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MSPs, How Do You Get The Word Out?

April 19, 2015 Comments off

Get the Word Out!At the recent (March 26 and 27, 2015) MSPWorld keynote, Charles Weaver, CEO of MSPAlliance (The International Association of Cloud and Managed Service Providers, established 2000), discussed how alliance members should beef up their marketing efforts. And if the CEO of the MSPAlliance recognizes that there’s a gap, there’s clearly a gap in getting the word out to potential customers about their services. Traditionally marketing to potential customers meant direct mail, targeted campaigns, cold calling, email distribution lists, billboard ads, referrals, magazine ads, and online ads; but MSPs have found that generally speaking most of these methods are ineffectual. Historically MSPs have mostly relied on word-of-mouth referrals to bring new customers into the fold.

What does work for MSPs in getting the word out about their services?

Of the many different marketing strategies, referrals, blogs, email marketing, Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and cross selling offer the best returns to MSPs. Although referrals are very good in converting connections into sales, the number of them is very low. For an MSP to be successful, it has to launch a multi-front marketing campaign.

Referrals

Referrals from current customers seems to be the number one method of attracting new business for MSPs. The reason that MSPs hold referrals in such high regard is that this type of business prospecting has a high rate of return and has a very low cost to the MSP in terms of financial outlay and time required for the sales process.

Making a referral network work is a fairly easy task. Ask your customers if they could refer your services to at least one company in their customer base or within their sphere of influence. As your network grows through referrals, continue to ask for referrals from each new customer.

However effective, this type of organic growth is slow and requires some relationship nurturing to assist and to fuel the process.

Blogs

Blogs, especially guest posts in a corporate blog by customers, are effective in increasing customer base. Potential customers can read about how other companies have solved similar problems using your services and expertise. That gives the reader an immediate connection to your business and your solutions that can help them.

Sphere of Influence – a business network where companies or their officers or principals have some expressed or implied influence over others because of mutual trust, a working relationship, a partnership, or out of respect between the parties.

What you don’t want a blog to be is a pure sales pitch or a marketing tool. You want to be sure to inform and educate your reader about how your services have increased sales, streamlined processes, made it easier to buy, increased customer service, or boosted profits.

Make your blog entries about the customer and not about you. Provide real data and real customer testimonials where possible. Numbers speak louder than marketing fluff. Keep posts concise by telling a compelling story in 750 words or fewer. Post new blog entry URLs to all social media outlets to gain a diverse readership.

Email Marketing

Email distribution lists, whether created from correspondences or acquired by rental from a list broker are often a good source of prospective customers. The return rate is typically not what one would expect from such a contemporary medium. The rate of conversion is even lower. Expected rates of return are in the single digits and conversion rates are in the single digits of those returns.

The upside to email marketing is that it’s inexpensive, even if you rent or buy lists. It’s also an excellent method of getting your name in front of a lot of business influencers whether or not they buy anything from you. It often takes several iterations of a message to receive one positive return.

Rather than creating generic email messages touting your products, it’s often more effective to create a newsletter and distribute it via those lists. Newsletters aren’t seen as spam and potential customers read them with enthusiasm. To make your newsletters a welcome Inbox addition, include industry news, links to your blog entries, and information about your company and its services. Don’t make it to “salesy.” You want people to see it as having value and not just as an opportunity to deliver unwanted pitches for your services.

Optionally you can setup an opt-in/opt-out mailing list for your customers or website visitors.

Requests for Proposals

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) can be used to acquire new business by entering into competitive bid situations. RFPs often require some moderate amount of effort to create a sale because of the bidding process and submission of detailed information about your company, its leadership, its capabilities, delivery times, Service Level Agreements, and related information.

Sometimes the bidding process is lengthy (months), but the dollar amounts are also higher for these types of agreements.

Cross Selling

Cross selling is one of the most effective methods of gaining new business for MSPs. It involves selling additional services to existing customers or entering into cross promotional agreements with other vendors. Cross selling is a low cost marketing method because you’re selling to a customer who’s already bought into your services. Return on investment is very high.

Cross selling deepens the vendor-customer relationship and builds loyalty for both parties.

Social Media

Although relatively new to the marketing scene, social media selling has become one of the hottest new marketing strategies for all businesses. MSPs can ride this wave by engaging its current and its potential customers in conversations via social media. Feedback, ratings, and testimonials are all very powerful drivers of new business.

Tweet blog post URLs, post to your Facebook page often, ask for guest posts on your blog and Facebook page, engage your customers via LinkedIn, post your blog URLs to LinkedIn, and to all LinkedIn groups of which you’re a member. You have to use social media to your advantage. Check in when you’re out to lunch with a customer and tag him or her on Facebook to let everyone know that you’re entertaining a customer.

