Refresh Your MSP Marketing in 2023

Managed services providers (MSPs) that want to grow their business in 2023 face significant challenges when differentiating themselves in the current market. Many prospective customers already have some IT support in place and likely don’t see a pressing need to switch providers or augment their internal resources (whether this perception is accurate is another story). Not to mention, MSPs are constantly competing for the attention of busy decision makers bombarded by various news and information sources, business related and otherwise.

If your marketing or lead generation efforts aren’t paying off, it’s easy to blame a salesperson or a marketing vendor. In some cases, they may be contributing to the problem. But it’s also possible that it could be time to evolve some of your practices.

The Big Switch

The fundamental change that MSPs must address is that buyers today tend not to be first-time shoppers, but MSP switchers. They aren’t deciding whether they need IT services; they more likely need to figure out whether their current provider is sufficiently addressing their evolving business needs, and if not, who can?

The Awareness-Consideration-Decision buyer’s journey has changed for these customers. First, they face spiraling costs and lagging productivity and need guidance to help determine if their technology, processes, people, or all three need to change. Then they must decide which MSP will provide the necessary value to accomplish their goals.

Barracuda MSP recently hosted a webinar with Derek Marin, founder of Simple Selling, focusing on this MSP switchers buyer’s journey. He noted that there are several common reasons why clients want to switch their MSPs, including:

  • Poor responsiveness and execution
  • Service offerings that aren’t tailored to their needs
  • Lack of specific technical skills
  • They don’t trust the MSP to deliver on their promises
  • Lack of vision and strategy
  • They feel they are not getting enough value from their investment

Most of these reasons have nothing to do with product portfolios or technology. Therefore, well-written white papers, sales brochures, or blog posts won’t draw these customers in.

Timely Tips to Reach Prospective ‘MSP Switchers’

First, make sure your marketing messaging is aligned with actual customer needs. The challenges they face have evolved over time and are more complex – they are worried about security, compliance, productivity, incompatible software, inaccurate data flowing across disparate applications, cloud migration, and more.

Second, understand that landing a new customer will take many interactions. This is a journey that will involve multiple assets and touchpoints.

Third, insource your marketing content. Most of your content should be squarely focused on meeting real customer needs, which will mean reconfiguring how your subject matter experts and content creators interact. For example, your potential customers want to hear about things they are worried about, and your subject matter experts likely have a lot of good stories about solving those problems. 

Customer quarterly business reviews (QBRs) are a good source of this information – give your content creators access to the stories shared during those so they can translate them into narratives that appeal to prospective customers.

And having a content marketing manager on staff is critical for this process. Make sure you have buy-in from the services team on how this approach to content creation will work, and get marketing directly involved in QBRs in some way.

Leverage social media selectively. Most companies are not very good at social media and trying to improve performance across every platform is a mistake. Instead, start with one platform – LinkedIn is an excellent first option since it was designed for B2B interactions. Once you have some mastery there, shift your attention to the others.

You also don’t have to abandon traditional marketing approaches. For example, technology tips, telemarketing, and pay-per-click services can still bring in decent leads. As long as you’re keeping an eye on the cost-benefit ratio of your marketing activities, you should experiment with your mix until you have a grasp on what is performing best.

To grow in 2023, MSPs need to realign their marketing with what potential clients are looking for. That means moving away from educating them about the need for an MSP or the benefits of a specific technology. Instead, MSPs should be selling services based on how they can address real business challenges and help prospective clients navigate an increasingly complex IT and cybersecurity environment. This approach will generate higher-quality leads and conversions in the new year.

As Director of MSP Marketing, Americas, at Barracuda, Lindsay Faria is dedicated to empowering Barracuda MSP partners to grow their businesses by providing tools and information to make marketing and selling their data protection services as effective, fast and easy as possible.

Measuring Your MSP Marketing Success

For MSPs, having a talented staff and a robust suite of technology and service offerings only gets you so far—you have to let prospective customers know your company exists and what you have to offer. Regular marketing through various channels is a crucial part of getting that message out, but many MSPs struggle to measure just how successful a given campaign has been.

Getting solid marketing metrics will help MSPs justify the cost of a campaign, but it can also help guide future efforts and save money that might otherwise be wasted on an ineffective approach.

For established MSPs, marketing campaigns will fall into two broad buckets: those targeted at new prospects (to close new sales) and those targeted at existing customers (to sell new services and keep clients engaged).

Gauging the success of these efforts will require looking at slightly different metrics. However, it’s important to remember that entirely accurate reporting on these programs is not possible. You simply cannot track every dollar spent back to sales, and even the tracking you do have access to is not telling the entire story. Turning a prospect into a qualified lead requires more than a dozen interactions and touchpoints. Many of these interactions build on one another in ways that will not be apparent in reporting.

Marketing to New Prospects

Marketing to new prospects can be measured in several ways. For email, web advertising, and other campaigns, MSPs will want to look at impressions, opens and click-throughs, and the performance of call-to-action items like filling out a form, requesting to be contacted, etc. Also, look at bounces and landing page interactions. For example, if you get a lot of click-throughs but very little engagement once the prospect arrives at your page, the campaign will need to be adjusted to encourage more activity.

MSPs should also track the growth rate of their customer and prospect databases. Following the conversion rate of those leads against actual sales will help you determine whether you’re getting any value from the campaign—how much did you spend versus how much revenue you brought in from those specific leads. Depending on how long the sales cycle is, it may take months to determine the true success of a particular campaign. 

Current Customer Marketing

Marketing to current customers requires a slightly different approach, as some of this activity is not directly tied to sales. In some cases, MSPs provide news, updates, new offers, and other information that keeps the client engaged and helps show the MSP’s value.

For more sales-driven campaigns, you would need to track the same metrics as with new prospects, but some data may need to come from the customer relationship management (CRM) system. For example, a current client may see a campaign and call their rep directly or send an email rather than clicking on a link. In that case, the campaign worked, but that activity will not be captured instantly. 

Define Goals and Metrics Upfront

Measuring the effectiveness of a marketing program also requires the MSP to define terms clearly. For example, calling someone a lead may mean different things to different people, so make sure everyone on the team (including any outside marketing firms) understands what will count as a qualified lead and what does not.

You also need clear goals. For example, if you’re simply trying to build brand visibility, increased web traffic and email opens may be a key metric. On the other hand, those metrics aren’t necessarily helpful if you’re targeting specific revenue figures.

Remember, too, that the number of sales generated does not necessarily reflect only the quality of the marketing effort. For example, if you get a high response rate from the wrong prospects, you may be hitting an incorrect list with a great campaign. Or, if conversion rates don’t match the level of engagement, it may be the sales process that needs tweaking, not the marketing campaign.

Achieving marketing success can be frustrating, but with the right investment level and clearly defined goals and metrics, MSPs can improve effectiveness and grow their business. In addition, it’s vital to have a holistic view of the results—not just from automated tracking but also from CRM data and information from the sales and marketing team. That will ensure MSPs can build a good program and quickly adjust when something isn’t working.

Lindsay Faria is Senior Director of MSP Marketing – Americas for Barracuda MSP.