How to market your MSP through online directories

Richard Tubb

One of the surest ways to grow your IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP) business is by understanding that new business comes through the door from a number of different sources.

As well as important referrals, you’ll want to be meeting prospective clients through networking events, direct mail, telemarketing, social media, and through website enquiries.

There is another stream of potential new business that many businesses overlook – online directories.

The modern Yellow Pages?
yellowpagesMany traditional small businesses still look to online directories to provide the equivalent of the old-fashioned “Yellow Pages” – a structured and categorised list of companies that they can choose from.

What’s more, in the same vein as online auction site eBay, these online directories often feature a method for customers of the service providers listed to leave feedback. In this way consumers can find out which companies to trust, and which to avoid.

How’s your business rating?
businessratingsAre you listed within online directories? Maybe. Are you listed with any sort of feedback that would differentiate you from other listing? Most IT businesses aren’t – and this offers a great opportunity to make sure you’re at the top of the list when anyone searches for the services you offer.

Systematically ensuring you have a continuous stream of good feedback on these online directories doesn’t need to be a chore. The method I used within my own MSP business was, on a weekly basis, to reach out to a client who we’d recently completed some work for to ask them if they were happy with the work.

If they weren’t happy then we’d be grateful for the opportunity to nip a problem in the bud (good Customer Management). If they were happy with our work then we’d ask them if they’d be comfortable with leaving a short review for us on an online directory website.

In my experience, nearly all clients are happy to leave a review for you if you make life easy for them. We would provide the client with a templated email that was customised for them. The email would contain a link to click on to visit the online directory for our company listing, and also offer some examples of what other customers had to say about us to help the client consider what they might say too.

Account Management benefits
happyOver the weeks and months that followed, we found that by consistently following this system we achieved three things for our MSP business:

  1. A basic level of account management with our clients, to check they were happy with our work.
  2. Encouraging our clients to express their pleasure with our service. Never underestimate the difference in attitude between a client who you think likes your service, and those that you can persuade to actively talk about how much they like you!
  3. Increased visibility and trust on online directories, making it more likely that prospective clients will choose you to call amongst the directory listings.
  4. The reality is that in most of these online directories, the bar is set quite low. The vast majority of IT companies have zero reviews and so even by achieving two or three positive reviews from your clients, you’re putting yourself head and shoulders above the competition.

Which online directories to use?
When it comes to online directories, you don’t need to look far.

As well as national directories such as Yellow Pages, Yelp.com and Thomson Local, you might also consider looking to Vendor Partner portals that end-users might use. Most vendors have such a portal, with Microsoft Pinpoint being a great example.

Trade Associations of which you are a member also frequently offer online directories to their membership, so make sure your listings here are accurate and you have some positive feedback against your listing.

Finally, there are probably a glut of local directories for your specific geographical area too, so don’t overlook these.

The bottom line is that people will turn to whichever directory they trust, and so you want to be covered on the ones that are important to them. If in doubt, ask your clients which online directories they use and target your efforts on getting your listings up to date and with some good reviews there.

Conclusion
Online directories are under-utilised method of giving your business visibility in front of prospective new clients.

Making sure you are listed on these sites, that your listing is accurate and then ensuring you have positive reviews on these sites can help raise you above the competition.

Contacting clients to ask them to leave reviews for you in these online directories is just a few minutes work each week. Over time it helps build a stronger bond between your and your clients, and increases your visibility in online directories – which will result in more new business enquiries for you!