If you want your business to succeed at the level that you want and ultimately deserve, marketing can help you get there. For some managed services providers, marketing can seem like a very foreign world. So, I’ve broken things down into five simple steps to help get you started when you’re looking to market your business. It’s going to involve you asking yourself a lot of questions but will ultimately provide you with a much clearer picture of how to get where you want to be.
Step 1: Competitive research
While you need to be differentiated from your competitors based on what you’re selling, you don’t need to be reinventing the wheel. Being the first to do something means spending your time both educating the market and selling to the market—which is a really difficult thing to do. So when you’re thinking about the services you’re selling, look at how your competitors are presenting those same services and ask yourself: “What do I do differently?”
It may be a type of partner approach you take, the number of years of experience you’ve had in a specific area, or something that you do differently. You need to think, “What’s my secret sauce?” and then think about how you communicate that value to your potential customers.
Step 2: Create your message
So now that you’ve thought about what makes you different, how do you turn that into a value proposition? Start by asking yourself these specific questions:
- What specific problems do you help your customers or prospects solve?
Set out what you plan to do and make sure you’re able to communicate it without too much focus on features and functions. Instead, focus on the business benefits you will bring to the organization.
- How exactly do you solve their problems?
This is where you can be a little bit more technically driven. You might offer backup, remote monitoring, or management of their security. That’s great, but when you’re writing down each of those things, add on the benefit this brings to the customer. For example, by providing backup you’re allowing them to stay focused on their business and to potentially avoid an extinction event for themselves or their customer(s). You’re allowing them to grow and thrive because you’re taking care of the IT in the background.
- What stories do you have to share with them that they might be interested in?
Look at how you’ve helped your customers in the past—in real business terms—and write this down. People respond to this kind of real-life storytelling. It’s relatable.
- What do you do that sets you apart?
This could be something about your vertical focus, it could be something about your years of experience, or it could be because you don’t care what verticals someone’s in as you can quickly and easily adapt your skills. Think about these things and how you want to communicate them.
Step 3: Identify your audience
Now you need to identify your audience. Hopefully you’ve already done some of this work because it should map to who you’re selling to. You should, for example, already know whether you’re targeting SMBs or enterprises, whether you’re targeting decision-makers or technicians, and what industries or verticals you’re selling to. Don’t be tempted to go outside of a market that you’re selling to just because you can reach it. Don’t think, “I’ll go to this event because they have 20,000 people there,” or “I’ll advertise on this site because they get so many clicks on their ads.” You need to know who these people are and whether they are really the people you want to be selling to—otherwise you’re going to be wasting your precious budget.
Step 4: Identify your channels
There are so many ways you can use today to contact your audience: social media, online advertising, print advertising, trade shows, and email marketing to name a few. It can be overwhelming and leave you with a bunch of questions: Am I supposed to go online? Am I supposed to put an ad out? Am I supposed to do email? Am I supposed to do Facebook or Twitter? Should I keep it old school and stay with print advertising? I recommend you pick two things to focus on first and build a budget around them. Focusing on doing a few things well will ensure you get a better return on investment.
If you can’t decide between digital or traditional, here are some things to consider.
A digital approach is:
- Great for local and nonlocal prospects and clients because it has a greater reach
- Much easier to measure in terms of success because there are all kinds of tools available to help
- Less expensive than the traditional way of doing things
A traditional approach is:
- Great for local clients or prospects
- Harder to quantify in terms of success, so make sure you have a digital tie-back, such as a call to action that drives them to a specific page on your website so you can see how many people are visiting that page
Step 5: Plan, execute, and measure
The easiest way to explain this is to walk through an example.
First, you need to set your goals. Goals for marketing are varied, but you might say, “I don’t think people really know about my business so I need to build some awareness for my business first.” This is a great goal. If people don’t know who you are, they aren’t going to buy from you.
- Now, how are you going to do that?
Getting in front of some local organizations to raise your business visibility would be a good start.
- What tactics are you going to use to do that?
You might plan to go to one networking event each quarter and join the local business group.
- How do you find the right networking groups?
If you’ve identified your target audience you’ll quickly be able to see which events work and which don’t from the companies involved.
- What are your key messages?
An example might be: “The best choice in IT management for local businesses.” This will help you cut to the chase when you’re selling.
- What are your channels?
I’m going to do some direct and personal selling and I’m going to go with Twitter for my social platform.
- How are you going to measure your success?
Setting KPIs upfront will ensure you’re straight out of the gate. “I am going to get 50 net new leads from the same area as the business is located.” Make sure your targets are realistic!
You can adapt these steps to suit your particular goals.
For many MSP owners, marketing can seem like a challenging thing to get their heads around, but following these five steps will help give you the confidence to start on your marketing journey and ultimately lead your business to bigger and better things.
Kim Cecchini is senior director of corporate communications at SolarWinds MSP
This article is taken from Kim’s webcast “5 Steps to Marketing Your MSP.” You can listen to her full presentation by clicking here.