Managed service providers built their businesses on a strong technical foundation and developed a solid sales team, and that used to be enough. But as the channel gets more crowded and more solutions move to the cloud, MSPs need to learn how to market their businesses effectively too.
In the IT Industry Outlook 2015, CompTIA identifies the need to address the marketing skills gap as one of the most important trends to watch this year. The report explains that companies used to be able to rely on the brand identity of the big name vendors they were reselling, such as Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, or HP, to market their services. The nature of cloud-based solutions means the underlying products are more abstract, though. This makes the vendor brand less relevant to end user and shifts the focus to the MSP’s reputation and expertise instead.
Unfortunately, this is a change many MSPs aren’t prepared to handle. During a webinar that we recently hosted with IT marketing expert Raj Khera, more than 50 percent of attendees said they don’t have a marketing plan in place to capture more business. That’s why we’ve been spending a lot of time on Intronis Essentials, which includes our Partner Toolkit and Intronis University. We want these resources to help teach partners how to market themselves and their value proposition more effectively.
Here are a few tips to help you start marketing your MSP business:
1. Put your website to work
Your website shouldn’t be static like an ad in a phone book. It should be a tool that converts visitors looking for information into prospective clients. You can make this happen by updating your website regularly with engaging, informative content that answers questions for the types of small business owners you want to connect with. Posting articles about the latest security threats, tips and tricks, or video Q&As are just a few ways to do this.
This type of content will help get people to your site and show them you’re knowledgeable in an area where they need help. Your website should also make it easy for people to take the next step and connect with you over the phone, by email, or through social media.
2. Engage on social media
Establishing and maintaining a social media presence is another important way to market your managed services business. Internet research has become a key part of the buying process, so you want to make sure SMBs can find you and connect with you this way. It’s also a good way to stay engaged with current customers and get feedback that could help you win more business.
3. Take advantage of email marketing
Email marketing and newsletters are also good tools to use to market your business to prospective clients and connect with current customers as well. You can repurpose content you produce for your website and use it in an email newsletter.
4. Bring in help
If marketing keeps getting pushed to the side because you feel like you can’t make time or don’t feel like you know enough about it, consider hiring someone to fill that skills gap. You can look for a marketing company or freelance writer who can step in and help, or you can hire a new employee who will be responsible for it. Either way, you need to find a solution that works for you.
Marketing is something that MSPs can no longer ignore if they want to be successful. It might be outside your usual skill set, but if you make the effort to learn the basics of how to market your MSP business and then take the time to put what you learned into action, it can pay off in a big way.
Neal Bradbury is Co-Founder and VP of Channel Development at Intronis. Neal is responsible for generating greater business value for the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners. He has held many leadership roles since founding the company in 2003, including partner support, product management, and most recently operations. Neal has more than 15 years of experience in networking, security, integration, and systems management.