MSP Marketing Guide: Everything You Need to Know

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Most managed service providers (MSPs) don’t consider marketing a priority in the beginning, relying on their network for business instead. There are too many other things to think about, from figuring out which technology to use and which equipment to buy, to looking for a space to rent and people to hire. 

But when initial client referrals dry out, the question of marketing suddenly becomes central, even critical

If you find yourself in a situation where your MSP marketing strategy needs a boost (or a revamp), you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about MSP marketing and walk you through every actionable step.

Why Is Marketing Important for MSPs?

New MSPs often find clients through personal connections. Sometimes it’s the main reason for starting the business in the first place! As a result, marketing doesn’t play a prominent role. 

Marketing challenges only present themselves when there’s a need to grow and expand beyond the initial client base. Ignoring marketing for too long not only risks slower growth but can even lead to losing clients to more active competition.

Since most MSP owners come from technical backgrounds and there’s rarely a budget for a dedicated marketing role, they need to learn to do everything on their own, from getting noticed in the marketplace to attracting and retaining customers.

While the world of marketing is ever increasing, there are just six areas we recommend focusing on to create a successful MSP marketing strategy:

  1. Finding a target audience
  2. Developing a marketing plan
  3. Building an online presence
  4. Generating leads
  5. Closing sales
  6. Retaining customers

Targeting the Right Audience

The foundation of effective customer acquisition for any MSP is knowing that you can’t be everything for everyone. To get ahead, you need to target a particular set of customers, know their needs well, and offer the best solution to solve their problems.

Identify Your Ideal Customers

Focusing your efforts on specific customers will bring much better results than trying to appeal to everyone. Not only will you have a better idea of what your customers are looking for, you can invest in a marketing strategy that will make it easier to attract more customers over time, whether it’s through SEO (search engine optimization) or referrals.

It’s up to you to determine the market you compete in, but you don’t have to be too granular. The goal is to balance the number of potential customers in a way that you can know their needs well while having enough of them to run and grow the business.

A few common market segmentation examples are: geography, industry, and vendors. 

When you serve customers in a specific geographic area, it gives them reassurance of having direct access to you and knowing where their data is stored (especially important for clients in regulated industries). While there might be lots of competitors in major cities, going after smaller underserved markets presents its own opportunity for differentiation. 

Other MSPs focus on specific industries (e.g. engineering companies, law firms). When you get the same types of clients, you learn their processes, unique challenges, vendors, and more. That means you can efficiently organize your work and create marketing campaigns that target precise keywords (e.g. cloud backups for dental offices).

Finally, you can focus on vendors. Being known as the go-to VMware shop or the one that specializes in scaling Microsoft systems, for example, can be a great way to position yourself in the market. In addition, working with the same tools allows you to automate processes and become more efficient. 

Understand Your Customers’ Challenges

Once you know who your customers are you should find out what they want and present them with a clear solution. 

A good exercise for this is the Value Proposition Canvas, first described in the Value Proposition Design book by Strategyzer. 

You start with potential customers and brainstorm as many problems they might have as possible (jobs-to-be-done), then you list their pains (from not having a solution available) and gains (from solving their problems). 

After that, you go through the services you offer and specify how those services can bolster gains or relief pains of your audience. 

This exercise clarifies the value of your offering for your customers and how you can address the challenges they face. 

Create Buyer Personas

Another useful tool for your MSP marketing strategy is buyer personas. 

A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customers which helps guide your marketing efforts. It takes known audience characteristics (e.g. demographic, psychographic, behavioural) and weaves them into a compelling narrative. 

Designing marketing campaigns around buyer personas is more effective because it humanizes the process. It’s not about adding to your market share, it’s about helping people. 

In addition, buyer personas focus your efforts. Instead of trying to address every bullet point related to customer pains and gains, you have a more holistic view — how would it directly help John (or Jane, or another specific buyer persona)? 

To create a buyer persona, compile everything you know about your customers, detect common patterns, and describe what a person or company that fits those criteria might look and behave like. 

If you serve different types of customers, you can create another buyer persona to represent them. But keep the total at two or three at most, since you always need to make sure your buyer personas stay up to date. 

