By Dan Wensley, CompTIA Premier Member and Founder of Plan27
Marketing is one of the biggest challenges managed services providers (MSPs) face. Between managing customer relationships, keeping up with technology advances and handling finances, MSPs have little time left to promote the business. And, most don’t have the marketing talent on staff so they outsource it to an expert.
It’s a great solution, but in order to ensure success, an MSP must know what to look for. Here are four guiding principles to start planning and managing your marketing strategy today:
- Define Objectives. For your promotional efforts to succeed, you must set clear goals — but be realistic. Remember that success can kill as much as failure, so if you set out to add five customers a month but lack the resources to handle new business, you set up yourself up for failure. Not only will you fail the new customers, but you also might hurt your existing base, potentially sending the business into a downward spiral.
- Understand The Process. Approach marketing as you do IT services: Both should be process-driven, measurable and repeatable. Avoid a trial-and-error mentality, which leads to failure. There should be a process in place to track the campaign’s progress, identify what isn’t working, and refine the program. Contracting with a marketing provider means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or launch a poorly planned in-house campaign that doesn’t produce the desired results.
- Monitor, Measure, And Report. Keep an eye on the campaign’s progress. You need to work with your marketing strategist to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for every component of the campaign and use metrics that help weigh success. This also helps identify the root cause of any problems. For example, if you miss the goal for sales leads, you can look at your KPIs and address the problem rather than give up on the whole program — you wouldn’t throw out the whole network because one router malfunctioned, right?
- Select The Right Approach. Marketing approaches and opportunities vary, but not all of them are right for your business. Identify the program that best suits your business model, be it a referral program, Web-based promotion or search engine marketing, and recognize what is unlikely to work. For instance, outbound telesales do not align with the MSP model because they are geared to commodity, volume-based businesses.
Don’t let marketing intimidate you just because it isn’t your area of expertise. Remember, the point of marketing is to acquire new customers and grow your business. The better you get at it, the more likely you are to grow your business at a proper pace without tripping up. The good news is that help is available in the form of a marketing services provider.
To get some ideas on different marketing initiatives, take a look at CompTIA’s marketing toolkit, which is offered at no cost to CompTIA members and walks you through the basics of setting up a campaign. You can use it as a foundation for a strategy you can then devise together with a marketing expert.
Dan Wensley is an accomplished sales and marketing executive and innovator, with over 300 professional endorsements on LinkedIn. As an author, keynote speaker, and event panel participant, Wensley is also an advisor to numerous groups and companies. He is an Institute for Partner Education and Development (IPED) 2005 Channel Masters Program alumnus, and previously served on the CompTIA Board of Directors.