Originally published November 5, 2018
Updated May 14, 2020
It is an exciting time for the global Managed Service Provider or MSP industry. According to Statista, the managed services market was valued at around $186 billion in size in 2019, with forecasts suggesting that this number could grow to $356.24 billion by 2025.
On the other hand, according to a recent survey by Datto, nearly 100% of MSPs surveyed say that now is as good a time as ever to be in their industry. The survey also states that marketing and sales continue to be the top two pain points of global MSPs.
In other words, if you are an MSP Marketing provider, you are looking at a bright future. However, you do need to be fully prepared with the right MSP marketing strategies and resources to take full advantage of this growth opportunity.
Let's see how.
A) What is MSP Marketing?
If you’re just starting out as an MSP, or you’ve been at it for a while already, the idea of marketing your services to find new customers, has no doubt crossed your mind.
MSP marketing, at its core, is the process of generating interest in your managed services provider business up the point that contact is actually made between you and your prospective customer.
MSP marketing techniques rely on the same basic principles of other forms B2B marketing, but as an MSP, you should be aware of the unique challenges that come with drawing up interest for a fully managed IT service.
When it comes to marketing for MSPs, we've seen the most success using a blend of traditional and internet marketing strategies. You can also use buyer personas to shape your marketing strategies; your prospects may find you through local searches like managed service providers near me or even direct phone and email queries.
B) What is the Difference between MSP Sales and MSP Marketing?
While the two topics are closely related, MSP marketing is about a whole lot more than just selling services. In fact, if you’re properly marketing your managed services provider, you really shouldn’t be selling anything at all.
That’s because MSP marketing is all about building trust.
When you’re marketing your managed services offering, by definition, you’re talking to people who are not ready to be sold to yet. The audience of people who are “marketing qualified” may or may not have ever heard of you, and most definitely do not need to find out about the intricate and technical details of what your services can do.
What they need to find out as much about as possible, and what your MSP marketing should be built to do, involves outlining what those services can do for them.
In other words, MSP marketing should be focused on communicating the raw value that you provide, so that your prospect gets to the point that they ARE ready to start hearing those details, and you can move onto the next step in your customer acquisition process – sales.
C) Why Do You Need MSP Marketing?
Even in an increasingly digital world, word-of-mouth still offers a great way to get new leads, which is what most MSPs prefer. Referrals from real-life clients help new leads trust your MSP IT services naturally. However, word-of-mouth alone is often not enough to grow your business beyond a limit.
As an MSP service provider, if you want to actively grow your business in a planned and predictable manner, you need to be marketing in some form or another. That's where a functional and technology-based MSP marketing plan comes in.
Also, with the sheer amount of competition in most geographic regions, it helps to take advantage of social media and other online channels to boost your brand presence. With the majority of MSPs using Facebook and LinkedIn daily to promote their business, you don't want to be left behind.
D) Important MSP Marketing Phrases You Should Know
Now, as it is clear why you need to invest in MSP marketing, let's check out some of the common terminologies and phrases associated with it.
- MSP Inbound Marketing: It is an MSP digital marketing process that involves creating valuable and informative content and promoting it across various digital channels to generate new leads. However, it focuses on creating content that resonates with the audience and solves their problems.
- MSP Outbound Marketing: In this type of marketing, an MSP service provider usually promotes their services to everyone without knowing if they would be a qualified lead. Almost all of the traditional marketing methods like cold calling and TV commercials fall under this category.
- MSP Email Marketing: It is a marketing process that involves using email to send marketing messages such as advertisements, sales solicitations, and any other business requests.
- Leads: A lead can be an individual or an organization that is likely to be interested in buying what you are offering, which in this case, are your MSP IT services.
- Lead Generation: Lead generation is the process of identifying, cultivating and converting a lead into a sale.
- Call to Action: In marketing, a call to action or CTA is a marketing message that intends to generate an immediate response from a potential customer. Some of the common examples are "learn more," "find out now," "download now," or "call now."
- Landing Page: A landing page is a webpage specifically created for a marketing campaign, be it a short term or long term campaign.
E) What is Included in an MSP Marketing Plan?
An MSP marketing plan is composed of two major elements: strategy and tactics.
Your MSP marketing strategy lays out exactly who you are targeting with your marketing, and the message you want to send to them. When you define your strategy you’ll want to answer questions like:
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What are the big problems that they face in terms of their IT?
- What solutions do I have that align with those problems?
