Join Devin for a discussion of the merits and challenges regarding measuring marketing results for Managed Service Providers. Find out what you can and should be tracking.
Devin: Alright. Yeah. Thanks everyone for joining me today for the EO 2020 Canada Regional Virtual Summit. Today’s topic for the presentation is measuring marketing for MSPs. And if, I figure there’s probably some attendees who are not MSPs and there should be some good takeaways for you regardless.
Devin: So, before we get into the meat and potatoes of the presentation, I just wanted to tell you a little bit about, more about myself and about eBridge Marketing Solutions. We are a boutique marketing agency serving MSPs and other IT service providers, including data centers, web hosts, infrastructures as a service providers, vendors, and really anyone who plays in that ecosystem. We were established in 2001, so almost 20 years experience doing this and, for myself almost seven years. And we are a full service marketing agency, covering the full gamut of marketing tactics, both online and offline. And so, if you have any other questions related to marketing today, that aren’t necessarily pertaining to my presentation, feel free to fire away. I can probably address.
Devin: So, you know, the impetus for today’s presentation really came out of a conversation I was having with an MSP. And we were discussing some different marketing tactics that might be suitable for them. And they expressed a little bit of frustration with me and said, you know, Devin, I just feel like today with marketing, that it just requires such a leap of faith. And really what they were getting at is that it is difficult to track the results of marketing. And this is especially true for MSPs. And I will describe a little bit more about why, and, you know, I understood the sentiment and it, it is, especially, you know, the case for MSPs where the entire industry is really based around having predictable, monthly recurring revenue. And so that’s what they would like to see out of their marketing as well. And unfortunately, today it is very difficult to actually track marketing returns, reliably. So, it doesn’t really address the MSPs desire for that predictable, monthly recurring revenue. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all bad news. There are some things that we can be tracking. It’s just this elusive ROI figure that so many MSPs want that is very difficult to land on.
Devin: So why is marketing so difficult to measure these days anyway? Well, one of the biggest reasons is privacy trends, today’s buyers are increasingly privacy conscientious. And when I think about this, I think about like, so Silicon Valley and people who work at, social media companies and Silicon Valley, I like, you know, the most technically savvy and most social media savvy people. Well, these people are also known for like being very privacy, conscientious, they, for instance, they don’t have their kids on social media. They don’t want to be sharing their lives on social media. And I think it’s a very similar thing for MSPs where, you know, the people that you’re trying to reach quite often are technically savvy themselves and, you know, are privacy conscious as well. There’s also a push for more legislation. We see this most notably in Europe with GDPR, but also in Canada and in California, there are specific, privacy legislations that have gone through, and this is something that I don’t see stopping anytime soon, frankly, I would be very surprised if North America or at least, you know, maybe just United States of America don’t have their own equivalent, GDPR soon. We’re going to see increasing legislation because there is demand for it. And also, there’s privacy tools with increasing adoption. So, the most notable ones that impact marketing are things like VPNs, which make it really difficult to track where people are coming from and to track different sessions. There’s ad blockers, there’s, you know, there’s, encrypted chat, you know, Facebook likes to read your, your, your Facebook messenger and serve you ads based on what you’re talking about. You obviously can’t do that, if your target is chatting amongst themselves on signal or whatever, you’re not going to build a chat to track that. And also maybe the biggest one is web browsers increasingly are offering, privacy tools out of the box, whether it’s blocking cookies or ad trackers or whatever. And all those things make it much more difficult to track your marketing and what’s happening after you’ve reached somebody and what they’re doing on your website, and if they’re completing a purchase and all that stuff. Another big factor that plays in for MSPs in particular is complex sales cycles. You know, increasingly you’re not just selling specifically to a technical person. There might be a marketing person that needs to be involved and have their needs taken into consideration, same with finance, et cetera. So, you know, the more people you have involved in a purchase decision, just, it is more complicated to track it. This is especially true during coronavirus where, you know, we have people working from home, you know, used to be able to track a little bit more about at the office level, by maybe tracking what people are doing by IP. You can no longer really do that, especially right now. And these people in multiple locations are using multiple devices to whether it’s, you know, their laptops, their cell phones, et cetera. So, these are all complicating factors, which make it more tricky to track the revenue from marketing activities.
