2/ Access the networks of parallel vendors
Many MSPs have relationships with other vendors that have similar customers to the demographics of your customer. Use joint venture (JV) marketing to access these prospects. There is a price to pay for this, and there may be legal requirements you need to meet in order to share your customer list with a third party, so consult your legal professional when considering JV marketing. The most effective way I have seen this work is when the third-party vendor sends a letter, from you, to their customers. When we did it, the other vendor included a yellow sticky note simply saying they thought the customer might be interested in our services.
3/ Run a referral campaign
The third option is to run a referral campaign. On a schedule, send out a series of emails asking your customers for referrals. This is different than staying top of mind with customers for when they are asked for an IT service provider (you immediately come to mind). This is a purpose-driven, multi-touch operation to drive referrals. The key components of this type of campaign are:
- Give them a reason to refer you
- Arm them with the information to refer you
- Reward them for referring you
In any marketing effort, it is important to start with why. You want customers to refer you because you want to grow, again do not be bashful about this. A customer who refers a good vendor to their network is delivering value to that network. They are giving access to you, a superior vendor, to the business owners they interact with regularly. Make sure you arm them with information and make sure they know exactly what you do and what you offer. Provide them with business cards or brochures to share. And, lastly, reward them. Gift cards to local coffee shops worked well for me. The more you personalize the reward, the more effective it will be.
These methods should be used consistently to generate a predictable amount of referral-based leads into your sales funnel. Sales funnels only operate effectively when they have a steady flow of prospects, and the only way to achieve that is to plan and execute regularly.
One final thought. Referral-based marketing only works when customers feel safe referring you to their colleagues. If you are not sure about how your customers feel about referring you, your first step should be to ask. There is an effective methodology that I will not go into here except to say that it is called an NPS or Net Promoter Score (if you want to know more, then check out this blog How Net Promoter Score Can Be the Key to Closing the Loop on Churn). There are tools out there to help poll your customers to generate your NPS but it boils down to asking one simple question, “How likely would you be to refer us to a friend or colleague?” If you do not have a positive NPS, spend your money and effort on improving your NPS before starting your referral marketing actions.
Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP