A Transformation Success Story

By | June 11, 2010

Last week the Columbia Daily Tribune (Missouri) published an article  about Kelly Press Inc., a 78 year old commercial printing company that recognized that their print business was changing. Kelly Press responded by both investing in updated printing equipment (Kodak Nexpress 2100) and by diversifying well beyond print. It is a great tale that clearly illustrates the message that analysts from InfoTrends and NAPL have been shouting from the rooftops – the need for printers to transform themselves into “Marketing Services Providers.”

Lost in the dialogue about Marketing Services Providers (MSPs) is the transition from general commercial print to specialization, from ad hoc jobs to programs. While Kelly Press is a transformation success story, I wouldn’t call them an MSP- rather they became a specialized publisher, developed focused services for specific verticals (radio stations, college sports, etc.) and even purchased the rights to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association for a period of time. Their diversification of services and focus on specific verticals has helped to drive print … and more specifically digital print.

I particularly like the final quote in the story. “For a while we’ve recognized that print is dying,” said Colin See. “So to just try to sell more printed stuff wasn’t a good long-term solution. But to try to incorporate print into what the world is becoming makes sense.”

So, when we hear terms like MSP or business communications service providers – let’s keep in mind that often the challenge is simply to move to strategically packaged services as Kelly Press did. In most of these cases, print is a core service and actually enhances the total offering.

This type of transformation story is playing out in many segments of the printing industry. For example, there is a heated discussion about the role of transaction documents incorporating marketing messages and whether this is a threat to direct mailers. The underlying discussion has focused on who has the capabilities to manage data and provide complex services to help address new applications. Managing data is often cited as the key to becoming a Marketing Services Provider. My question to the Digital Nirvana community is this:

Is “Marketing Services Provider” the right term for what today’s printers should aspire to be?

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