When it comes to new customer acquisition in the managed IT services market, effective sales is only half the battle—great marketing is also required if MSPs are to generate a high volume of quality prospects.
Marketing is a growth engine comprised of many different parts and systems—and when it’s approached tactically and is properly optimized, it can greatly accelerate your pipeline and lead generation efforts. Through the right combination of content, processes and programs, IT providers can transform their websites and collateral into lead-generation machines.
THE NEED FOR MSP MARKETING
When an MSP business starts, it’s fairly common for that business to thrive for a time on referrals and word-of-mouth business alone. In fact, many MSPs can reach as much as $1-2 million in revenue this way. However, selling through referrals and personal networks can only take any business so far; sales will eventually stagnate with a lack of new leads, and businesses can be exposed to risk when their clients begin to churn.
Augmenting referral sales with a strong marketing program is how MSPs can keep a consistent lead flow in the pipeline. It does take work, but it’s time well spent as MSP marketing is proven to yield high ROI. With a focused, concerted effort in digital inbound marketing, MSPs can achieve a better google ranking, drive increased and deeper interest in your services, and increase overall traffic to your website—all of which will generate new leads and ultimately new clients.
MSP MARKETING KEY TERMS & DEFINITIONS
These are just some of the terms commonly found in the area of MSP marketing; there are many more ideas and concepts to explore as you increase your marketing efforts.
Marketing—The act of bringing a product to market; the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
Marketing Communications—The messages, materials and media that are deployed to communicate with a target audience.
Channels—The mediums through which a marketing message is brought to its intended audience, such as print ads, digital ads, press releases, eBooks email, website messaging, blogs, social media, webinars, podcasts and more.
Lead—A prospective customer of a product or service that shows interest and provides contact information.
Lead Generation—The process of activating content through marketing channels to gain the attention of prospective clients and to capture their interest and information.
Demand Generation—The process of using targeted marketing programs, in conjunction with sales functions, to bring awareness and education to a prospective customer about a specific product or solution that the prospect is dealing with, and to drive them to a proactive buying decision.
Inbound Marketing—A strategy designed to generate leads by attracting prospective clients via informative and persuasive marketing content, distributed across digital marketing channels. Inbound marketing relies on the nature of online search algorithms to empower potential customers to come to the company, rather than marketers vying for their attention.
Outbound Marketing—Any kind of marketing technique where a conversation is initiated by a company first by sending that message out to an audience. Traditional examples include print ads, television and radio commercials, outbound sales calls and email spam.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)— A set of strategies, tactics and techniques for increasing the number of visitors a website receives by achieving high-ranking placement on a search engine results page (SERP) of one of the major Internet search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo.
Pay Per Click Advertising—A method of advertising via the Internet where advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. It allows advertisers to bid for placement when someone searches on a keyword that is related to their business.
White Paper/eBook—An authoritative, informative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)—Strategies and technology for managing and analyzing customer interactions and data throughout the sales cycle, with the goal of increasing lead generation, speeding up the sales process, and improving relationships with existing customers.
Content Management System (CMS)—An application or system used to create, organize and publish digital content in the form or static web sites, blog posts, email, social media and more.
Call to Action—A piece of content that encourages a viewer, reader, or listener to perform a specific act—usually in the form of an instruction or directive such as “buy now” or “click here.”
Landing Page—In terms of lead generation, a web page that prospects are directed to from marketing efforts, so that they may enter their contact information and in turn, receive an asset—usually a piece of informative branded content.
DEVELOPING A MARKETING STRATEGY
The goals of any MSP marketing strategy should be to first identify the customer groups you’d like to target, and then outline the marketing communications channels you will use to reach them. In deciding which customers to reach, buyer personas—a profile of the pain points, market interest, business need and objections of a target customer role—can be utilized to understand the optimal audience for your solution.
Next, you’ll want to list out the messages and offers you want to relay to your target audience, put specific and measurable goals in place, and align them across the channels they will be sent through. Each message should be optimized to maximize its effect through the appropriate channel. For example, an email campaign should present a solution to an issue the reader is having, along with a link to follow to get more information (or more content), a social campaign should present shorter messages and links to more info, while an eBook will present in-depth points and solutions designed to remove any concerns a customer may have in the sales process.
