Now that you have transformed your premise-based IT solutions to the cloud, and your product-focused business to a recurring revenue services model, there is one more transformation you must make. You must transform your marketing approach in order to attract and engage new prospective buyers of your cloud services.
To compete effectively in the age of digital marketing, it is vital that you fully leverage your website as a vehicle to find, nurture, qualify and convert new opportunities for your cloud solutions. Your website is a powerful asset that can function as a sales and marketing engine to drive new deals at a very low cost of acquisition - assuming you know a few basic principles of online marketing.
It's time to graduate beyond basic email blasting and Google AdWords placement to the science of Inbound Marketing, where educating prospective buyers leads to acquiring satisfied customers. At the core of this new approach to marketing is the simple concept of understanding what makes customers buy, and converting that knowledge into web-based lead generation campaigns.
Understand Your Buyer's Persona and Journey
Inbound marketing has coined a couple of phrases that you should add to your vocabulary: "Buyer Personas" and the "Buyer's Journey." Don't dismiss these terms as esoteric marketing jargon. They are inbound marketing essentials that you, the owner, principal or executive leader of a cloud service brokerage must understand and adopt.
What is a buyer persona? Leading inbound marketing and sales software, HubSpot, defines it as "a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers." All businesses must have a complete profile of their target audience, which means you need to understand:
- their pain points, and how to address those pain points
- what their decision-making process looks like, and who is involved
- where they look for information
- when their needs trigger a purchasing decision
This information is usually developed after conducting a structured interview process with real buyers who have real needs. Your business may have multiple buyer personas, and each one can be targeted strategically with your content marketing and outreach.
Not sure what I mean by this? Check out this Getting Started with Content Marketing collection to learn more!
The Buyer’s Journey:
Understanding the buyer’s journey is also fundamental for any MSP who hopes to have their marketing efforts pay off. The buyer's journey is defined by HubSpot as "the active research process a potential buyer goes through leading up to a purchase" and often follows a three-step process:
- The Awareness Stage when a problem or a need is first identified and understood
- The Consideration Stage when various alternative solutions for that problem or need are compared and purchasing criteria are established
- The Decision Stage when the best solution for their problem is selected based on their criteria
Mapping the Buyer's Journey to Your Sales Funnel
The power of understanding your buyer's persona and journey comes from mapping their decision-making process, and the information they need at each stage, to your sales funnel. This understanding will dictate everything about how your website should be constructed including page content, blog topics, site navigation, search keywords, offers, events, promotions and landing pages. When your website is purposefully designed to enable your buyer's journey, you will get found, get leads and get deals on a consistent basis.
The Awareness Stage
The diagram above illustrates this strategic sales and marketing process. On the left are the principal stages of the buyer's journey. Early on, buyers are not ready for a sales pitch. They are gathering information, and are developing an awareness of what problem they are trying to solve and how important it is for them to address. During this "awareness" stage, it is important for you to provide authoritative content that explains the impact of cloud-related business processes such as collaboration, mobility, agility, security, disaster recovery and of course, cost control.
The Consideration Stage
Later, as they enter the "consideration" stage, your buyers will be ready to consider solutions for those problems or business needs with cloud-based IT services such as hosted collaboration solutions, mobile applications and device management, cloud-based security and data backup solutions, or the cost impact of pay-as-you-go service plans.
The Decision Stage
When buyers enter the "decision" stage of their journey, they are ready to apply their own selection criteria for choosing a vendor and suite of services. If you have helped them determine those criteria, imagine how much trust and authority you will have established with these buyers! The inbound marketing approach is customer-centric, representing a roadmap for how buyers can find you, instead of you finding them. It offers a blueprint for how leads self-qualify, accelerating the sales process. Lastly, it provides a model for how customer acquisition can be achieved cost-effectively in the era of the cloud.
You’ve made tough transformations to your IT services portfolio and business model. Now it's time to transform your sales and marketing approach and truly accelerate the growth of your cloud services business!
Need more help visualizing what you read here? Check out this infographic depicting the MSP buyer's journey and which types of content belong in each stage!
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Paula Griffin