Getting started with MSP marketing

| By: Scott Marshall

When it comes to new customer acquisition in the managed IT services market, effective sales is only half the battle. If MSPs want to generate a high volume of quality prospects, they require great marketing.

Marketing is a growth engine comprised of many different parts and systems—and when it’s approached tactically and is properly optimized, it can significantly accelerate your pipeline and lead generation efforts. Through the right combination of content, processes, and programs, IT providers can transform their websites and collateral into lead-generation machines.

The need for MSP marketing

When an MSP business starts, it’s fairly common to thrive for a time on referrals and word-of-mouth business alone. In fact, many MSPs can reach as much as $1-2 million in revenue this way. However, selling through referrals and personal networks can only take any business so far. Sales will eventually stagnate with a lack of new leads, and businesses can be exposed to risk when their clients begin to churn.

Augmenting referral sales with a strong marketing program is how MSPs can keep a consistent lead flow in the pipeline. It does take work, but it’s time well spent as MSP marketing is proven to yield high ROI. With a concerted effort in digital inbound marketing, MSPs can achieve a better Google ranking, drive increased and deepened interest in your services, and increase overall traffic to your website—all of which will generate new leads, and ultimately, new clients.

Developing a marketing strategy

The goals of any MSP marketing strategy should be to first identify the customer groups you’d like to target, and then outline the marketing communications channels you will use to reach them. All marketing strategies should focus on the Buyer’s Journey, and that’s no different for MSPs.

In deciding which customers to reach, buyer personas—a profile of the pain points, market interest, business needs, and objections of a target customer role—can be utilized to understand the optimal audience for your services.

Next, you’ll want to list the messages and offers you want to relay to your target audience, put specific and measurable goals in place, and align them across the channels they will be sent through.

Each message should be optimized to maximize its effect through the appropriate channel. For example, an email campaign should present a solution to an issue the reader is having, along with a link to follow to get more information (or more content). A social campaign should relay shorter messages and links to more info. In contrast, an eBook will give in-depth points and solutions designed to remove any customer concerns in the sales process.

Approaches and types of MSP marketing

As the Senior Vice President of Marketing at ConnectWise, I’ve seen how marketing has evolved both over the years and for our partners. While some MSPs are taking to new marketing techniques, there are a few universal marketing approaches that can apply to any business.

The first approach to marketing is demand generation. This is the process of using targeted marketing programs, in conjunction with sales functions, to bring awareness and education to a prospective customer about a specific product or solution that the prospect is dealing with and drive them to a proactive buying decision.

A second marketing approach is called inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is designed to generate leads by attracting prospective clients via informative and persuasive marketing content, distributed across digital marketing channels. This relies on the nature of online search algorithms to empower potential customers to come to the company, rather than marketers vying for their attention.

The third approach is outbound marketing. This is any kind of marketing technique where a conversation is initiated by a company first by sending that message out to an audience. Traditional examples include print ads, television and radio commercials, outbound sales calls, and email spam. Outbound marketing hits a wider audience—some of which may be interested, some of which may not be interested at all, and some of which may need your services, but didn’t know they did before your marketing campaign.

With many different approaches to marketing, there are also various types of marketing to go with it.

Content marketing

Whether it’s eBooks, videos, webinars, podcasts, or other forms of digitally distributed content, MSPs should boast a library of branded, custom content to circulate through the marketing channels they employ. Whether through inbound or outbound messaging, content marketing aims to have a prospect engage with informative material designed to present the value of a managed services solution in an authoritative way. The goal of your content is to position your MSP business as a thought leader and lead the reader to take further action to engage with more content or result in a sales call that drives new client acquisition.

Paid media

A mix of inbound and outbound techniques, paid media includes any combination of pay-per-click ads, banners, sponsored social posts, sponsored content in external publications, and more. Search engine technology allows MSPs to thoroughly refine their target audience to match ads to prospects who are actively searching for managed IT services, yet the technology is intelligent enough to canvas an audience that may not inherently know they need MSP services. By blending the best features of both techniques, paid media can be an effective way to quickly ramp up new leads that may or may not be interested, or sales-qualified, in the IT solution.

Event marketing

While they can be costly, events provide an opportunity for MSPs to discuss their value and services to a “captive” audience of new contacts and network with peers as well. Additionally, hosting contacts and prospects at a “lunch and learn” event is a fantastic way for MSPs to get face-time with potential customers, and to display their expertise in an open and informative environment.

Key metrics for MSP marketing

Just as analytics provide visibility into every other area of an MSP’s business, data should be leveraged when making marketing decisions. Measuring and tracking campaigns to determine what is successful and what is not is important to refining and better-targeting optimal prospects. Here are just a few marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on and the channels they typically belong to:

  • Page views (website/blog)
  • Unique visitors (website/blog)
  • Time on page (website/blog)
  • Bounce rate (website/blog)
  • Open rate (email)
  • Clicks (email)
  • Click-through rate (email)
  • Impressions (social)
  • Likes/Follows (social)
  • Shares (social)
  • Form submissions (gated content)
  • Downloads (gated content)
  • Secondary action (gated content)
  • Views (video)
  • Drop-off rate (video)
  • CTA clicks (video)
  • Downloads/listens per month (podcast)
  • Downloads per episode (podcast)
  • Subscriber rate (podcast)

An MSP marketing program can take many forms, but its success relies on creating interest in managed IT services and transforming that interest into a sale via a well-conceived plan that can be executed and measured. With a concerted effort in marketing, MSPs can achieve strategic, predictable sales acquisitions to further your overall growth objectives.