Marketing Advice For MSPs - InformationWeek

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2/3/2011
07:29 AM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
Commentary
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Marketing Advice For MSPs

In a recent presentation, marketing coach and guru Robin Robins told an interesting story. It's about a social experiment conducted by the Washington Post a few years ago.

In a recent presentation, marketing coach and guru Robin Robins told an interesting story. It's about a social experiment conducted by the Washington Post a few years ago.Concert violinist Joshua Bell, who had two days prior sold out at Boston Symphony Hall (where the average ticket sold for $100), was dressed in rags and given a $3.5M handcrafted Stradivarius violin to play during rush hour in a Washington, D.C., metro subway station. There was no promotion--no advertisement touting Bell's acclaim as a musician. He was made to look like an unknown--and a beggar at that. Bell played six intricate Bach pieces, and here's what he got for his troubles: Six people stopped to listen; 20 people gave him money and kept on walking; nobody applauded when he was through; and he made a cool $32.17.

The point of the story, according to Robins? "How something is promoted to the market is what determines its financial success and buy-in from that target market. Being great at what you do doesn't guarantee financial success." That was her message to small MSPs and IT services companies that are struggling to keep their businesses afloat or burning the candle at both ends trying to come up with ways to boost their recurring revenue streams. "You must know how to communicate your value to the marketplace and educate buyers on the value that you bring."

During the presentation, Robins showed examples of successful and unsuccessful marketing, be it in the form of direct-mail pieces, websites, newspaper ads, or some other medium.

Here are her three keys to getting marketing right:

Key #1: Improve your message. If you're an MSP trying to drum up business, there are certain things you have to do in your marketing, Robins says. You need a compelling headline, whether on a web page, a postcard, what-have-you. "The head accounts for 70% of the response to any marketing campaign," Robins says. You have to write from the client's perspective, not your own. Customers don't care who you are and what you do. They don't care about awards you've won and other accolades you're received. They care about whether you can help them solve their problems. So you need to tell them what you can do for them.

What else? One, make it clear what benefits you offer. Two, give something away. And that should take the form of valuable information, not an all-expenses-paid trip to Aruba. Three, give them testimonials; show them (in concrete terms, with facts and figures) how other customers have gained from using your managed-services solution. Four, differentiate yourself. "When there's no differentiation, people will shop on price alone," Robins says. "If Brand A is the same as Brand B, why should I pay more for it?" Five, create an urgency to respond--by limiting your free offer to the first 10 callers, for example. And make it easy for people to respond; don't bury a tiny "Contact Us" link at the bottom of your home page.

Key #2: Can and clone your sales presentation. Be aware of the marketing "funnel" (sound familiar?) and implement your marketing as a system. In your target market, people start off as cold suspects and progress to warm leads, hot prospects, qualified buyers, customers, and, finally, raving fans. If you're doing things right, the marketing will do the work for you, and you won't need to actively engage anyone until they've become a qualified buyer. At the cold suspect stage, when the prospect doesn't know, like, or trust you, you use referrals, PR, Google AdWords, direct mail, Yellow Pages ads, etc., to convey your message. When they respond to that message, because you did what you were supposed to in Key #1, they become a warm lead. Then you hit them with an irresistible offer (a free report, CD, booklet, whatever). Once they read your materials, they start to perceive you as a trusted expert. Predisposed to doing business with you, they enter the hot prospect zone. You get the point.

Key #3: Be the flame, not the moth. The bottom line here, according to Robins, is that you don't want to be chasing anyone down. If what you have to offer is compelling, and you've communicated your value proposition effectively, prospects will come to you because they'll want what you have to offer. Giving them something of value, such as a free report, an educational video, or a webinar, is a "lead generation magnet," Robins says. Once they discover that you know what you're talking about and they need your IT/managed services, they'll come running.

How's your marketing working out for you? Are you doing a good job of selling your services? If not, try using these tips and see what happens.

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