There are many tools out there for marketing your MSP. This blog is not a review or recommendation of specific products; instead, it is an examination of types of products you can utilize to create a simple, effective, and sustainable marketing program. A consistent marketing program should help you fill your sales funnel in a smooth, predictable manner without overwhelming you or your sales team. Ideally, you should be able to turn it up or down just like a faucet to control the flow of leads into your funnel.
The first thing you need is a calendar. Well, not really a calendar so much as a plan. Mine consisted of an Excel® spreadsheet for each month that included a description of the campaign or activity, start date and end date, number contacts reached, number of qualified leads, and number of deals closed.
This accomplished a few things for me. Firstly, it forced me to fill out a plan. I normally scheduled a quarter at a time; this usually took a full day, but I did not have to worry about it for three months, I just had to execute the plan. Secondly, the statistics allowed me to see how each activity performed versus the rest. And finally, it let me know the lead flow into my sales funnel. There are fancier, more scalable, ways to manage your marketing calendar, but this will work.
Next we need tools for creating content. Content can be many things: advertisements, signs, postcards, inserts, social media posts, videos, banners, white papers, and more. In my day, this was all done by Microsoft® Publisher™ (simple, quick, easy). Today, there are online tools like Canva®, which are free or inexpensive and can create some good-looking graphical content. You can also get free clipart from sites like Pixabay™.
There is no question that well-written and cleverly designed content makes a big difference in how effective your material is, but do not let a search for perfection impede immediate progress. Content has to be really awful to actually repulse someone. As long as your designs are clean and your content is not offensive, your efforts now will win out over waiting to create better content. Over time, you will improve as you track what works and what does not. Ultimately, your clients and prospects will be more concerned with your knowledge and expertise than your graphic design skills anyway.
Now that you have your content, you have to get it in front of your customers and prospects. I use my blog as a repository for my written content; from there, I can promote the articles on multiple social media channels as well as direct email campaigns. There are many options for creating a blog, just make sure that you can customize it to match your branding. For distributing on social media, you can post to each site individually or use a tool that brings them all into one place, like Hootsuite®. The benefit of an application like Hootsuite is that you can schedule weeks or months in advance.
Because I know I work best on one thing at a time, I like to schedule a whole week at one time. It takes me one to two hours a week to schedule 20 to 30 posts across three social media sites. Email is still an important medium, and tracking how effective individual emails are and who is opening them or clicking on links is vital. Services like MailChimp® can make easy work of this. You can even get more advanced, scheduling emails in advance (do you sense a theme yet?) and creating whole campaigns.
My last tool for content delivery is postcards. With everything going digital, response rates for emails are declining. Physical postcards trigger a different emotional response than email or social media because they are tactile. Sending postcards is easy and cheap and can be highly targeted by vertical aiming specifically at markets like lawyers, doctors, and real estate offices.
Did you think I forgot about video? I just thought it deserved a section of its own. Video is perhaps the fastest growing medium for content delivery. It is completely different from print or display media because it taps into both visual and auditory senses. Almost everyone now carries a mobile phone capable of displaying good quality video, and you can deliver that content via any one of a number of social media sites with a couple of clicks. Most viewers do not care if your videos are polished, have fancy graphics or special effects, what matters is that the video and audio are clear. Many people discount the importance of the audio quality, but it is actually more important than the video quality, so buy yourself a $20 lapel mic that plugs into your phone and you will be set. Again, do not be paralyzed by getting it perfect. Just get it done and remember, practice makes perfect.
In the vast array of available tools, some are simple, and some are advanced. All of the tools mentioned above have a free tier. Paid social, email services, and postcards are among the least expensive delivery methods I know of, but they will give you a variety of ways to touch prospects and customers. You can use these methods to start marketing your MSP for as little as $100 a month.
In terms of time, I think I have shown that this can be done in short, but dedicated sprints and mostly scheduled in advance. This allows you to keep your primary focus on the day-to-day while keeping your marketing and lead flow consistent. Above all, doing something will always beat doing nothing. Get started, track your results, make investments in the things that work, and keep testing new ideas.
Eric Anthony is Director of Customer Experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years. You can follow Eric on Twitter® at @EricAnthonyMSP
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