Developing an MSP Marketing Plan

Now that you have a clear view of your audience, you know who you’re creating a marketing plan for, which makes the whole process easier and more accurate. 

The next steps are setting goals, prioritizing marketing channels, planning out marketing content, and analyzing results. 

Set Specific Goals and Objectives

Every marketing activity you engage in should have an objective, which ties to the overall objective of your marketing plan. Without goals, it’s easy to engage in marketing only when inspiration strikes but end up making no tangible progress at the end of the quarter. 

Keep goals simple with SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) criteria. 

For example, write a series of four blog posts explaining the difference between various cloud setups this month.

Notice that a goal should have a clear action from your side that you’re responsible for. If your goals rely on your customers to make action (e.g. get 1,000 Twitter followers), it’s easy to avoid responsibility and not make any real progress.

Identify the Right Marketing Channels

Just like you can’t market your business to everyone, you can’t market it everywhere. You need to choose which marketing channels would deliver the best results given your audience and available resources.

Marketing channels can be both online and offline. A few common examples:

  • Email
  • Social media
  • SEO and blog (i.e. organic search results)
  • Online Advertising (e.g. Google ads, web banners)
  • Out-of-home advertising (e.g. billboards, posters)
  • Traditional media advertising (e.g. TV, magazines)
  • Video and audio marketing (e.g. YouTube or podcasts)
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Direct marketing
  • Conferences and events
  • Sponsorships

A big part of your marketing plan is identifying which channels suit you best and creating a strategy that incorporates in the most effective way. This is especially important in B2B marketing, because the channels are so much different than the more often discussed consumer marketing channels. For instance, while social media is a prominent channel for consumer marketing, for B2B marketing it takes a supporting role.

You can even repurpose the same marketing activities for several channels at once. For example, posting videos and podcasts to your blog with transcripts and sending out newsletters about them, or turning posters into web banners for online advertising and flyers to give away at conferences. 

Develop a Content Strategy

Creating text-based content (e.g. blog posts, ebooks, white papers) is one of the most important marketing activities. When you produce relevant, regular, high-quality content, your website will rank higher in search engines and attract more visitors, a percentage of whom will turn into customers. 

Unlike advertising, which only works when you spend money, your search engine ranking, once achieved, will be a more dependable source of customers.

The most important word in content marketing is consistency. The best thing to do is start small but keep the rhythm. If you can delegate or write one blog post a month, start there, but also commit. 

A secret to producing a lot of content is repurposing. If you commission an in-depth white paper, for example, you can take out parts of it and turn it into videos, podcast interviews, smaller articles, infographics, social media posts, and more. That way, you can do the heavy lifting once and have enough content for a month or more. Longform content (e.g. ebooks and white papers) is especially well-suited to be broken down into such pieces.

The last thing to keep in mind is not creating content for the sake of creating content. Always have a goal and a conversion funnel in mind. Who is it for? What problem does it solve? How does it convert visitors into leads and potential customers? For example, you can request that visitors leave their email to join a webinar or download an ebook. Then reach out to them with an inquiry or a personalized offer.

Measure and Analyze Results

Not all the content you produce will yield great results. The goal is to measure performance and do more of the things that work and less of those that don’t. 

At minimum, you should track your website traffic, time visitors spend on each page, and the bounce rate (visitors leaving the website after only looking at one page). All of this can be done for free with a tool like Google Analytics, although there are lots of other options you can find as well.

When you do online (or even offline) marketing campaigns, make sure you have a way to track their performance. Online this can be done with referral links; offline is more difficult, but creating “coupon” codes for users to put in or campaign-dedicated landing pages can go a long way.

Building a Strong Online Presence

Even if you primarily find clients through word of mouth, cold-calling, or real-life connections at trade shows, having a well-maintained website will help elevate your image and improve your closing rate.

Everyone looks up everything online nowadays, including companies they want to work with.

Create a Website That Converts

The primary goal of your website is to show information that your potential customers are interested in. 

What services do you provide? How do you differentiate from competitors? Where are you located? Who are your other customers?

The secondary goal of your website is to convert casual visitors into leads. This can be done by creating insightful content, educating, or providing a useful tool free of charge (e.g. a web security checklist). 

Keep your website design simple, well-structured, and easy to navigate. Make sure that every page has a conversion goal in mind — whether it’s a contact form, an email subscription box, or a phone number.

