Last week we talked about the opportunity for MSPs within the market and how they can take advantage from a sales perspective. This week, we're talking MSP marketing. It's hard to ramp up your sales without the support of a marketing program, yet many MSPs seem to put marketing on the back burner.
In this weeks episode, I sit down with our CMO, Jeanne Hopkins, and Adam Barker, Director of Demand Generation at Continuum to talk about how MSPs can build a successful marketing program and generate a sustainable flow of leads.
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Nate: Hey Paul! Thanks for tuning in everyone. Welcome back to MSPRadio. This is our second episode and I'm excited to keep things going. Today we're going to be talking about marketing. Last week we really talked about the manage services market, kind of where things are headed, where you can take advantage on the sales side, but today we're going to kind of shift it more to the marketing side and give you guys some tips with your marketing programs and start generating your own leads as a manage service IT provider. Just a quick note, don't forget to subscribe to our iTunes channel. That's MSPnow and also feel free to tweet us at followcontinuum or use the hash tag MSPRadio. We'll be checking for your tweets. We'd love to hear what you have to say about the show, what we're talking about and any opinions you want to chime in on. Today I'm sitting here with Jeanne Hopkins. She's our Chief Marketing Officer here at Continuum. Jeanne how's it going today?
Jeanne: Great Nate! Thank you so much for having me here. Great fun!
Nate: Thanks for joining us. To start we wanted to talk about kind of building your marketing program for an MSP. A lot of our partners don't have too much budget, but it's important to do and something I like to say is having not marketing is like having wide receivers with no quarterback. You really need someone to throw passes and help put them in the right position so they can make their own receptions. What are some hot little things you can really do as an MSP to get a marketing program going?
Jeanne: That's a great question Nate and I think one of the things you have to realize is that all of our managed IT service providers and all of our partners have content. They have a ton of content. It's all in their head generally and they have all this technological knowledge. How do we get it out of their head and into something that's consumable by their clients or customers? What I would like to talk a little bit about is content. The object of content is to offer solutions to problems that their customers might have so there's a ton of technical issues that are out there, whether it's XP, how to install PowerPoint on your computer, how to do a spreadsheet. These are all very, very simple things that these particular technical experts have to share from a content view. What I would suggest is that it's not marketing. Let's get that word 'marketing' off the table because I don't know an IT person worth their salt that cares one hoot about marketing. Marketing is the [unintelligible] of what an IT department is. An IT person is thinking very logically, very linearly and what marketing people have is maybe they're a little too creative and so those two halves of the brain don't necessarily meld. What I'd like our manage service providers, our audience today, to think like a publisher. If you're publishing something, what are the headlines? What are the things that your customers are asking you about? What are they calling you about and what are they saying I need help with? If you were to write down on a white board or maybe have a little notebook that you have, maybe you use EverNote on your laptop or tablet and start talking about these are some of these questions that my customers are asking. Then you answering those questions. You could answer it like a radio show like we're doing right now. We're answering questions. Video - you could do a whole number of very, very simple things. You could record yourself doing Skype and that particular content, that little bit of content could get posted to your website. It could be a file that you're posting somewhere and you're linking your customers so your customers are saying, "I don't know what to do about Windows XP? What are the tings I need to be concerned about?" So you say, "These are the five things you need to be concerned about in Windows XP" Bullet them and answer those questions and then there's your content. It's as simple as that.
Nate: So let's say I'm an MSP and I start [unintelligible] this content. How long do I have to wait until I can start seeing some results? It's not just going to happen instantaneously.
Jeanne: Oh boy! Spend a dollar and you want a dollar back tomorrow. I wish that that were the case. The great thing about content is it's relatively low cost. I guarantee you everybody who is listening to us spent $4,000 with a telesales company or $1,000 buying a list or $3,000 with a search engine optimization company. The great thing about content is that it's very, very low cost, but the return is going to pay dividends forever so I liken it to everybody rents so you're renting your property. You're renting it, but when you're renting AdWords for example, you're spending money on AdWords so you're essentially renting. You're not investing. You're not going to get that money back, but what you're doing when you're building content and you're posting your content, you're building your own cathedral. You're going to keep getting those returns year after year after year on that. For example, you run our blog. You actually when you look at the metrics on our blog and you've been doing it for six months now and you go back and you look at some of the articles that maybe were posted in December, they were okay. Then you say, "Wow, all of a sudden this article is getting a lot of traction" and it was posted in December. To me content is the gift that keeps on giving.
