Your website is your storefront these days, and also the hub of all your online marketing initiatives. Websites are critical to your marketing success, yet many MSPs will neglect their website as an afterthought. Your website is not something you can just setup and have live on its own. You need to continuously update and optimize your site for it to work for you.

On this episode of MSPradio, we talk with Julia Beebe, Marketing Manager and website optimizer at Continuum, and Brandon Garcin, Content Marketing Manager at Continuum, to discuss how MSPs can improve their website, fuel it with content, and use the two to drive leads and business growth.

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Episode Transcription:

Nate:                       I’m your host Nate Teplow. We’re going to be talking today about MSP Websites, how to make them work for your business, what they can do for you and a little bit about content strategy too as well. Before we get in to it, I want to remind everyone to subscribe to our Podcast on iTunes. You can search for MSP Radio and subscribe there and get episode straight to your iTunes account. We are also available via the Stitcher app for android users and I also would like to remind you to follow ups on Twitter using the handle @FollowContinuum.

So, getting into today’s topic, we’re going to be talking about websites. They are the store front for your business these days. You need to put the time in to them to make them work and I think many MSPs neglect this fact and they simply will get a website up and think it’s just, you know, it’s a box they can check but they’re not really optimizing their websites to perform for them. So I’d like to welcome Julia Beebe. She’s a marketing manager here at Continuum and she is in charge of Continuum’s website.

So Julia, welcome to MSP Radio.

Julia:                        Thanks Nate. It’s good to be here.

Nate:                       Yeah, we’re excited to have you on this show. I think this is a very important topic for MSPs and you can definitely lend a lot of expertise their way. So, just really quick, give me a kind of a highlight. What are you responsible for here at Continuum?

Julia:                        So, here at Continuum I do a lot with design and conversion. So that pretty much boils down to looking at a website and making sure it looks really good and performs really well.

Nate:                       And that’s a very important job because we were rely our website for a lot. So in your opinion, you have words with websites in your previous jobs, you’re a designer kind of by nature, what do you think makes it good drawing website?

Julie:                        I have to say when I get to a website, thing I notice first is design but nothing gets me off a website quicker than a poor navigation. If I can’t find the content I’m looking for, then I just want to leave immediately. So, design a close second to a well formatted, well weighed out website.

Nate:                       Yeah, you wanted to be easy to use and I think people will say they have really come to expect a strong experience. They’re not going to spend time looking for things if they can’t find them easily.

Julia:                        Yeah, definitely.

Nate:                       How does the website fit in to the overall marketing strategy that most MSPs are using?

Julia:                        Well, I think it’s really important when MSPs think about their website just like what you said before. It’s not a you build it and you walk away, you never look at it again. It’s really be your reflection of the buyer’s journey and how you want someone to find your product. Hopefully fall in love with your products and then choose you as their service provider. I think that the website is really the stand in salesperson.

A lot of MSP’s don’t necessarily have the resources to, you know, have the big sales in a big marketing team. So your website kind of has to be that all in one. And you want it to be your best foot forward and be like you said, easy-to-use.

Nate:                       Yes, so tell me a little bit about this buyer’s journey. You said you want to map this out. If I’m a novice marketer, what is the buyer’s journey?

Julia:                        So, the buyer’s journey is just a path that your typical customer takes in order to eventually purchase your products. So, it’s really different for everyone but it is an important thing to understand because if your website isn’t speaking to your customer then it doesn’t matter how well laid out it is. It doesn’t matter how beautiful it is because they won’t feel like you’re talking to them.

Nate:                       Yeah, and what are some ways I can understand my buyer’s journey on my website? Are there tracking mechanisms I can do to make this happen?

Julia:                        Yeah, so one tool we use quite a bit which is free is Google Analytics. So the great thing about that is you can see the traffic to each of your individual pages. You can see the journey people take to get to a conversion page, you know, whether that conversion page is a “contact us” page or a form to a piece of important content. So it really lets you figure out where they’re going and how they’re getting there. It also will break down by region and country as well. So, it’s a very handy and free tool.

Nate:                       Yeah, I think everyone should be using Google Analytics. If you don’t have it, it’s something that, you know, like you mentioned is free and very easy to plug and implement and it gives you a ton of insight as to what’s going on with your website and where people are coming from. So, Julia, where do you think most MSPs are falling short when it comes to their website?

Julia:                        Most of the MSP websites have come across. It seems like they’re trying to do too much and it’s not just MSPs. A lot of people feel like they need to fit every single thing they want to tell you on the homepage because they’re so scared that you’re not going to find it on the product page or on the solutions page. That’s why it’s so important to create a strong navigation and a strong structure to the website because you don’t want to overwhelm them the minute they walk in the door.