Optimize for Search Engines

Trying to rank higher in relevant search engine results is a never-ending process that you should continuously contribute to. 

First, make sure your website is SEO-optimized and easy for search engines to crawl. Create meta tags and alt tags for images. Structure the pages well using headings hierarchy. Check how your website looks on mobile devices.

Second, invest in regular, high-quality content production. Search engines always scan your website for changes and they like to see websites being active and adding more useful information. 

Additionally, test your website with a dedicated SEO tool to see where else you could improve.

Use Social Media and Online Advertising

Since billions of people use social media, chances are your ideal customers do too. Moreover, social media is free to use. So consider reposting some of the content you produce there, finding people asking questions you can answer, and connecting with people personally. 

Running advertising campaigns on social media can be effective as well due to its precise targeting capabilities. Other advertising types are search (e.g. on Google or Bing) and display (e.g. on Facebook). While they can deliver great ROI, it’s best to seek the help of online advertising professionals with a successful track record.

Build Social Proof with Reviews and Testimonials

One of the most important things visitors are looking for on your website is reviews or testimonials. Nothing demonstrates the credibility of your business better than lots of great and genuine reviews.

You can start with using your clients’ logos on your homepage (with their permission). Then ask them to provide a short blurb about how and why they enjoy working with you. Eventually, get into the habit of asking every client after you’ve done a few projects together. 

On the content side, select projects that represent the value you provide the best and turn them into more in-depth case studies.

Generating Leads

Business would be easy if new customers with unlimited budgets would show up at the door by themselves. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and the most profitable MSPs ensure that proactive lead generation is an integral part of their daily activities.

Create Lead Magnets

There needs to be a reason for website visitors to turn into leads. In marketing, this is accomplished through lead magnets. A lead magnet is an offering of valuable information in return for email, phone number, or a meeting. 

For example, you could write a guide for choosing the best cloud vendors (or anything else that’s valuable for your target audience). But instead of posting the whole guide on your website like a blog post, you publish an excerpt and ask visitors to provide an email to unlock the rest. Then you can follow up with the ones that did and initiate a conversation. 

Other lead magnets are webinars, ebooks, demos, free trials, free evaluations, and discounts.

Use Landing Pages and Forms

When you run multiple marketing campaigns, you want to be able to accurately track their results. The best way to do so is to funnel them through unique landing pages — so the link on the ad would send visitors to a specific landing page instead of your homepage.

Establish a system for quickly creating landing pages (can be done with most website constructors like Webflow) that specifically focus on the value proposition of the marketing campaign. 

In addition, make sure that nearly all the actions taken on your website and landing pages lead to a form. You want to be able to easily capture your website visitors’ information at any time.

Nurture Leads Through Email Marketing

All the website visitors’ emails you get shouldn’t just sit stale in a database. You can nurture those leads and eventually turn them into customers. 

Make sure all the emails are stored in an email marketing platform (e.g. Mailchimp) and receive your regular newsletters (ask for permission to send newsletters when visitors fill out your email form).

In addition, you can run new marketing campaigns for specific leads depending on why they shared their emails with you. For example, leads that gave you their emails to download a cloud-vendor comparison infographic might be interested in an email series about getting the best out of the cloud as well. 

The key is to stay on your leads’ radars so that when they need an MSP, you’ll be the first one they think about. 

Closing Sales

By now, you might think that most of marketing is just about creating content and advertising. But it’s easy to get stuck in the lead nurturing loop forever. What separates successful MSPs from the rest is that they don’t hesitate to close the sale when the time is right. 

Develop a Sales Process

With all the content systems in place, you should get a healthy number of visitors and leads. Now you need to think what closing the sale might look like. 

Make sure that it’s always easy for potential customers to buy your service. Have a phone number on all communications with leads. Take initiative as well. Reach out to the most promising leads in the companies you want to work with and present your offering. You can also sweeten the deal with free trials and customizations to provide extra value.

Create Sales Collateral

Sales collateral is anything that can help you sell better. It can be demos, case studies, sales presentations, brochures, infographics, video testimonials, and more.

Start small with the most impactful collateral and develop new bits as needed. It’s more important to keep the collateral you have to reflect your latest achievements. 

