Ask an MSP Expert

Q: Now that we’re bringing on more customers at my MSP, we’re looking for new ways to keep them in the loop without having to call everyone to give each and every important update. We’re thinking about developing a monthly email newsletter to reach out to both prospects and customers. What are some advantages and disadvantages of doing this, and what kind of content should we include?

Developing an email newsletter is a great way to educate and communicate with your customers. While you’ll still want to do regular one-on-one check-ins with your customers, a newsletter is an additional way to stay in touch and share industry knowledge that can help them. There isn’t one right way to develop a newsletter, but there are a few best practices you should put in place.

To help your first few newsletters go smoothly, we talked to Lindsay Faria. Lindsay is the director of partner marketing at Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda, and she oversees the creation of the team’s monthly partner newsletter. She shared best practices for producing a quality newsletter and advice on how to pick content to include that will be valuable for your SMB customers.

Best practices for creating your newsletter

One general rule of thumb you should follow when creating your monthly newsletter is that you should keep it skimmable. Just like you, your customers are busy—and they want something they can easily digest and scroll through, and that is worth their time to read. Here are a few tips:

  • It doesn’t need to be long. Highlight four to six articles or news items. While you want to share relevant content with your audience, you don’t want to overwhelm them. Keeping your newsletter brief gives your audience a focal point—and gives you an opportunity to highlight your most important pieces of content.
  • Be concise. For each topic you cover, you want the content to be ‘summary style’ rather than dense and hard to read. Be short and sweet, and use links to point out to more detailed versions of the content accordingly.
  • Consider what is relevant. Many wonder whether they should create multiple versions of their newsletter to address different audiences. I would say there are advantages and disadvantages to this, and you should weigh your options carefully and decide what best meets your business goals. The challenge with two versions is the additional workload, but it may be worth taking on if your goals with your existing customers are very different from the goals you have for communicating with your prospects. If you go this route, you can always make them largely the same but make small tweaks to each version so that it speaks to the audience it is going to. In a customer version, you can offer exclusive news and resources that are only available to them as customers, which may be something they appreciate.

  • Send your email newsletter regularly. Whether it’s the last day of each month or the 1st day of each quarter, establish a cadence so readers know when to expect it. This way, they can look out for it in their inboxes and find out what’s new. This also helps you to plan well in advance for what content can go in each newsletter.
  • Create clear calls-to-action. As with most marketing and communications efforts, you want to give readers a next step, such as learning more about the most recent ransomware threat, requesting a consultation, or downloading a piece of content. Use succinct language to let readers know what you want them to do.
  • Here’s a big one – verify that it adds value. The most important thing to ask yourself when you’re picking out content for your monthly newsletter is if each item provides valuable information or education to your audience. This could mean using it as an educational vehicle to point customers toward helpful content and resources, or it could be an opportunity to share updates, such as new service offerings or your upcoming office relocation, or customer appreciation event. You can also feature certain topics by focusing on areas you know are of specific interest to your customers such as cybersecurity or compliance, using that section to highlight a timely, relevant article.

Think about third parties

If your MSP has its own blog, that can a great source of material for your newsletter and a good way to drive traffic to your blog posts. However, Email newsletters aren’t just for IT service providers that have their own blog. There are plenty of resources that you can recap articles from and then point readers to if they want to read more. The right articles for your business will depend largely on the industry or vertical you’re serving. Linking to third party content from reputable sources is a great way to add credibility to your business and provide additional value to your customers. After all, they don’t want to hear from just you. A few examples of credible resources that you could use to find fuel for your newsletter include:

  1. The Hacker News is an IT security news site designed to educate users on how to safely navigate the Internet. With more than 5 million monthly readers and followers, The Hacker News highlights recent threats and shows end-users how they can mitigate the risks of cyber attacks. Articles range from SQL issues and new malware attacks to patches users should implement now.
  2. SmarterMSP.com is a new educational resource to help you grow your MSP business, and you’ll find quizzes, e-books, and other materials you can use to educate your customers about the value of IT services. For example, there’s a ransomware e-book filled with best practices SMBs can put in place to mitigate the risks of an attack.
  3. Forbes Tech is another great place to find articles to share with your SMB customers to give them a broader industry perspective on topics such as cybersecurity and technology trends they can’t afford to ignore. With more than 10 articles per day, there is a good chance you’ll find an article that’s the right fit for your SMBs.

  4. Health IT Security is a good resource for anyone working in healthcare IT because it shares relevant news stories and updates to help businesses stay compliant. While your MSP might not cover this specific vertical, look for publications that speak directly to your audience. The more relevant your newsletter is, the more engagement you’ll earn.
  5. Leverage your vendors. Vendors can be a tremendous asset for your MSP business, and they can provide articles or resources to fuel your newsletters as part of their partner enablement program. For example, MSP partners have access to the Intronis MSP Solutions Partner Toolkit, which is filled with rebrandable quizzes, e-books, and other resources you can use in your newsletter.

While you can build an effective email newsletter without them, tools such as Marketo or Constant Contact can help you set up an efficient system for sending out your newsletter. The tool you choose will depend on the size of your budget, but it can help you deploy the email to the right contacts and track open rates and clicks so you can measure the performance of your newsletters and optimize them over time after seeing what works and what doesn’t. As an added bonus, if you give your sales team a heads up about your newsletter, they can get more mileage out of the content during their one-on-ones with prospects and customers using the content to generate important conversations.

Publishing regular newsletters for prospects and customers is a great way to keep them up to date and keep your MSP business top of their mind. Sharing educational content and following Lindsay’s tips can help you come across as a trusted advisor, rather than someone just trying to sell them yet another service.

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Photo: Carmen Murillo/Shutterstock

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is an Editorial Associate at Barracuda MSP. In this position, she creates and develops content that helps managed service providers grow their business. She also regularly writes The MSP’s Bookshelf and our Ask an MSP Expert column.

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