Table of contentsThe buying cycle
A long-term approach to marketing
Step one: Buy data
Step two: Scrub the data
Step three: Pick a CRM and work the data
Step four: Build a relationship
There've been a couple of posts in my MSP Marketing Facebook group recently from people asking, is it really possible to buy cold data, and then turn that data into a client?
The short answer is that is in the short term, it's unlikely. If you do get someone straight off cold data, that'll be the exception rather than the rule.
But in the long term, absolutely yes, you can... if you can warm up the data.
Because if you think about it, there are so many conditions that have to be right for anyone to switch from their incumbent MSP over to you.
They have to be so frustrated with their incumbent, that they're prepared to go through the perceived pain of switching.
And we know that a lot of people stay with their MSP because of something called inertia loyalty.
This is the thing that keeps someone in a situation that they're not 100% happy with. Because they perceive that it's far more work and it's much more difficult to move from their incumbent MSP to someone new.
It's perceptually easier for them to not act.
[As a side note, there's a small proportion of your existing client base that only stays with you because of inertia loyalty. If they perceived it was easy to switch, then they would happily move over to another MSP.
That's why you need to dedicate a proportion of your marketing efforts to talking to your existing clients. Making sure they're happy and finding out what their problems are with your service.]
A prospect has to be SO frustrated with their incumbent MSP, that they're prepared to go through the pain of switching
Once they've made that decision, they also need to be at the correct stage of the buying cycle:
- Awareness they're not happy
- Consideration and research
- Intent to switch
Business owners and managers have to realise that they have a problem, and then consider all the options that are open to them, before they ever make a decision.
It's only when they're ready to look at options, that they go out looking for another MSP.
Wouldn't it be great if you could meet dozens of people who are at that exact stage? 😃
The reality is you can... however... that's not the correct stage to start trying to build a relationship with them. It's not too late by that stage, but you'll be in competition with everyone else that they talk to.
I believe you have to build a relationship with them before they get to that stage. More on that in a bit.
Because the other factor that has to be right is they have to decide that your business matches theirs.
This is about them, not you.
And it's where your marketing skills come in.
Before they ever pick up the phone or fill in the form or hit live chat or however they get in touch with you.. they're going to make a decision about your business based on:
- Your website
- Facebook presence
- LinkedIn presence
- And your overall digital footprint...
In fact, thinking about how much they're judging you by your digital footprint... you owe it to yourself and your bank account and your family and your travel agent...
... to put as much time and effort as you can into getting your digital footprint absolutely spot on.
Your website should sing. It should be beautiful. It should have every single aspect absolutely perfect. Same with your presence on all the other platforms.
Back to the prospects.
What makes this whole situation even more difficult, is that the people that you want to reach are not educated buyers.
And I don't mean that they're lacking in intelligence. They're mostly smart people. But they're uneducated about technology.
They're uneducated about what it is that you sell. And they don't know what they don't know.
For that reason, they're not making cognitive decisions to switch from one MSP to another. When someone doesn't have the cognitive ability to compare different suppliers, they can't make a cognitive decision.
Instead they make that decision completely emotionally.
The vast majority of the prospects that are looking at you, are making emotional decisions about whether or not to buy from you
Can you see now why buying some cold data and sending a couple of emails to that data just isn't going to tick all the boxes?
That's not going to help someone build a relationship with you. Or realise that you are the answer to all of their problems.
It's not going to help them to feel warm about your business. Or help them feel that you are the solution that they didn't know they were looking for.
What we've got to do is we've got to get the right message in front of the right person at the right time
Yes, it's possible to cut short this process with advertising, particularly with Facebook advertising and especially with Google ads, because that allows you to cut through and get in front of people at exactly the moment they are looking for a business like yours.
One of the reasons that Google is one of the most cash rich companies out there is because they invented the world's most effective advertising system. Millions of times every second, they put people who are looking for something and want to buy something in touch with people who are ready to sell them that thing.
The downside of this for an MSP is the cost and sheer commitment of using Google to do this. A couple of my clients use Google ads and they estimate it's costing them around about £3,000, maybe £4,000 pounds to get a client.
Which let's be honest, if you could pay that and get a client who goes on to spend £30,000 pounds a year, you'd do that every day... but it's not just as simple as paying over that cash.
- You've got to have the ads and set up just right
- You've got to be able to absorb the cash flow impact of paying out the cash long before you get new cash back in
- You've got to deal with all the time wasters ads can attract
Google ads are part of the overall marketing mix. And they're certainly great for putting you in touch with the right people. But there's nothing more frustrating than paying several hundred pounds to arrange a Zoom call with someone who's just got a cracked screen on an iPad and for some reason they failed your pre-qualification... 🙄
I believe that for most MSPs, it's better to have a long-term approach to marketing
And that's about building multiple audiences and then building relationships with those audiences using multiple touch points.