Nate: Exactly and it helps you understand what people are looking for and what they might be searching for. Maybe you posted something three months ago, but now it's really catching on. It's a great way to get a cathedral of content and see what is actually picked up and what people are searching for.
Jeanne: Exactly and you can leverage it so you can repost that blog post or you can add to it. In the comments section of your blog for example, you have the ability to do more with it.
Nate: The other thing is you have to be consistent. It's not just build a cathedral and let it sit there, but keep adding to it and keep building new wings and expansions and things like that.
Jeanne: Exactly because you don't build a cathedral in a day. I mean many cathedrals take hundreds of years so I'm not saying it's going to take hundreds of years to get a return on your marketing investment, but it's like an exercise program. You can buy a membership to the gym and then think about that as your website. Once you go [unintelligible], you picked a URL, you said, "I'm going to build a website. I'm going to build a blog. I'm going to do this." and gym memberships have two flows in it. People buy gym memberships the week after Christmas and the first two weeks of January and every single fitness center in the universe, that's how they make their money. They get two in the door and they get you on the electronic phone transfer so you'll start and they're called tourists in the gym business, that they're gym tourists because they show up, they lift the weights and they go and they work on the cardiovascular stuff and then they're exhausted and their muscles are strained and then you don't see them again. It's not until like May that they're saying, "I’m having $49.99 taken out of my checking on the first of every month. I'm going to go back to the gym.", but you're really not going to the gym. You're sitting on the couch watching Hoarders and eating potato chips, but what you're doing with content, that's your gym. That's your fitness membership to be able to think about doing something on a regular basis whether it's once a week. I'm not asking you to bench press 200 pounds, but it's pretty easy to write a 200 word blog post about something you know.
Nate: Exactly. The other point I wanted to touch on was really budget and I know you have an accounting background. Do you have any sort of tips or maybe some thresholds that MSP's can use to really help budget for their marketing programs?
Jeanne: Marketing is an afterthought for almost every organization and in many technology environments and start up companies your marketing budget is about 15-20% of your overall budget. In many organizations, however, it can only be like 5% or maybe 4%. Let's just pretend you have $100,000 revenue stream. If you were to take 5% of that, that's $5,000, so that's roughly $450 per month. If you were to spend $450 per month you could have a free word press site. You could even have a free blog site and $450 would allow you, you would be able to produce just about any type of content whatsoever. You could probably even work with an intern or somebody that you could pay. Let's do the math. If you paid somebody $10 an hour, an intern or something, and they could work 40 hours a month for you, ten hours a week, is that better than what you have right now? Probably so the most important thing getting back to your point Nate is consistency. What kind of consistency? It's not like buying your gym membership on January 2. You have to think about it. You might be able to do it this week, next week, thirteen weeks from now. Planning out your entire content strategy and being able to back those so you know that you're constantly pushing out new content. For us, this radio show is a good example. If we didn't have this time and if Paul wasn't here to remind us to be able to do this on Thursdays at this specific time, we would say, "Okay next week. Okay next week." This is our stake in the ground that will allow us to do this. We all need a stake in the ground.
Nate: That's a good point to keep in mind when you're doing any sort of content. It doesn't have to be a radio show. Blog every day on Wednesday or three times a week or making sure that you stick to that program. Like a gym membership, you've got to stick with it and putting a stake in the ground really helps you stick to that. If you could tell every MSP to do besides content, besides blogging, just one little nugget of information that you could tell them to get started, what would it be?
Jeanne: Don't buy Yellow Pages ads! Yellow Pages is a racket and I always see these small businesses that just keep re-upping their Yellow Pages ads and they cost so much money that they don't even see it anymore because it's part of their telephone bill. They're spending $1,000-$1,500 and if they could just take that money, the problem is that they are annual contracts and they auto renew and if you don't pay attention to when those Yellow Pages ads are coming due, you're not able to reallocate that money. You can't get out of those things. It's like a blood oath. If you take a look and you say, "I'm not going to re-up my Yellow Pages ads. At that time I'm going to take all that money" because Yellow Pages is very, very geocentric. Let's take a look at Boston. I could buy a Yellow Pages. I could buy it for all of Boston, but it would probably cost me $11,000 a month. What you end up buying in Boston are areas. You end up buying where you're going to appear in very specific areas so whether you're in Omaha, which is cook, Miami, Chicago, if you took that money that you're spending on something that you used to do and used to drive traffic for you and you started spending it on content, you're going to have a much better return for a much longer period of time.
Nate: Definitely. All right Jeanne. This was great. Thank you. You've provided some really great information for MSP's. We're going to be taking a quick commercial break here. We're going to be coming back with Adam Barker, who is the director of Demand Generation here at Continuum. He'll be joining us to talk about how MSP's can really break out of this referral mode and generate their own leads online. Again taking a quick commercial break and I'll be back in a minute.
Nate: Hey Paul! I'm sitting here with Adam Barker, Director of Demand Generation here at Continuum. Adam thanks for joining me today.
Adam: Thanks for having me Nate.
Nate: No problem. First I just wanted to remind everyone, don't forget to tweet at us. Tweet at followcontinuum or use the hash tag MSPRadio. We'd love to hear what you think of the show so far and any other suggestions for future shows. Feel free to shoot those our way. So Adam, director of Demand Generation, what does that really mean? What are you really responsible for at Continuum?
Adam: It's kind of a fancy title, but really all it is I'm in charge of making sure we drive demand for Continuum and what that means literally is driving traffic to our website and which in turns drives leads to the sales reps. There's a number of different tactics we use to drive this traffic so basically that's what it is in a nutshell. I work with a really cool lead gen team and each of us have our own little super power of how we drive and convert traffic. At a high level it's making sure that the world knows about us.
Nate: You qualify yourself as an online lead generation expert.
Nate: That's one of the things we wanted to talk about here. A lot of our partners, they rely on referrals to find new business and they sit back and wait for these referrals to come. They do come here and there, but you can't really control your growth. You can't control when those referrals come really. Something we try to help our partners with and teach them is how to go out and find your own leads online and generate your own leads and be responsible for your own growth. I just wanted to start with what are some things that MSP's can do to really break this referral mode and start generating leads online?
Adam: I think the first thing you could do is make sure your website is ready to accept leads. I know it sounds 101, but making sure there is a leads form right on the homepage and it's visible from the homepage, a contact us form right there right when you get to the website and making sure that the content form goes into some sort of CRM system where you can have people follow up with them, send a follow up email. There are a lot of low cost forms to response email systems out there that you can access, but I would say make sure your website is ready to accept leads because that's the number one place everyone is going to go before they're ready to call you, before they're to [unintelligible] they're going to check you out on the web so give them a place to offer their information.
Nate: Even if they get a referral or one of your clients send them your way, they're going to go to your website. They're not just going to call you up immediately. They're going to check you out. It's like your storefront.
Adam: Nobody really wants to just dial up a cold call these days. They want to be reached out to after they've submitted their interest to you.
Nate: Exactly. They kind of get a feel for your company and the things you do. So where do you thing MSP's are really missing their mark when it comes to their website? I know you mentioned the lead form, but what are some of the things you can do to help support forms submissions and make your website more effective?
