I've reviewed countless IT service provider websites, but one thing that's abundantly clear is that not enough organizations take the time to clearly map out their sales and marketing funnel. The first warning sign? Home pages that lead with "Contact Us" or "Schedule a Consultation" requests and nothing else. Right off the bat, this tells me that these companies are only marketing to companies that know of and are ready to evaluate their IT services. Sure, this is an important audience to hit and you want your sales representatives to work prospects with the highest level of sales readiness, but what about the rest of the prospect pool who may not be ready to commit—who may not even know who you are or why they need you?
Understanding how to bucket prospects into various stages of your sales cycle helps you deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. Defined by HubSpot as "inbound marketing," this methodology follows a more user-centric (vs. sales-centric) approach to build trust and give potential clients what they want, when they want it.
Keep reading to learn about the four phases of inbound marketing and how you can drive higher marketing ROI, close more accounts and create stickier clients!
Wouldn't it be ideal if leads came to you? When you adopt inbound marketing, they do! Dubbed "Attract," this first phase is how you extend your reach and turn total strangers into website visitors. Instead of forcing your sales team to cold-call leads, an inbound approach allows website to act like a magnet, drawing people in to learn more. If set up correctly, your website can help you reach new audiences and drum up interest in your MSP business. Let’s briefly explore how you can enhance your online presence to increase qualified website traffic.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Keyword Strategy
A solid SEO strategy allows your website to appear higher in the list of search results when a prospect enters any query that supports your business and value proposition. To do this, though, you need to drive traffic to your site from both branded and non-branded search.
For example, here are two potential ways someone could find you:
Branded Search: "[your company name] IT"
Non-Branded Search: "best IT services [your city] [your state]"
As you can see, there are multiple ways to get found—regardless of whether or not potential prospects know who you are. Optimizing for non-branded search is how you move past a reactive sales framework based solely on client referrals. By taking the time to develop your keyword strategy and using these phrases strategically across your website, you can build your authority with Google and other search engines that are designed to serve the most relevant and highest value results for users. Remember: An effective keyword strategy addresses the user's needs, not what you sell.
MSP SEO Pro Tip: Embrace geo-targeting—feature location specific keywords across your website content and on-page elements to increase visibility in your local market!
Blogging and Content Strategy
The value to blogging is twofold. First, Google rewards fresh content and is constantly crawling websites to see when they were last updated. Maintaining a consistent and frequent blog schedule helps ensure your website stays on Google's radar. Another SEO lift comes from using your blog to target keywords that don't directly tie back to your services but signal a potential selling opportunity later.
For instance, consider the search string, "how to know if my IT is safe"
If someone's searching for this, there's an excellent chance their company's security posture is not where it needs to be, and they may need third-party management from your team. You don't want to miss out on that traffic, but you also don't want to present them with the wrong content. In this case, an educational blog post exposing weaknesses in SMB cybersecurity strategy would be the most appropriate next step.
Beyond the SEO benefits, offering helpful, problem-solving and non-"salesy" content via a blog builds trust with prospects who may not be ready to buy from you. In continuing to provide these user-centric posts, over time you'll become an IT thought leader and authority, proving that you're capable of safeguarding their data.
MSP Blogging Pro Tip: Effective blogging depends on a user-centric and keyword-targeted content strategy. Inbound marketing isn't just about having all the right channels. It all comes back to the content you're sharing!
The third main way to attract strangers to your website is through social media. Again, use your social accounts to start an engaging conversation, not blast the masses with promotional messaging. Sharing blog posts is one way you can provide meaningful content while also driving prospects back to your website to learn more about your services. To reach new audiences, you can post your blog articles in relevant LinkedIn groups with a thought-provoking question or leverage hashtags on Twitter that tie back to your post. In the end, your success on social depends on your overall content strategy, but these channels can be particularly impactful when the right influencer amplifies your message and website traffic results.
MSP Social Media Pro Tip: When large data breaches surface, join the social conversation by pointing back to blog posts or other content outlining cybersecurity best practices—or better yet, write a blog post about the breach and what it means for SMBs in your region and then share across your social channels!