You lead to leave them down the path to get to the information they need. So that would definitely be the thing that I think is the biggest problem. Too much information, overwhelming, just I get on there and I don’t know where to look, don’t know what to do and I just end up leaving.

Nate:                       Yeah, I think a lot of MSPs that try to fit this big paragraphs and blocks of text. It almost they want to come up with this very professional corporate appearance but sometimes providing that huge block of text will just scare people away.

Julia:                        Yeah, not to mention they’ll have the slider and then five or six modules underneath and a sub-nav and a sub sub-nav on the homepage and it’s just a lot, a lot to look out, a lot of content.

Nate:                       Yeah, and when you talk about the buyer’s journey, you want to drive them to basically one action, maybe one or two actions as you have, you know, 10 different things on your homepage the person just going to get confused and probably will just leave and go somewhere else.

Julia:                        Exactly.

Nate:                       What do you think is a miss conception either MSPs or just people in general have about websites?

Julia:                        People I think get really caught up with the valves and whistles, the design and I know the thing that sounds weird coming from a designer that I don’t want people to get caught up in design but really design is driven by the function that needs to be taken the content and without strong content, everything is going to fall flat.

So whether that content is, the straightforward information on page 1, the call to actions or it’s an eBook or a white paper. It’s just really important to have really strong content that your buyer wants to read and then, the design comes along to just frame that in a way that’s pleasing and directs them properly. So, it’s really just people getting caught up in, “I have a new brand,” or, “I want lots of draft shadows,” or, “I think it looks good so everyone else thinks it looks good.” Really you just want good content, a clean website and you should be good to go.

Nate:                       Yeah, and will actually be speaking with our in house content expert Brandon Garcin after the commercial break about content you can create to the feed your website. So we will be having more on that to come.

So it terms of improving your website, I think we, you know, mentioned that you can’t just publish your website and have it just live there often in the web, you’ve got to constantly work on it. So, what are some ways I can improve my website or what things should I be looking for in order to improve my website?

Julia:                        Yeah well I think it’s really important to be conscious of the industry, be conscious of new things that are coming out. You don’t want to have someone come to your website and have content that’s reflected of information from a year ago, two years ago.

We’re definitely in an industry where every day someone’s coming out a new version, a new model, a 2.0 or 3.0 so you definitely want your website to reflect kind of what’s up and coming. I Think that’s probably what’s most important. And a great way to do that is, you know, having a blog or social media feed but I think that’s also a trap people get caught in that they think, “I need to have a blog, I need to have social media, I need to have content.” But at the end of the day, you need to feed that with good strong information. You don’t want to have a resource center with one resource. You don’t want to have a blog in one blog post. You don’t want to have a social media account with one selfie of you playing golf. It needs to be fed by good strong interesting content that your buyers want to read.

Nate:                       Yeah, I think that’s what will actually drive people to your website because I mean first off, they are on the web there. They are searching for content, they are searching for solutions and if you are able to provide answers to those, to their questions, that will bring them to your website. Again, just with a good user experience, it makes them want to come back, engage with your content more and learn more about your services.

Julia:                        Definitely. Good content gets them in the door, it helps you find them. If without good new content Google isn’t going to crawl you, people won’t be able to find you and then a strong user experience is what’s going to keep them in the door and then hopefully your phone number is right on that homepage and they can call you up and hire you.

Nate:                       exactly. So, just like what every business initiative, you want to have goals, you want to be able to set goals for yourself. What are some goals I can set either as an MSP or just in general for my website and just some things I should be looking to tack as I move forward with it?

Julia:                        Yeah, so I mean the things that we track the most often or most importantly is traffic because if no one is coming to your website then you’re not going to convert. And then the second most important thing are conversions. And if you want people to come and call you, fill out a form, do a call to action, you want to give them something to do and you want them to do it. So I think that’s the two places to start off, traffic and conversion and if you can get those two things down and you can get them increasing every month, then you’re going to be in really good shape.

Nate:                       Yeah and I think another important piece of this is testing. In order to move towards your goals, you have to continue to test things, try new things. Maybe a green button is better than a blue button and you really never know these things until you try.

Julia:                        Exactly. You need to just test all the time. You test negative language or it is positive language, which color, language from one page to the next, the visuals, so you should be testing every day, all day every day.