I'm going to explain exactly what I mean in a minute. But this way you pay once to get in front of someone. And so long as you can persuade them to join one of your audiences, you've then got potentially years and years and years to get to know them until the timing is right for them.
You could be absolutely spot on ready to take on a client today. But if it's not right for them, they're simply not going to buy.
You've probably seen this in your own life where you suddenly wake up one morning and think, "Right, come on, let's get on with it. Let's go and buy X, Y, Z, or let's invest in this, or let's fix this today."
For whatever reason, the timing was right on that day and you were ready to DO IT.
For most prospects, the timing is not right today. It might be right tomorrow. Or the day after. But if you can stay in touch with them and get in front of them day after day after day after day... you're much more likely to be there at the point they are ready to buy.
Let me tell you about a four step process that I've used several times for my businesses. I've taught this to hundreds of MSPs
This is not a quick win. But it is a way to turn cold data into clients.
It can be done so long as you're prepared to put the work in over a period of time.
~ STEP ONE ~
Go buy the right quality of cold data. If you're offered a database that's suspiciously cheap, and you don't really know the company that's selling it, it's probably a very old knackered database that's been sold thousands of times to all sorts of people. Making its value very, very low to you.
The problem with buying data that's been sold multiple times to virtually anyone and used for anything is that a lot of those email addresses will be used to getting spam.
People will have abandoned those email addresses. They may even cause some spam deliverability problems.
I always think that if you're going to buy cold data, you need to go to a reputable seller. I've bought data from Selectabase many times over the years. They're a reseller of Experian data.
You could go directly to Experian. Although what I've found is with Selectabase, you're no extra, but you get the beauty of customer service and someone at the other end who can help you if you are get a bit stuck.
They do sometimes do deals on data as well. I imagine - although I don't know this - that as a reseller they commit to buying a certain amount of data from Experian every month. So if they're short on their quotas, then obviously there can sometimes be deals to be had.
And I found the data to be okay as well. There are plenty of other suppliers out there. Just go and Google UK / US B2B data for sale.
When you are buying data, make sure you buy a 12 month licence. And make sure you're allowed unlimited messaging within that 12 months.
Would you use data after your 12 months? Absolutely no you wouldn't. When they sell data like this, the data companies seed the data with their own secret email addresses. This is how they can monitor what marketing is being done to their email data over a period of time.
Those seed mail addresses, every single time an email is sent out, someone somewhere will check that the person who's emailed that data has a licence to do so.
If you're emailing data after your licence has run out, your chances of being caught are high. I've never done this, and I highly advise that you don't either... unless the person has opted into your database, which is the whole point of what we're about to do. Back to that in a second.
There are lots of other places to get data. We're experimenting with hunter.io at the moment. There are lots of similar websites around at the moment. Services that will help you get in touch with publicly available email addresses.
I haven't made up my mind yet on whether or not these are a valuable tool for you or whether they're a low value distraction... because obviously anybody can get hold of publicly available email addresses.
~ STEP TWO ~
This is optional - you scrub the data.
Personally, I don't bother doing this. I use the next two steps I'm about to tell you about to scrub the data for me. But some of the MSPs I work with do this and they swear by it.
Scrubbing is a process of cleaning that data before you actually go and start emailing to it.
Why would you do this?
Well there are a number of reasons, primarily to do with email deliverability and cost. If you're emailing people and you get lots of bounces because those email addresses are dead (or the person behind them is dead) that can have an effect on your email deliverability long-term.
Scrubbing is literally a process of getting a virtual assistant to look at the email addresses.
You could run them through something like The Checker. Or you could at the very least go to the domain name of the company and check to see if there is a website there at the end of it.
You could even then go and have a look at the people on the website. Maybe even (in the UK) go to Companies House and check to see that that person is still active within that company. This is just one way of validating whether or not an email address is likely to actually reach them.
~ STEP THREE ~
Now you start to email people, and there are a number of different ways to do this.
A lot of it rotates around your CRM, and how much work you have done on this already.
Every MSP should have a core CRM that they are using to build up their prospects.
There are lots of CRMs around there. Personally, I use Infusionsoft because I've been using it for years and years, and I'm very deeply embedded into the Infusionsoft ecosystem. It would be virtually impossible for me to run my business without Infusionsoft (and a great deal of work for me to switch over to another CRM... yes, I have inertia loyalty to it 🙄).
Another one that many MSPs like, and this seems to be the hot favourite right now, is ActiveCampaign.
