift, others are placing a renewed focus on their core competencies. This article cites InfoTrends’ research and explores the challenges that can arise when attempting to make the transition to an MSP.


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About Howie Fenton

Howie Fenton is InfoTrends' Associate Director of Operational Consulting. For over 25 years, he has focused on benchmarking operational and financial performance in in-plants and commercial printers. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].


By Pat McGrew on May 28, 2015

Howie! I used to be on that bandwagon, encouraging our innovative customers to rethink their business in the "MSP" vein, and I've stopped. A customer I respect a lot had started rethinking themselves and then they had a Eureka moment. They said ... wait... we are PRINTERS. We are proud to be PRINTERS. we know about data and design and campaigns and marketing... but we are PRINTERS. So, we are going to continue to market ourselves as PRINTERS who know many other things. I listened to the passion and the reality behind his story, and I realized... there is nothing magic in changing what you call yourself. It's all about creating a differentiation in your business story. SO I've changed my story, too!


By Cory Sawatzki on May 28, 2015

Great article Howie. I am in printers (marketing service providers) all the time, and am seeing a strong focus on this shift. Most are simply getting into Web to Print so they are just scratching the surface.

The idea of MSP to me is simple. Retention and expansion of existing clients. Once you have developed a system that makes it easy for the client to do business with you, and you are the repository for their assets, they will stay with you.

Digital Asset Management, and Bi-Directional system integration are key pieces to the puzzle.

Thank you for writing on this important topic, and I look forward to seeing more soon!

Cory Sawatzki
Spotlight Pro


By Jacob Aizikowitz on May 28, 2015

Howie, I agree that not every PSP can or should become an MSP. Even though the XMPie S/W certainly helps in making such a transition, I always stated clearly, including to customers, that not every Print business can make the transition and become a marketing services business.

So, while some PSPs will make the transformation, those that will not should look to partner with agencies or other marketing-expert type of business; through such partnership they will be able to engage prosepcts for the higher value services with Print being only a part of the total service offer.

We should note though that to succeed as a PRINTER by focusing on print alone is quite risky. It appears that today, if you do not know how to offer email, landing sites, and similar, you may not even get the print job.

In my mind this does not force a Printer to become a Marketer. What it does force a printer to do is to become an expert in the digital technologies, including data, and know how to integrate such technologies with Print. I tried to coin the term "PSPs should aim at becoming Multichannel Service Providers". Still MSP, but a different one; one that is an expert in communications technollogies and their use but not necessarily tries to become the marketing advisor of his/her client.

So, I do believe in the necessity of the PSP to MSP transition, but aiming at the revised meaning for MSP and not just to the one that imply becoming a marketing expert.


By Rich Rumpel on May 29, 2015

I heartily agree with Jacob. I've worked with his, and other software products, to assist several companies attempting to make this transition. Without visionary leadership and a company-wide commitment to radical change, more of today's traditional printing companies will struggle to become the data-driven, marketing-oriented companies of the MSP model. For many, it is already too late.

In fact, most companies of this type that are successful today, began this process 10 or more years ago. The last 40 years in the graphic arts industry has seen almost constant change and innovation, all of which has been greatly accelerated by the advent of online technologies.


By John Foley on May 29, 2015

Transformation is not easy. It is not for everyone. To offer any type of new services requires planning. I compare a printers Business Transformation to MSP (or whatever you want to call it) like Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote "Life is a journey, not a destination" Business Transformation is a journey, not a destination. Some will embrace from the start, fail, stay in their core selling just print. But my view of the 100's of service providers I have visited is they are transforming in a variety of ways. There is not one moniker for all either. I didn't see much on inkjet in the report and the variable capabilities that brings. I'll bet you will see the transformation number continue to rise and it will make for a wealthier service provider if they do it right.


See you at IPMA conference Howie!


Author - Business Transformation: A New Path to Profit for the Print Industry
and more...


By Mike Bann on May 29, 2015

With all due respect, it has been my opinion that calling yourself an MSP merely because you purchased XMPie or tried to slap on a QR code was always a bit misleading. Printers did not wake up one morning, put on another hat and become marketers. Printers for the most part have been and will continue to be about print impressions. There is nothing inherently wrong with that either. However I will make the argument that a true MSP can add more value as thier reccommended offering should be more channel agnostic.


By Cory Sawatzki on May 29, 2015

Mike, I think the idea is to offer the true marketers and creatives the platforms to integrate their ideas to all channels. Printers are printers, but if you can allow your clients the ability to control a branded campaign out to several market mediums, you are on to something.

Printers are not the music writers, nor the musicians. They should act as the studio where the magic happens.


By Rich Rumpel on Jun 01, 2015

Cory, that's one of the best analogies that I've seen to describe this process. Printers who are able to provide a "studio", in which marketers are able to execute their creativity through separate, but connected channels, are much more likely to retain and grow their existing customers, rather than lose them to competitors who are able do so. This includes marketers within corporate organizations, as well as distinct marketing/advertising agencies.


By Cory Sawatzki on Jun 01, 2015

I really do understand the comment Mike made. We can not try to be everything to everyone.

I remember thinking many times how I wish People would stop referring to themselves as "Graphic Designers" just because they bought InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. :)


By Howie Fenton on Jun 01, 2015

These are some great comments and questions. Personally, I don't think this is a either or situation. Some companies have made the transition to offering marketing services and others have tried and gone back to core services.

In the simplest terms the data here suggests that it is not for everyone. Other companies are seeing a renewed interest in printing and mailing and some are investing more in traditional value added services such as large format, VDP, and fulfillment.

Whats working for you?



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