In order to build lasting business relationships and drive new business, you need to up your marketing game by learning to toot your own horn.
It's not a secret that every managed service provider (MSP) needs to do more than simply keep their clients happy, they must create a "wow" factor for both existing and potential clients in order to grow year-over-year. The question is how?
One of my longtime clients, Kingston, Ontario-based OnServe, adapted Ulistic's 17-step sales process that my team and I designed to drive MSP sales and marketing, and modified it to suit their needs.
OnServe, a full-service MSP with branch offices in Toronto and Ottawa and 25 employees companywide, started out as a computer retailer more than 30 years ago before establishing its MSP practice about a dozen years ago. Ryan Thompson, OnServe's former Director of Marketing, explained how OnServe made use of Ulistic's sales strategy.
"Our mentality was we wanted to speed up the sales process and get rid of the risk-related concerns that future and potential clients tend to have when weighing a new IT partner," he said. "We'd get our technical team involved from the get-go with our sales team, and we'd immediately put ourselves in the partner category by using risk-averse language. That helped us to see eye-to-eye with potential clients; it put us at the same table as them, and we made clear our goal was to work toward helping them meet their business goals.
"By aligning IT requirements to business goals, we're able to help our clients get through those scary pieces IT usually entails. This is particularly true for small to midsized businesses."
The Language You Use Means Everything
Thompson touched on an important point: the use of language.
There are four "swear words" in marketing lingo that I always avoid using and I recommend you avoid using them too when talking to clients or prospects. Those words are customers, pricing, investment and proposal. They're stale, generic, ugly words that won't help you build meaningful, lasting business relationships or score new business. Instead, use clients, numbers, cost and game plan.
Furthermore, in order to build lasting business relationships, you need to follow OnServe's lead and up your marketing game by learning to toot your own horn.
"We rebranded OnServe a couple of years ago. No one knew about all the great things we've done with and for clients and how terrific our staff is, and that included a lot of our existing clients," Thompson said. "Now, we make a point of sharing those experiences and bragging a little bit about our successes."
Case in point, OnServe had one municipal government client that was delighted with the work the MSP did. With Ulistic's help, OnServe produced a one-page case study of that work and shared it with other municipal governments and town councils. That led to OnServe signing up six more municipal government clients in a matter of a few weeks.
"We don't always launch into full-blown managed IT services with all of those governments," he said. "We're flexible. We talked about training projects or partnerships, and business challenges we've helped other municipalities work through. For example, municipalities in Ontario are now expected to be compliant with the Accessible Ontario Disability Act. We got them prepared for that and helped them get through related business challenges that they didn't know existed yet."
Success stories are your secret weapon when closing new sales. Your MSP name carries little clout, so you need to rely on your past successes. Interview your clients and get those stories shared. Don't just provide client references; also include one-page case studies.
Building Up Trust
The sales process doesn't stop after you ink a client to a contract. That's when you and your team have to shine to build trust with your client.
One way OnServe accomplished that involved assigning a dedicated liaison to each client, and using videos to introduce its team to all of the client's staff.
"A year and a half ago, we didn't have a dedicated sales team, we've grown organically. We incorporated our technical team into the sales process, and by doing so, transferred the trust from the sales team to the account manager and ultimately the IT services agreement," Thompson said. "That helped to establish trust with the client throughout the entire company. By using videos to introduce our staff to the client's, it helps them to get to know our entire team quickly.
"We want the 'rank and file' at the client company to have a great experience no matter what the issue or question at hand is. We're their IT department. They need to trust us."
One other thing that OnServe does that resonates with prospects: in addition to providing its credentials, marketing materials, and case studies online, they also provide potential clients with a printed marketing kit.
"That kit describes our entire business from top to bottom, and it leaves a positive impression on new clients," he said. "It used to take an average of nine months to close a deal on a new client, now it takes a matter of weeks."
Only one in 100 IT firms prioritize marketing but 100 out of 100 want more sales leads. Ulistic helps managed service providers think and act strategically about marketing to generate more leads. Our team of experienced writers, graphic designers, and professional marketers will engage with your business daily to provide expert marketing materials and advice to help you create a foundation for success. Want to learn more? Visit us at Ulistic.com.