6 ways To Improve your MSP Marketing

There are three fundamentals to Effective MSP marketing. First, you define your avatar (and not be agnostic). Second, you must understand that all anybody ever sells is transformation and therefore have your transformation offer clearly defined. And finally, there is communicating that transformation in a way that grabs the attention of your avatar.

This post focuses on grabbing attention and how you can stand out in a sea of noise to get people to listen long enough for you to explain your offer.

The problem most MSPs face is talking about what they do, getting into the nitty gritty, and even explaining how their technology works. They flood their communication with jargon nobody can understand in a bid to demonstrate capability and knowledge, but all they end up doing is confusing people.

A confused mind never buys. It lashes out in search of something it can grab onto. See, grabbing your prospect’s attention means providing something your avatar’s brain can connect with, understand, and be interested in.

There’s only one problem: the thinking part of the brain isn’t the part that grabs. Thinking is work, it’s hard, and the brain is evolutionarily programmed to avoid that hard work.

So before working on anything, the brain employs a gatekeeper: a part of the brain so old evolutionarily that it is like a reptile’s brain. It is a gatekeeper because it engages the thinking part of the brain, but only when something is interesting.

And what the reptilian brain finds interesting is emotion, self-preservation, and the endless pursuit of shiny things.

Your challenge is to appeal to that reptilian brain.

The good news: it isn’t hard; it just takes some practice. The most challenging part is learning to talk like your customer rather than talk like an MSP. So we’ve identified six simple ways to appeal to the reptilian brain and make your MSP marketing more effective:

  1. Make it about the person you are selling to.
  2. Use contrast.
  3. Use tangible concepts.
  4. Focus on the beginning and the end.
  5. Be visual.
  6. Get emotional.

We go through this in more detail below.

Understanding the biology of the reptilian brain gatekeeper

The oldest part of our brain is a knot of cells that processes all the information that comes in and manages all the automatic stuff that happens in the body. It makes sure your heart beats.

It has one job: to keep you alive. It is that part of the brain that all animals have, and it is as old as reptiles, hence the reptilian brain.

The problem is that our thinking, innovation, and reasoning happen in the new part of the brain cleverly named the neo(new)cortex. And using the neocortex is work. It is good at coming up with new stuff and solving problems, but it is work.

When something new happens, say your prospect sees your advertisement, website, or proposal, the reptilian brain considers the relevance of that new thing. It asks whether the new thing is emotionally engaging, crucial to self-preservation, or a cool shiny thing that it would like to learn more about.

Think of it this way:

image asset

Effective MSP marketing, communications, and presentations connect with the reptilian brain first, then the neocortex.

The challenge in MSP marketing is that you create your ideas with the neocortex, but your audience listens as if they were reptiles.

It is as if you were communicating with a 4K television signal, and they are receiving cave drawings.

Your solution, your technology, your way of working, your jargon all of that is a 4K television signal. It may be excellent, and you may be able to deliver it better than anybody else in the world. But until you’ve grabbed their attention, they won’t listen.

So your MSP marketing must be the equivalent of cave drawings. Once your prospect is interested and engaging their neocortex, then you can show them your 4k signal.

How MSP marketing speaks to the reptilian brain

We have found six ways to appeal to the reptilian brain and go through them here.

Remember, the reptilian brain is very self-centered – it exists to keep you alive. It is also tied directly to the senses. So there are some simple things we can do to entice the senses and woo the reptilian brain.

Number 1: Make your MSP marketing about your prospects

Check out this advertisement from Coke (note that I find myself in the odd position of sharing lots of commercials from Coke and Pepsi, I am not promoting these companies… but if you think about it, they are selling boring, unhealthy products, so they MUST create good ads.)

They don’t talk much about Coke here. Instead, they celebrate all of the “tailgaters” of the country. Whoever you are, you can see yourself reflected in one of these characters.

This coke ad is about you.

Something else important happens here:

The people in the commercial talk to you, the person watching. This puts the viewer front and center.

In your MSP marketing, from proposals to websites, you should use that second person “you,” talk to your audience, and make sure they know it is about them.

This mistake we see is MSPs talking in passive voice about “things that must be done” or “could be done” for somebody to get results. Instead, say: “do this,” or “you should do this,” so that “you get results.” That immediately puts your prospects front and center.

LinkedIn Example

I took these two posts from LinkedIn, consider them for a second, and ask you each one impacts you:

Everyone I’ve asked this question calls the first post boring and unengaging. It’s just there, it’s not offensive, but it doesn’t do much to pull me in. The one on the right, however, is generally considered more engaging. The topic is the same, and the audience is the same, but the one on the right talks about me and challenges MY ability to do things, so it is more likely to draw me in.

And the numbers supported this. The post on the left had no engagement. The post on the right had a couple of dozen likes and a couple of comments. The engagement could have been MORE; this is by no means a perfect post, but clearly, the one on the right wins this showdown.

Why does it win? Because the content is about the reader. It involves the reader, and it calls the reader to get involved.

How MSPs make marketing about their prospects

First, identify your avatar. This is crucial.

Then talk about their problems and how you solve those problems. Make it about them, the pain they feel today, and the opportunity for them in the future.

And talk about them: use the second person, use their names, and do everything you can to talk to them about their problems.

