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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.