Contrary to the hoopla from industry pundits, the cold hard fact is that the majority of print and mail service providers will never be Marketing Service Providers. Most of us just do not have the knowledge or resources to be the print centric ad agencies the pundits are promoting. What we can do is continue to facilitate the flow of information from our customers to their targeted audiences.

    Our customers cannot afford to buy integrated marketing services!

    "Marketing Service Provider" is just a fancy term for a print/mailer that wants to be an ad agency. Good luck with that. After 30 years in the business, I can count on one hand the number of our customers that used an ad agency. Nearly all developed their own marketing messages and outsourced message production and distribution. Frequency and follow-up was based, then as today, on available funds and bottom line costs.

    The reason our customers didn't use advertising agencies was their cost. The direct mail industry is currently being told to go vertical and add agency services to its product mix for survival. Ad agency services add agency costs. Customers have traditionally been unwilling to pay those costs. Maybe that's why most advertising agencies have been unprofitable with short lives.

    We have traditionally provided the mechanics of taking our customers' marketing ideas and distributing them cost effectively to their intended audience.

    With the advent of the Internet, a new communication channel was added to the mix. This channel is viewed, as direct mail was 30 years ago, as a poor man's marketing dream. It is seen as less expensive, less complicated, and more effective than most other forms of communication. Unfortunately, perception is not reality when it comes to online advertising.

    As with direct mail, customers can produce their own Internet communications. And as with direct mail, it is more complicated, more expensive, and less effective than has been promised. Most small to medium-sized businesses not only have limited funds but also a limited amount of time and people. Effective marketing in the 21st century requires the use of multiple touch points and response mechanisms to cut through the overwhelming number of marketing messages targeted at consumers.

    An effective customer acquisition campaign starts with direct mail. It utilizes a dynamic QR Code that links to a mobile enhanced personalized landing page and/or provides a personalized URL (PURL) that links to a desktop page. These pages can digitally provide and collect personal data (such as email addresses) for updating an existing list or building a new house list. They can also deliver white papers, coupons, and more marketing. Finally these pages also provide for an automated email follow-up to re-enforce the original marketing message and ask for future business. The mechanics of providing all of these various touch points and response mechanisms is well beyond the scope of (nearly) all small and medium-sized businesses or similar organizations.

    Just as our customers of the past needed our services to take care of their direct mail needs, they now need our services to provide various forms of Internet communications. In this role, we are not marketers but mechanics. Our core competency becomes taking various communication components and bolting them together into configurations that will succeed in delivering the marketing concepts and messages our customers have created. Our services will include direct mail, email, landing pages, QR Codes, text messaging and whatever new technology drops on our door steps tomorrow.

    Others (from the web) are moving into this space, providing some but not all of the necessary cross channel services. The problem with these all-digital solution providers is that their tool box, unlike ours, is missing two significant capabilities. First, these false prophets from the digital dark side think all fields in a database must contain an "@". Second, they have never sealed an envelope or visited a United States Post Office; they certainly have not mastered the dynamics of direct mail.

    If you use email exclusively, how can you do one to one marketing without knowing the names, addresses, and other pertinent information about current or future customers? Unlike direct mail, rented email lists provide none of this information. How do you stay in touch with a customer if the email address you have suddenly goes dark without explanation? How do you keep customer information current without a proficiency in using postal list products to ensure accuracy?

    In the past our data management capabilities and postal expertise made it possible for our customers to communicate with their targeted audiences using direct mail. They could have done the work themselves but chose to outsource the mechanics of production to qualified service providers. Nothing has changed. They still need to outsource the mechanics of production and distribution. What we need to do is broaden our expertise, increase our communication capabilities, and expand the resources we make available to our customers.

    We need to add a digital drawer to our tool box!

    I can do that! I will never be a print centric ad agency ("marketing service provider"), but will be able to provide the mechanics of whichever communication channel my customers wish to integrate in to their marketing campaigns. I remain a Mail Service Provider; it's just that "mail" now includes digital!
    p/u todd's bio