Marketing mistakes aren’t unique to Managed Services Providers (MSPs). Anyone who has ever worked on any form of marketing campaign has stumbled, to some degree, when rolling out new initiatives. What’s interesting is, collectively MSPs seem to be tripping themselves up with the same core issues.
What Do We Know About Your Marketing and Lead Generation Struggle?
Datto’s “2019 State of the MSP Report” indicates sales and marketing have been identified by many MSPs as the biggest problem with their business. Lack of experience and in-house resources were the top reasons cited for your struggle with marketing and sales.* This makes sense since many MSPs have grown through referrals based on their technical ability and white-glove customer service.
As the MSP world becomes more crowded and competitive and customer buying cycles are getting longer, executives recognize the need to develop a pipeline of prospects to ensure revenue predictability and stability. But they struggle to do consistent, meaningful marketing that grows their sales funnel.
What Are the Most Common MSP Marketing Mistakes?
1. Lack of Marketing Strategy
Also known as “Random Acts of Marketing”. You know the phenomenon. You have probably committed these acts yourself.
You look at marketing as an event and not an on-going strategy. You don’t have a strategic plan and often jump from tactic to tactic, hoping for a win.
Often your lack of strategy stems from a lack of focus on a solution or a lack of demonstrated understanding of your buying audience.
Without clear vision for who you are targeting, what you are offering and the best way to reach the folks you need to, you are left firing one-off attempts to generate the leads and sales you need.
Many of these attempts are funded through Market Development Funds (MDF) provided by vendor partners. However the vendors will often ask you to create campaigns that are another one-off tactic that don’t ladder up to your overall strategy.
Another nice thing about a documented marketing strategy is that it gives you permission to say no to things that don’t align with your strategy.
Churn was cited as another problem MSPs face as heavy competition and impatient customers can create retention issues. Forever scrambling to fill the pipeline to replace the losses. It’s five times more expensive to bring in a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. For that reason alone, MSPs need to factor customer retention tactics into their marketing strategy.
A solid, comprehensive strategy focuses on more than generating leads. It’s a plan of what you want to accomplish over a period of time and the activities you’ll do to achieve this.
2. Content Errors
Having audited many MSPs, one of the biggest mistakes we come across is content that is too technical and filled with industry jargon, the reader feels lost and disconnected. Content also often lacks direction and doesn’t engage the audience.
If you’re trying to persuade a non-tech decision maker to purchase your solution, their perspective and care-abouts are very different than a typical CTO or CIO.
Successful content is born of a strategy that includes:
- Proper keywords for targeting your audience
- A tone and style that makes readers feel comfortable - they should relate to the information you share and feel a sense of comfort that you understand their BUSINESS issues and offer a solution that will a) work for them and b) be affordable to them
- An overview of their pain points and a solution - you need to demonstrate that you understand their issues and have the solution they are looking for, this is your chance to shine and share case studies and previous successes
- Calls to action, which are crucial to your marketing content’s success - guide your audience to take the next step, whether it’s a form submission or phone call or something else entirely, don’t leave them on their own to determine what to do next
3. Focusing on Features & Specs
People buy on emotion and then justify with logic. When you realize this and put yourself in the mindset of the prospect, you realize they are looking to feel good about the decision they’re about to make. The best way to accomplish the warm fuzzies your audience needs, especially when selling something no one has ever referred to as warm and fuzzy, is to really drive home the benefits to them.
Let’s take a look at an example.
You are selling the very latest in cloud warehousing. The technical specs are impressive and you excitedly write up a killer piece of content, covering all the technical features.
What you’ve missed is the opportunity to stand out from your competitors by reminding your reader that you offer some huge benefits - and that’s really what they are buying.
They aren’t looking for a list of technical features. Not initially. They are looking to save money and time and they are looking for peace of mind.
They are looking for knowledge that comes from clean data analysis, from all our sources in their infrastructure - which breaks down to being able to do their job better and more efficiently - giving them more job security.
It’s always about the benefits behind the features.
The take-away; while the features and specs belong in your content, they need to follow copy that reminds them of the true benefits they are buying.
Someone, even a techie, may not pay for an autonomous database, but they will invest in peace of mind, security, time saved and more money in their pockets.
Focus on the value. It works every time.
4. Assuming One Touch Is Enough
One thing we know about humans and the way they make purchasing decisions is that they require information. They don’t want to make a bad decision, they don’t want to look dumb or risk their job. They need to feel confident in you and the solution you offer. This is not a transactional purchase. This is a deliberate, months-long process that can have a massive impact on their business.
This requires that you nurture your lead with quality information to guide them on their buying journey. This is typically done through some automation, a CRM to track your leads and remind you of follow ups and by focusing your content on their key areas of concern as they move through their research towards purchasing. And even if you don't have the technology, just being really disciplined to do regular followups can do the trick if you don't have a lot of volume.
It is also important to ensure your audience has a seamless experience across multiple devices and platforms. No matter where they go to find information about you and your offerings, they should find information that is helpful, consistent, accurate and easy to consume.
5. Website Neglect
Often MSPs have sites that look a little dated and they often don’t have “social proof” - which simply means content to boost trust, bolster credibility and show that your business is not just accepted, but also used by others successfully. Even better if you can get quotes, testimonials or stories from clients that are in a focus vertical/region for you.
We are pack animals, we look to the masses for cues on the viability of a product or service. We all hear “4 out of 5 dentists agree” and we believe it and feel good - that is social proof at its finest.
Another challenge for MSPs is keeping and the website content fresh and current. It’s not uncommon to look at a blog of an MSP and see a total of 3 posts in the last 2 years, with the latest post published over 6 months ago.
Your audience is going to form an impression based on your site. Are you trustworthy? Do you understand my problem? Do you have solutions? Are you up-to-date on the latest technology and security issues? Are you going to be around for the next 10 years? Being current goes a long way at answering these questions.
So What Now?
Now that you understand why you struggle with marketing and what the core issues are, what’s next?
An evaluation of your internal resources and knowledge are important to help you determine the viability of tackling your marketing in-house, versus partnering with an agency to handle your marketing.
Do You Throw Time or Money at the problem?
It’s a great time to be an MSP, with plenty of opportunity to increase leads and sales. How can you take advantage?
Hiring an agency can be a smart investment - especially one that focuses on MSPs and has a stack of proven tools and strategies. However many are reluctant to go this route due to a common myth that marketing is a cost. No one wants to add that line item to the books.
Good marketing is not a cost. It is an investment, with an expected return. True, some campaigns fail to meet the expected returns for one reason or another but as a whole, companies that partner with reputable agencies see a positive return on their marketing investment. This return enables MSPs to hit their growth goals.
Fill out the assessment and we will be in touch to discuss how we can help you grow your pipeline.
Teaser: In an industry ripe with opportunity, strategic MSPs are moving away from the break-fix model and moving more into managed services that provide recurring revenue…
Stay tuned for the next posts in our Marketing for MSPs series; Opportunities for MSPs: Laser Focus Drives Revenue and Top Questions to Ask Before Hiring A Marketing Agency.