Both of these are incredibly good complex tools with lots of toys to play with. And that naturally attracts a lot of MSPs. If you've got the spare cash and you really want to go for it, go get ActiveCampaign.
However, for the majority of MSPs who don't use a CRM at the moment, or perhaps - shock horror - are using a marketing bolt on to their PSA (which is never a good idea; the PSAs are made for running your business, not doing your marketing) then really one of the lower level CRMs is probably better for you.
Mailchimp is an exceptionally good piece of software for the cost, which is free or very low cost for most people.
MailerLite is also an exceptionally good piece of software.
What's the difference between MailChimp, MailerLite, Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign?
Well, if we put it into car terms, think of MailChimp and MailerLite as VW Golfs. They're good solid cars that will do the job without any frills. They're the kind of car that you'd buy if you just needed to drive to work and back every single day and that was all you needed to do.
Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign, they can still get you to work and back, but they've got more bells and whistles. There's a bit more luxury, more gadgets built in, all of that kind of thing. You pay a lot more for that, but you can have a lot more fun along the way.
As I say, for most MSPs, just using MailChimp or MailerLite is probably enough.
There are now a number of options open to you to use the cold data you bought
OPTION ONE: If you're at the very beginning of your CRM journey and you haven't yet got a CRM with many prospects, then the first option is just to add the cold data to your CRM.
The reason I don't recommend this for most people is because there's an inherent danger in doing it.
If you buy, let's say 1,000 email records and you import them into your CRM. And then you email them the first time and a proportion of people hit the spam complaint button, there's the potential that your CRM is going to say, "Hang on a second. This person just imported the data... they're a spammer"... and they're going to put your account on pause.
The beauty of building your database, where people are opting into your CRM from different IP addresses in different locations is that when they hit the spam complaint button, your CRM can see that they have opted in from different places. And that means they're more likely to give you a little sway on the spam complaints that you receive.
Whereas if they get a whole chunk of spam complaints for some data that you imported into your CRM last week, they're less likely to give you sway on that because that's more spammy activity.
So you only do this if there's not much risk to you of that CRM being shut down, i.e., you're not relying upon that at all.
My Infusionsoft, which has been going for years and years has all sorts of campaigns and other things built into it. If I lost that Infusionsoft, I could not run the business, so I never ever, ever EVER import cold data into it. It's simply isn't worth the risk for me.
And for that reason, what most people would choose to do is to use something called a burner CRM.
OPTION TWO: This is where you have a second CRM to import your cold data into. Let's say your main CRM was ActiveCampaign; that's the one you're going to protect. But then you go and buy MailerLite or MailChimp and you use that to import your cold data into.
And then you send emails to people using your burner CRM, to try to get them to opt into your main CRM.
From your burner CRM, you'd send them an email saying "hey, I've got this ethical bribe that's available to you". Perhaps a book, because people don't like to just opt in to email lists. They have to be given a reason to opt in.
So you'd email them and you'd say, "To get a copy of this, go and fill in your details here."
I know that this seems crazy that we're emailing people from one CRM to get them to opt into another CRM.
But this is the most robust way of turning cold purchased data into your own warm data. It's slow, it's tiresome, the opt in levels are low... but you end up with a database that belongs to you and a relationship with the prospects.
And the people who opt in will not remember the process by which they opted into your database. They won't remember that you were emailing them and you got them to opt into something. I know this seems crazy, but I promise you, this is the best long term way of doing it.
OPTION THREE: This is a hybrid of the first two options.
You warm up your cold data in a burner CRM for a few weeks, and then shift it over to a core CRM a few weeks down the line.
The advantage of this is it actually speeds things up a bit. When you're emailing people the first time from the burner CRM, if they're going to hit the spam complaint button, opt out and get all annoyed about it, they're most likely to do is in the first two or three emails.
If you send the first two or three emails in your burner CRM just to get rid of those people, then you could, in theory, export the warmed up data from your burner CRM and import it into your main CRM.
This is done at your own risk because you are still essentially importing cold data into your core CRM, but this is a slightly less risky way of doing it.
If I was running your MSP and I had to choose a way of doing it, I would do it the long, hard, slow way. And I know that won't make me very popular, but it means I'm got less risk of any problems happening within the business, within the data.
Emailing people to get them to opt in is just the first part of this
It's just the first opportunity.
There are actually multiple different ways of using that data to get people to opt in.
LINKEDIN: For example, you could use that data to find people on LinkedIn. Not you personally, of course. Get a virtual assistant to examine the data you've got, and go and look for the people relating to that data in LinkedIn. Then send them a request.
DIRECT MAIL: The other thing you could do is you could send them some direct mail. You could send them a postcard telling them about the ethical bribe and how to opt in. And actually the first few hundred people on my current database of MSPs opted in from a postcard. It cost me about 50 pence per postcard to send using an automated service (back then I used something called Royal Mail Mailshot Maker, which closed in March. These days I would use stannp.com).
