This series of 5 articles is designed to help you reflect and focus on what's most important to you in 2020.
2020 Focus area 1)
Know what you want, and have a robust plan to get it
Onto today's article. And I don’t want to come across as arrogant in any way. But it’s a lot easier to get new clients for your MSP than you think.
Maybe I can say that because marketing is my super power.
You have super powers too. Probably technical ones. In fact your business is probably built around your super power.
(see The E-Myth Revisited – a highly recommended book – it talks about technicians; not in a technology sense, but as people who are technically brilliant at a specific skill. And how they have an entrepreneurial seizure, so start their own business).
Getting new clients is about having 1) the right mindset towards marketing. And 2) picking the right strategies.
Get those two right, and the specific tactics (“should I use Facebook?”) become easy peasy.
Getting new clients: The hard way
Hard: Use interruption marketing
Let me tell you why most advertising doesn’t work, and never has worked.
First of all, you’re interrupting people. No-one reads newspapers and magazines for the adverts (apart from the advertisers). So your advert is interrupting people who are trying to do something else.
But the main reason interruption marketing doesn’t work is because people don’t perceive it. They see it, but they don’t perceive it.
This is because of a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It has lots of functions; one of them to act as a sensory relevance filter.
If you had to deal with all of the information delivered to your brain by your senses, you’d never get anything done. So the RAS checks whether each piece of information is relevant to you.
If it is, the information is delivered to you. If not relevant, it’s discarded.
This is why as I’m driving along the motorway at 70mph (honestly), out of my peripheral vision, I spot a Tesla zipping by in the other direction.
My eyes are monitoring everything at every stage. But my brain doesn’t tell me about the Mercs, BMWs and Audis my eyes has seen. I don’t care about those. I only care about the Tesla because I’m a Tesla fan boy.
So when someone sees your advert, they only perceive it, if it is relevant to them. So, if they are interested in IT support.
This is why Google and Facebook killed traditional advertising so quickly. They charge you a small amount of money to connect you only to the people who want what you are selling. It’s very efficient compared to interruption marketing.
Hard: Use hope marketing
So you sponsor a roundabout (another classic piece of interruption marketing). Or place an ad in a magazine.
Pay your money. And hope it works.
Which, most time, it won’t. For all the reasons above.
Why do MSP owners keep doing it? Because when you’re not good at marketing (which most people aren’t), it feels good to just do SOMETHING, ANYTHING.
Surely sponsoring this roundabout has got to be better than doing… nothing?
Well, sometimes that’s not the case. Hope marketing is expensive and doesn’t give you an ROI (Return on Investment).
When you treat marketing as a series of experiments, you ultimately get better results over time. Because you find out what works and what doesn’t. Not based on opinion. But based on the buying behaviours of your clients.
No hope needed.
Hard: Use 20th century marketing methods
The print edition of the Yellow Pages is dead has been dead for a year, now.
But seriously. Who was still paying for adverts in that? Someone was. Who still buys print ads? Sometimes they are bundled up with digital products.
Marketing methods from the 20th century have quickly been replaced – both in effectiveness, and reduction of cost per qualified prospect reached.
Hard: Be the cheapest
This isn’t a marketing method. It’s just a way to obliterate your profits.
To have a nuclear war with competitors until everyone goes bust.
Actually, you should be the most expensive in your marketplace. And hand in hand with that, offer the very best value. More on that shortly.
Hard: Sell a commodity
A commodity is something everyone and anyone sells. Which encourages price wars in a desperate attempt to shift stock.
The internet reduces the price of a commodity item to the lowest possible viable price. See Amazon for this in action. They win more sales than anyone else, because they have the lowest prices (but also because they've made it the most convenient to buy).
Hard: Be "samey"
If I looked at your website and the websites of your direct competitors, would I see any difference?
Sure, you would know the difference. But would the uneducated prospect see it?
The chances are they wouldn’t. So when you’re the same as everyone else, it becomes really difficult for those prospects to know why they should pick you.
It becomes easier not to pick you. Samey kills sales. This is a real problem for 99% of MSPs.
Hard: Sell what they need, rather than what they want
Need decisions are made by the brain, which is incredibly hard to influence.
