Episode 142: Your MSP's marketing advantage: Showing empathy

Episode 142: Your MSP’s marketing advantage: Showing empathy

Paul Green 2 Comments

Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Episode 142: Your MSP's marketing advantage: Showing empathy
/

Episode 142 includes:

  • 00:00 Why empathy is the core marketing skill to develop
  • 07:33 Paul’s real life example of why ‘before & after’ case studies matter
  • 12:59 The MSP owner who thinks the tech on-site visit is dead
  • 25:11 A book recommendation to help you build trust within internal teams

Featured guest:

 

Harold Mann is a featured guest on Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast

Thank you to Harold Mann from Mann Consulting for joining Paul to explain why the MSP on-site tech visit is dead.

Harold Mann is co-founder of Mann Consulting, an IT consultancy based in San Francisco. Started in 1991, the firm supports hundreds of businesses around the U.S. each year with an emphasis in Mac device management for fast-growing startups.

Connect with Harold on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/hmann

Show notes:

Episode transcription

Voiceover:
Fresh, every Tuesday. For MSPs around the world. This is Paul Green’s MSP Marketing podcast.

Paul Green:
Hello, and welcome back to the podcast. Here’s what we got coming up for you this week.

Harold Mann:
And this amazing thing happened. Clients started coming back to the office, and employees of our firm and many other firms like ours said, “I sort of like working remotely. I don’t think I want to have a commute anymore.” They loved work from home, even though customers were saying, “Okay. We’re back. When are you guys coming on site?”

Paul Green:
That’s Harold Man. He’s an MSP owner in San Francisco, California, and he’s going to be here later in the show, suggesting that the days of the on site IT visit could be dead forever.

Paul Green:
We’re also going to be talking about befores and afters, how you can demonstrate that you’ve made someone else’s life better, through the things that you do, and how you can turn that into a case study to get even more clients for your MSP.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green:
I’m going to be brave and admit something to you. So, at some point in my past, and a personal level, I may once have had a girlfriend who accused me of not having enough empathy. In fact, it was about 20 years ago, so I can’t remember the exact words, but it was along the lines of, “Paul, you’re one of the least empathetic people I’ve met.” She then called me pathetic. I don’t see the difference between those two things. Anyway, it’s clearly a skill that I have had to work quite hard at in my personal life.

Paul Green:
What’s kind of ironic is, in my business life, in my marketing skills, empathy is an absolute core skill. In fact, it was something that I learned on day one of journalism school, right back when I was 19 years old. Literally on day one, the very first thing they teach you is that to be a good newspaper reporter, to be a good journalist, to be a good anything in the media, you need to be able to think about the audience that you’re trying to reach. As a 19 year old, I was writing newspaper stories to be read by 50 and 60 year old people.

Paul Green:
So, obviously, a 19 year old doesn’t know what a 50 or a 60 year old wants to read. So you’ve got to surround yourself with their stuff. You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes. And I had no idea as a 19 year old that that would turn out to be an incredibly good business skill, even if it didn’t actually come into my personal life.

Paul Green:
Empathy is one of the greatest marketing skills that you can develop. And it really is as simple as looking at the people that you want to reach, and popping yourself in their mind. Well, actually, not so much their mind as in their hearts. What are they feeling? What are they hoping for? What are they scared of? What are the things that they most want from their business? How can you put yourself inside their minds and their hearts and start to understand their world?

Paul Green:
Now, this is one of the reasons why I’m such a big fan of nicheing, or nicheing, finding a super vertical that you can serve, and it could be CPAs or accountants. It could be lawyers. It could be manufacturers. It could be all sorts of verticals. When you verticalise, I think I made that word up, when you verticalise, you find it so much easier to put yourself into the hearts and minds of the people that you want to reach. Because, let’s say you are super serving CPAs. Guess what? One CPA has the same hopes and fears as most of the other CPAs, in the same way that I just work with MSPs. And obviously, not all MSPs are similar, but you have very similar hopes and fears and desires and worries and things that you want to achieve. And so, it’s a lot easier for me to empathise with my audience, which is you, because I’ve only got one set of hopes and fears, versus if I was serving 10 or 20 or 30 different professions.