Adam: I have looked around at a lot of the MSP sites out there and I think the ones that are doing really well are the ones that are making their site personable, a nice photo of your president or whoever right on the front page because I feel like a lot of times in the IT world we just kind of hide behind graphics and stuff like that so you want the people to feel comfortable with reaching out to you and a lot of these MSP websites are not very big. They may be 4-10 pages long because there's really not aside from your offerings there's not a [unintelligible] so you really only have that homepage to grab the visitor. Make it as good as possible. Put that form right on the homepage. Have a testimonial quote right there on the homepage. Have a nice photo of your President or CEO right there on the homepage and really grab them right from the beginning and make sure they feel comfortable. Make it personable. People like doing business with people. You don't have to tender this large corporation. Bigger isn't always better. The sites I've seen is they try to act very corporate and have this big box of text and try to pretend that they're bigger than they really are, but it's not always the best thing because in IT the biggest fear is that something is going to go down and you're going to lose all of this info and you want to have somebody that you know you can call to fix everything so you want to make sure that they know that someone is going to be there to answer the other. Small businesses rely more and more heavily on IT support for all of their different systems and they really need a strategy consultant, someone they can really trust and go to and that's a person, not a big company. They want that confidant they can really go to when they have IT questions.
Nate: Absolutely. I also wanted to touch on SCO a little bit. It's kind of this weird, it's always changing, you never really know the best things you can do as Google is always shifting their weight and it does things. What are some high level tips for MSP's when it comes to SCO and really dragging people to your website?
Adam: Great question and I really want to give some easy take aways that you can just go do. Jeanne touched on one of them and that is content, but before you even do that, the kind of boring part of SCO is actually kind of one of the most important. What you want to do is these kind of like SCO 101 tactics, which is addressing the structure of your site, which is making sure you have unique page titles on all of your pages. You need to edit descriptions that show up in the Google search page. Things like making sure you have unique [unintelligible] on every page. If you do those three things for every page, I guarantee you'll see results. I've been at a number of small businesses and everyone asks me how to increase their organic traffic through SCO and you just follow the basics and it just happens. It's as simple as that. What you want to do on your page titles since I know a lot of MSP's are fine for local search is you want to make sure the name of your company is in there, where you serve, say it's Nashville, TN and then obviously something unique about that page whether it's your about us page or your services page. That way anybody who has ever heard of you by just word of mouth when they Google you since your name is in your page titles, you'll more than likely show up and then if somebody Googles something like IT for dental companies or dental offices in Nashville, TN you will be in the ranking for that. I can't guarantee you'll be on the first page, but you would be in the ranking for that based on the structure. That's kind of the first thing. The second thing Jeanne sort of talked about it and it was structuring your content towards what people are asking. That's kind of a fancy way of saying answering your client's questions with website content. A lot of MSP's will just build out their offerings, what they can do for people, but one kind of smart tactic to do is to take the five most popular questions that your clients ask you and turn that into a website content. Maybe even start with a FAQ type of page and take each question and turn that into a web page because the way Google works now is it's very question based. If you can answer what people are searching, that's what Google does. They take connect questions and answers. You search for something and they provide answers. If you're writing about the answers people want to hear, Google is going to bump your rank up. That's why they're so good. They're very good at finding answers. The last thing I would say is just MSP's have so much information in their head and I know they probably balk a little bit at the sound of doing a blog, but maybe that might be more advanced, but just write everything that every interesting story and any web article. It doesn't have to be a blog. It can just be a web page on your site and just make a link to it in the navigation and if you do that once a week, in one year you'll have 52 new articles and it's kind of like what you guys were talking about. If you just allocate a little time every week to doing these small content 101 things, in 6 months to a year's time you're going to have 20-30 articles on your site that are driving a ton of traffic because you're speaking the lingo that people are searching for.
Nate: That's great. Thank you Adam. This is great. You really provided some great tips for MSP that they can really use to improve their website performance and hopefully get found on Google. Thank you everyone for tuning in. Just a reminder, tweet us at followcontinuum, use the hash tag MSPRadio and we'll be looking for your tweets. We can't wait to hear what you guys have to say. Feel free to visit our blog as well at blog.continuum.net. We've got a ton of great content there and we'd love to see everyone on the blog. Again subscribe to our pod cast on iTunes. If you search MSPnow, you'll get all of our episodes straight to your iTunes account.
By Gretchen Hoffman