Devin: But it’s not all negative. There are some good things that most MSPs could be tracking. So, for most MSPs, I would say almost all of them, basic website analytics is something that they should be doing actually did some research on this recently. And I looked at, 50 top MSP websites of which 47 of them had a Google Analytics installed. That is definitely the most popular analytics tool. We recommended at eBridge because it’s free, it’s customizable and it’s pretty powerful as well on the right side of the slide there, I have a screenshot just showing some basic metrics from Google analytics and, you know, right out of the box, you can track things like how many users there are the sessions. And really what I like to look at the most is engagement numbers. So that’s the pages per session, the average session duration on the bounce rate. Those are the numbers that are really going to give you a good idea about the quality of traffic and of people who are arriving on your site are actually interacting with the site. And just to give you a little bit of, maybe a frame of reference here, these numbers on the right, the engagement numbers are a little bit on the low end. You know, for an MSP, I would probably expect the average session duration to typically fall between two or three minutes pages per session, probably closer to two and a half, maybe three, and the bounce rate, 70% is not bad, but, you’d probably want to ideally be closer to 60%. But these are all numbers that are important to track. And, you know, that’s out of the box of Google analytics, but you can actually layer on a whole bunch of customized options as well. Of particular relevance for MSPs is phone call tracking. That’s obviously very important for a lot of MSPs and, you know, that requires typically a third-party tool that you would layer on to Google analytics. Actually, it’s pretty cool how it works. They assign you a range of phone numbers, and then when people arrive at the site, they’re displayed a specific phone number. So, you can track that session back to the specific phone call that resulted.
Devin: And another thing to think about with, in terms of what’s measurable is almost all of these online metrics have some sort of issue with them. None of them are a hundred percent precise. None of them are a hundred percent accurate. So, it’s important to look at these as high-level trends when, like for instance, the average session duration of a minute and 11 seconds there, that is just a, really an approximation based on what information Google has, but they don’t have perfect information. So, if you were to look at that and take it as, the holy grail of the truth there, it definitely is not. So, looking at that and saying people spending one minute and 11 seconds on my side on average would be kind of incorrect analysis, but it’s still useful to track it month to month and see what the trends are. And you can tell if you’re trending in the right direction and that’s more important than just the actual specific measurement.
Devin: So, what’s not measurable for most MSPs, online activity of leads generate offline is a big one, offline lead generation. Obviously, it’s more difficult right now, but let’s say, before COVID, you were going to seminars and conferences and you’re collecting business cards and coming home and entering the contact information into your CRM, finding out how people those people actually interact with your website is very difficult to track. You’re not going to be able to really know if somebody comes through and submits a form afterwards or anything, and, I say most MSPs here, cause there are some tools that help facilitate this process, but they tend to be a little bit on the pricey end. So they’re not really feasible options for smaller MSPs, but for larger MSPs, they can get a little bit more information about what their offline leads are doing on their websites.
Devin: Brand awareness campaigns are also very difficult to track the results of, let’s say you’re doing a social media campaign targeting local small businesses or something like that. There’s definitely value in being seen and getting your brand out there in front of the target audience, but the effectiveness of it is questionable. And, you just don’t really ever know. There’s a rule of thumb more for, it’s more of a B2C marketing, to be honest, but the rule of thumb is it’s the seven brand interactions somebody has to have with you before they’ll complete a purchase. For B2B, it’s going to be more than that, but the basic thinking there is, is consistent in that. You want to get brand awareness campaigns to get in front of people. So, you come up when they’re thinking about who they should be thinking for, managed services.
Devin: And also, what’s not measurable for most MSPs is ROI for specific marketing campaigns. So obviously you can track changes in revenue month to month for the business on the whole, but if you’re running multiple campaigns say like on LinkedIn and maybe on Google as well, knowing the, how much revenue is coming from each is very difficult. So, it’s kinda hard to know exactly which campaigns are performing well. It was easier a couple years ago, but due to some of those factors that I, I said on the previous slide it’s, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult. So yeah, unfortunately we just don’t, you don’t, you never really get great information there. But you still gotta deal with the best you have. There are some ways to mitigate these as well. Yep.
Melissa: Sorry. There’s a couple of questions in the chat.
Devin: Sure. So, what does bounce rate don’t ask? So, bounce rate is when someone arrives on your site and they then proceed to leave your site without having visited another page. So is generally viewed as people who bounce are low quality traffic. Cause you know, obviously let’s say someone arrives on your homepage, you eventually want to filter them through to some sort of contact us form or some sort of other page on your site. You want them to interact if they’re not interacting and then they’re just arriving and they’re bouncing, then it’s kind of, it’s considered usually bad quality traffic or an indication that you need to maybe have a little bit more quality on your website to keep them around. And the percentage of people. Okay. That’s an answer from crystal. Yeah, exactly.
Devin: Okay. And yeah, so there are some ways to mitigate the challenges from the previous slide. So, you know, if you want to track the online activity of lead degenerate, offline using some sort of a tactic that incorporates like coupons, promo codes or customized landing pages to send people to, like some sort of a way to, you know, essentially like assign them, like a unique identifier and for MSPs, maybe the coupon is like a free security audit. You know, maybe it’s a free security consultation. That’s a good offering. Obviously, it’s a little bit easier for PTC companies to offer coupons, but it doesn’t mean that B2B companies can’t do it too. And then once you know that, they’ve redeemed this particular coupon code, or they’ve arrived at a particular landing page. You’re able to identify that segment and you can gain some information about what they’re doing.