The brain buys like a Vulcan. Logical, sensible decisions.
Don’t sell needs, sell wants.
Want decisions are made by the heart. The decision is made on a purely emotional level. And the brain just rubber stamps the decision.
This is why people drive around in £60,000 BMWs. They want that car. Despite the fact all they need is a £5,000 Ford Focus.
Getting new clients: The easier way
Easier: Build a relationship with people
Certainly when it comes to services, people buy from people, not companies. So the massive opportunity is to build a relationship with them before trying to sell them something.
In fact, there is no selling involved. Build a light relationship; ask them what they want; and offer it to them. Some will buy, some won’t. But you won’t feel like you’re a hard salesperson (no-one likes that).
There are a multiple number of different ways to achieve this. They all start with positioning you and your MSP in the right way and engaging with your prospect in a way which changes how they feel about you.
Easier: Be different
If samey kills sales, being different increases them.
You don’t actually need to operate differently to the way most MSPs operate. You just need to position yourself differently.
You can build your marketing differentiation around your own personal control freakery. One of the reasons you own your business is to do things the way you want them to be done.
So don’t hide that. Make it a key part of your marketing. Because anyone can copy any part of your business... apart from the uniqueness you bring to it.
One clever way to do this is to create a new category or sub category. If you think of every type of car, each one of them is a marketing category. 4×4, saloon, hot hatch etc.
When Nissan created the Qashqai, they created a new category, that of the crossover. They had no competitors for several years allowing them to dominate that category and cash in for a few years.
Easier: Be the no brainer choice
You should put together marketing that makes you stand head and shoulders above the rest.
So whenever a prospect is comparing MSPs (this is called the beauty parade), you always have a place at the table. Always.
And unfairly win a higher proportion of the sales.
You know you’re the no brainer choice when your pissed-off competitors start bad mouthing you. Ignore them and carry on.
Easier: Create your marketing from the prospect’s point of view
The hardest thing about being the owner of an MSP is… you’re no longer normal!
You’ve forgotten what it’s like to be an ordinary decision maker, buying something you don't know about. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes in MSP marketing and sales is to assume that your prospects know what you know.
In doing so, you inadvertently create marketing and a sales process that requires a level of insider knowledge. It’s why a lot of marketing simply bounces off people. They don't have the time to try to understand it, so they just move on to the next supplier.
The truth is, your prospects will never know what you know. And they don’t really care to.
The MSPs that are best at marketing get inside the head and heart of their prospect. They seek to understand what they need, and better still what they want.
They develop a keen understanding of their prospect's fears (as people, we are more driven by the avoidance of fear, than the opportunity to gain).
And they create marketing from the prospect’s point of view. It’s simple, it’s emotional, and it’s powerful.
Do that. Split test different strategies. Find out what gets the best response. And then repeat it. Again and again and again. Way past the point you are sick of it.
The specific tactics will need updating over time. But the strategy rarely changes.
Easier: Run a marketing and sales business
I'm guessing that 95% of what you and your team do on a daily basis is geared around the delivery of technology solutions for clients.
If I owned an MSP, I would instead gear it around the marketing and selling of technology solutions. Yes of course I would make sure the quality was high. But I'd put as much effort into winning business, as I did delivering it.
Most MSP owners deliver a very high quality. But not enough people buy their services.
Once you have the delivery sorted out, you should focus all of your attention building a marketing and sales machine, to get as many people as is profitably possible to buy that from you.
Easier: Remember you only need to out run the slowest person
So you’re in the woods with a friend. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bear appears.
It’s hungry. Very hungry. And it starts chasing you both.
The pursuit goes on for ages and ages. Eventually you and your friend stop in a clearing to catch your breath. You can hear the bear crashing through the undergrowth behind you.
Your friend takes off their rucksack, pulls out their trainers, and starts taking their boots off.
“What are you doing,” you ask. “You need to out run the bear!”
“No,” your friend says coldly. “I just need to out run you…”
Marketing your MSP isn’t about beating everyone. It’s just about beating the next person, then the next person, and the next.
You make your way to the top of the market one competitor at a time.