Ask any small business owner what the lifeblood of their business is and in most cases you will hear “Referrals!”.
As the great line from one classic Seinfeld episode echoes “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” As great as referrals can be, we want to help open the minds of Managed IT Services Providers (MSPs) to better ways of generating new business and growing beyond the referral mentality.
Don’t get us wrong, referrals are fantastic and there is never a good reason to turn away a good referral. However, many MSPs rely on referrals to find new business and this can make it very difficult to achieve consistent and scalable growth. MSPs need to implement sales and marketing techniques that will help them consistently find and engage with new prospects, rather than rely on the randomness of referrals. Adding new customers can become a more regular occurrence, which is a crucial step in building a growing business.
Let’s examine some options for finding your own leads:
1. Market yourself online
We know you have heard this before but the mounting evidence to the value of online marketing is growing. When people need a solution, they turn to the web, and establishing your web presence can help you stand out and find a new customers. Your competition is most likely doing this already and preventing potential opportunities from ever reaching you. Paid search, social media, SEO (search engine optimization), blogging and other various methods of establishing a presence and position of thought leadership using the online channel is critical to the success of the company.
Research has found that 60% of the sales process is already complete before a prospect ever speaks to a sales rep. How you ask? Content marketing.
Content marketing is the process of publishing content (through blogging, social media and your website) that helps inform your prospects about your industry. The strategy behind content marketing is that you provide best practices and industry tips for your prospects and clients to read. As your prospects read your content, they start to form an opinion of what kind of solution they need, and when your sales team can finally get in touch with them, your solution is well positioned to meet their needs and their expectations. Bottom line here: make sure your content is timely, relevant, and answers the questions your CURRENT customers ask you, because researchers are likely having some of those same problems.
If you are not competing in the online marketing space you are missing out on significant opportunity to find those who are looking for information because they are preparing to or are ready to buy.
2. Take the plunge and hire sales help
The next step after online marketing is hiring a sales rep. It’s hard to run a business and also be the sole person responsible for finding new customers. If you’re the owner of a managed services provider, don’t put all the burden of new customer acquisition on yourself. Hire a sales rep to make calls, follow up with leads and own the responsibility of finding new business for you. As you continue to build out your online marketing channels, this rep will be crucial in actually closing the people who are reading your content.
It can be difficult to find the right salesperson to help grow, however there are some strategies you can use to help find a quality sales rep. In doing this, try to have reasonable expectations since the right salesperson may not be the first or even the third one you give a try. However, hiring a full-time sales person is a very important step in building a sustainable, growing business, and it’s worth the time to find the right one. Here are some tips for how to pay your reps after you hire them.
3. Invest in yourself as a business owner
Many MSPs were started because the founder has an IT background. It’s easy for owners to get their hands dirty in the tech-work because they enjoy doing it so much. However, to run and grow a business, you need to be a business owner. Sounds obvious enough…but many MSP owners get too involved being a technician, and don’t spend enough time managing their business.
As the owner of a managed services business, it’s important to devote your attention to all areas of your business (sales, marketing, service delivery, client relationship management etc.) rather than helping to provide technical solutions. You’re responsible for making sure the business runs as efficient as possible – and part of that is managing the sales and marketing teams to make sure they’re providing new leads and new deals. If you’re too caught up in the technical side of your business, your sales and marketing teams may be suffering due to lack of attention.
If you’re concerned about not being able to effectively run your business, don’t be afraid to hire a management consultant. Many times they can provide good advice and best practices to follow that will help you run a successful business.
4. Find speaking opportunities
Speaking opportunities are a great way to get your name in front of new people. There are many different tech organizations in just about every market and they are constantly looking for folks who are willing to present, speak or sit on a panel. Speaking at events gives you the chance to share your ideas and solutions with your prospects and industry peers. Even just attending these events will help you network and meet new people.
Be sure to collect business cards at these events, as they’re a great source of leads for your sales team.
In order to achieve consistent growth, you need to find ways to consistently deliver new leads and consistently close new deals. Referrals are great, but they’re not a scalable business model for growth. Don’t ignore referrals, but don’t rely on them either. Implementing the strategies above will help you generate your own leads and move you towards a growing managed services business.
What strategies have helped you grow as an MSP?
By Nate Freedman
By Meaghan Moraes