Devin: For brand awareness, you can conduct surveys like a good use case would be, let’s say you gather a bunch of business cards from a local conference or something. Then you send them a survey afterwards, that asks them to, you know, identify which brands maybe you and your competitors, they recognize the most. That’s going to give you a pretty good idea about brand awareness. In actuality, I think this is probably reserved more for larger MSPs. I feel like smaller MSPs, it’s probably not worthwhile doing that. Smaller MSP is probably don’t want to be doing a lot of brand awareness campaigns anyway. But for a larger MSPs, that’s certainly a worthwhile activity.
Devin: And then for calculating the ROI of specific marketing tactics, and, I mentioned HubSpot, the HubSpot is a, is a good tool too for this. There’s other marketing automation tools that, can help as well, but HubSpot is pretty well known and they have a little bit more advanced tracking. So, they can track a little bit better between devices, between locations, and stuff like that. It does require fingerprinting, so that’s kind of an inexact science, you know, but, it’s better than nothing. And it does give you a bit more of an idea about, so the return for specific, marketing tactics. Google Analytics gives you some information as well, but, you know, it’s, it’s not as easy to track. It was a couple of years ago.
Devin: And beyond that, there are other KPIs that the MSPs can be tracking to really the big two ones are form fills and phone calls, form fills, you want to be watched and that’s pretty much a lot of MSPs on the websites. That’s the main goal is to get people to give up their contact information so you can continue to market to them. And you know, you can track that, quite simply with Google analytics, by adding a little piece of Java script to the forum. So, whenever they click, you can track that conversion. I already talked about phone calls. You need a third-party tool. We like CallRail is a good one. They’re not too expensive and it’s a very valuable insight to gain, another important one. And then, there’s MQL and SQL. And there’s a couple of different ways that you can be tracking these either just doing it manually based on the definitions that you’ve come up with internally.
Devin: And, I should say MQL is being marketing qualified leads and SQL sales qualified leads. And then there are tools that I mentioned like HubSpot will have lead scoring automatically built into the tool. So, you know, you can automate the whole process of scoring these MQL and SQL and determining how many you have month to month. And, that sort of a trend is going to give you a pretty good idea about how marketing is performing and effecting sales. Even though you’re not able to calculate the ROI, you can at least calculate, how many leads have been generated.
Devin: So really the key takeaways I was hoping to get across today is that, you should measure what you can, but just realize that pretty much every measurement online these days is imperfect. There’s literally issues with every single one of them. We talked about the balance rate already. Like that’s also an imperfect measurement because, some websites let’s say are, have a really big long homepage, have a ton of information on it. Well, someone might go to that homepage, scroll down, get all the information they need, and then leave the site. That’s still recorded as a balance, even though that’s probably a good quality session that you’d be happy about. So, it’s an imperfect measurement and there’s stories like that for literally every single one of these measurements that you can get.
Devin: Look at multiple KPIs, not just ROI, that ROI figure is elusive. You’re not going to be able to calculate it accurately. So, you want to be looking at multiple measurements, whatever you can, not just putting your stock in one measurement. Focusing on trends and not absolutes, because there’s issues with every measurement. Don’t take it as the truth, focus on the trends for multiple KPIs month to month, and also just having some good faith that, if you do marketing well and you do it over a long period of time, and you, you do the most appropriate tactics, you will get results, even though it’s harder to measure these days, the importance of marketing has not gone down. If you’re not marketing, especially in a competitive industry, like managed services, there are going to be other firms in your municipality that will be marketing their services and scooping up new managed services customers.
Devin: So, if you want to stay ahead of the pack you have to market. And the way to do that is to have some faith that doing the right thing and doing it consistently over time is gonna achieve results. Even if you can’t necessarily measure the ROI.
Devin: So that really concludes the presentation today. If anyone has any questions, that would be great and I can feel dumb. And, you know, we, as a full service agency, here’s a little bit more information about our bread of services. And if you have any questions about these services as well, I’d be happy to answer them now, too. And there is my contact information should you have any questions after the presentation. Yeah. So, Melissa, maybe I’ll turn it back over to you and if anybody has any questions for chat, that would be great.
Melissa: Sure. If anyone has any questions, they can go ahead and post it in the chat, or they can even just come off of mute and ask Devon directly. We’ll also be sending out an email afterwards with some co with the, his contact information and, some ways to get in touch with Devin afterwards.