Paul Green:
So verticalising can be a very, very good way of getting into their hearts, and understanding them and what really drives them and what’s really holding them back, because you can read what they’re writing on forums. You can read their magazines. You can go to their trade shows. You can really immerse yourself in their world. And that’s the key to developing your empathy. It’s immersing yourself in their world. But what about if you’ve got a general audience? What about if actually the people that you’re trying to attract are just other business owners and managers around here?

Paul Green:
Well, that’s where I think doing QBRs, quarterly business reviews, or strategic reviews, as I prefer to call them, doing those gives you that insight, if you can move to a deep level of questioning. Because just as how CPAs all have very, very similar hopes and fears and worries and desires, so do most business owners. They may work in different ways and do different things and have different kinds of clients and rules and all of that. But at the core of it, a business owner is a business owner. We all of us have very similar traits and worries and other things that bond us together. It’s why business owners tend to be friends. If you think about your friendship group, you’ve probably got some IT friends. You’ve probably got some business owner friends, because they’re people like you. So immerse yourself in other business owners. Quarterly business reviews, the strategic reviews are a great place to do that, particularly if you go really deep with your questioning.

Paul Green:
And by deep with your questioning, I mean asking a question, and then asking a follow-up question, and then another follow up question to that. You might say to someone, “What is it that keeps you awake at night? What are the things you’re most worried about?” And they give you some kind of answer. And then you’d follow that up with a follow up question like, “Tell me more about that. Why would that cause you distress? What is it specifically about that that would concern you or that would really worry you?” And this is, again, this was a skill I was taught at journalism school, to move your questioning down into deeper and deeper layers. And the more that you explore this with someone, the deeper you get, the closer you’re getting to the real answer.

Paul Green:
When someone asks you a question, or when you ask someone a question, the first answer that comes out tends to be quite a shallow question, unless you’re in the midst of a really detailed sort of questioning. Mostly, people give shallow answers to the initial questions. But as you follow up those questions, you start to get deeper down into what people really think. And particularly, if these people like and trust you, and obviously with existing clients, of course, they like and trust you, because they want you to succeed, because your success directly feeds into their success.

Paul Green:
So if you want to immerse yourself and empathise more with the people that you are trying to reach, use your existing clients for research. Go deep with the questioning. Get right into what are they scared of. What are the feelings, what’s happening in their heart? And make sure you make notes on that, and reflect on that, and perhaps even talk about it with your business owning friends or with other peers. There are plenty of people you can talk to about it. If you can empathise with someone at an emotional level, you will find it so much easier to persuade them, to influence them, and above all, to take them on as a future client.

Voiceover:
Here’s this week’s.

Voiceover:
Clever idea.

Paul Green:
I’m having a fairly major refurb done at my home right now. We’ve got the builders in. As I record this, it’s week seven or week eight. We’ve had walls knocked down. We’ve had new walls built. We’ve had floors ripped out. There’s concrete. There’s things happening on the roof and lots of building. And, every day, about seven or eight people turn up, and there’s lots of banging and drilling and a little bit of swearing. And, the house just looks a little bit different every day. And it’s really cool for me to track this. I am one of the least capable DIY, the kind of screwing things into the wall or putting shelves up. I am one of the least capable people you will ever meet for something like that. So I am loving watching very capable people knock my house around and turn it from what was an okay house into what is going to be an incredible house when it’s done.

Paul Green:
One of the things I’ve been documenting along the way is all of the little changes. So every day, at the end of the build, when the builders leave, they all seem to have motorbikes for some reason, but when they all leave, I go out with my phone and I just take photos of everything. And so far, as I say, about eight weeks in, I’ve got 292 photos on my phone of the refurb. And the plan is that, at the end of it, we’re going to do a little befores and afters book. I’m going to actually get a book printed, with some of the photos showing how the house was before, few of the refurb pics, and then how the house is afterwards.

