Ask an MSP ExpertQ: I want to grow my MSP business, but most marketing tactics appear to be outside of my budget. Do you have any ideas?

MSPs have many tools at their disposal to generate new business: word-of-mouth, conferences, websites, trade shows, webinars, social media, and so on. Create an inventory of what tools you are using and not using, and you may find there’s one valuable tool you are overlooking that’s right in front of your nose: the lowly email list.

I started an email list for my content creation company which now stands at 25,000 email addresses and counting. It has proven to be an invaluable tool for my business and it can be for yours too. MSPs, while often niche in their focus, can benefit from having an email list.

First, though, to grow your MSP business you need to have a mix of marketing tools at your disposal. Word-of-mouth is indispensable and cheap. But, the best marketing tool you have is your product.

Let customers market for you

If you provide a valuable service at a fair price, your customers will do the marketing for you. But marketing is often a long game, and you’ll need long-term tools to remain in play. That’s where the email list comes in. You’ve had your MSP’s website up for years, but merely putting up a “cyber shingle” with your rates and services isn’t enough.

You need to use the website to develop a relationship with potential customers. To that end, it is important to have an email newsletter sign-up form on your site. There are many services out there that can be seamlessly integrated into your site. I use MailMunch, but there are plenty of others.

Next, consider using an incentive to get visitors to register on your site. For instance, create an ebook of “25 Cybersecurity Tips” or “IT 101: the Basics” or, better yet, a “free IT consultation” by phone, if practical. Once the person signs up, the relationship doesn’t end there – it’s only the beginning.

Engagement creates customers

A weekly e-newsletter can ensure you continue to offer something of value to potential customers. The emails shouldn’t be a hard sell, often, not even a soft sell. Whether the newsletters are written by your marketing person, the CEO, or a rotating cast of employees, let people get to know your MSP. Post some pictures of your technicians working or of Joan in accounting, bringing her dog into work. Make some YouTube videos that impart some simple information and showcase your MSP’s expertise.

If there is a topic in the news about a significant data breach, offer your take on it and how other companies can avoid such a fate. Provide tips on how to avoid being caught up in a phishing attempt. Give insights into what an MSP does. Link to interesting articles elsewhere. Showcase favorite products from favorite vendors. Then, deliver all of this exciting and engaging content in a weekly e-newsletter.

As your email list grows, you’ll want to use a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact to manage the list and monitor open rates and click-throughs. Each service offers templates to create your newsletter. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – I’ve often used just plain templates with no design at all.

In the past, I’ve experimented with Constant Contact, MailChimp, Mailerlite, and other email services. All offer similar features, some more user-friendly than others, but all of them will give you data to monitor audience engagement. If you see that your audience is engaged, then keep the newsletters going; if not, keep adjusting your message.

Email addresses are your roap map

Each email address you collect is like a seed, and each newsletter you send out is like water and fertilizer for that seed. It may take awhile for that seed to bloom, but eventually, it will. Not every single email address you collect will convert into a client, but a tiny percentage will. Given the low investment cost in sending emals, it will be worthwhile.

Make sure existing clients are on the email list too. You’ll be able to introduce them to new products and services while further cementing your relationship with them.

Some skeptics might say, “yeah, but isn’t this what social media is for?” You can create the best social media presence in the world, but if you don’t have a way to deliver it, it’s a waste of time and money. The e-newsletter is the delivery mechanism, and the email addresses you collect are your road map to the future. The biggest advantage of focusing on building an old-fashioned email list is control. Once you have that email list, it’s yours.

Meanwhile, Facebook changes its algorithms. Google changes its algorithms. What may work today on social media may not work tomorrow. But an email list is yours forever. A list of emails isn’t going to change in one impersonal change of the algorithm. So if you haven’t starting building your list, start, and watch your business bloom.

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Kevin Williams

Posted by Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a journalist based in Ohio. Williams has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and others. He first wrote about the online world in its nascent stages for the now defunct “Online Access” Magazine in the mid-90s.

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