Don: I’ll ask, I’ll ask a question. Devin curious about, you know, how eBridge with approach, recommendations around KPIs for MSPs there’s. Is there, is it really, contingent on the specific, you know, sort of needs of that organization? Or are there sort of, I mean, how do you guys approach, I guess the question is how do you approach, the development of the right set of KPIs for an organization that’s trying to evaluate it’s marketing effectiveness digitally.
Devin: I think keeping it simple is the way to go. I’ve seen some companies that have like say a ton of different conversions being tracked in Google analytics, like dozens and it kind of muddies the waters a little bit. So, I mentioned we want to be tracking multiple KPIs and that’s definitely true, but you want to stick to the ones that are kind of common sense one. So, the form fills is really the big one. That’s really obviously MSPs aren’t doing e-commerce, so it’s not like you can track purchases, but the form fills is kind of the equivalent for MSPs. The main call to action that most MSP going in for phone calls, I would say is a nice to have. there is an additional expense for that, which, you know, it’s not a huge expense, but it does make some as MSP shy away from that.
Don: You referenced the company that does that. I just made
Devin: Sure, yeah. It’s CallRail. I believe it’s CallRail.com. Yeah. and I would say starting with those two is really the big thing. And then you can layer on others, like say, if you have social media buttons on your homepage, you might want to track how many people are exiting the website to go to social media. But you know, you don’t want to track things for just the sake of tracking them. So, I do it if it, like, if you’re placing an emphasis on growing your social media yeah. Track that. But like, if you’re, if you’re kind of just a basic kind of normal MSP, I would say just starting with form fills and on phone calls would be a great start. And then you can get more sophisticated from there and let’s see.
Devin: So this question in chat, what are your favorite automatic posting services to use like Microsoft or WatchGuard? Do you mean like social media posting services or, I’m actually familiar with that, posting services as a, as a terminology. For social media posting, if that’s what you mean then we like HootSuite, maybe I’m biased because I’m in Vancouver, BC here, and that’s where Hootsuite is located as well, kind of the darling of our tech scene. But, that that’s a good one. But there’s, I’m sure there’s lots of equivalent tools out there. They do offer good functionality and make it easier for you to post, across different social networks without, having to actually log in to each one of them.
Devin: What KPIs recommended to pay more attention in B2B lead generation campaigns? I would say again, like the form fills that’s the big one. So, I, well, I guess it depends. So, are you doing an inbound lead generation campaign where the goal is to get people on your site or, and convert in there? Then yeah, I think form fills is the big one. You also probably want to track, like how, what happens afterwards that was SQL’s and where are people dropping off in your funnel? But again, it depends, so that’s probably gonna be more appropriate for larger MSPs and a little bit too cumbersome for smaller MSPs, but, those would be the ones I would recommend.
Melissa Great. And, HK from Omaha, did you want to just follow up on your question?
HK: Sure. Yeah. no, that was, I was a, a great answer, but, I guess what I was kind of asking was by way of like CMX or like via the vendor, because you are specialized, you know, for MSPs is, or like one particular vendor you find has like really high quality, like automatic posting, like you feed through all of your social media information and they just post for you.
Devin: Oh, you mean like a professional services sort of a, a deal or tool? I mean, yeah. I mean, our firm would be happy to do that for you to be honest. It’s definitely something we do. I will say though that, you know, I think social media is not the right solution for all MSPs either. And, in a way, like, let’s say for Twitter, for example, a lot of times MSPs who are on Twitter, aren’t really getting a lot of engagement, what they tweet and everything. And the times I do get people tweeting at them is when they want support. And that’s not really a great look. It’s not really what you want, like when someone has a problem that’s kind of your social media presence is to do with problems. So, in a way you got to watch out for that sort of thing, at least have a strategy in place to route those sorts of, support requests to the right agent or whatever. So, I would be cautious like LinkedIn makes a lot of sense obviously, but, Facebook, it probably doesn’t make sense for a lot of MSPs cause people aren’t really making B2B decisions on Facebook anyway. It’s tempting though because Facebook does have some nice aspects, good targeting options and everything, but I think LinkedIn is more appropriate and then Twitter, you just need to be careful. I mean, yeah, you don’t want to be just fielding support requests all day instead of actually doing marketing. So, yeah, I would say social media isn’t as big of an emphasis as it was like a little while ago, too, because even if you’re doing things like you should be writing blogs as MSPs and posting those blogs and social media. Sure. But just realize that, because social media algorithms have gotten more restrictive with organic recently that you might not get a huge reach. It kinda is what it is. It’s still worth doing on some channels, but, it doesn’t make sense for all MSPs.
Melissa: Awesome. Do we have any other questions for Devin?
Devin: Oh, well, thanks, everyone. I appreciate your, your time and your attention today. And yeah. If you have any questions about measurement for your MSP or, or marketing tax or anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d be happy to have a call with you.