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MSP Marketing bliss -how to and should you (7-step MSP Marketing Template)

So, you have an MSP. You’ve set up RMM and your PSA and created your product and product stack.

Now, all you need is customers.

What is MSP marketing? It is the tools and process by which you turn strangers into customers and customers into raving fans. It is a defined, structured process that mimics dating. If you don’t follow the process, you will waste your money, so start with simplicity and build from there.

MSPs tell us that their most pressing concern is customer acquisition. It keeps a lot of MSP owners up at night, and not having a predictable sales funnel (or a predictable MSP marketing process) is the most crucial reason MSPs stay small. This is true even though the MSP market is growing steadily and quickly.

Most MSP owners understand that MSP Sales and Marketing require effort and investment. So, you may already be dedicating effort and spending thousands of dollars a month.

The problem is that, based on our experience with MSPs, you are likely wasting your money, time, and effort. In this post, I go through the fundamentals of MSP marketing so that you know what to look for and what you need. In our experience, most MSPs are marketing an agnostic product to an agnostic business, which is extremely expensive. Read more to learn why, download this guide to start taking action:

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In our work with small MSPs, we’ve discovered a shocking amount of cash spent on marketing that will never work.

It is unnecessary (and I’m a marketer). There is a simple, straightforward reason why.

We also give you a template you can use to start saving money and adding clients today.

Download the guide here:

MSP marketing fundamentals

Let’s start with what marketing isn’t

MSP marketing is not only paying for ads to drive traffic to your website. If you are doing that now, please stop. If you have an ad going to your homepage that leads to MSP sales, I’d love to see it; please show me. I’ll pay you $100 for a half-hour phone call if you can convince me it’s working.

I’ve only ever seen generic ads going to generic websites doing nothing more than enriching Google.

Other things MSP marketing isn’t:

  • Blindly sending letters with the hope that somebody is interested.
  • Spamming thousands of prospects with irrelevant emails that pretend to know the prospect.
  • Strong arming random strangers on the street into doing business with you.

And there are several simple reasons why MSP marketing doesn’t work; here are 7 of them.

That leads us to what marketing is

Marketing is how you find people who don’t know who you are and leave them thrilled with the transformation.

A simple framework for marketing (there are dozens) is the 4 Ps: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Here’s how to think about each:

  1. Product: the goods and/or services your company offers your customers. This includes its design, packaging, features, quality, and branding. It is how you transform your customer. Since the product contains the transformation, it also includes the “for whom” a specific and detailed description of your target market. The product also includes the cost of delivery. 
  2.  Price: This is how much customers pay you for the product. The price depends on two things: supply and demand and fear. Often, it is fear that keeps MSP owners from charging a fair price. You should have a pricing strategy and know the value of your product to you.
  3.  Place: How you distribute or deliver your product. Back in the day, this meant where your store was located. Today, it is more about the channels you use to reach customers: online, in person, by phone, carrier pigeon, and so on. In fact, SEO is about place: being in the right place with the right information. It is a long game, but SEO is a great tool, because it ties into this fundamental marketing fact
  4.  Promotion: How you get the word out. It is all the communication channels you employ to make someone aware of you, to engage your customers, and to communicate. It can include advertising, personal selling, email, organic social, public relations, and, I’m sure, many other channels.

I like to start with this definition because it is crucial to break out of the ad spend/spam-the-world marketing model. Marketing isn’t a quick fix; there is no silver bullet. Also, the concept of “marketing” is very broad: it’s how you bring your product “to market.”

The problem that many MSPs face is that they haven’t thought through the entirety of the marketing challenge. They place ads and launch a sales campaign. But marketing is broader than this. It is how you engage your market, solve problems, and keep them interested.

If you’d like to delve deeper into theoretical frameworks, this website has 10 good ones; you’ll eventually notice that they are all variations on the themes above OR more detailed checklists to help you think through your strategy.

When people talk about marketing, they generally mean the digital world, funnels, and automation. What people are actually after is an automated set-it-and-forget-it approach to predictable sales.

So, let’s talk about that.

Think of the MSP marketing funnel as sales, automated.  

Often, what people mean when they say “marketing” is the marketing funnel: the automated process by which strangers become customers.

The way to think of this is sales is always a part of marketing. Your marketing effort exists to cue up the perfect MSP sales conversation.

If you look at the 4 Ps above, you’ll notice that the sales function fits neatly inside marketing. And the perfect sales conversation looks something like this:

Shows a couple in a grocery store chooseing products from the shelf.
The perfect sales conversation

There is no salesperson anywhere near this couple. The marketing does 100% of the work. The product companies test everything: color, font, presentation, position on the shelf, lighting, music, and any other variable you can think of to prepare for this moment. It costs a fortune.