- What channels can I use to reach them?
- What makes my MSP uniquely qualified?
To do this, you’ll need to know your own business inside and out, but more than that, you’ll need to know your customer even better.
The tactics, which we’ll overview in the next section, are the actual marketing techniques that you can employ to accomplish the goals set out in your strategy.
F) What Marketing Tactics are Available to MSPs?
If you’re active in the IT channel, you’ve surely heard about many of the wide range of different techniques that are making waves across the industry today. Whether you're talking about "old school" digital tactics like PPC or SEO or the "new wave" of lead generation techniques like content marketing, and LinkedIn all of them are more than worth exploring for their own unique and fascinating reasons.
Also commonly referred to as PPC, pay-per-click is a time-honored digital marketing technique that allows an MSP like yourself to pay a publisher (usually through Google or Bing’s network) every time one of your ads is clicked. For a business as tech-based as yours, PPC is a great technique to target leads at the middle of the sales funnel - namely, those in the "consideration" stage who are doing their buying research at that very time.
As an MSP, no one can guarantee that paid search ads are going to work for your specific business – you’ll have to figure that out on your own – but it can’t be denied that PPC in general is a very cost effective way to make a quality first impression. One study estimates that for everyone $1 someone spends on PPC advertising in AdWords, they can expect to generate about $2 in income as a result.
2. Search Engine Optimization
SEO is all about getting your MSP's website to rank as highly as possible in search results for keywords that are relevant to your industry. When you consider that a massive 93% of all online interactions still begin with a search engine like Google, it's easy to see why this is such a good idea.
But more important is the fact that 70% of the links that search users click on are organic - meaning that most people skip the paid ads and go right to the native results. So anybody that you can't get with PPC, you can usually pick up with SEO.
3. Content Marketing
As an MSP, your audience is naturally savvier than most. You need to build a relationship with them before you can ask them to make a purchase and to do that, you need quality content - and lots of it.
Content marketing involves the creation of everything from blog posts to white papers to Infographics, all in an effort to "warm up" your leads over time in an effort to get them ready to make the purchase you're about to ask them for. One study estimated that content marketing is a perfect opportunity to generate three times the number of leads as compared to traditional "outbound" methods, all at a cost of about 62% less. So this is yet another chance to really get the most "bang" for your "buck", so to speak.
But keep in mind that you shouldn't just be creating content for your own blog. For the best results, write guest posts for other relevant businesses or thought influencers in your industry. This is a great way to both establish yourself as an authority and get entirely new sets of eyes focused in your direction, too.
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is a particularly important topic for MSPs because of how it enables you to not only generate more leads, but to do so in a way that helps support the long-term health and growth rate of your organization.
According to one recent study, about 80% of marketing professionals say that email marketing is a major component of their customer acquisition and retention efforts. Likewise, if you’re email marketing is done right, for every $1 you spend, you can usually expect to generate about $38 in revenue as a return.
But again: don't just limit your efforts to your existing email list. Reach out to new prospects via email as well to have a genuine shot at starting a long lasting, meaningful conversation.
5. Social Media Marketing
There’s a reason why more and more B2B industries are moving towards social media marketing: it doesn't just work, it works incredibly well. It's an opportunity to generate new leads and reaffirm your relationship with existing prospects at the same time.
But keep in mind, you shouldn't just be using Facebook and Twitter to your MSP's advantage. LinkedIn’s 500 million users could be equated to the world’s largest networking event, and is another in a long line of opportunities to tap into a B2B audience that is spending more and more time online.
6. Online Reviews
Another way to strengthen your online presence while maintaining your online reputation is online reviews. For managed IT services providers, online reviews work as the digital equivalent of traditional word-of-mouth. They also help improve your SEO.
In this digital world, 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they always read reviews. The average consumer reads ten reviews before feeling able to trust a business.
Start with your existing customers. You can ask them to leave a review on your website or one of your social media channels or your Google My Business page. You can send a link through email to add a review.
However, don't offer anything in exchange for a good review because Google and other review sites don't take kindly to solicited customer reviews. Also, respond to all reviews, including the negative ones.
7. Lead Tracking
Lead tracking has to be a part of your MSP marketing plan as it allows you to identify and document your leads based on their pain-points. In other words, you get to create personalized MSP marketing strategies based on your lead tracking data. With personalization on the rise, this is the right way to turn leads into customers.