FACEBOOK ADVERTS: The other thing you could do is Facebook adverts. You could upload your data into Facebook as a custom audience. And then target an advert at that custom audience.
It's not going to be incredibly accurate targeting because some people don't use business work email addresses for Facebook. But it still gives you a chance of reaching some of those people.
PICK UP THE PHONE: The other thing you could do is just phone those people. You could go onto their website, find out who they are and just pick up the phone and call them.
A couple of years ago, I did a telesales campaign to cold data. I gave a telemarketing company some cold data of MSPs that I bought, and I got them to phone them.
I don't think that was a particularly cost effective way to do it. My cost per lead at the time was somewhere around about £25, maybe £30 per lead, compared to a dramatically lower cost per lead using other methods.
But ultimately it built my database. And in fact, just researching this article, looking at my database, some of those people that were first introduced to me via a telesales company calling my cold data, have gone on to spend thousands of pounds with me. Which is just beautiful.
Essentially you're using this data in multiple different ways to get value out of it.
Remember you can keep hitting that data for 12 months or until your licence runs out.
You could send an email at least once a week. And a direct mail every couple of months. You could run Facebook adverts all the time.
You could keep trying to connect to people on LinkedIn until you run out of data. Keep doing it. You bought that data, keep working it.
Most people, they buy data and they hit it once or twice and then they forget about it. That's crazy. Data's not that expensive, but it's not that cheap either so you might as well hit it multiple times.
Although the one thing that can carry on after that 12 months is targeting Facebook adverts at people. You see, it's unlikely that seed email addresses are being used with Facebook accounts as well. Remember though, you do this at your own risk, and it's not something that I do personally.
Just one thing to remember, which is to ignore the haters. You will get moany emails back from people. You will get people sending you back your direct mail. In fact, here's an example of someone who a few years ago, who posted back to me at my own cost, a piece of direct mail that I'd sent out.
This idiot actually took the time to do this... even printed out an envelope to send it back to me 🤣
You have to ignore these people. These are strangers. They're not even prospects or leads. They're certainly not clients. They are strangers. And some of them have an issue with good marketing.
Let that be their problem, not yours. Don't respond to them. Don't let you worry about them. They're just strangers with an opinion. And if they're angry because you've done some marketing to them, that's fine.
Of course you should unsubscribe someone if they want to be unsubscribed. All the CRMs I've mentioned, will put an unsubscription link on. And of course you should stop posting stuff to people or stop phoning them if that's what they ask.
But the vast majority of people simply are too busy getting on with running their own businesses, to worry about what you're doing with your business. Listen to your clients and ignore the haters.
~ STEP FOUR ~
Once you've got some of this cold data to opt into your database, that's just the start point. You've then got to build a relationship with them.
And that's about generating great content, putting it in front of them all the time and generating multiple touch points.
All the stuff we've just talked about - phoning people, using Facebook ads, LinkedIn, sending them stuff in the post - those are the kinds of touch points that will build a relationship with these leads.
Remember - people only buy when they're ready to buy. Your goal is be in front of them, and have them warmed up on that day.
Using cold data should be one of just one of just a number of ways you're generating new leads and prospects for your MSP
You really should put together the perfect blend of things that work for your business. That's going to be:
- Running ads on Facebook and Google
- Building your email audience
- Building your LinkedIn audience
- Building ay other audience that's relevant to you, for example Instagram if you target retail & hospitality businesses
- Doing content marketing to your audiences: Articles, videos, infographics
- Sending out print newsletters
- Having someone phone your leads, so the business is making outbound sales calls every weekday
It's an ongoing systematic process.
And the most critical thing is you have to do it day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out.
You can't afford to do a bit of marketing now and again. It's got to be a systematic process.
If you're like most MSPs, you won't have time to do this personally. And I wouldn't recommend that you try that.
You don't want to be DOA - Dead On Arrival. You want to use DOA - Delegate Outsource Automate.
Because marketing needs to happen all the time, you personally should really focus on the overall strategy of what it is that you want to achieve and then outsource the specific implementation of it to people who can help you.
Fiverr and all of the other sites like Upwork and PeoplePerHour are a great place to go and find experts to do jobs for you. Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find people, but once you've found a good supplier, you can stick with them for years and years and years.
It's just an efficient way to get your marketing done.
Just as a side note, I don't do "done for you stuff" any more. In a marketing agency I sold back in 2016, we did done for you and that was such a traumatic experience I'll never do that again!
I can supply marketing content to you with the MSP Marketing Edge, but that's as far as it goes.