You will never get to the perfect sales conversation

Nobody buys MSP services off the shelf.

However, eventually, you should have your entire sales conversation so well dialed in that you can automate almost the entire process, from making a stranger aware of you to collecting the money. You’ll probably still have to meet your clients and have them sign an individual contract, but the goal is to test everything and optimize.

MSP marketing and sales, shows over time the sales effort diminishes as marketing effort increases.

This is why we say the marketing funnel is the sales process optimized and automated.

This means you must define your sales process first. Later, you turn that into your marketing funnel. Selling is inherently manual, but as you optimize your sales process, you incorporate bits and pieces of automation to help you until you eventually build the complete marketing funnel.

If you market IT services to anyone who uses a computer, you will go bankrupt very quickly.

If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.

Seth Godin

There are roughly 33 million businesses in the US, employing 61 million people. All these businesses are very busy trying to make all other businesses aware of their existence so that they can sell stuff. As a result, the average person in the US sees 10,000 marketing messages daily.

Because of this, the company that gets its message out the most and the most prominently wins. This means that all else equal, the one who spends the most wins the customer.

I’m willing to bet you can’t spend the most. Many marketers would like to convince you to try, but you can’t, so don’t. (Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett, thanks for reading, but you can actually buy your way to success.)

The opportunity is in the all-else-equal part.

You change “all else equal” by not being the same as everyone else; you get specific.

No matter what market you’re in, the one who spends the most wins, so unless you are Gates or Buffett, go after a smaller market. (Even if you are Gates and Buffett, since they don’t have lots of money because they waste it.)

Go after a smaller market by defining precisely what you’re selling and to whom.

(Which is exactly what consumer products companies do, so that they don’t go bankrupt cueing their perfect sales conversation.)

 When you’re first starting, this is a process of inquiry and learning so that you understand the true pain your target market has.

MSP marketing and sales, shows how a the sales process is manual and about Inquiry.

Companies that claim to teach sales will tell you always to ask lots of questions whenever you sell to get to the sales pain.

However, if you follow the prescriptive sales process, which you should because it works, then the inquiry starts with research. You identify your target market and start asking them questions without selling anything.

Pro Tip:

Research isn’t lost time since people appreciate you taking the time to ask without selling. So, you keep in touch with the contacts and use this to build your 250×250 and Dream 100 lists, which are very useful sales strategies.

Based on your research, you understand the problem you solve and the words your target market uses. You use this information to create your Killer App.

As you sell, you gather feedback, learn more about your target market, and start automating your MSP marketing process until you have a genuinely prescriptive automated system.

MSP marketing and sales, shows how a manual sales process becomes an automated marketing process.

Rather than go to lots of people to understand their needs, you understand the needs many people have and then find more of those people. This makes sales easier, but it also makes automation and building your marketing funnel possible.

Whatever you call it, sales, marketing, funnel, or Bob, it’s a journey

Whether you’re selling or marketing, remember that you must build trust and relevance for someone to buy.

The process of building trust is very akin to dating, especially at the SMB level. (It’s like dating with enterprise clients, too, but the rules are slightly different. Here, I’m focusing on most B2B sales for most MSPs, which are small and medium-sized businesses).

This is the process part. You must take prospects step-by-step through the process of getting to know and trust you. The good news is that since this is dating, the steps to build that trust and relevance are well-defined. They are built into our DNA.

The DNA Aware Sales (and Marketing) process

Step 1: “Hello,” A prospect becomes aware of you.

Nobody can buy from someone if they don’t know the seller exists. If this isn’t obvious, well, I don’t know what to do about that.

This can be the most significant challenge if you are unknown, whether because you are new or simply haven’t promoted yourself.

Making people aware of you requires some sort of content and outreach. The purely manual way of doing this is cold calling: you get people on the phone and explain to them who you are. The purely automated way of doing this is an advertisement.

When you start, this is likely a lot of manual work, and you will need to build on warm contacts that you already have.

Ideas:

Call this awareness.

Step 2: “How are you,” you start a conversation.

A conversation is how the buyer expresses interest, and the seller shows what they can do.

This conversation can continue for a long time – it involves your prospect considering your content and getting to know you. Content can mean blog posts or published papers. But it can also mean talking.

The point is that you move beyond hello and into sharing information.

Once the prospect becomes aware, what’s next? This step is content-driven: you share content that addresses their problem, pain, and needs.

Note: you do NOT share content about what you do yet. They don’t care.

Content can be a conversation, a blog post, a report, a video, stories, or anything that talks about their problems and how they can address them.

Call this Engagement.  

Step 3: “That’s cool,” they want to learn more and you follow up

To progress this to a sale (or purchase), the buyer must give the seller their contact information with the expectation that the seller will follow up.