Build Strong Relationships

People buy products and services from companies they like. So being thoughtful about your customer relationships goes a long way. 

Get a CRM (customer relationship management) platform (e.g. HubSpot CRM is free) and keep every customer and lead profile up to date, with contact information, notes, preferences, etc. 

Schedule regular follow-ups with all leads and customers. Ask them what you can do better or what services they would like to see. 

When your leads and customers know you on a personal level, both conversions and churn tend to drastically improve. 

Track Sales Performance

Sales is a numbers game. What matters is the efforts you put in to get the results you want. 

Start by tracking a few essential sales metrics, such as time spent selling (i.e. the cost of your sales team), lead conversion rates, average revenue per customer, customer lifetime value, and churn rate. 

Track how these metrics change over time with the various marketing campaigns and experiments you do. 

Retaining Customers

Winning customers is great, but it’s hard work. That’s why being on good terms with your current customers and making sure you reduce customer churn as much as possible is so valuable. 

Provide Excellent Customer Service

All customers should be able to reach you without jumping through any hoops. Answer phone calls without placing people on hold and reply to emails within 24 hours at most. 

Having a self-help chatbot on your website can be useful, as well as a detailed FAQ or support section. 

Upsell or Cross-sell on Additional Services

Having more than one service and multiple tiers within each service provides great opportunities for upselling and cross-selling existing customers.

Upselling is encouraging your customers to move to a higher tier of service. Maybe they need more personalization, more bandwidth, more computing power, better cloud architecture, etc.

Cross-selling is offering your customers a complementary service. For example, if they already pay you for network maintenance, maybe they can benefit from cloud backups? 

Upselling and cross-selling is the best way to increase revenue per customer and is much easier to do than finding new customers.

Create a Loyalty Program

Since finding new customers is difficult to do, you should try to keep as many of your current customers for as long as you can. A great way to do that is to have a loyalty program in place.

Maybe you can give your existing customers a small discount for every year they stay with you. That could be a discount on the total or on every additional team member they sign up. 

Alternatively, you can offer a free service once in a while. For example, every year, do a free network or equipment optimization report. 

By offering loyalty programs that get more attractive every year, it would be more and more difficult for your existing customers to leave as time goes on. 

Keep in Touch Through Email and Social Media

To stay on customers’ radars, contact all of them regularly, whether it’s by calling or through email, Twitter, LinkedIn, or another medium they prefer. 

Just letting them know that you appreciate their business and asking how things are going or how you can improve can go a long way. 

Customers tend to stick with companies that care, and the good news for you is that there are few of those around — but you can be one of them. 

Conclusion: Get Started With MSP Marketing Today

In this guide, we’ve covered a lot of information that you need to up your marketing game from the foundational basics to ongoing fine-tuning. Specifically we discussed: 

  • How to define and find the right target audience for your MSP business
  • How to develop and expand an actionable marketing plan
  • How to build online presence over time
  • How to turn website visitors into leads
  • How to turn leads into customers
  • How to keep existing customers happy 

You don’t need to take on too much and do everything at once. It’s better to start small and commit to making consistent progress over time, analyzing and adjusting the results as you go.

Additional Resources for MSP Marketing Success

We’ve mentioned lots of marketing resources to help you in your marketing journey. Here’s a recap of the tools and books we recommend, plus some bonus suggestions.

Marketing tools: 

  • Webflow for creating no-code websites and landing pages
  • Nibbler for monitoring SEO performance 
  • HubSpot CRM for keeping track of your leads and customers
  • Mailchimp for sending out email marketing campaigns

Marketing books: 

Do you want some assistance in implementing your MSP marketing strategy the right way? Let eBridge Marketing help you out. We’ve been specializing in MSP marketing for over 20 years and helped hundreds of MSPs turn their business around. Simply contact us or give us a call at 1-888-436-5262 to get started on your marketing journey.

About the Author:

As eBridge’s VP of Operations, Devin Rose brings marketing expertise and an entrepreneurial knack to the eBridge team. Devin holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Royal Roads University and a Marketing Management Diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Posted May 3, 2023
Categories: eBridge Marketing Solutions' Blog, Advertising and Marketing General
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