When an MSP grows and becomes more mature, its owners eventually recognize the need for sales and marketing operations. And yet, many still overlook branding. Although not essential and, for sure, not the first thing to build your MSP around, recognizable branding, such as the vision and the mission statement, the elements of design embedded into various details of your website, office interior, and clothes might become a small, yet visibly shining gem that will allow you to stand out from the crowd even more.
In this article, we will discuss how branding might help your managed IT business and what key components of MSP branding you should make use of.
Branding includes a wide variety of self-presentation activities, visual and aural signs, starting from the mission statement and up to your logo on the flash drive in your staffer’s pocket. But why do you actually need to care about this?
On the internal level, branding helps to make your employees more attached to their workplace. The mission statement and messaging and the brand-reinforcing clothes will change your team’s attitude to their daily routines.
From the customer perspective, though, branding allows you to convey the right impression to your clientele at each step of the customer journey. Even if you are running a small team, a neat uniform, a carefully designed logo and clear and concise messaging will let your prospects and clients know that they are working with a team of highly skilled professionals.
A brand is the perception of a company you get when you interact with its various components. Here are the key elements that will allow you to build your elements:
You’d be hard-pressed to find an MSP that doesn’t express at least a passing interest in their search rankings. SEO is the practice of optimizing a website and its on-page content to rank high in (search engine result pages (SERPs). The idea is that the first few MSPs that show up when a potential customer Googles IT companies are the most likely to get their business. Not a bad assumption, since research shows that the first page of Google captures between 71-92% of search traffic.
There are dozens of tools that can be used for email marketing — Infusionsoft, Hubspot, and MailChimp to name a few — and even more ways to actually leverage those emails toward growth. Automated email campaigns are often used to nurture consumers over time in hopes that they will eventually convert into a hot lead for the sales team. More aggressive email campaigns try to set meetings by catching warm leads at just the right time. Some MSPs also use email for regular newsletters, press releases, and other timely announcements.
Social media is still considered a hit-or-miss channel among MSPs. Some swear by it, while others say that they’ve invested considerable time and money without seeing a single lead. If anything, this proves the rule that marketing is not a one-size-fits-all challenge, and that results will always vary depending on location, execution, audience, and creativity.
Now considered outdated in the wake of digital marketing, many MSPs have actually found success with old-fashioned sales letters or postcards sent via snail mail. When used creatively, direct mail can be a great way to stand apart from other IT providers and leave a lasting impression.
When it comes to marketing, the most important thing is not what everyone else is doing, it’s what you should be doing. After all, complaints about spam and over-advertising usually stem from too many companies executing the exact same strategies within the same markets. Marketing is a dynamic beast, and it tends to reward those who think outside the box — or at least think a few steps ahead.
There’s only so much that can be accomplished by informing the consumer and raising awareness. At some point, every end-user has to make a decision about which MSP to sign with — and the most competitive IT company will win. It’s important not to think of marketing as a means to “get your name out there”, but as a means to communicate value. Highlight the reasons why consumers should choose you over your competitors at every turn.
This doesn’t mean running out to hire a graphic designer. Brand strategy is about far more than logos and slogans. Brand strategy lays the groundwork for communicating value to your audience — it’s the part of marketing that digital marketers tend to leave out. Whereas most marketing talk focuses on how and where to deliver your message, MSP brand strategy focuses on what that message actually needs to be to resonate with your audience and drive new business.
Let’s be honest…most MSP marketing tends to be pretty bland and generic. If you have a hard time telling MSP websites and emails apart, imagine how dull it all must seem to the people you’re trying to reach. Don’t be afraid to present your MSP with some personality and attitude. Stand out and be noticed. Far too many IT providers use the idea of “professionalism” as a cloak for being mundane and forgettable. Don’t be one of them!
One of the biggest marketing mistakes MSPs make is to treat marketing like a yo-yo diet. They’ll try some kind of marketing for a couple of weeks, maybe months, and then stop. Then they try something else a few months later. This works just about as well as leaping from one fad diet to the next while taking breaks to eat cake between each attempt. A marketing strategy is just that — a long-term plan involving iterative steps to produce results over time. Commit, follow-through, and put in the resources and work…or you will likely never realize the results you’re hoping for.
There are more marketing tools, gurus, tricks, peer groups, and workshops vying for your money than stars in the sky. Be cautious about where you invest your time and money because gimmicks rarely pay off. Learn the textbook fundamentals of marketing first to better calibrate your “baloney detector”. Once you know the basic ins and outs of marketing from a traditional standpoint, you will be far better equipped to spot snake oil before opening your checkbook.
So, what are the perks that you will get thanks to having a strong brand?
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