Digitally, you might offer a lead magnet, but you can’t until you know what your target market wants. So, this could also be exchanging business cards or an agreement that you’ll follow up.

“The fortune,” as the great luminary Joe Rojas says, “is in the follow-up.”

While up to 3% of your target market is interested in buying now, only 30% will never buy. That means that 67% of your sales are in follow-up.

To follow up, you must get your prospect’s contact information and have a way to follow up. 

This is not the same thing as collecting contact information in awareness: they expect you to follow up at this point.

Having a way to nurture your contacts is crucial at this stage

This is the first place to automate: MSP email marketing is crucial to your follow-up, engagement, and sales. There is a ton available on nurture in marketing, but I like this post on the importance of nurture because it’s got numbers. Numbers are always good.

Anyway, your process should go beyond email to include other touchpoints, but you can automate many of these using your CRM.

Ideas:

  • Exchange contact information in person.
  • Have them agree to another meeting.
  • Have them agree to receive some information in the mail/email.
  • Add them to a long-term nurture/keep-in-touch email queue.
  • BAMFAM: Book a meeting from a meeting.
  • Later, you will get their contact details from a form on your website.

Call this subscription.

Step 4: “Here’s what it’s like,” the prospect gets a taste of the magic.

This is where your prospect sees what you do and how. They know how this could apply to them.

Maybe this is your proposal or a sample of your work. In this stage, the prospect is actively involved and figuring out what they want to do.

In this step, you show them the value of your offering. 

One way to do this is to have your prospect agree to a pitch or sales conversation in which you talk about their problem first, the solution second, and your offer third.

Or you find a way to give them a piece of your total package: this could be an assessment or an analysis that they would find helpful; we call this an entry point offer.

You need an entry-point offer here: something you can invite people to that doesn’t cost as much as your full offer (and can be free). Your entry-point offer should provide a ridiculous amount of value for a low price. Your objective is not to make money here but instead to show your capabilities and inspire them to want more.

Ideas:

  • Use the PASTA framework to design your pitch. 
  • Create an entry point offer by splintering a piece of your core offer and delivering it.
MSP marketing and sales shows the pasta framework: Problem, accentuate the problem, solution,transformation, amazing offer.

Call this conversion.

Step 5: “Oh, I get it.” The prospect sees how working with you changes their life.

In step 4, you set up or engineer an ah-ha moment. You inspire them to want more.

When you demonstrate value, you want them to get it. They should see what’s in it for them and why they can’t live without what you offer.

Your demonstration of value, either your pitch or your entry point offer, should prompt them to get it, so plan this.

To do this, focus on the transformation and the opportunity. Show them what life will be like working with you.

Call this the Ah-ha moment.

Step 6: “I want it,” The prospect buys your complete offer.

Finally, the prospect becomes a full client, and your emphasis shifts from the sales process to delivery.

Crucial in this step are exceptional onboarding, stellar delivery, and regular strategic business reviews. SBRs are an essential part of your sales and marketing strategy because they are how you build on your amazing delivery to increase the services you deliver to your clients (and encourage them to give you referrals).

Then, your sales and marketing shifts to adding value and expanding your offering. Sales don’t stop, but they become easier because they know you, trust you and know you deliver outstanding results.

Your Strategic Business Reviews become your core sales process for up- and cross-selling.

Call this Ascension.

Steps 7 & 8 Testimonials and referrals

I’m lumping these two together because our emphasis in this post is on how to bring more clients into your business. But once they are happy, ask for a testimonial and also a referral. Testimonials become a crucial part of your social proof and allow you to continue to sell more and more easily.

Looking for some actions you can take now to start marketing your MSP? Check out these 5 simple, immediately implementable MSP Marketing Ideas.

For more on this journey and why it matters:

How to create and define value

The customer value journey

Step zero: where to begin marketing your MSP

The MSP marketing strategy steps above are the exact steps you must put in place. However, they will waste your money, time, and effort if they (you) do not target a very specific market.

Therefore, before you start your marketing journey, get very specific about your target market and the problem you solve for that market.

This will help you create an unassailable competitive advantage.

There is a direct relationship between your specificity and

  • the cost of marketing (more specificity –> less cost), and
  • the price you can charge (more specific –> higher price).

This is scary and hard. We know that. Collectively, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses craft their marketing strategy, and everybody struggles with it. But it is necessary.

The problem with most MSP marketing companies, services, and agencies is that way too often, they don’t do enough to focus your marketing efforts, so they become very expensive and not very useful.

There are many ways to think about defining your target market; describing them all would make your eyes water with boredom.

So, here’s the simple way:

  • Pick a vertical and identify a problem you solve for them; think first of your Killer App.
  • Personify the buyer you will target within that vertical; we call this an avatar.
  • Sell and market to that avatar, improving and getting more specific as you go.  