Nate:                       Yeah, if you have the opportunity to test something, test it because you really never know what works until you try it. And I’ve done a lot of tests and maybe not even on my website front. I’ve done a number of testing and sometimes you never really… you think it’s one thing and it’s the complete opposite and it’s really almost fun. I think it’s good to get in the habit of it. Always think of things or find a way to learn something new about your audience.

Julia:                        Yeah, and I think the important thing to keep in mind when you’re testing too is take that test and apply what you learned to the next thing moving forward and make sure when you do test up to try to test it on different mediums. What we test on an email versus the landing page versus call to action versus an ad out in the world, they might have different results and that might be because of your audience or it might be because of the medium there’s just a lot of different things to think about. So you should never feel like there’s nothing you can do to change how your website performs. There’s always something.

Nate:                       That’s absolutely. So we are coming up on our commercial break here but I wanted to ask you; what’s just the one thing you think every MSP should be dealing when it comes to their website?

Julia:                        I think we had touched it on already; just not having static content. You want to always be going into your pages and making sure it’s up to date, making sure your messaging is fresh to your customer base because not everyone is a brand new customer. You are trying to up sell maybe someone came to a year ago and are coming back. You always want to be putting your best foot forward. You always want to be giving Google interesting things to find on our website to put in front of your customers; so just really good strong fresh content.

Nate:                       Yeah

Julia:                        And hopefully some great design if you’re able.

Nate:                       Yes, a nice design is always good for you to sprinkle on top. Well, we’re going to be heading in to a commercial break. Julia thank you so much for joining us here on MSP Radio.

Julia:                        Thank you Nate.

Nate:                       And as I mentioned earlier we’re going to have feature Brandon Garcin. He’s going to be joining us here to talk more about content, content strategy. I think the website is kind of your store front but content is really the field that drives that engine. So, we’re going to take a quick commercial break here and we will see you all in a minute or two.

Paul:                        We know it can be tough to stay ahead in the managed IT services industry which is why we’re launching Navigate 2014. It’s a user conference dedicated to helping MSPs find their path to success in manage services. We’ve pulled together an information packed agenda with speakers from all over the country including keynote speakers Paul Chisholm, former CEO of Mind Shift Technologies and Peter Isler, two time winner of America’s Cup.

This is the event to attend if you’re an MSP. We ask you to join us this fall in Boston from September 21st to the 23rd for Navigate 2014. Find out more or to sign up, simply visit the website www.continuumnavigate.com.

And now, back to our program with Nate.

Nate:                       All right. Welcome back everyone from our commercial break. We’re here on MSP Radio talking about MSP websites; how they are good for your business, what they can do and why they’re so important. So, we just spoke with Julia Beebe who is a marketing manager here at Continuum. And I’d like to welcome Brandon Garcin. He is a content marketing manager here at Con\continuum. So Brandon, welcome to MSP Radio.

Brandon:               Thanks Nate. Thanks for having me.

Nate:                       Yeah, of course. So, I want you to talk about content a little bit. We talked about the website. That’s kind of your framework. The store front you could say for your business. Content is really the fuel that fuels the engine. So, we talk a lot about, you know, the need for content. Why it’s that you need to create content if you’re going to run an effective marketing program. But can you tell us a little bit more about why that’s important and how that fits into your marketing strategy?

Brandon:               Yeah, absolutely. Content is super important. If we think about kind of modern sales cycles and sort of what that process looks like, it’s really about having conversations with your prospects and with potential customers. And content is really materials that you can use to kind of guide those conversations and really provides you a great foundation for those conversations. So you can have different pieces of collateral marketing and sales material to introduce your products, to help solve certain pain points that you know your customers are having and really to kind of hit on all these different touch points throughout the sales process.

Nate:                       Yeah, so what kinds of content is this? I mean, it’s, you know, we say content, sure you can just go and write. But what is this writing? What would you do sort of a content marketer when it comes to your web content strategy?

Brandon:               That’s a great question. There is really a ton of different types of content that we can use as marketers to kind of help get their message out there. The most typical you think of, your eBooks, your white papers, your longer form content, you know, that’s where you really want to provide information about industry trends, showing that you understand sort of what’s going on in the channel and in the MSP space.

Again if you’re targeting, specific customers even people in certain verticals, you can really dive in to that with some longer content. But there’s totally different types of content too that are much shorter. We can have social media content, things like tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts, a whole different variety in terms of length and range as well as the scope of the things that we’re using in a social capacity are going to be much more digestible, content; concise, shareable, you know, quick, high level information. Things that are visually friendly that your prospects and even other MSPs are going to want to share and engage with and interact within each other’s sites in addition to this longer content, your white papers where you have maybe some more technical information, opportunities to talk about your products and things like data sheets and marketing sheets can also really be considered part of your content strategy which is where we are really get the specifics of the features and tech specs of your service offerings.

