You’re involved in a very competitive field. And to stay ahead of the pack, you need both the reach that digital marketing provides and the “human touch” that closes sales. Otherwise, conversions from prospect to qualified lead, to paying customer will be bottlenecked somewhere along the line, and your leads will become your competitors’ MRR. Join us for a webinar meant for leaders of IT service providers to understand the trade-offs between humanization and scale, and to help bridge this gap between your marketing and sales teams.
Devin: So, let’s just get started today. So, the topic of the webinar today is The Humanization of Sales and Marketing at Scale. My name is Devin Rose, a little bit more information about me. I work for eBridge Marketing Solutions, which is a boutique marketing agency that serves IT service firms like MSPs and web hosts and data centers and, vendors, and really anyone in that ecosystem. We were established in 2001. So, you know, we’d been around the block a little bit and understand this space and we’re a full service marketing agency, primarily with a focus on digital, but, we are a full service agency. So if there’s any questions, you know, not necessarily even related to this presentation, but just, marketing related in general, I’d be more than happy to address them at the end. And you might be more familiar with my boss who is Heartland Ross, and he runs The Host Broker, which is a brokerage for MSPs web hosts, you know, a similar ecosystem to what we help with the, on the marketing side. The main differences that Hartland also helps, with the brokerage of IP addresses. This was, you know, The Host Broker was founded out of client demand. We were a marketing agency first, had a lot of clients who were interested in selling and buying for that matter. So, ended up starting The Host Broker. And if you are interested, you know, feel free to contact us, there is a free evaluation available.
Devin: So, you know, we, during this coronavirus times, you know, we were wanting to redo our website and, we were talking about from a strategic perspective about, what do we really want to emphasize in our website? And we came up with the conclusion that we wanted to emphasize our team. So, this slide here shows a panel that we ended up putting in as the hero image on our homepage. And it is essentially a clause of us, of our team caricatures of our team, done in like a zoom, like setting. and, you know, we’d considered some other alternatives before we landed on this. We wanted to know, perhaps in normal times we would have gotten together for a group photo. But, obviously with COVID, that’s a little bit more difficult, so this was the workaround we came up with and I just find it so interesting that during these times, like, you know, we weren’t thinking about this when we came up with this decision. But you know, it’s just amazing how the digital communication tools that we’re using these days. they are so common that, you know, even for our website, that’s what we ended up going with. But, you know, I think that I’m not alone in my feeling that all these digital communication tools, whether it’s slack for communicating with, you know, your work or if it’s discord communicate, you know, with friends or zoom like we’re doing today, they’re, they’re great. They’re wonderful. It’s certainly thankful we have them, you know, during these times, and they’re a good mitigation, but there is a certain something missing, you know, it’s not the same as getting together for something like a photo, you know, having that comradery, there’s that humanized feeling that is missing from these digital communications. So, you know, even though we should be thankful for them, you know, I think it’s also important to remember the downsides and that kind of leads us into the presentation for today.
As a marketer, I can tell you a little bit about the marketing perspective and, you know, we marketers really like the focus on achieving scale. We typically do this through using software as a service tools, whether it’s our social media tools like hoot suite, which lets you broadcast messages across multiple channels quite easily, whether it’s marketing automation tools like HubSpot, which lets you do, you know, email marketing and inbound marketing at scale, or, you know, just, there’s a whole bunch of tools out there that marketers use these days, even WordPress, like, you know, and you know, the ability for a marketer, who’s not tech savvy to go in there and to schedule blogs, to be posted in the future on an automated basis. This lets us do marketing at scale and especially for like IT service providers where typically the marketing departments for our two service providers, aren’t huge. Especially for a small to mid-size you were talking about maybe, you know, maybe a couple people or a single person, having these software as a service tools to allow these small departments to achieve scale has a huge amount of benefit allows us to get this mass messaging that I have on the slide here, to cast our net widely, and also, you know, to have a kind of a set it and forget it approach. And you know, this phrase set it and forget it does have a little bit of a negative connotation, but, you know, cause you do want to be, you know, checking in on your campaigns and making sure things are running smoothly. But the benefit to it is it does allow us to scale with, with relatively little manpower. So, that’s really the marketing perspective is the goal is to achieve scale.
