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How MSPs Should Be Thinking About Marketing

Posted July 7, 2014by Nate Teplow

Zoolander

image source: http://newyorknatives.com/

Let’s face it, “marketing” and managed services providers (MSPs) don’t always get along. Many MSPs hate being “marketed” to, and they don’t always see the value of performing marketing initiatives. Managed services is about solving specific technology problems, while marketing can often be about creating more questions, right? In short, MSPs and marketing can often appear to be diametrically opposed, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. Here is how you should be thinking about “marketing."

No matter how much you want to ignore marketing, when push comes to shove, it’s an important part of growing your business. I like to say that sales without marketing is like having wide receivers without a quarterback. You can’t expect reps to pull in deals without someone throwing leads their way.


How you should be thinking about Marketing

Marketing is not just a bunch of creative people sitting in a room, intangibly trying to build “buzz” and “awareness." We marketers are actually very data-driven and numbers-based. And the good news is that modern marketing tactics have transformed into something that is very easy for MSPs to accomplish.

Whatever your thoughts about marketing are, it really is nothing more than sharing your expertise with your audience. Creating content that your audience wants to read is the best way to reach them these days, and it’s not hard to get started.

Here’s why MSPs can be great marketers:


1. You Are the Expert

You’re already an expert so now all you have to do is share it. Sharing your knowledge with the market at large may feel risky, but it’s one of the best ways to make you stand out from your competition. Your angle or take on a particular subject is what differentiates you, and you can do this in many different ways. Videos, blogs, articles, whitepapers and more are what marketing consists of in today’s economy. It’s not about making stuff up. It’s about sharing what you already know from an expert’s point of view.

Everything you need to write about is right there in your head! Don’t be afraid to share your opinion publically. If people like what you have to say (as I’m sure they will), I think you’ll find this the best form of lead generation available.


2. You Already Know What To Write About

The first thing out of the mouths of most who are told to generate content is “well what do I write about?” However, this is actually one of the easiest things to figure out. Here are some ideas to get you started on topic generation:

  • What are the hottest issues in the industry? Do you have a unique opinion on them?
  • What are the most frequent questions you get from your clients?
  • What’s one thing you want to tell every client and prospect of yours?
  • What kind of content would your audience like reading?
  • What kind of content would your audience be searching for?
  • Do you have interesting data points to share?
  • What predictions do you have for the future in your industry and/or clients’ industries?

Spend 5 minutes thinking about each of these bullet points, and I think you’ll come up with over 50 topics to write about. That’s a great place to get started!

Today’s marketing is more about generating relevant content. That content drives traffic to websites, social media shares and ultimately helps you create business opportunities and reach new audiences.


3. It’s Not Just About Writing

Many MSPs get caught up on writing when it comes to marketing. They say, “I don’t have time to sit down and write. I’m too busy.” Well, there are many other ways to distribute your message.

Video is a great way to engage your audience, spread your content and also put a face to your name. Video messages can be more personal and more real. People like authenticity in the content they consume, and video helps put speaking tone, facial expressions and context cues to the content you’re sending out, which all helps make it more personal. Your videos don’t have to be anything fancy. It could just be you sitting down for 5 minutes every Friday and answering the 3 questions you received the most from clients that week. That doesn’t take that long, does it?

Graphics are another way to share content. If you can convey a message with an image versus a block of text, it’s much more effective at engaging readers. People tend to have short attention spans on the web. Audio is also another good avenue to push out your content. One of the benefits of audio is that people can listen to your recordings while doing other activities, for example at work, at the gym or driving. You can still reach them when they don’t need to give you their full attention.

Don’t limit yourself to writing when it comes to sharing your content and your ideas. There are many other ways to get you messages out there.


4. You Don’t Need to Consider Yourself a Good “Content Creator”

The other objection I hear frequently about getting started in marketing is that “I’m not a good writer.” That’s fine! In fact, this could just play to your advantage.

As I mentioned earlier, people like authenticity in what they consume. When you get too caught up in using the right wording or trying to sound sophisticated, you lose your voice. People would rather see your personality come through in writing, rather than feel like, “that is well-stated and eloquently put.”

More times than not, it’s better to write stream of consciousness than think about every word you’re speaking. It may even be worth just speaking into a microphone and then sending your audio off to a transcriber. Transcribing is a fairly cheap service, and will save you time when it comes to content creation.

Additionally, try writing in first person. It creates a more personal feel for your audience and is also much easier to write in that format.

Don’t get too caught up in your own content. People today are less concerned about perfect grammar and more concerned about solid information. While you can’t get away with sounding like a caveman you also don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to create effective business content.


Conclusion

To summarize, marketing is critical to the success of any MSP. Thankfully, it’s also much different than it has been in the past and it’s often nothing more than sharing what’s in your head. As an MSP, you’re not selling a product, you’re selling your expertise. If you can convey this expertise in the content you create, people will want to work with you.

Don’t sacrifice your business success because you don’t consider yourself “a marketer." You have all the tools you need to get started, so why wait?




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Nate Teplow is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Continuum, currently managing the company's RMM marketing initiatives. Nate's experience spans inbound marketing, content strategy, marketing communications and B2B lead generation. A proud Miami Hurricane alumni, Nate enjoys staying active, traveling to new places and performing A/B tests.

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