Borrowing from the Best: MSP Marketing Essentials You Won't Want to Miss

Is your MSP a marketing powerhouse, or just shuffling along? Stuart Crawford shares his learnings from 17 years of growing MSP businesses through superior marketing.

For more than 17 years, Stuart Crawford has been the Founder and CEO of Ulistic and a leading voice in the IT MSP marketing industry. IT marketing -- is that really a thing? According to Stuart it certainly is, and a crucial part of every MSP business. Without the right marketing tactics in place, MSPs find that their websites are languishing from a lack of traffic and interest from potential clients. When you add in that "special sauce" that includes content marketing, advertising and SEO, MSPs find that their traffic and sales explode. See how swiping the best ideas has helped Stuart build an extremely successful MSP marketing program as well as borrow some ideas that you can immediately implement in your business.

"Everything I Learned About Marketing I Swiped"

How does an engineer shift to become one of the country's most successful marketing minds for technology managed services providers? With no formal marketing training, Stuart had to learn by watching others and leveraging their ideas. Even nearly two decades later, he continues to watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts and read articles by other marketers to find that little nugget of information that will help improve his marketing for Ulistic and for his many MSP clients. The majority of marketing is truly common sense. "Swiped" has a very different meaning for Stuart than you might expect: Steal With Integrity and Pride Every Day. He takes pride in generously sharing the knowledge that he has gained over the years with his clients and with the world.

How Marketing Helps Grow Your MSP Business

When Stuart was beginning his career with Merak, which is where he started learning more about vertical markets and the power that they provided. Merak was primarily in the energy industry, and Stuart used what he learned at Merak to eventually start his own MSP -- IT Matters -- that focused on solving the unique challenges of the oil and gas industry. He went so far as to send his engineers to the local community college to understand more of the basics, which helped to differentiate them from their competitors. He also created strong relations with sales and technical professionals that were a part of their vertical, everything from trucking companies to other gas companies. Using these tactics, he was able to grow IT Matters from a staff of three to more than 34 employees in a space of about 7 years with sales of over $5 million. These relationships and networking, as well as his team's deep knowledge of the challenges that were facing the energy vertical, allowed their rapid growth to continue. While his technical skills were not extremely strong, Stuart soon realized that he needed to leave the technical aspect of the business to others while he focused on the marketing.

Shifting the MSP Mindset

Ulistic is now a small, boutique agency that helps MSPs improve engagement and marketing chops. In 2010, Stuart continued to realize that he was truly passionate about helping MSPs better understand the marketplace and translate that information to their marketing strategy. His philosophy was that MSPs should work with potential clients to determine what their needs are and actually go sell the products or services before you create them. This allows you to essentially vet the concept before spending a great deal of time on execution. This requires a mindset shift for MSPs as they become more of a media, marketing and sales organization than a strictly technical implementation specialist.

Business Development v. Marketing or Sales

Building relationships with a client is a radically different concept than straight marketing and sales. With business development, you aren't looking for an immediate sale but are instead looking for ways to create value for your clients. Look for ways you are providing knowledge and support to the full business cycle: partners, the community, clients and prospects. This starts with creating value-add education that people will use and value -- essentially making your a thought-leader in the industry and in your geographic region.

Celebrate Your Success

When you celebrate the success that you have in business with a broad audience, you are reinforcing the idea that your MSP is creating a benefit for the industry, your clients and the community. This doesn't have to be a massive undertaking -- a simple email to an influential partner letting them know that you appreciated their help in snagging that big deal can encourage them to send the next project your way, too. Media engagement is earned advertising that your prospects and the community will find the next time they're looking for services similar to those that you offer.

You Can't Market With Your Head Stuck in a Server

As a leader in the MSP field, marketing is your single most important activity. Your job is to consistently focus on creating buzz for your business through a variety of methods:

  • Sharing information that helps your partners be more successful or look good to their stakeholders
  • Creating a wave in the industry when you openly share your wins with clients, partners and the community
  • Constantly working on relationships: in person, via email, on the phone and on social media
  • Make friends with local media by becoming a reliable resource to answer difficult questions
  • Become a media powerhouse through the creation of compelling audio, video and written content
  • Ensure that your website ranks high on search results for the "right" keywords and take advantage of all available content channels
  • Rev up your review engine! Never be afraid to ask for (and share!) success stories from your clients and utilize testimonials whenever possible

The bottom line: You can't be afraid of the media or of being the public face of your organization.

While your MSP business may have seen early growth due to your technical knowledge, it is your marketing chops that will truly take your business to the next level. From building relationships to ensuring that you are highly visible online, Stuart Crawford's Ulistic has become a powerful force in the world of MSP marketing. Want to see how to leverage marketing best practices to drive engagement and revenue for your IT MSP? Contact Stuart Crawford today for your complimentary website grading and analysis -- register online at


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