Start a conversation on Twitter with your customers. The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question. Gain followers by using relevant hashtags and posting often to all of your social media sites. Follow all of your customers and their customers. Follow influencers, thought leaders, and technology journalists.

Media

Use media connections and technology journalists to your advantage by scheduling interviews to be posted on their outlet sites. Use social media to promote those posts once their published. Public Relations and brand marketing firms can help you connect with the correct people for your business.

Upstream Partnerships

Your upstream partners can also send a steady flow of traffic to your site and to your attention. Your upstream partner should give you qualified leads that will help expand and extend your business. A good partner will offer you training, significant hardware and software discounts, marketing assistance, and some visibility as to who your customer base is. Leverage your partner’s resources to grow your business. Remember that a partnership works in both directions. The more you engage your partner, the more your partner will engage you and your business.

If you’re an MSP that offers top notch services to your customers, you need to get the word out. First, start in your network by asking for those referrals and then expand by putting some simple, time-tested marketing techniques to work for you. You can continue to grow your business year over year by applying marketing pressure in the right places. And don’t forget to engage your upstream partner to help with your growth because it benefits both of you.

IBM_logo

This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.

280 Group Announces Release of “Optimal Product Process 2.0” book for Product Management/Marketing

December 8, 2014 Comments off

280 GroupBrian Lawley, 280 Group CEO and Founder, announced this week the release of the book Optimal Product Process™ version 2.0, which outlines the company’s modern, up-to-date product lifecycle management process that meets today’s Product Management and Product Marketing challenges.

The new ebook, available on December 8, 2014, from http://www., has been revamped based on feedback from the 280 Group’s clients, training attendees and the overall Product Management community. “We utilized the feedback from tens of thousands of our training and consulting clients as well as the overall Product Management community,” says Lawley. “The new version is much more flexible, and can support teams using various methodologies, including Agile, Waterfall, or Hybrid development. It can be easily adapted for nearly any environment, industry, or market.”

Lawley says the original impetus for the book came from several factors:

  1. Methodologies, frameworks, product process, training and other materials available for product management and product marketing were out of date. “Most of what was out there was developed in the mid-1990s or early 2000s,” Lawley says. “Between the Internet, social media, new development methodologies, rapid release cycles, and instantaneous availability of competitive information, the jobs of Product Manager or Product Marketer had completely changed, so we wanted to address that need.”
  1. In many companies, there was a lack of clarity on the roles and responsibilities of Product Management and Product Marketing. Some companies tried to have one person fill both roles. In other places, each discipline had one person assigned to each role, but with no clear direction, there was overlap of some tasks, while other critical tasks were completely overlooked.
  1. Companies had adopted new methodologies such as Agile without the strategic underpinning required for success. “An Agile development process is certainly exciting in terms of rapid software development,” says Lawley. “But what we were seeing is that at the same time companies were embracing this new development model, they were also not performing other critical functions of the lifecycle—developing business cases, crafting marketing strategy, and planning for end-of-life. So we wanted to create something that takes advantage of quick development – without missing the strategic elements necessary for optimum success.”
  1. There was no consistency in methodology from company to company, so Product Managers and Product Marketers were not able to leverage skills effectively as they switched companies or industries.

“We drew on the base-level work we had participated in during 2009-2010 when we helped the AIPMM (Association of International Product Management & Marketing) create the worldwide standard seven phase lifecycle model,” Lawley explains. “We took the seven phase lifecycle and dramatically expanded it to build a comprehensive product process that goes beyond a basic training course to include corresponding templates, books, certifications, and coaching programs.”

The seven phases described in the book include Conceive, Plan, Develop, Qualify, Launch, Maximize, and Retire. One change in the Second Edition of the Optimal Product Process is that Phase VI has been changed from “Market” to “Maximize.” This change was made to fully maximize revenues and profitability by reflecting the need for continual marketing programs, as well as other activities, such as demand generation, competitive responses, public relations, incorporating customer feedback into future revisions, and supporting the sales force.

“Higher profits, better products and long-term competitive advantage are the result of implementing excellent Product Management methodology,” says Lawley. “By applying the Optimal Product Process, companies can expect to deliver products that delight their customers and at the same increase revenues and profitability.”

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Brian Lawley is recognized as a thought-leader and authority on the profession of Product Management and Product Marketing. He is the CEO and Founder of the 280 Group, which transforms organizations and individuals to perform highly effective product management. Lawley is author of five best-selling Product Management books and one of the creators of the Optimal Product Process™. He is also the former President of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association (SVPMA), was awarded the AIPMM Award for Thought Leadership in Product Management, and has been featured on World Business Review and the Silicon Valley Business Report.

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