Paul Green:
And I’m also going to offer that to the builder as a case study, because the builder, Andy, is a really nice guy. He’s got a great business. The only thing that’s wrong with his business is his marketing. It is awful. His website looks like it’s come from 1997. I picked him on recommendation, and I’ve seen his work at some other people in the village, that lots of people recommend him when you ask about him. And his website actually puts you off. It’s one of those websites that’s so bad that you doubt a referral. If your website is this bad, you need to do something about it because it is a real issue. He has very little social proof on his website.

Paul Green:
Social proof is where people, potential clients, can see that other people like them by, from, and have been delighted with the results from this person. So, for a builder, obviously, you want to see lots of befores and afters. You want to see what the house looked like before, and then you want to see what they turned it into, along with a nice case study quote, a nice testimonial from the person who had the work done. “My house was okay before, but I trusted Andy and his team. They came and did lots of banging and drilling and swearing, and 12 weeks later, wooh, look at the house now. That’s a perfect before and after.” And you should be doing exactly the same thing for your MSP. Because actually, befores and afters are incredibly good ways of demonstrating the difference that you make to the lives of your clients.

Paul Green:
Now, when I talk about befores and afters, I don’t mean technology befores and afters. The worst thing that you could do is say, “Well, we took them from a so and so switch, and moved them up to an upgraded switch.” No one’s interested in that. That’s kind of technology, boring stuff. What people are really interested in is outcomes. What can your clients do now, that they couldn’t do before they took you on? That’s the question to ask, and the answer becomes your befores and afters. And the right way to display those befores and afters is with a case study.

Paul Green:
Case studies are epic. They are awesome. You should have a case study for every single service that you sell. And then you should have more case studies of just general clients. And then you should have more case studies for every single vertical that you serve. If you want more CPAs, more accountants, do a case study. If you want more lawyers, do a case study with a lawyer, case studies which are, in their very nature, a before and after wrapped up and packaged together. Befores and afters make it really easy for you to get more clients, because you can show someone what life was like before you. You can show them what it’s like as a result of you coming into their lives, and you can show the outcome. And it’s the outcome that will persuade other people that you are the safe choice.

Voiceover:
Paul’s

Voiceover:
Paul’s blatant plug.

echo voiceover:
Blatant plug.

Paul Green:
I heard a rumor that you’re the only MSP on the planet not to yet have a copy of my free book. It’s called Updating Servers Doesn’t Grow Your Business. We ship it to you completely free. And it is the quick guide to improving the marketing in your MSP. Let me read you something here from page 24.

Paul Green:
“Understand this,” I’ve written, “the wrong kind of clients wants an MSP to keep the computers working. The right kind of clients are looking for a partner to help them grow in the future. However, uneducated buyers don’t yet know to think this way.” And I then tell you in the book how to educate those buyers. To get your free copies shipped to you completely free, you don’t have to put a credit card number in or anything like that, you just go onto paulgreensmspmarketing.com.

Voiceover:
The big.

Voiceover:
The big interview.

Harold Mann:
I’m Harold Mann with Mann Consulting based in San Francisco, and we help hundreds of companies with their IT needs around the country.

Paul Green:
And, Harold, I’m delighted to get you onto the podcast. You and I have had a couple of email conversations, and you certainly seem like the kind of intelligent MSP owner that we should be getting onto this podcast. You certainly join a very good list of guests so far. Now, there was an article that you wrote on medium.com, which I want to talk to you about in a second. But before you do, just tell us a little bit more about you. So, what kind of size MSP have you gotten? What kind of clients do you look after?

