One of the most difficult aspects of the managed services provider (MSP) and IT provider space can be new client acquisition. As the market becomes increasingly crowded with ‘me too’ offerings, it becomes more and more challenging to differentiate your service from the rest of the competition. The increasing amount of noise makes it even more confusing for potential customers to tell who does what and which option is best for their business, you have a problem that can impact your business in a very serious way.
So how do you stand out in a crowd where everyone uses the same acronyms and has product/service offerings that sound very similar (on the surface at least), when your prospects have a difficult time telling who’s real and who’s just acting?
There is no surefire cure, but one way to distinguish your business from the rest is by using social media correctly (please note the emphasis on using it correctly). Social media is a bit like singing: everyone can do it but you can find out pretty quickly who shouldn’t really do it at all. Here are six points to help your MSP stay in tune.
1. Learn Where Your Prospects Are
Any marketing effort is only effective if it takes place where your prospective customer is. It takes some research to discover where your target market hangs out in the social space. Don’t be discouraged if the numbers are not as big as you might like, either. While it’s great to reach more people, it’s even better to reach the right ones at the right time.
2. Choose the Right Platform
While most social media ‘experts’ will tell you that you need to be everywhere in social media, that’s the hype, not the reality.
Essentially, social media consists of a few major outlets and many other niche opportunities. We recommend that you stick with the usual suspects of Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Google+ and a few other wild card options of your choice. Find your prospects, and then concentrate your efforts there, even if it’s not the latest or greatest social space. What matters is being where your targets are.
One thing that should be considered with great seriousness is blogging. No matter where you are platform-wise, ultimately you will be producing content that will be picked up and indexed in search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. A blog may be a resource commitment, but the payoff could be significant.
3. Have a Plan
One of the most consistent mistakes small and medium businesses (SMBs) make in the social media game is plowing forward with the assumption that social media just magically happens. Although that can be true to some degree, the trouble is that it happens for a very short period of time and often poorly.
Map out the most important areas of interest for your target market then start to develop and collect content around those critical business issues. Remember, social media is not about what you like or what you think is cool. It’s about giving your target market great business information that will help separate you from the competition. Taking the right steps for social media success will make a big difference in your overall strategy.
4. Be Realistic
Just because you decide to be in the social media game is by no means a guarantee that your business will suddenly begin to grow. In fact, it takes a significant amount of time to get traction in the social space. Just being there isn’t even half the battle. Being there in the right way is the only way that social media will ultimately impact your business positively.
5. Be Consistent
One of the most common mistakes that businesses make with regard to social media is being inconsistent in their execution. How many times have you seen a Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in months or a Twitter account with little activity? How does that look, and how do you feel about that company? Don’t let the same thing happen to your brand. There’s the potential to do more harm than good in social media networking if you are not fully committed to the effort.
6. Spend Money
Spend more money... Just what you need to hear, right? Well, if you or your staff lack the expertise or time necessary to develop and manage a professional social media presence, you’ll have to outsource it. Whether it’s hiring skilled employees (and don’t assume that your second cousin’s college dropout who will work for minimum wage is the answer) or outsourcing to an agency, social media is sometimes best left to those who do it for a living.
Although there’s plenty more to consider when it comes to social media, that’s enough to give you a solid start. We’ll develop this subject more over time. In fact, we would love to hear from you, our customers and prospects, about the specific areas you would like to learn more about regarding social media and marketing your business in general.