So, Sales and marketing are a process; they are the same thing with different levels of automation, and the process itself is baked into our DNA.

When I read about MSP marketing (or any marketing), I find that people make these things too complicated. There is a tendency to get stuck in the tactics, tools, and the how of it.

Here’s a tip: keep the how simple at first. Keep it manual; let it be inefficient. Use the conversations and interactions you have to improve the process.

Start by understanding the why as I’ve laid it out here, build your what as I’ve laid it out, and optimize the how over time. You can’t optimize the how if your what isn’t defined and running swimmingly.

The bad news is that there aren’t any shortcuts, and focusing on tactics without a strategy is a sure path to high blood pressure and a low bank account.

The good news is that tactics without strategy are soaking up your resources. If you focus on the principle in this post, you’ll stop losing so much money and sell more. Which is what you want anyway, right?

FAQ

What is “Lead Generation,” or “Lead gen,” as the cool kids say

Lead generation is when a marketing prospect becomes someone you talk to about selling your services.

There are many mysterious practitioners with weird and wonderful ideas. Yesterday, someone on LinkedIn probably offered you yesterday10 leads for a fixed fee or no fee. BDR/SDRs promise to make calls and find leads. Content marketing, outreach, and cold calling are all lead-generation activities.

There is no mystery and no magic bullet. Lead generation is a process. If you don’t know what you are selling and to whom, you will waste all your lead generation spending. On the other hand, get clear about your business, and lead generation can be a set-it-and-forget-it activity.

What is a marketing funnel

Marketers often talk about the funnel. Some build entire businesses around marketing funnels. I wish I’d done that. 
Here’s what they mean by that;
The phases of marketing, as I’ve laid out above, are:
Awareness
Engagement
Subscription
Conversion
Ah-ha
Ascension
Each stage has a conversion to the next that’s less than 100%; for example, the people who convert (or move) from awareness to Engagement might be 20%. So, 20% of the people who become aware move on to Engagement.
Each stage has a specific conversion percentage. So, it might look something like this
Awareness: 20% convert to Engagement, say 100 become aware, so 20 move to Engagement
Engagement: 80% convert to subscription, 16
Subscription: 70% convert to conversion, 8
Conversion: 50% have an ah-ha moment, 5.6
Ah-ha: 50% of those who have an ah-ha moment move to ascension, 2.8
When you plot this, it looks a bit like a funnel, hence the name.
image 8
The funnel explains WHY paying for advertising to a generic website doesn’t work. You can have a ton of awareness, but if you don’t know the next step, your prospects won’t know the next step, either. 

Get the MSP Digital Marketing Blueprint here.

Useful MSP marketing terms

B2B is business-to-business. If you are a business selling to businesses, you are in the B2B world. If you sell to consumers, then it is B2C. In truth, though, all marketing ends up being H2H, human-to-human.
Call to action: CTA is where you ask your prospects to take the next step.
Conversion: when a prospect becomes a customer. We separate this from ascension because we think it is helpful to have a simple conversion offer that may be less than your complete offer.
Content marketing: this is all marketing, really. Since the beginning of time, you’ve needed content if you want to sell or market anything. Today, it primarily refers to blogs, videos, or other content that attracts prospects.
Persona/Avatar: this is the personification of your target market. It’s a fictional stereotype of your buyer.
PPC: pay-per-click, generally a money pit unless you have a marketing strategy. With a marketing strategy, it is the cheapest way to attract new traffic.
Traffic: the people who become aware of you, generally those who visit your website.
SEO: search engine optimization. You put content online, Google finds it and delivers organic traffic through search. SEO takes time, but it is a great place to start. Create content and start seeing what sticks.
Organic traffic: traffic you don’t pay for. Organic traffic takes a lot of work and is often expensive.

What are some useful MSP marketing strategies?

Looking for some actions you can take now to start marketing your MSP? Check out these 5 simple, immediately implementable MSP Marketing Ideas.

Other Useful marketing strategies include:

Build a professional website that highlights your services and expertise.
Implement search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve your website’s visibility on search engines.
Utilize targeted content marketing through blog posts, case studies, and whitepapers to establish thought leadership in the industry.
Leverage social media platforms to engage with your target audience and share valuable content.
Develop partnerships and collaborations with complementary businesses to expand your reach.
Offer referral programs to incentivize happy clients to recommend your services.
Attend industry events and conferences to network with potential clients and stay updated on the latest trends.
Collect and showcase customer testimonials and positive reviews to build trust with potential clients.
Use email marketing campaigns to nurture leads and inform existing clients about your services.

Remember to analyze and track the performance of your marketing efforts to make data-driven decisions and optimize your strategies.

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