Devin: But then we can compare with the sales perspective, where marketers are looking to scale, using mass messaging sales is looking to develop rapport using individualized messaging. That’s really how you end up closing leads, especially for IT service providers where, I mean, so many of the claims made by IT service providers are similar. That’s something that actually marketing agencies struggle with too. It can be difficult to differentiate service providers because, they’re all saying the same things or very similar things. So, that’s why the emphasis so often is about relationships and developing that rapport so that you can close leads. And, that’s very much the sales perspective is about having individualized messaging, you know, providing that human touch that is frankly missing in a lot of our digital communication tools, but doing that as much as possible to end up closing the leads.
Devin: So, there’s divergent perspectives there, there’s the mass messaging versus the rapport and individualized messaging. So, the question really becomes how do leaders of IT service firms help bridge the gap between sales and marketing and to essentially find a happy medium where it’s the best of both worlds.
Devin: So, let’s talk a little bit more about what marketing at scale looks like. And, I mentioned HubSpot as a marketing automation system. I did some research recently that showed that the majority of MSPs who are in CRNs top 150 lists were using HubSpot. So, it’s definitely the most popular for MSPs and, the same is for other it services firms as well. The main benefit of a, like a marketing automation system is you get these templated emails and content pieces. So, going back to the idea of how, small marketing teams can achieve scale with marketing tools, this is exactly what I’m talking about, where, back in the day where you’d have to design something from scratch, now you can get something that is good enough, like, design wise, to add in your own content or maybe even tweak content that’s already been pre-written. And, it allows you to do something like email campaigns with way less effort than would have been in the past. One of the challenges with marketing at scale for IT service providers in particular, is there’s lots of different decision makers are typically involved. It’s not just technical people making decisions about IT services these days, you know, as financial people, marketing people, even like, you know, more general people like the, you know, like a CEO, and that’s especially true, the larger the organization is that you’re trying to reach. So, you end up with like, you know, you can’t just send out a security related content piece via your marketing automation system. There’s, you know, you have to account for different people’s perspectives and you end up with a lot of permutations of different content. So you know, one of the values that, or the value that marketing automation systems bring, is a content library, which helps you to keep track of different, content pieces and to iterate on them as necessary, so you can customize them to who you want to be reaching.
Devin: So, to a large extent, the question about humanization versus scale, it comes down to, at what point should you be automating? And at what point should you not be automating? And this follows our journey down the sales funnel here. So, I have a fairly generic, a sales funnel on the left-hand side there. So, at the top of the funnel, when you’re in the awareness or perhaps, you know, the dip in your, your, you know, starting to go into the engagement stage a little bit too, it is more about the marketing perspective where it’s the set it and forget it, you’re casting a very wide net. So, you tend to prioritize the scale above the humanization. but then as you start to move down the funnel, towards, you know, people at the bottom or, you know, people who are actually existing customers, it becomes way more, appropriate to use the humanization. And, and then really in the middle of the funnel, it’s up to you and your team to use discretion. So, I want to give you an example of, personalization gone awry lit personalization at the top of the funnel when scale is more important can actually achieve the opposite effects as was intended. So, probably if the attendees today have experienced a situation where you visited a website and then that website starts serving you ads as you’re browsing online. That is called retargeting. It’s a marketing tactic. It can be done well, but if it’s done poorly and too aggressively, it comes across as really, really creepy and too aggressive and too personalized. So, like, let’s say that you visit a particular product page, and then, you know, you see an ad that references that specific product. In my opinion, that’s just too personalized. you know, it’s just the person then realizes that, oh, you know, they’re, you’re tracking where I go, you’re tracking what pages I’m visiting. And it’s just a little bit too on the nose with the personalization and it’s counterintuitive. It actually turns people off and it doesn’t develop that rapport. It makes them skeptical of you. So, when we contrast that with, let’s say at the bottom of the funnel, if you send out an email that’s kind of very clearly generic, not addressed to the good lead or the existing customer that you have. Again, that’s going to be a turnoff, the PR the person’s going to be like, Hey, you know, I know Devin, why is he, why is he not like talking to me like I’m a real person? So, I think at the top of the funnel and at the bottom of the funnel, it’s fairly obvious, which priorities that you should, you know, you should be looking at. It’s that middle of the funnel where there’s the discretion’s needed. And, you know, it’s a little bit of an artful, thing to think about too. It’s not like a hard set thing where, you know, in the middle of the funnel, it’s very clear we should, you know, this should be prioritized for scale, this should be prioritized for humanization. It’s more about using discretion thinking artfully about it, and really trying to apply common sense to the communications, throughout the middle of the funnel.
