Welcome to Part 1 in our "Meet the Judges" blog series. Check back next week to meet another one of the judges for the MSP Marketing Masters Awards
In a recent survey we conducted, we found that only 40 percent of MSPs with less than 10 employees feel confident about the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. Whether it’s due to a lack of resources, expertise, or time, MSPs need help optimizing their marketing strategies. So we asked a Marketing expert for their advice. Here’s what we learned in a Q&A session with Richard Delahaye, senior director of marketing here at Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda.
Q&A with A Marketing Master, Richard Delahaye
Q: Richard, for those MSPs just getting started, what marketing activities should they focus on first?
First and foremost, MSPs just getting started should make sure they have a website and make sure that it’s ranking on local searches. For example: "IT Support in Chelmsford, MA." If you’re unsure how to do this, you can easily do some Web research on how to get your website listed on Google’s local search.
Also, it’s critical that MSPs have their contact information highly visible on their website. This includes (at a minimum) their primary phone number as well as an email address. In addition to having these numbers noted on your site, you should also make sure that someone on your team is responsible for responding to email inquiries and answering inbound phone calls.
After you’ve launched a website, I’d recommend getting started with blogging so that you have an easy way to publish information that's relevant to your business and a way of capturing email addresses (blog subscribers) from prospective customers and other folks who may be interested in your company. There are many easy-to-use blogging services out there and most make it easy for readers to share your updates via Social Media - and the best part is, it's all free!
Also, you need to have a database whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet or basic customer relationship managment (CRM) software program. There should be a standardized way for you to store all of your customers' and prospects' information and a record of marketing efforts you have targetted them with.
Lastly - and this may seem obvious - get your MSP business listed in local publications like the Yellow Pages since many small business owners tend to be a little older and still rely on the these sources to find local services.
Q: What are the most important things for MSPs to remember when putting together a marketing campaign?
Don’t attempt to boil the ocean – some of your best leads will come from referrals from your current customers so start small and see what works.
Also, understand that there are some activities that you just have to do in your marketing and other things like campaigns that get layered on top of those efforts.
The best campaigns are ones that really make you stand out from the competition and clearly articulate what makes you different, explaining why a small business should work with you rather than with the competition or opting to manage their IT themselves.
In general with your marketing, remember to keep it simple and be as clear and concise in your messaging as possible. People are busy! Try and avoid jargon and over-complicating your message.
Also, successful marketing campaigns include a personal element. A personal touch makes a big difference for local businesses. These types of business want to know they’re dealing with a real person rather than a faceless company, especially since they’ll be looking for IT support from you and want to know they’ll be looked after properly.
The campaign doesn’t stop when the email goes out or event happens – remember that a campaign takes some planning and execution but the follow up is just as vital. For instance, making sure sales people are answering emails and calling every lead – these are extremely important steps to make sure you’re leveraging your investment .
Q: How should MSPs measure the success and performance of a marketing campaign?
There are no hard and fast rules but what is important is that you are measuring performance and you clearly define what success looks like. For example, consider the size of your audience and then look at how many responded to the campaign, and from those responses, how many of those did you have a conversation with or some action that showed additional interest.
Marketing isn’t just about new business, you can also market to your current customers – cross selling and up-selling can often be easier than making a cold call. Look at what additional revenue you’re generating through those types of activites.
Understand that every type of marketing activity has a different profile in terms of how expensive it is, how great of a response it will generate, how long it will take for results to come through, etc. So, you’ll have to learn what those profiles are and choose those that work for your business. For example, email campaigns can generate lower response rate but the results are instantaneous, versus hosting a local event which will take a longer time to execute but have a more lasting effect on the potential customers you meet, for example, potentially closing new business 6-12 months later after the event.
Q: What marketing activities do you think MSPs can follow to generate leads?
There are many different ways MSPs can generate leads for their business. First, I’d suggest having someone who is not technical look at your website and watch to see what they do. For example, is it easy for them to get in contact with you and understand what you’re selling?
If your MSP is operating locally, focus on local marketing activities. For example, by sponsoring events that business people in your area will take notice of like a golf tournament, little league sports team, lunch and learn, or networking event.
Don’t underestimate the value of research as part of your lead generation. You can hire an intern to search Google and find companies near you that look like the customers you already have and may have contact information on the website. From there, send them a few emails, or a mailer to see if they're open to having a conversation.
I’d also suggest having a referral program for your existing customers to know you’re interesting in new business and offer them some kind of incentive to share referrals.
Another piece of advice: Avoid banner advertising and companies that promise they can get you top 10 google rankings for. More often than not, this is a waste of your marketing dollars.
Q: What suggestions do you have for MSPs looking to differentiate themselves in the crowded marketplace?
To stand out from the competition, you need to identify your company's strengths and weaknesses, and tailor your marketing appropriately. Talk to your customers and ask them what they like about you and what you could do better.
For instance, are your services incredibly reliable or do customers just like your customer service record? From there, use this information to make sure your marketing 'rings true' and you attract attention from people that like what you offer. Also, make sure your competitive advantage is something that customers want and value or you could be wasting your time.
Another piece is to stay relevant, technology changes rapidly so understand what your customers and prospective customers’ needs are what they’re looking for from their IT service provider – stay on top of these changes as best you can. Your best salespeople are happy customers so strive to make sure they have a great experience working with you.
Q: You’ll be judging the MSP Marketing Masters Awards – What is something you think all good marketing campaigns have in common?
As I’m reviewing the MSP Marketing Masters Awards submissions, I’ll be looking for marketing campaigns that have a clear message, show evidence of thought and effort, and can point to meaningful results for the business.