Nate:                       You interesting. So, what does this do for my business? I mean, I have all these content that I’m, you know, pushing out and have on my website, what can I expect it to do for me as an MSP?

Brandon:               Great content is really what you need to drive leads to your front door and kind of bring in those prospects that you’re looking for. I mentioned briefly sort of the sales process and that kind of looking like a conversation today. A lot of prospects out there are doing the research, they’re shopping around for different solutions. They’re getting some information. It’s really important as an MSP and really as any marketer in any space to make sure that when people are out there doing their Google searches; getting in referrals, talking to people on the phone, having those conversations that you have some really strong content out there that they’re going to be able to engage with and interact with. So, that’s really where sort of “top of the funnel” is the term that we use or really high level awareness content really comes into play.

You’re kind of establishing a leveled playing field with your prospects. You are showing them that you know what you’re talking about, you understand the space and then a little bit later on in that conversation is where you would provide your data sheets and your product sheets and a little bit more technical information.

So the content really is something that’s going to live on your website. If you get in any organic traffic that’s coming in to your page, you want to provide some downloadable resources there and some blog content usually; something for people to interact with and engage with on your site.

But also some content that you’re going to try to really syndicate out in different socials spheres and get out on Google and so when you do have these organic searches coming in and when prospects are out there doing that independent research maybe before they’re even thinking about having that conversation with you, you want to make sure that you have content that’s really out there thrust right in front of your audience that they’re able to download and come across and interact with kind of their own pace.

Nate:                       Yeah, I mean it’s a way to reach new people like you said syndicating it on other sites and getting your content shared is a away to reach new people. And it’s a way to position yourself as a subject matter expert because I think when it comes to IT solutions and peoples businesses they want to work with a consultant.

We’ve talked about that a lot here on MSP Radio, about positioning yourself as a technology consultant versus just kind of a repairman or a technician. And I think having that content that shows you know what you’re talking about, shows you have expertise in this space helps position your eyes as that subject matter expert.

Brandon:               Yeah, that’s a great distinction and even where you’re putting the content and the types of content that you’re creating can differ essentially depending on what you just said.

The social content is going to be stuff that is a little more high level. Maybe a little bit more fun and engaging and you just sort of using that to get the brand out there and get your name out there, show that you’re a leader in the space. You have the information, and you have some expertise and some education behind the challenges that a lot of these small businesses are facing today and then really on the website is where you can get a little more targeted with your product information your data sheets and you’re technical white papers where you are really talking about your specific solution.

But just in the same sense that you think about sort of nurturing a lead throughout a sales call or just sort of bring somebody from the beginning of the sales process to the end where they’re hopefully making a purchase, you can really sort of map out your content strategy the same way and kind of create equal balance of content and resources for each of those touch points and each of those conversation points throughout that process.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely sales asset as well. And there’s a lot of content out there. A lot of people are using this content marketing as their inbound online marketing strategy. What makes good content, what makes bad content and what can you use to help separate your content from other people in the space?

Brandon:               So this is definitely a good question. Everybody wants to know… Well sure I know I need content, I know I need a blog, I know I need to be on social media but what do I say? What do I post? What do I actually put out there?

In a phrase it’s really just about continuing that conversation like I said. So what makes good content; information being digestible, information being accessible. You want to make sure that you’re presenting, you know, your thoughts and idea in the way that they’re going to be able to be received appropriately by your prospects and by your potential customers.

That means targeting specific verticals if that’s where you’re going after. If you’re serving healthcare customers you want to make sure you speak in their language as opposed to maybe a telecom provider or somebody that’s in another space. You want to make sure that you’re approaching people in a way that’s going to make sense to them using their language, speaking their language.

But beyond that, it’s really about presenting and identifying what your valued proposition is as a services provider. Are you focusing on solving specific pain points? Are you trying to get help people get more time back, make money, increase profitability, scale their business; really focusing in on where you think your strongest skills lie and sort of the unique differentiator of your business model or of your services portfolio.

You really want to identify what that is and then express that through your content. So, again on the technical side, on the data sheet side, that’s talking about how your products work, how they’re connected with one another, what the actual features are. But on the more higher level, awareness side it’s really about diving into the challenges that your prospects are facing and showing how you’re able to solve them.

