Q: Even though we have a small marketing department at my MSP, for the past several years we’ve created a 12-month marketing plan. But, every year we’re too ambitious and end up shelving it a few months in. How can we create an effective marketing plan that we can use consistently throughout the year?
Creating a marketing plan is easy, but following it can be difficult. This is a common struggle that most businesses face for numerous reasons. Maybe the plan is too difficult to execute or too lengthy to look back on, the goals aren’t clearly defined, accountability isn’t assigned, or there’s a lack of resources and unforeseen market changes. While you may not have had luck in the past, creating an effective marketing plan is achievable and can be a great tool to successfully guide your team.
To help you create an effective marketing plan to carry with you through the year, we consulted Raj Khera, the CEO of MailerMailer. Raj works with numerous MSPs to help them excel in their marketing efforts, whether it’s helping them create a newsletter to send to their clients each month or a well-crafted email, Raj helps MSPs generate marketing success. To start your New Year off on the right foot, here are Raj’s tips for creating an effective 12-month marketing plan.
Identifying the key components to an effective marketing plan
The best marketing plan is the one that gets used. If your plan is too complicated or wordy, chances are you’ll never look at it. Instead, it will get shelved and collect dust. The most effective approach is creating a marketing plan checklist. Checklists are easy to follow. Once an action is complete, you can move on to the next clearly defined step. For example, MailerMailer’s free 12-month marketing plan template is designed this way to help your MSP achieve additional success.
Before you create your marketing plan, there are several key components that you need to identify:
1. Your target market
The first step is identifying your buyer persona or who you want to attract to your MSP business. What industry are you looking to target, and who typically makes the decisions in that industry? You might have multiple customers with different buyer personas, but in this exercise you’re looking to identify who your ideal customer would be. Think about where you want to take your business this year and what verticals you want to focus on—your marketing should speak to that audience.
Avoid going after every possible client. Large and small clients have different needs with different requirements and different support levels. Avoid being scattered, and if possible, choose only a few verticals to pursue. If your focus is all over the map, how are you different than any other MSP?
2. What influences your target market
Find out where your ideal customer hangs out. Do they go to a lot of tradeshows? What publications do they read? What other outside influences impact their decision making? After you have identified these factors, you’ll know where you need to go to meet new prospects. For example, if you’re targeting accounting firms you don’t want to go to a tradeshow geared toward IT providers. The better use of your time would be to find events or tradeshows that accounting firms would be attending. This is fairly easy to do if you already have clients in these industries because you can simply ask them what they do.
It’s difficult to grow your business without meeting new people. Combined with other marketing activities, take a proactive role in finding new clients—and encourage referrals from your current customers, especially if your time is limited.
3. Clear, measurable goals
This often gets overlooked, but setting clear goals for how much you want to grow is an essential part of creating an effective marketing plan. Everybody always say that they want to grow in the next year—but by how much? Will 10 new clients overwhelm you, or will that not be enough? Work backward and determine how many leads you need to generate to achieve your goal. One way to do this is by calculating what percentage of your leads travel through the sales cycle to become a customer. Knowing this metric makes it easier to figure out how much marketing activity you need to accomplish to reach your goal.
4. Touchpoints to keep in mind
Very rarely will you meet a prospect that will immediately say, “Yes, sign me up.” To avoid losing contact with prospects who aren’t initially ready to buy, create marketing touchpoints to help them remember your MSP. This could be as simple as a monthly educational newsletter, which has an estimated ROI of 38 dollars to every 1 dollar invested. Something like this is simple to produce, and it’s a great way to show prospective customers that you’re a reliable and knowledgeable IT expert.
Another key component is your collateral. Do your sales people have the right tools help a prospect buy? Often, MSPs think they can just hire a salesperson and call it a day, but the reality is that sales rep need materials to help back them up. This includes case studies, e-books, educational newsletters, and more. If your collateral is limited, consider adding a few pieces to your marketing plan.
While the specifics included in a 12-month marketing plan will be unique for every business, following Raj’s tips can help your MSP create an effective plan. After all, the best marketing plan is the one that gets used.
Ask an MSP Expert is a weekly advice column answering common questions from MSPs and IT service providers. It covers topics ranging from pricing and selling to marketing and communications—and everything in between.