Ask an MSP Expert

Q: My MSP gets contacted once in a while by people offering to include us on a top 10 list of providers in the area. While this might be great for our business, it usually has a big price tag. Is it worth paying to be included in this type of press?

It’s important to get your managed service brand out there, and increasing your exposure can be a good thing for your business. A recent survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute revealed that 80 percent of decision-makers prefer to get information through a series of articles rather than in an advertisement. In today’s digital world, having a corporate blog or an outside publication promote your business is vital to maintaining business growth and increasing your sales pipeline. But, you need to choose the right opportunities.

To help you decide if a pay-for-play opportunity is right for your business or if you should spend your marketing dollars elsewhere, we spoke to Suzanne Collier at WhiteFox Marketing Inc. With more than a decade of experience of providing PR and marketing in the IT channel, Suzanne shared her expert advice on how IT businesses can gain more press exposure without breaking the bank.

How to determine if pay-for-play is right for your MSP

A pay-for-play magazine opportunity is when you’re contacted by a salesperson who proactively pitches including your MSP on a category list for one of the services you offer. For example, a salesperson might reach out to you and say something along the lines of: “You’ve been listed as one of the top 10 providers for backup. Would you like to pay this amount to be included in our upcoming issue?”

They’ll often list you on their website and write an article for you—and they’ll make this seem like a great deal. You need to be careful about this, though, and read through the fine print. Traditional media outlets won’t reach out this way. Usually they’ll ask for a quote to include in an upcoming article, or you’ll have to reach out to them to suggest an article on a current topic related to IT.

Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, pay-for-play opportunities can be worth it. But, if you’re only looking for visibility outside your own marketing efforts, it isn’t always the best way to go. Generally, I advise clients to stay away from these types of magazines because of the reputation they have in the marketplace. However, for some businesses with limited resources, it can be a good way to get a piece of content they can then leverage in their marketing efforts.

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Before you make the decision, find out what benefits you’ll get with the package. Will the list be published online, as well as in print? Will they link to your site? Will they produce any additional assets you can use in your marketing? What kind of ROI will it deliver. Also, keep in mind that the value should outweigh the costs. Behind on the hard costs of the opportunity there are intangible expenses. For example, your customers and competitors may know it’s a pay-for-play publication, so being listed among the “top 20 backup providers” may not drive the credibility you were hoping for.

How to get more press coverage

If you don’t want to go for a pay-for-play opportunity but want to get more press, be proactive by reaching out to the media. For local coverage, join your local chamber of commerce, or send your local newspaper a press release when something new is happening in your business. Try to tie your business to a local news story by showing the newspaper what you’re doing to help. For example, if there was a power outage, tell the reporter how you’ve helped your customers quickly recover their business data. Getting involved and staying informed in your community can help you naturally grow your business. Be aware, though. Just because you reach out, doesn’t mean they’ll always cover you.

To get national coverage, work with your customers to create case studies to share with trade publications. There are a lot of channel trade publications that are open to sharing your success. For example, Channel Futures is always looking to publish MSP success stories and their annual MSP 501 list is a great way to get some exposure for your business. ChannelE2E and SearchITChannel are good publications as well and are often looking for MSPs to weigh in on topics relevant to their businesses and trends in the industry. 

How to explain the value of an IT investment

If you really want to get your name out there, you might want to consider contributed byline article. This is usually a submission to a mainstream publication that enables to position your MSP as a thought leader. Sometimes these opportunities can be free, but you’ll want to vet them out to first, just to make sure. If there is a cost, find out if the publication will be willing to work with you to ensure the opportunity fits within your budget. Also, don’t forget to ask if they will allow you to link back to your site as this can help drive SEO for your company.

Further, keep an eye out for opportunities your vendor provides. Sometimes they’re looking for someone to interview for blogs or provide quotes, references, or general IT insight for press releases and other materials. This is a good way to strengthen your relationship with your vendor and gain additional exposure for your business.

Whether it’s a pay-for-play opportunity, teaming up with your vendor, or reaching out to your local newspaper, there are multiple ways to increase your brand’s visibility. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to growing visibility for your MSP business, and Suzanne’s insight can help you find the opportunity that best fits your budget and marketing needs.

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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