Number 2: Use contrast in your MSP marketing

The reptilian brain gets contrast: before and after, big and small, anything that doesn’t quite fit is appealing. Some examples of this are the HSBC ads from a few years ago. They have contrast on contrast and stand out beautifully – it is hard not to see or connect with these ads.


Another example is this news advertisement; the contrast is in the eye. It isn’t even immediately apparent what the contrast means. Still, the difference combined with the eye looking directly at you is striking and draws you in to read the advertisement itself:

image asset

How MSPs could use contrast in their marketing

Show before and after pictures of

  • Chaotic hardware versus organized hardware.
  • Frustrated user versus happy user.
  • Old, outdated computers versus sleek new ones.
  • Decreasing earnings chart versus increasing earnings chart.
  • Show a contrast between something tumultuous and variable and something calm and organized.

What can you come up with?

Number 3: Use Tangible Concepts

Our oldest brain is not intelligent; that is the way it evolved. Thinking comes later. So you want to make your sales and marketing communication, your copy, and every aspect of communicating very tangible.

For example, this advertisement for Mr. Clean drives home the point immediately:


You don’t have to spend much time thinking about what they are communicating here. It helps that Mr. Clean is very well known – the moment you see the bright white stripe with the iconic character, you know at an instinctual level what they are communicating.

Here is an MSP Example:

This is a screen capture of N-Able’s website. They effectively show how the guy in the background does more by adding arms. You SEE him getting more work done.

How MSPs can use tangibility in their marketing

  • Show someone stealing something for cyber-security.
  • Show an obviously bad guy typing into a computer (trying to break in)
  • Tell stories about actual events and actual solutions, and use details and names.

How can you use tangibility in your marketing?

Here is a LinkedIn Post that effectively uses all three of these strategies.

This post is about the reader. Right at the top, Ross calls out to his audience directly. He engages them in the conversation.

Then he uses contrast to capture the eye and engage the reader even more. The two images show wildly different but somewhat related scenes.

And finally, it is tangible. Of the three strategies, this is the weakest, but I think most IT people have experienced a ticket feeling like a big deal, and the top image of an epic Godzilla battle captures that beautifully.

I think if he’d used a big ticket and a small ticket, he would have still had contrast, but it would be less tangible.

Number 4: Focus On The Beginning And End

The reptilian brain has high-speed data processing capability. But it does not think. It engages at the beginning and end of interaction but tunes out in the middle. So remember this with every interaction: engage with a great beginning and end.

George Lucas even identified this as a key to good filmmaking. In his words: “the secret to a good movie is a hot opening, a hot close and … just don’t screw up the middle.


Here is the best news about the beginning and end concept: you have a second chance to make a first impression. End well. If you meet someone and things aren’t going well, all you have to do is end with something that lands – they will likely forget the rest.

How MSPs can focus on the beginning and the end

  • Tell stories using the Situation – Action – Result framework in case studies. Describe the situation in detail and in a way that connects with your prospects. Then end well, talking about transformative results.
  • Talk about transformation – how your clients change due to working with you.

How else can you use strong beginnings and strong endings to engage your prospects?

Number 5: Be Visual

The optic nerve ties directly into the reptilian brain and is 40-50 times faster than the auditory sense. So the most direct way into the brain is through visual communication. You can see here on this page how powerful visual communications are. Be more visual.

A great example of this is the global antismoking campaign. Check out this warning on packs of cigarettes:

228AFCE1 B425 4E34 AE72BF55406542DF

And compare to these ads:

creative anti smoking ads 17

I doubt the warning ever gave anybody pause. These other two make a point. The difference is visualization.

Number 6: Get Emotional

Don’t lead with the facts when you are presenting, engaging, or selling to people. Lead with something more interesting, more emotionally engaging.

Think of the Mac and PC ads from a decade ago. The PC character constantly struggles, and the Mac character is always calm and collected. They are both likable, but you want to be more like the Mac than the PC.

Screen+Shot+2019 01 10+at+8.39.25+PM

Watch a couple here and note how they appeal to the human side. They talk about computers and functionality but only in terms of what it delivers to the end user. And despite being computer commercials, they don’t dwell on computing facts; they make a human connection.

So next time you are presenting, pitching, or marketing, remember to make it about them, remember to engage that reptilian brain

The way to do this is to:

  • Make it about the audience
  • Use Contrast
  • Use tangible concepts
  • Focus on the beginning and the end
  • Be visual
  • Get emotional

Stop talking before you bore your audience – like a card trick magician, always leave them wanting more, and be ready for questions.

Because if you engage your audience and prospects well, they will want to talk to you for more information. They will want your solution.

If you do, they will be interested, and you will stand apart

Appealing to the emotional side of your market and backing that up with facts is a powerful way to sell and market your services. People will want to know more; they will want to buy from you. The conversations will shift from the hard work of figuring out how to be relevant to the more rewarding task of solving real problems.

And since so few marketers do this, you will stand apart as the person, company, or team with the answers people want. Prospects will be more interested in doing business with you. It will be easier to generate word-of-mouth referrals because people remember you, and you will have more loyal customers because they will connect with you.

The best part: you will be happy to have a few job seekers in the crowd because you will need the help.jljlk

Ready for a marketing strategy that drives traffic, interest, and… well… sales?

Similar Posts