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In the age of content marketing, it’s easy for MSPs to lose sight of the marketing aspect of landing new clients, and instead fall into the trap of merely generating more and more content for the sake of creating content. The problem is that no matter how much content MSPs generate, if that content lacks the power of driving readers to enter your sales funnel, or advancing them to the next stage, there won’t be any new clients added.

What really matters here is the conversion power of your content. Ask yourself, does it have the power to bring the right readers into your sales funnel and advance them towards the bottom of the funnel, where, hopefully, they emerge as new clients?

Many MSPs’ content is informative reading material, but without the conversion power potential buyers may read one piece after another without ever stepping into the next stage of the buying process.

Looking at the sales funnel, it’s relatively easy to have people enter it at the top (Top of Funnel or TOFU), but it gets harder and harder to have them move towards the middle (Middle of Funnel or MOFU) and then towards the bottom (Bottom of Funnel or BOFU).

The lower you move in the sales funnel, the more careful you must be regarding what type of content you put where. While in the TOFU stage, you can use blog posts, articles, and checklists, but as you move lower, you need more robust content pieces that brings more decision-making power. These include case studies, white papers and one more piece of content…the buyer’s guide.

Many marketers underestimate the strong conversion power of the humble buyer’s guide, a piece of content that serves two main purposes:

  1. To inform buyers how to find, screen, and evaluate MSPs and their services in the right context.
  2. To indoctrinate buyers gently but firmly to your business practices and the way of doing business with you. It enables buyers to make informed decisions about whether to work with your firm.

For some people, the word “indoctrination” may have a negative connotation, but it’s nothing sinister. What I really mean is that you present your offerings and explain what it’s like working with your firm. This is of course, assuming you run an honest and above-board operation based on best practices, and that you take time to discover what your buyers’ businesses really need (vs. what your buyers want). Ultimately, yours is a premium-priced consulting firm, not a budget-priced order taker firm.

When to “serve up” the buyer’s guide

The best places to serve up the buyer’s guide are either at the tail-end of MOFU (Middle of Funnel) or the nose-end of BOFU (Bottom of Funnel).

By the time buyers reach the MOFU stage, they have also reached the solution awareness stage in their minds.

And by the time they click into the BOFU stage, they are in product awareness mode, and they are very close to making their buying decisions.

Some people may think that since MSP services are expensive, the sales process must involve a salesperson from start to finish. Not really.

According to a study by McKinsey & Co., 70 percent of B2B buyers are willing to make self-serve purchases (no salesperson is involved) in the $50,000+ range. And 27 percent of those buyers are willing to make self-serve purchases in the $500,000+ range.

It all depends on how well you align the sales process with the buying process. And this takes us to buyer awareness, that is, how much buyers are aware of their problems and your solutions.

Quick recap on buyer awareness

There are five stages of buyer awareness, and you need to write differently to different buyers at different awareness stages. In short…

  1. Completely unaware buyers: Your prospects sense no problems. They live happily with their own opinions. “Life is grand. There is nothing to worry about.”
  2. Problem-aware buyers: Your prospects sense they have a problem, but don’t know there’s a solution. “Our network crashes 2-3-times a week, but it’s not a big deal. We can live with that.”
  3. Solution-aware buyers: Your prospects know what results they want, but not that your services can provide it. “Now I must deal with this network crash problem. I want to have a strong and problem-free network. Shall I just buy new hardware or call an MSP firm for a thorough diagnosis in case it’s not a hardware problem?”
  4. Product-aware buyers: Your prospects know what treatment they want to buy. “I want a good MSP to do a thorough diagnosis, but I’m not sure which MSP to call.”
  5. Most aware buyers: Your prospects know what they want and who to buy it from. “Having done my due diligence, now I know which MSP to call.”

Buyers’ guides are for buyers in the solution-, product- and most-aware stages. They are already committed to the purchase, and now they narrow down their choices. They are now at the point of screening and selecting sellers, and product-aware buyers are evaluating the 2-3 sellers on their shortlists.

And now let’s look at…

What sections to put in a buyer’s guide

For its content, the buyer’s guide can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s a document to facilitate decision-making, but it’s also a document of indoctrination.

Since the purpose of the guide is to propel readers towards finding and engaging the ideal MSP firm, you can use indoctrination if your firm is an ideal firm for possible selection. Why is this important?

The indoctrination part works only if you run a firm that is both technically and operationally referral worthy.

Imagine an MSP firm that is stuck on Windows 95 and it publishes a buyer’s guide. The guide recommends readers to select MSPs that use Windows 95. It would be rather silly considering how old this operating system is. Let’s also consider that technical referral-worthiness only works if your firm is a specialist. It’s pretty much impossible to stay on the top of all aspects of IT if your firm is a generalist, doing a bit of everything.

So, what to put in the buyer’s guide?

Here are some sections that I’ve used in the past with great success. You can let your imagination run free and come up with your own versions. But…

Write a section on price vs. value and your guarantee.

If you offer a good guarantee, it’s highly unlikely that your competition can match it, and you stand out like a trombonist in a heavy metal band. So, let’s see some sections that you can include…

  • How to avoid four typical MSP rip-offs
  • 6 misconceptions about working with MSPs
  • 3 ways to sniff out possible bait-and-switch deals
  • 8 mistakes to avoid when choosing an MSP
  • 4 common MSP sales deceptions to be aware of
  • The importance of value and price
  • 6 costly mistakes to avoid when engaging MSPs
  • 12 questions you must ask MSP sales representatives before your shortlist their firms
  • Why your selected MSP firm must come with BOTH great operations and great technology
  • The importance of a 100% NO-RISK guarantee
  • 4 steps to a happy, healthy information technology backbone for your [target market] business

Try not to make your buyer’s guide too long. I prefer to stay within six pages. At the end of the guide, include a section about your firm as well with a photo of your people. This way buyers get a visual idea of your firm and can start building an affinity with you.

And that’s all there is to it, really!

Yes, it takes a bit of thinking and planning to pull off a great buyer’s guide but think about how much it can increase your proposal acceptance rate even if you are the highest bidder for those projects.

Photo: smolaw / Shutterstock

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Tom Varjan

Posted by Tom Varjan

Tom “Bald Dog” Varjan designs and builds highly automated client acquisition systems for boutique IT service firms that enable them to attract better clients with more interesting projects at higher prices 24/7. He is one of the very few IT marketers/copywriters who is also a graduate computer engineer with 16 years of experience in the high-tech industry as an engineer, programmer, project manager and corporate tech buyer.

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