So good versus bad content; good content is digestible, it’s accessible. It really speaks to your audience. We don’t want to just sort of create that kind of one size fits all white paper or data sheet and just throw it to the wall and kind of see what sticks. You’ll definitely have much more success, you know, being a little bit more targeted. Again, prospects are doing a lot of the research on their own these days. They have a good understanding of solutions that are out there and kind of what they’re looking for before they even maybe get on the phone with a potential partner or provider. So, they’re doing a lot of the upfront research themselves. They’re committing to kind of learning what’s out there so it’s really a great opportunity as the business owner to show that that you do have some knowledge in that space and that you really are committed to kind of solving some of the unique challenges that these small businesses are facing today.

On the flip side of that, it’s pretty easy to identify poor content asset. Again, something that’s overly dense, something that is maybe trying to cover 9 and 10 different topics all at once when really it could have benefited from taking a deep dive into just one or two of those topics.

It’s really about being concise. If U look at social media, Twitter, things are restricted to character limits, short videos these days, Instagram post photos and things like that. People are shifting away from let’s say the 90 minute plus webinar of marketing strategies past. So, it’s really about being accessible, being concise and delivering information that is going to be really valuable to your prospects helping them solve their challenges.

Nate:                       Yeah, and I think another important component of this is tracking and you don’t really know what works until you kind of put it out there and see what people are actually interacting with and downloading and viewing. So, what are some ways I can track my content? What are some strategies for tracking content and then optimizing that?

Brandon:               That’s a great question. Definitely analytics and kind of just back end tracking as you said of content is a huge component to any successful content marketing strategy. We can think that we’re all [handling waves 24:05] and we can put out some great content but if we don’t know how people are reacting to that, if we don’t know what the engagement looks like, how are we going to sort of predict future successes versus failures and then kind of we shape our strategy and move forward?

There is no shortage of available tools, different content manager systems will have built in analytics features. Google has some great platforms as well; certainly different strokes for different folks. There but really there’s some key metrics and important information that generally across the board you’re going to want to look at.

Obviously downloads is kind of your most basic; if we are throwing that content up on the site, who is engaging with it? Who is downloading it? If you’re doing any sort of email testing or sending any kind of newsletters to a database of prospects or leads, who’s engaging with that content? Testing things or looking at metrics like the open rates on your emails, to determine the effectiveness of subject lines or click through rates on the messages. Who’s getting to that message and then actually pursuing the content and engaging with that content? And then really dive into that and try to figure out why. Is it something about the nature of the content? Is it the message? Did I have a really catchy title in? You can kind of start to correlate all this information and all these different data points and overtime, really develop a solid understanding of, “Okay, content XY and Z is really hitting home with my prospects. My customers are engaging with it. I’m going to produce more of that whereas content A, B and C maybe not so much. I’m going to shift away from that and kind of move on to a different topic.”

Nate:                       Yeah, that’s an important component of it all. It’s knowing what’s working and what’s not working and being able to make those adjustments.

So we are coming up towards the end of our segment here. I just wanted to ask you one last question. What should every MSP be doing when it comes to their content strategy? Is there one standalone thing that everyone should be doing when it comes to creating content on their website?

Brandon:               Just listen. If I had to put it in one word, I really think a lot of content marketers are out there just racing to put out as much information as possible. Just trying to blast content out there into the web sphere and really you want to get this targeted and high value as possible with your resources rather than just going for sheer quantity.

Just listen to your prospects, find out what their challenges are, what their pain points are, have conversations with existing customers and partners. Figure out what problems they’re still having or what challenges you helped them solved and then figure out how to transform that into something that you can repurpose as a content asset. That’s really where something like a case study is going to come into play; you take the success of one of your current partners and really showcase it to other prospects of how they can kind of enjoy the same thing.

Listen to your partners. Understand what their challenges are, what their pain points are, what’s going on in the space. Be aware of new technologies, new best practices as they are emerging and really just leverage your content and create content that showcases that you are an industry expert, you are a leader, you understand what’s going on in the space and you’re here for your partners, you ‘re here to help your customers.

Nate:                       Yeah, absolutely. Well, Brandon, our in house content wiz. Thank you for joining me here in MSP Radio.

Brandon:               Thanks Nate. It’s my pleasure. on

Nate:                       Your and thank you all for tuning in. Also thank you to Julia Beebe who joined us earlier today; I thought we had a great talk on your website. It’s incredibly important for MSPs to think about and optimize.

So again, thank you for tuning in. Subscribe to our Podcast and get these episodes straight to your iTunes account. We’re also available via the Stitcher app for android users. Follow us on Twitter @FollowContinuum and let us know what you think of the show with the #MSPRadio. So than you all for tuning in and we will see you next week.