After enjoying free reign to spend money, build brands, and gain awareness in the latter half of the 1990s, marketers today face far greater demands for accountability and proven ROI from the board room, CEO, and peers in other departments. In many cases, marketing departments have narrowed their focus to extend only to activities that deliver a clear ROI. According to the most recent annual survey administered by the CMO Council, the pressure to deliver ROI has given rise to a new breed of CMO that is more focused on measurable performance and business results. The majority of marketers— 43.8%—state that their top goal in 2007 was to quantify and measure the value of marketing programs and investments. This was followed closely by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the marketing organization—38.7%—and growing customer knowledge, insight, and dialogue—33.7%.
The combination of affordable color and multi-channel campaign marketing solutions with integrated marketing dashboards is helping the savvy print service provider transform into a more profitable marketing services provider (MSP).
So What Is an MSP?
MSPs are attempting to participate in the more lucrative marketing value chain by providing an array of services related to the marketing process, from campaign inception to program execution. The MSP understands that to participate in the value chain, they must generate good data and relevant messaging. The MSP also knows that success links to the creation of one-to-one communications that are based on a deep understanding of the customer’s needs. As a result, MSPs are implementing the infrastructure—technical, sales, and consultative skills—to develop solutions for efficient communications.
The MSP is focused on four dimensions of marketing relevancy in the solutions that they provide to clients. The first is Relevancy in Content: providing the right information in the right context. Second, Relevancy in Contact: providing this information to the right people. Third, Relevancy in Channel: delivering this information to the right device in the right format. And lastly, Relevancy in Time: providing this information when it is appropriate to meet the client’s needs.
Firms with decades of experience in prepress and offset printing are repositioning themselves as marketing services providers. The emerging MSP portfolio includes the following.
One-to-one ROI-driven multi-channel relationship marketing solutions are designed to provide individual communication with clients’ best and most profitable customers; create unique and customized messages across multiple channels; manage campaigns; track expenses; and calculate ROI in real time.
Data modeling and data mining determine the sweet spot based on specific criteria established by data experts. This means that clients can model the trends and traits of their best customers, and then use that model to find thousands more just like them.
Web-based print solutions are for remote access to digital assets for distributed sales representatives as well as agents and franchisees. These online storefronts are custom-designed for client organizations. Users can customize the pieces and then download them immediately or have prints delivered on demand.
Digital asset management systems are in place to house clients’ assets—graphics, logos, templates—and allow secure access to approved users regardless of where they reside and what they want. This marketing management tool ensures the proper use of brand assets, consistency of communications, and immediate response to materials requests.
Comprehensive marketing program measurement metrics and analytics are made available through marketing dashboards. With the dashboard marketers can see who is responding within seconds of the visit; use up-to-date aggregate results for ROI calculations; create graphical representations of results that update automatically; improve sales lead effectiveness via automatically delivered lead email messages; and gain immediate access to raw data for other corporate systems or processes.
Mailing and fulfillment includes more than just the operational aspects of mailing a piece. MSPs have become trusted advisors in the face of postal rate increases. They are working with clients to minimize the impact of postage increases while maintaining response rates. MSPs consult with clients to discuss options such as modified packaging, address quality, bar-coding, delivery point verification, volume discounts, and other money-saving ideas.
It goes without saying that the client expects best-in-class prepress and print production using offset or digital technologies. In today’s market, these are table stakes.
A Reality Check
Some service providers are aggressively making the move to become MSPs. Over the past several weeks I have talked with a number of organizations at varying stages of making the transformation to become an MSP.
In 1989, Rod Key opened R and R Images as a photographic studio in Phoenix, AZ. At that time, the company operated conventional photographic methods. As digital photography began to enter the market, Key was quick to see its value, and his was the first commercial studio in Phoenix to add digital technology to its mix. Key and his staff have carried this spirit of innovation through the past 18 years, staying ahead of the technology curve. Key has positioned his organization as a delivery arm for relevant marketing solutions.
"We blend strategy with technology to create a vision of where the client needs to go and then we develop personalized messages to deliver ROI," says Key. In combination with its variable data/solutions-centric business, R and R provides a broad base of marketing centered solutions including traditional print, large format, email, Web landing pages, creative services, photography, mailing, and fulfillment. From a campaign management perspective, R and R has invested in resources for strategy, data mining and analytics, and digital communications.
Another pioneer in this arena, Reynolds DeWalt is a 60-year-old commercial printing company that has always been an early adopter of the latest technology. In the 1960s, Reynolds DeWalt was one of the first companies to invest in computerized typesetting, abandoning traditional hot metal. The company is deploying this same avant-garde strategy as it moves into the realm of 1-to-1 cross media capabilities.
According to director of marketing, Scott Dubois, "The communications revolution is here, and Reynolds DeWalt’s cross-media services have made it possible for our clients to reach out to target audiences in ways that were never before possible." Reynolds DeWalt has the capability to generate sophisticated print pieces, Web pages, and emails that can automatically be personalized utilizing database intelligence to drive results. Dubois states, "We’re not just talking about address and name substitutions. Design elements from simple text, graphic, and color variations to complex variable charts/graphs and photographic content are limited only to the expanse of one’s creativity. Campaigns can be brought to the next level with the utilization of online communities, forums, or blogs. The key is that all activity is tracked, reported, and acted upon. What makes it work is proven results."
DuBois adds, "The true marketing service provider is focused on carrying a campaign from concept to delivery, and tracking the success of that campaign."
Becoming an MSP
Today’s print service provider faces the challenge of getting in the game and building a winning strategy. Firms like R and R Images and Reynolds DeWalt made this transition as part of an overall strategic business plan. In doing so, they have analyzed customers and the business environment to identify the right target markets; researched the specific opportunities to better and more profitably meet customer needs in the identified segments; developed the product and service offerings that meet customer needs; and effectively defined their market position and clearly articulated their unique value proposition.
While traditional print will always be important, and requirements for offset and short run on-demand printing will remain strong, the MSP is prepared to participate in the more lucrative marketing value chain by providing an array of services, from campaign inception to program execution.