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MSP marketing: Learn the fishing and farming methods

Many technical-savvy MSPs will readily admit that marketing is not their company’s strong suit.

At the MSPWorld 2017 conference, held this week in New Orleans, marketing expert Angela Leavitt aimed to demystify practices for drumming up leads. In her session, “Anatomy of a Wildly Successful Digital Marketing Campaign,” Leavitt discussed two methods for designing MSP marketing initiatives. Both methods embrace digital marketing as well as a targeted approach for reaching prospects.

“The old tricks don’t really work anymore,” said Leavitt, president of Mojo Marketing. “It used to be you could buy an email list, spam the list and get a bunch of people to respond. It used to be that every email we would receive, we would open. But we don’t do that anymore.”

She added that today, because people are inundated with so much information, marketing messages can disappear in a “sea of sameness.” MSP marketing initiatives will likely miss their target if they lack a modern strategy.

Before embarking on marketing efforts, MSPs should ensure two things, she said. First, they must evaluate their website for whether it looks trustworthy, legitimate and current. If the website is weak, “no amount of campaigning is going to help you,” she said. “If your brand needs help, then that is your first assignment.”

The second fundamental piece of advice she offered is to be “a hustler.” She said her successful clients don’t “sit back and wait for marketing to magically deliver leads to them.” Instead, they are active in their outreach efforts.

The fishing method

The first method, which Leavitt called “the fishing method,” is an eight-step process that uses enticing content to capture leads. Fishing requires about one or two months of prep work, two to three weeks of execution, and one or two months of follow-up, she said.

  1. Research. The first step is to identify your targeted customer’s pain points. For example, many IT directors today are greatly concerned about security or considering SD-WAN’s potential. “If you can get a spin on those topics, you are going to get more attention than if you just want to talk about your XYZ service,” she said.
  2. Develop an attractive offer. After researching customer pain points, service providers then should craft an offer. The offer should appeals to your specific buyer and be creative, she said.
  3. Develop content to support the offer. Content should aim to “create intrigue and something of value and be entertaining,” she said. At the same time, it should demonstrate the service provider understands the customer’s challenges. “If you can come across as the doctor, they will naturally assume you have the answer.” Additionally, the content should be 90% education and 10% sales pitch. Formats could include videos, webinars, white papers and case studies. She said infographics are doing well at the moment.
  4. Create a landing page. The next step is to create a landing page for the content that has an opt-in component. A prospect might have to opt in to gain access to the content. For example, a prospect will opt in by signing up for a lunch-and-learn event or webinar.
  5. Create email auto-responders. After a prospect opts in, service providers should follow up with related content that the prospect might be interested in, she said. Continuing to send the prospect more relevant content is a way to “warm up” prospects and build relationships.
  6. Drive traffic to the landing page. There are numerous methods for driving traffic to your landing page, she said, but she noted the best way is to have a strategic partner that will help promote it. The strategic partners can lend expertise and credibility to your company. She suggested evaluating your network for someone to partner up with in your MSP marketing initiative. Other powerful methods include marketing on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Memes with links to your content are gaining traction as a visual marketing method, she added.
  7. Launch your content. Service providers can now launch their content, whether it’s a webinar or white paper or educational session via a lunch-and-learn event. She advised MSPs to demonstrate authority in their content by citing partnerships and client references.
  8. Present the offer. Principles for presenting offers can be seen on any late-night infomercial, she said. Principles can include using “scarcity” (“Call within the next 10 minutes to double your offer”), testimonials and, if it works for your particular offer, some kind of guarantee.

After executing these steps, service providers should evaluate the impact of the MSP marketing campaign, follow up and nurture leads, and determine how the campaign could be improved for better results.

The farming method

The farming method is more of long-term play than fishing, Leavitt said. She added that it can also have a better payoff.

  1. Choose a niche. Niches are a type of shortcut to credibility, she said. To select a niche, service providers should think about their largest and most recognized client and how they might target similar organizations in that particular market.
  2. Get endorsed. With the niche selected, the service provider should then collect relevant testimonials — the more testimonials, the better.
  3. Demonstrate expertise. Next, the service provider should develop content “that indicates you have a specialization.” Content might be a landing page on your website, blogs that address the niche’s audience, social content and video.
  4. Develop strategic partnerships. After obtaining endorsements and content, the service provider should join relevant industry associations. Leavitt suggested volunteering on the associations’ committees and speaking at their events. “Become the go-to company for IT services within that industry,” she said. “This is going to ensure that the leads and the referrals that come into you are continuous.”
  5. Leverage big data and social media platforms. She said service providers should target exactly who they want to go after using social media. She noted that social media platforms are moving to “pay to play.” “There is a lot you can do for free with your own social posting,” but service providers can pay to boost their efforts, she said. Compared to traditional marketing, such as paying for an ad in the Yellow Pages or running a radio spot, social media marketing can end up costing much less and reach a more relevant audience.
  6. Repeat. After becoming “a rock star” in your chosen industry, she said you can repeat these steps and build expertise and authority in another niche. “You are not limited to one [industry],” she said.

Noting benefits of the farming method, Leavitt said the sales cycles can become shorter and pricing less of an issue for customers.