Website—Often considered the central asset of an MSP’s marketing efforts, a managed IT services website should be modern, easy to navigate and above all, contain a clear message on the value and need for managed services. Focus on strategic and effective SEO practices and up-to-date, relevant content.
Blog—A frequently updated blog that focuses on customer concerns can draw in new contacts and establish an MSP as a true subject-matter expert (SME). Focus on being informative and SEO-friendly, and include calls to action at the end of each post for additional marketing materials or contact forms.
Social Media—The forum for immediate and relevant interaction with contacts, social media provides an opportunity to combine the value of managed services with a conversational tone that can resonate on a more personal level with contacts.
Email—While not always grouped into an inbound marketing channel, email marketing is an important step in nurturing leads through the sales funnel after they have expressed interest via an inbound marketing channel. Craft email campaigns designed to send messages and content at regular intervals as prospects near a buying decision.
Video/Webinar—An import piece of the marketing puzzle, as video can deliver complex ideas in a simple and short period of time. Videos is engaging, persuasive and converts at a very high level. When used to also tach, in the form of a webinar, they can be powerful tools to convince an active and engaged audience to make a purchasing decision.
Podcast—One of the newest marketing channels, podcasts are hyper-focused audio programs that users may actively subscribe to. This process qualifies the listener significantly, and can lead to high-converting traffic when delivering a marketing message effectively. In terms of lead generation, they can also, drive new prospect interest as well, with podcast directories on Apple Podcasts and Spotify serving as targeted search engines for podcast listeners.
Types of Marketing
Whether it’s eBooks, videos, webinars, podcasts or other forms of digitally distributed content, MSPs should boast a library of branded, custom content to distribute through the marketing channels they employ. Whether through inbound or outbound messaging, the goal of content marketing is to have a prospect engage with informative material designed to present the value of a managed services solution in an authoritative way that presents the MSP as a thought leader, and leads the reader to take further action to engage with more content or leads to a sales call that drives new client acquisition.
A mix of inbound and outbound techniques, paid media includes any combination of pay-per-click ads, banners, sponsored social posts, sponsored content in external publications and more. The nature of search engine technology allows MSPs to thoroughly refine their target audience to match ads to prospects who are actively searching for managed IT services, yet the technology is intelligent enough to canvas an audience that may not inherently know they need MSP services. By blending the best features of both techniques, paid media can be an effective way to quickly ramp up new leads that may or may not be interested, or sales-qualified, in the IT solution.
Inbound marketing strategies utilize high quality content on websites, blogs, landing pages and more in conjunction with search engines to draw-in a prospect that is seeking a solution your business provides. Because the prospect was already searching for a solution, they are already activated and motivated to make a buying decision.
Outbound marketing requires you to reach out to your target audience with a statement of the value of your MSP services. Often, it will prompt a recipient to take action, such as placing a call to your business, going to a website, or sending an email. Outbound marketing hits a wider audience—some of which may be interested, some of which may not be interested at all, and some of which may need your services, but didn’t know they did prior to your marketing campaign.
While they can be costly, events provide an opportunity for MSPs to discuss their value and services to a “captive” audience of new contacts, and to network with peers as well. Additionally, hosting contacts and prospects at a “lunch and learn” event is a fantastic way for MSPs to get face-time with potential customers, and to display their expertise in an open and informative environment.
Just as analytics provide visibility into every other area of an MSP’s business, data should be leveraged when making decisions related to marketing. Measuring and tracking campaigns to determine what is successful and what is not is important to refining and better-targeting optimal prospects. Just a few marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on include:
- Page views (website/blog)
- Unique visitors (website/blog)
- Time on page (website/blog)
- Bounce rate (website/blog)
- Open rate (email/blog)
- Clicks (email)
- Click-through rate (email)
- Impressions (social)
- Likes/Follows (social)
- Shares (social)
- Form submissions (gated content)
- Downloads (gated content)
- Secondary action (gated content)
- Views (video)
- Drop-off rate (video)
- CTA clicks (video)
- Downloads/listens per month (podcast)
- Downloads per episode (podcast)
- Subscriber rate (podcast)
An MSP marketing program can take many forms, but its success relies on creating interest in managed IT services, and transforming that interest into a sale via a well-conceived plan that can be executed and measured. With a concerted effort in marketing, MSPs can achieve strategic, predicable sales acquisitions to further their overall growth objectives.