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.