In MSP digital marketing, keeping track of the online activity of each potential buyer is the best way to capture lead information. The most common classification of leads is into the following three categories.
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) - These are the leads that have had some interaction with your MSP marketing materials and content. They present a good lead nurturing opportunity.
- Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) - These are MQLs who your sales team has flagged as most likely buyers. So, nurturing them further can help you close in on the sale.
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) - These are the SALs whom your sales and marketing team has vetted as and considered ready for the next stage in the sales process.
8. Search Engine Marketing
It is not the same as SEO or PPC. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) focuses primarily on using paid advertisements such as PPC and social media marketing to improve the search engine visibility of your website. It combines the best of SEO and paid online advertisements, which with the right placement, can increase the chances of a sale.
In other words, instead of using social media marketing, PPC, and SEO in silos, you should use them together as one strategy under SEM. When creating your MSP marketing plan, find a way to consolidate all your online marketing tactics with each other to get better results. However, if you don't have the budget for SEM, you can continue to focus on SEO and PPC alone until you are ready to take the next step.
9. MSP Website Development
You also need to pay special attention to your MSP website development. The following factors will play a critical role in developing a website that converts visitors into customers.
- Responsive Design - Your entire website, including the media, needs to be responsive so that people can access it from any device, be it mobile or laptop.
- Fast Loading - Speed is a critical factor because even a 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7%. The longer it takes to load your website, the less likely are people to browse it again.
- Call-To-Actions - With the carefully placed call-to-actions, you can ask your potential customer to take the desired action, and then convert them into sales.
- No Tech Jargon - You may like to flaunt your technical expertise, but your potential customer may not be as tech-savvy as you are. As a result, using too much technical jargon is likely to put them off. So, use simple terms and short paragraphs.
- Contact Details - Make sure your contact details, ideally email and phone number, are visible on every page.
- SEO Optimized - From Meta description to keyword-optimized content, your website needs to be SEO optimized to increase its online visibility.
10. Other Opportunities
Another opportunity you'll definitely want to explore as an MSP is a lead magnet - that is, some type of promotion or offer that gets people A) interested in your brand, in a way that B) also gets them to give you their contact information in a way that allows you to grow your larger email and contact lists.
So say you write a long eBook about how to pick the right MSP. You can offer that for free as a lead magnet, provided that people give you their email address or sign up for your email list. You've just generated a new lead AND have accurate contact information to work from, allowing you to use other techniques to finesse that relationship moving forward.
Remarketing is invaluable for similar reasons. This is a technique that lets you position targeted ads in front of an audience of people who have previously visited your site, but who didn't take a desired action like signing up for your email list or contacting you for more information. You already know these people are interested in who you are and what you offer as an MSP - it would be a shame to let that information go to waste.
Finally, make sure that you're either attending industry-specific events in your area or speaking at them whenever you have the chance to do so. Speaking at industry events is great, as you've got a room full of people who could use help from a businesses like yours and all of their eyes are focused on the same thing: you. Not only can you make an incredible first impression, but by being in the room with them you're also in a position to start a genuine, organic "real life" connection that will serve you both well for years to come.
The Cold, Hard Truth about MSP Marketing Scope
But in the end, the most important thing to understand about all of this is that NONE of these techniques are the "silver bullet" you've been looking for. If anyone ever tells you that any one of the approaches that was previously mentioned will generate the results you need, or will guarantee the outcomes you're after, they're failing to see the forest for the trees.
Because to truly achieve your goals in both the short and long-term perspectives, you won't just be picking any one of these methods at random. You'll be using exactly the right tactics that your unique MSP marketing strategy calls for.
That's right - don't just use pay-per-click and search engine optimization because you heard a colleague at IT Nation rave about his own results. Use them because you know your ideal customer is using Google to make purchasing decisions. Is your buyer not on Google? Make sure that you're attending or speaking at any event in your area that is relevant to your ideal customers industry and promote that event on social media via both organic and paid tactics.
Even once you've increased traffic to your website, don't let those cold leads slip through your fingers. Use remarketing tactics to continue to make contact with them until they're finally ready to make that purchase.
For most managed services providers, it won't be a single one of these that lets you reach your lead generation goals. It will be a combination of them. But more than anything, it will be all of these techniques working in tandem - feeding into and empowering each other - creating the type of cohesive, thoughtful and rewarding campaign that your target audience won't be able to look away from.
If you're able to orchestrate things from that point of view, there's truly no limit to what your MSP marketing will be able to accomplish.