Once a new visitor lands on your website, the next step is converting them into a lead by getting them to submit their contact information so your sales and marketing representatives can follow up. To capture this information, you need forms on your website—but not just generic "Get in Touch" forms that live in your footer. Forms that present an offer so enticing, first-time visitors are incentivized to provide their contact information.
Here are three examples of form types your website should feature:
- Gated download (i.e. eBook, white paper, etc.)
- Webinar registration
- Blog or email subscription
MSP Website Conversion Pro Tip: When creating form fields, only request the minimum amount of information your sales representatives need to qualify the lead.
Not all website traffic will convert into viable leads, just like not all leads will close into new clients. That's the funnel at work. Still, knowing who raises their hand requesting additional content from you helps increase sales efficiency. And once you start to grow your database through your website, you can then nurture net-new contacts with your email marketing.
MSP Email Marketing Pro Tip: When crafting any email, be sure to hook your reader with an engaging subject line, keep copy short and concise, include a client quote when appropriate and optimize for conversion!
At this point, you've nurtured your prospects with enough valuable content that they're ready to have a sales discussion. Next, your job is to close these leads into clients—but this shouldn't happen overnight! When your sales representative follows up with a discovery call, understand that the goal here is NOT to make the sale. That may seem counter intuitive, but you need to evaluate whether each prospect is a good fit for you. That's the point of a sales discovery call—to learn more about a prospect's business, uncover any weaknesses your IT services can correct and listen to their needs.
MSP Sales Discussion Pro Tip: Have a list of discovery questions on-hand to aid in the discussion.
Once you've confirmed compatibility, you can't assume that the prospect's ready to sign on the dotted line after one conversation. You should expect and be prepared to handle common objections, like "We're happy with our current IT service provider" or "Is this a sales call?" Being able to reference a standard talk track and playbook for selling managed IT services will help you avoid these potential deal-killers.
Eventually, the prospect will agree to meet with you. Not only do you need to plan your agenda, define your goal and determine how to keep your audience engaged, you also need to arm yourself with the right sales materials and collateral to wow key decision makers during your onsite visit.
Do you have a sales deck that clearly and concisely delineates your value in a way that resonates with business owners? Perhaps the reason your sales have stalled previously is because prospects weren't convinced they needed your IT services or they didn't fully appreciate your team's breadth of experience and expertise. With the "white-label MSP Sales Deck," complete with speaker notes and companion chart slides depicting shocking SMB IT trends, you can advance the sales opportunity to the proposal stage. Then, after a series of negotiations, frequent touches and more questions answered, you can finally close your lead into a new client.
MSP Sales Presentation Pro Tip: When presenting, make eye contact with each of the decision makers in the room and don't simply recite the content on your deck slides.
The fourth and final phase of HubSpot's inbound model is Delight. It may seem strange that there's a sales phase after you already close the sale, but new clients represent a sizable cross-sell and upsell opportunity. More importantly, retaining these clients protects your margins. It costs 6–7x more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. From the moment you sign a new deal, they should continue to experience the red carpet treatment. By delighting clients, you increase their average customer value (ACV) and they'll end up staying with you longer!
What better way to delight new clients than to deliver a seamless and user-friendly onboarding experience? Your client onboarding journey should be thoughtfully mapped out so you're always setting them up for success. If you don't have a standard blueprint for a client's first 90 days or haven't properly set expectations for what the onboarding client should expect from your team, you run the risk of decreasing client satisfaction—jeopardizing their loyalty and even losing their business all together.
MSP Onboarding Pro Tip: Don't forget to share all of the various ways the client can contact your team during their onboarding experience.
In order to accelerate sales, you have to fuel your funnel. Recognizing that website visits, eBook downloads, social media engagements, blog subscribes and email opens can be just as valuable as Contact Us requests if nurtured properly will help you grow your sales pipeline. The four phases outlined above help explain how you can generate leads, move them over the finish line faster and grow revenue with a sound content strategy and proven inbound tactics.
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Gretchen Hoffman