The Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association (MFSA), a familiar name to many in our industry, recently announced a name change in order to reflect the evolving needs and responsibilities of the members it serves. The almost 500 members of the national trade association for the mailing and fulfillment industry voted in overwhelming favor of changing the official name of the association to the Association of Marketing Service Providers, a fact that was announced during the annual conference in June.

Mike Kellogg, Chairman of the Board, shares that the idea of changing the name was a well-accepted and almost unanimous one. "I am very excited because a lot of work went into the process of changing the name, and to have it almost universally accepted is gratifying."

Chris Lien, a board member of the newly dubbed AMSP, concurs. "[We wanted to] change the name of the association to more properly reflect the types of services and direction our constituents are providing. As the Association of Marketing Service Providers, we believe our new name will correctly reflect our growing membership and the expanded types of services we offer."

This name change comes three years into the five-year strategic plan the association embarked upon in 2009. Several years ago, the association's leadership noticed that some developing industry trends (the commoditization of printing services, for example) weren't exactly favorable to the members, the association, and the mailing industry. The needs of the mailing industry as a whole were evolving, and the then-MFSA stepped up to the challenge to re-brand the association to better reflect the changes. But while the name change may be the first big thing that people notice about the association, it's certainly not the only change going on behind the scenes.

As Lien explains, "The name change reflects only part of the overall strategic direction for our Association. We recognize that mail and direct marketing are changing dramatically, and in this rapidly changing multi-channel world, we want to continue to reflect an Association that is well-prepared to help guide its members through these technology transformations."

Board member Charles Buchanan concurs. "It is an appropriate step to help define the organization as we continue to evolve in support of the association members and help them compete effectively in a changing marketplace. The name of the association must reflect a current, relevant and vibrant entity which is engaged and helping influence the future of our industry. We are building an association which is not only engaged in what is going on right now, but focused on the future and understanding the changing needs facing our members including supporting other services, companies and a broadening industry base."

Association president, Ken Garner, agrees. "I see it as the natural outcome to changes impacting our industry and membership. Most members have recognized the need to broaden their menu and products and services beyond single channel content distribution. While we know that physical mail is, and will remain, a critically important part of any successful marketing campaign our members understand the need to develop more robust value propositions built around multi-channel, integrated content distribution methods."

Some have raised the concerns that removing the words "mailing" and "fulfillment" from the association's name might dissuade those people who identify as mailing and fulfillment professionals from joining. Board member Tamera Caserta, however, believes this is not the case. "We are hoping to bring in members that provide these types of services to their clients. The companies that just offer mailing or just offer fulfillment are evolving and adding more services. I think it's our job as an association to help them make that transition so they're not left behind. We've always been in the marketing services business; now we're calling it like it is. Removing the words "mailing & fulfillment" from the name of the association doesn't mean we still don't offer those services or educate those companies that offer them."

Kellogg agrees with this assessment. "Most of our folks have brick and mortar operations that complement their data operations. We want to leverage that key element and educate our members on the disparate disciplines that make up the still amorphously defined "marketing service provider." We think that others will be more likely to seek out this value proposition if they believe that it is inclusive of them and the name change speaks to that. We all know that printers are seeking more services to provide and that data driven digital printing is growing. We think that our association has a good story to tell them as they navigate in those waters."

A Host of Benefits
Those few people who might be turned off by the new name would be missing out on the many benefits of being an association member. There are local chapter networks; a robust, thriving membership; educational forums to assist members in succeeding in their current businesses; networking opportunities; and some of the best conferences in the industry.

Ken Gossett, immediate past chair, can't say enough about those. "Having just returned from one of the best annual conferences ever, I must say that conferences are very high on my list of benefits. The content and presenters are incredible! I always come back with great ideas for my business and always much better informed on the critical issues facing our industry."

These conferences allow members to participate in refreshing Q&As that would not be available elsewhere. "I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the Postmaster General, Patrick Donahoe, was the keynote speaker," Gossett continues. "He also provided members [with] time for a very candid Q and A session! It was truly a privilege to have Postmaster Donahoe as our guest."

These conferences also exemplify the willingness of the association to adapt to a changing landscape. As Lien notes, "We have broadened our conferences and our networking forums to provide expanded education and discussion beyond traditional print, mail, and fulfillment topics. Many members have been actively bridging physical mail with mobile technology such as QR codes, offering expanded services to assist mailers and marketing professionals. We have also been very active as an Association in postal legislative discussions."

Keeping members informed is also a critical tenet of the association. The premier monthly publication, PostScripts, provides the members with relevant articles on business operations, management, government affairs and the latest innovations in our quickly changing industry, while PostalPoints is published every three weeks and is considered absolutely essential to anyone in the mailing business. The association also has a Legislative Steering Committee, led by Garner, and this committee is a respected and effective voice on the hill for all matters relating to our industry, especially postal issues.

No one can predict where the mailing and fulfillment industries are heading. But if the actions of the Association of Marketing Services Providers are any indication, a willingness to adapt goes a long, long way toward staying relevant in a constantly changing landscape.