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Many Managed Services Provider owners believe Marketing and Sales are one in the same—But they’re not. The purpose of marketing is to bring leads to your salespeople so they can convert them into sales. When your salespeople close a sale, your company provides a service or product in return for money or some other form of compensation.
When business owners can’t differentiate between marketing and sales, this makes it difficult for their salespeople, because they don’t have the quantity of leads they need to work with. The two processes work in symphony, but they’re very different from each other.
Marketing involves educating prospects about your company. You must assume that without marketing, they don’t know anything about your MSP business. To “market” you should use “brand awareness” by promoting your name, services and products, and establishing your company as an “expert” in the IT MSP industry. Vehicles to facilitate this process include using SEO Marketing (search engine optimization), your website, blog marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, display ads, PPC marketing, direct mail and events. With these marketing vehicles you can educate prospects about your MSP, entice them to contact you and provide leads for your salespeople.
SEO is a very important factor when marketing your MSP. Without it, people searching online for MSP services in their area will find your competitors before they find you. Your goal is to get your company listed at the top of an Internet search. Sounds simple, but it’s not so easy to do. To be at the top of a browser search you must select the proper keywords that most people key in when they’re looking for the service or product you provide.
Now it gets even more complicated. This is where your marketing content becomes critical. If you sound like all the others in your industry, nothing differentiates you from them. It’s important to get creative in your marketing and the copy you write, so companies are attracted to you and remember you above all the other MSPs in your vicinity.
If you don’t have a MSP website that converts a visitor to a prospect, you should. (Learn more about Ulistic’s $497 website package) Once your prospects find your website, they need to be able to navigate it easily and find what they need quickly so they don’t become frustrated with overdone content. “Keep Is Simple Stupid” (KISS) is the number one rule in marketing communications and graphics. People hate to take the time to read, they don’t have the time. Once you get their attention you need to “grab” them within one minute or they’ll move on to a competitor’s site. Your upfront content is key to attracting prospects, and it must be visually appealing as well. Give them a taste of what you do in the first layer of your website.
If they stay with your site, the next step is to break things down for them. “Spoon-feed” content to them in an easy-to-understand format they can relate to. Readers need a reason to stay on your page. To convince them to stay, you need to convince them that you have something that they need and that’s valuable. (By the way, you should have done your research before this. You must know what your prospects want and need.)
One of the most interesting, intriguing and valuable Internet marketing tools today is the blog. Blogs engage readers. It’s like the talking to your neighbor over the “backyard fence.” Consider it as a digital “backyard fence.” Readers have something in common with you and you have something valuable to share. You shouldn’t try to sell here, just inform readers; but you can market and insert a “call to action” that tells readers where to go for more information (such as your website).
If you participate in or start a blog, it’s important to keep your blog readers engaged and looking forward to your next post. You should also ask other industry experts to “guest blog” on your blog. This promotes your credibility. A blog can get readers “hooked” on your content if you keep it interesting and helpful.
Marketing On Social Media
Most people are on social media today use it to keep in touch with friends, family and for fun. Most companies are also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to market their products and services. If you haven’t, you need to participate in these free options and from these pages, send readers to your website so you can educate them further about your MSP services.
Email marketing educates recipients about your services and products, just like the strategies above. However it’s different because it targets people you have email addresses for. Content for email messages must grab the reader in the email “RE:” title or it will be deleted before it’s read. If you don’t’ provide email recipients with something that interests them in the title or first sentence, you might as well quit before you start. If you do reach them remember to “KISS”(keep it simple stupid) and give them a “call to action” (what they need to do to take advantage of your offer). These folks may be people you’ve met at a meeting, convention, who’ve already contacted you via your website, or a list of email addresses you paid for. Email marketing is an inexpensive way to promote your message to a handful of recipients that you believe have an interest in your MSP services or products. Ensure you use a 3rd-party software or an add-on so you can track the effectiveness of your emails; and turn your “links” into buttons that are easy for readers to click.
Display ads involve placing graphics and short snippets of contenton your website to grab your readers’ immediate attention. You can also use these display ads on printed magazine and newspaper ads, local TV ads, and anywhere else you market. Keep your brand uniform so that viewers recognize it within the first few seconds of seeing it. It sends a subliminal message.
Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
You should consider pay-per-click ads in your marketing campaign. You can “pay your way to the top” of a search with PPC ads. This is how it works: you promise to pay a PPC vendor (like Google) say—$3 per click. Each time an interested party clicks your ad, Google charges you $3. This is a good strategy for companies that are trying to get their name out to the general public. When you set up a PPC ad, you should use a designated phone number and call tracking so you can determine if they found you through your PPC ad. This way you know if you’re getting value for your PPC investment.
Earlier in this paper, we spoke about guest blogging. Do the opposite. Consider writing an article for your local Chamber of Commerce or business blog. You’re not only helping others, but also attracting them to your MSP company. It’s also a good way to gather referral links to your website. You can link content on your website or electronic newsletter.
Whether you use postcards, promotional items like brochures, “Slim-Jim’s,” letters or invitations —direct mail is still a key marketing initiative for MSPs. Traditional marketing methods like direct mail are still alive and thriving. You need a credible, up-to-date database of postal addresses to use this form of marketing, and of course a powerful message that will grab readers immediately, and a call-to-action to keep it simple for them, with a concise clear message that prompts them to contact you. Remember to use a special tracking phone number email address or webpage so you know it was your direct mail piece that referred them to you.
Events are a powerful face-to-face way to get to know your prospects and clients. A simple internal event at your office, where you serve lunch or breakfast is ideal ice breaker and a way for attendees to meet you and others. Provide education along with a meal and train them on the latest products and services you provide, but keep it educational and focused on their needs.
This can be expensive so you might need to charge a minimal fee; this will also weed out the people who are really interested in learning about your services, versus those who are just looking for a “free lunch.”
Invite local press people to an event and make it all about the community, photos and all. People love to see their faces in the local papers and magazines. And consider partnering with other community organizations like your Chamber of Commerce, or hold industry-specific events for CPAs, law firms, medical companies, etc., and focus your education on what these industries need.
If you want to reach a large number of people, or a state-wide or national audience, consider attending and setting up a booth at a trade show or industry convention that can reach many thousands of prospects. Many associations hosting conventions have their own vehicles for advertising to their members and attendees. If you can afford a database of attendees, send out an invitation to each one for them to attend your booth, or place an ad in the conference material that goes out to each attendee. And if you offer an incentive (like a chance to win a trip to Cancun, etc.) you won’t be able to keep them away. These large events are helpful for you as well, as you get a broader sense of companies needs and issues, and what your competitors are doing. Also consider presenting at an event if the conference planners are looking for speakers. This often takes a lot of up-front planning and investment, but if you want to expand your MSP into a broader area, even nationally, this is the way to go.
Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL and Fort Erie, ON-based Ulistic, a specialty MSP Marketing firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.