When looking to market your managed service provider (MSP) business, the very first question you should ask yourself is, do you have a strategy?
A strategy is different from a plan. Your marketing plan is the how-to guide to getting your business in front of potential customers, but why do you want to get out in front of new customers? This may seem easy—because the obvious answer is revenue. The problem is, more revenue in itself is not a complete nor specific enough answer. This is where the strategy comes in.
Your strategy should describe what sources of revenue you are going after; this will define your offering and help paint a picture of your ideal customer. Unless you determine the “why” behind your marketing efforts, the plan will not be specific enough to be effective.
What goes into your strategy?
Let’s ask ourselves a few questions to see if we can describe our why:
- How much revenue do you want to increase by?
- How quickly do you want to generate that revenue?
- Who is your target market? Are you in a vertical?
- What sources of revenue do you want to focus on?
- Who is your ideal customer?
These questions can help you to create a marketing plan to aim directly at a target instead of using a shotgun approach. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shotgun approach, it’s just less effective than targeted marketing because you have to spend lots of money and/or resources to get measurable results. By defining your “why,” you create a smaller target with a better-defined need. This may help raise the effectiveness of your advertising.
Measuring revenue is critical. At the end of the day, you are spending X dollars on marketing to get Y dollars in revenue. If you do not know what your target is, how can you hit it? Knowing the number and time schedule may allow you to plan and budget in order to meet that number. Once you know the target number, working backwards may allow you to determine a realistic number of impressions, views, visits, etc., you need to meet—which will help tell you how much money you need to spend.
Once you know this, you can budget that spend over the period of time you expect to generate the revenue. The only guessing here is the conversion rates for how many of those impressions will become leads, and then how many of those leads will become customers.
What source of revenue do you want to focus on?
Do you want more managed services contracts? What about web design or hosting projects? Whatever it is you want to grow, you must focus specifically on that. Throwing out all your offerings in a mass mailing will be much less effective than targeting the benefits of managed services contracts. Being specific helps you speak directly to the prospects that need that service or have that problem you are looking to solve.
Part of targeting your marketing in order to make it more effective is to define the “who.” Accurately describing this “who” allows you to use design material specific to that group and display it in the media most effective in reaching that group. For example, doctors read medical journals and do significant online research. If you are in a vertical, become familiar with all the avenues by which that vertical communicates. There may be special periodicals or websites they frequent. Use the information you have to build a persona of your ideal customer and it will lead you to the most accurate ways to target them.
The more questions you can ask, the more targeted your strategy will become. The more targeted your strategy, the more concise your plan will be. Once you have answers to all your strategy questions, you can give your plan a target and a schedule to hit that target. Once you know who your market is and what you are trying to sell them, you can decide what kind of content to produce and where to place it.
Eric Anthony is director of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP
Looking for more information to help you grow your MSP business? Check out the MSP Institute, here.