Devin: So, let’s talk about some practical examples about how to humanize and, you know, a lot of these aren’t huge revelations. Again, it’s really about applying common sense artfully throughout the funnel. So, you know, aligning sales, marketing, and customer care. So, you know, your salespeople, aren’t the only people who are sending emails to your customers and leads. And so if, you know, let’s say that your, your sales emails are coming across very personalized, but your marketing emails and customer care emails are coming across, you know, very unpersonalized, that’s a problem. It’s not, blue brand not coming across consistently. So, you know, just getting your marketing and customer care teams and sales teams together to make sure that, you know, there’s a mutual understanding about what communications are going out and what tone should be, you know, should be sought, that will help you get a, you know, a more humanized communications. Converting data into human and humanized insight, so there are countless ways that this can be done, but let’s say that you start seeing a, one of your customer or lead databases that there’s some new contacts that are showing up in a different city than you were accustomed to seeing for a particular account. This could be an indication that they are opening a brand new office. So you know, that that would be an indication for someone like an MSP that there’s, you know, more endpoints, more users, and there’s an opportunity for some additional business to support that office and a savvy salesperson would reach out to their contact and, and to offer those services and to solve that problem. There’s many ways that you can add humanize insights to data, and it’s, you know, a skillful marketer will be able to pull those insights out. A big one is don’t spam. And, you know, sending relevant information frequently is just too, or too frequently is just as bad as an irrelevant information less frequently. As marketers, don’t do a great job at this a lot of the time. but generally speaking, try to get your email, your sales and marketing emails to follow like a cadence that reflects a real human. When I’m doing business, I’m trying to follow up with people. I don’t follow up super aggressively, cause I know it’s gonna turn people off. You know, I wait a couple of days if someone hasn’t got back to me even longer sometimes. And, that’s what your emails should be doing. Your marketing automation systems should be doing to you. Don’t want to be sending people emails super, super frequently.
Devin: How to humanize well, I have a nice little mugshot of Bill Gates on the right hand side there, I’m alluding to the last bullet, which is showing your face. And, you know, today I am practicing what I preach in this regard and got my nice bald head on the screen here. And, you know, especially with COVID right now, we can’t show our faces. We can’t develop that individual rapport in a real life setting. So a good way to mitigate it is just to show your face and, you know, in terms of humanization seeing someone’s expressions and, you know, actually seeing them in, you know, it goes a long way. And, you know, sometimes even me, I like to hide behind my keyboard a little bit, but, yeah, I’m trying to practice what I preach here and get in front of people a little bit more and to develop that rapport, you know, providing a digital self-service with our human off-ramp, so that’s a really important to you because people want to do their own research. They want to go onto your website and find out what you’re all about. But at a certain point, they’re gonna want to talk to a real human. So just making that easy and some common sense ways this can be done is by having strong call to actions on your website, like perhaps at the bottom of every page, make it easy for them to contact you. If they have any questions, don’t make them search around for it. Perhaps even consider a live chat. We’ve had a little bit of mixed results with live chats because you kind of, you do need to have enough traffic coming to your website to make it worthwhile. you know, someone does have to monitor our live chat. So there’s a little bit of a, you know, a work burden put on, you know, the IT service firm who has a live chat set up on their website. And if you don’t have a lot of volume coming to your website, people might not start chatting to you. So, it’s not really worthwhile, but if you do have a significant volume of traffic coming through website, a live chat is a great way to offer that a human off ramp. And segmenting your database, so this is most applicable for a, you know, marketing automation or just email marketing in general. But going back to the idea of there being many decision-makers who have different needs, you don’t want to be sending the same emails to everybody. Likewise, if we think about our leads in terms of where they are in the funnel, you know, it’s more appropriate for instance, to send kind of more aggressive call to actions for people who at the bottom of the funnel, that would be inappropriate top of the funnel. So, you know, you want to say about your database in terms of how qualified the leads are and also their job title or job responsibility. And then, you know, make sure that you’re communicating to them effectively based on what they actually care about.
