Ask an MSP Expert

Q: Usually we just count on customers calling and asking us about our services, but our new customer rate has been slowing down. One option we’re considering is investing more in our marketing department to help us set up more first-time appointments. What are some effective strategies we can use to do this?

Word-of-mouth and referrals are a good way to help sustain your business and get interested customers in the door—however it’s not a reliable way to scale your MSP business. To effectively grow your business at a steady rate, you need to develop a sales and marketing strategy to support your MSP business.

To help you develop a concrete marketing plan, we talked to Angela Leavitt the Chief Mojo-Making Officer at her company, Mojo Marketing. With more than 15 years of experience in sales and marketing, Angela delivers actionable business advice to help MSPs succeed. Here is what she had to share:

How the buying process has evolved

The buying process has changed significantly in the past several years. Business growth used to hinge on sales people doing a lot of outbound activities, but buyers now take a more self-directed journey through the sales funnel. On average, 60 percent of the decision-making process happens before having a conversation with a salesperson. The concept of using outbound tactics to get appointments needs to be reworked as a result.

One thing we’ve noticed at Mojo Marketing — for either clients or for ourselves — is the impact of putting something of value out there for potential customers. Whether your content nurture includes webinars, e-books, or whitepapers, this approach allows customers to consume the content, and then when they’re ready, they can reach out to have a sales conversation. Asking for an appointment right away has worked well in the past, but now it’s more about thinking long-term with the relationship. That means getting their interest, answering their questions, providing great content, building a relationship over time, and they’ll let you know when that appointment is necessary.

Understanding your audience

To really connect with your audience, your need to understand their pain points. If you think of it in terms of fishing, you want to identify which fish you want to catch, where they are, and what kind of trouble they might be in. If you can understand that first, you can create something of value to them—which is the shiny lure. What is the valuable piece of content that will attract their attention? Is it a lunch-and-learn event on the most recent threat and how to protect their company? Think about what’s hot and trending that’s on people’s minds.

Instead of inviting potential customers to a sales appointment, invite them to download something of value or attend an event to help them excel in certain aspects of their business. Essentially, you want to think in terms of what is beneficial for your customer instead of simply showcasing your company and pushing your services on them. The biggest thing I emphasize for businesses to do in their marketing is to stop talking about themselves and instead start thinking about the prospect and what they care about.

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Go in, become a doctor, ask a lot of questions, and really understand their pain. That’s what it takes to gain their trust so you can help them solve that problem. Unfortunately, most MSPs don’t take the time to do this. Instead, they shout about their services through a microphone, but, the reality is that’s not how people start searching for answers. You want to catch them when they’re in their research phase.

Improve your campaigns and your website

When you’re developing your website, marketing collateral, and campaigns, think about who you want to attract and how can you speak to those prospects in a meaningful way. Become more granular with who you’re targeting, and develop messaging that speaks to them.

The more specific you can get in your campaigns, the better. If you focus on a vertical market, demonstrating that success can grab people’s attention. For example, I see ads all the time across social platforms. As a female business owner, sometimes I get ads for female entrepreneurs, but one time I saw an ad for women who are digital business agency owners. It was so specific that it really grabbed my attention. I thought, “Wow, what could they have possibly developed that was that specific?” This just goes to show that the more specific you can get, the more impact you’re likely to have.

Another place where MSP business owners need to focus is their website. It’s 2017, and, let’s face it, your website is your home plate. Everything you do from a marketing perspective will tie into it. For example, if you’re doing an in-person event and someone looks you up later to set up a follow-up appointment—your website is key.

But, I see a lot of MSPs with websites that have very outdated designs, that aren’t mobile-friendly, and that don’t speak to their target audience. Businesses need to start thinking of their website as a 24/7/365 salesperson. We want that salesperson to look sharp, sound sharp, and provide a lot of great info. So, keeping your website up to date should be part of any ongoing marketing plan.

The buying process has evolved, but by putting Angela’s tips into action you can connect, nurture, and grow your prospective client pool. While it may take time to develop the tools and resources, building this aspect of your MSP business can help prospective clients move down the sales funnel, and ultimately help your MSP set more first-time appointments and close more business.

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Photo Credit: Pressmaster / Shutterstock.

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is an Senior Content Marketing Specialist 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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