Devin: Speaking the language of your target customers. I mean, this is a big one. We hear from a lot of clients who come to us after working with other agencies that they just weren’t able to really capture the language of like IT service firms. The stereotypical example, like to bring up is, you know, not capitalizing the P in WordPress, you know, that things like that, there’s small. It doesn’t seem like a significant thing and maybe one-offs, aren’t significant, but if you come across, like you’re not understanding the language that your customers speak, you’re just not going to come across very credibly. And, you know, it’s, it’s going to turn people off and it’s going to make you seem like you’re just kind of a, another generic service provider doesn’t actually understand your target market. Writing for humans, not for bots. This is relevant both for like email marketing and web and web content. For email marketing, no one’s going to read your stuff if you’re, if you’re spamming out, like bought like content, and then for like your website content, it relates to SEO. So, it used to be kind of, I dunno, it used to be kind of a good, not a good, but an effective gray hat tactic, and SEO would be like really overly sprinkling your website with relevant keywords. You know, some people would even do stuff like, you know, make the text white spin, like just list a bunch of relevant keywords, but Google has caught on these days, you know, they’re smart that, that stuff worked like 10, 20 years ago. But Google has figured out ways to deal with that nowadays. And you may as well just write for humans because that’s what Google recommends you do anyway. If you start writing, try to, you know, writing for the audience of search engines, primarily it’s going to be counter effective, because that’s not the best practice for, for SEO. The best practice for SEO is right for humans, make it interesting and make it engaging. And, Google will realize that as well. And they’ll even be able to look at metrics like say time on site and bounce rate and stuff like that, and that all plays into your organic radiance, too. So, don’t overdo it. Don’t, you know, it’s, it’s smart to take a strategic approach to the content. You’re writing to do some SEO research to realize the keywords that people are searching for, and to incorporate those in like a way that seems organic, but, you know, err on the side of not doing that too much, you can really overdo it and you’re better off just writing based on what you think is interesting. And in a clear way that actually gets your points across that’s what’s best for SEO. And then you’ll finally hear the last point is just really educating and encouraging your sales and marketing teams to apply discretion. Again, this is like to a large extent, this is like an artful thing. Especially in the middle of the funnel, it’s not like there’s hard set rules on it. It’s about understanding the, like the kind of different polls, you have the marketing poll and the sales poll on the other end and, and understanding their perspective and when they should apply and when you should have a happy medium. So, really education and encouraging, the departments to work together is really gonna be, the big key of success in terms of having a humanized approach that still lets you achieve that marketing scale that we so want, but also balances that humanized aspect that the sales and marketing teams are desiring themselves.
So that concludes the presentation for today. And thank you very much for joining. And I just wanted to conclude with the slide, which has a little bit more information about the marketing services that bridge offers and also has information for how to contact me if you have any questions and, yeah, at this point, I’ll take questions as well. So, I don’t see any questions coming through. One thing I was wondering about if people were going to ask about is, a variety of different tools that can be used for marketing automation. I mentioned HubSpot and I did some research recently that showed the really popular with top MSPs. There’s a lot of options available though, HubSpot’s not the only one. HubSpot’s good, it has some downsides to which I can address, but, you know, some, I guess the biggest downside of HubSpot really is it is a little bit pricey. So, it makes more sense for kind of mid to large size MSPs that does for small MSPs, but there are some good options available for small MSPs as well. One that is tailored specifically for IT service providers is called MindMatrix. This has, you know, all the templates and the marketing automation that you want, the content library, and they also have a countless other tools that they’ve built in. And it’s really affordably priced, like depending on the configuration that you’re looking for, you’re talking about hundreds of dollars per month, not thousands. So, that’s a really good option for a lot of MSPs and other IT service firms. Another one that is competing directly with, with HubSpot, and is a little bit lower on the price is, called SharpSpring. And the way I would characterize that one is it has pretty much all the features of HubSpot, not quite as polished, but it’s all there and where HubSpot likes to try to get you to utilize their system as much as possible. So, they want you using their marketing automation. They want you using their social media tools. They want you to, using their CMS and getting you into their CMS. SharpSpring doesn’t really care about that stuff. They’re totally happy to, just to kind of, you know, you can use the market automation functionality, they have a ton of API integrations available. So, and it’s also lower price. So, you know, that’s a really good option for, for smaller MSPs and, and also for people who don’t really like, having to join like an ecosystem, who might want to kind of keep their other systems apart, but integrated that SharpSpring is a really good choice for that. And if you are interested in any help with marketing automation that eBridge could help from the content creation to the strategizing, to the setting up of the lead scoring to, you know, everything that’s involved, it’s quite a big effort. So, it’s a big effort, but it’s worthwhile because it ends up getting you, you know, that scale that we’ve talked about today. And so, may always give an opportunity for, one more opportunity for any other questions here.
Devin: Alright. Well, if there’s no other questions, then we’ll end the webinar there and thank you very much for attending. I really appreciate it. And if you have any questions that come up after the presentation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very much!