Harold Mann:
Yeah. Thanks, Paul, and nice to see you. Just by way of context, I completely binged your entire back library during COVID, so I’m a super fan. So, our business is mature. It’s 30 years old, have been around a long time. We support hundreds of folks, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area, because that’s where the business was started. And, as you know, it’s a hotbed of technical innovation. So, bread and butter was just helping a lot of startups grow their business. And, then of course, we had to pivot a number of times over those years, based on changing market situations. And, this last one was quite a doozy and made such a radical change to our business, that I was sort of motivated to write an article about it, primarily for our customers because they were so impacted by the change.

Paul Green:
Yes, I bet. So, tell us about the article and the sort of the summary of what it was that you wrote. And we will link to the article from the show notes as well.

Harold Mann:
IT people are really lucky because so many of them can do their work remotely. And so, COVID was this incredible opportunity for them to sort of try that out. Now, some MSPs started off completely remote. The young ones, younger businesses were able to do that with a very light footprint. But the older businesses were probably used to going on site and meeting with customers face to face and plugging in cables. And so, when COVID hit, we all got to go home and work remotely, and we were all delighted. Wow, we can do all this remotely. And clients were delighted because they were at home working. And then, COVID started to return to a sense of normalcy at the office, and people started saying, “Well, we’re going to come back to the office.”

Harold Mann:
And this amazing thing happened. Clients started coming back to the office, and employees of our firm and many other firms like ours said, “Well, I sort of like working remotely,” or “I don’t think I want to have a commute anymore.” And they suddenly realised that they loved work from home, even though customers were saying, “Okay. We’re back. When are you guys coming on site?” And so, we, like many other companies, learned the hard way that, sometimes, you’re going to not be able to persuade people to come back. And, we lost some folks through attrition because we were asking them to get back in the subway and go downtown. And, none of the restaurants were open because they were all closed for COVID. And, it was not a fun time for people to come back on site.

Harold Mann:
And so, we had to really rethink what kind of support are we going to provide, and what are we going to do with these companies that were used to us coming there at a moment’s notice. It had a radical impact on our business. I mean, it makes 9/11 and 2008 crisis and all that look like a walk in the park by comparison. Really radical.

Paul Green:
Yeah. Yes. And I guess it looked different because those were extreme events, which you could see. There was going to be huge change. Of course, COVID was also an extreme event, but it was something that, as a world, we were experiencing together, at the same time, which is really the first time that everyone has been affected by the same thing. So, the sort of the proposition of your article is, and you say you wrote it for your clients, is to essentially say… You’re kind of saying without saying it, but, “We’re not sending IT people to your site anymore.” And you say you lost a few of your staff as a result of them not wanting to come back into the office. You’ll be in the same situation as most MSPs over the last year or so, but what changes have you put in place, and how have your clients reacted to that?

Harold Mann:
So, it’s been fascinating. I mean, we had to have the talk, and we had to basically explain to them that, unfortunately, the work from home experiment was wildly successful. It was successful for their employees, and it was successful for our employees. And I had to explain to them that I had employees say, “I just went to this customer’s office, but I didn’t need to be here. I could have done all of that remotely.” And once you give an IT person the chance to work remotely, and if they can be successful, why would they ever get in the metro or the tube, for 45 minutes each way, to go somewhere and do something that they could do remotely. So we had to explain to clients, “Unfortunately, the nature of our business is changing.”

Harold Mann:
Now, there’s a whole bunch of good stuff, too, right? We were able to hire people all around the country. We can do multiple time zones, a lot of location independence. “But the reality is, if you need us to come in there and just sit there, and be available just in case the Zoom meeting needs help, I don’t know that we can afford that.” And it was fascinating to me, because clients would be like, “We’ll pay you double.” And I realised, it’s really not about how much can you charge a customer. The question is, what is the fee? What fee is worth losing a good employee over? I mean, there is no fee, right? You can’t afford to lose a good employee. And so, we had to say, “I’m sorry.” And then we had to say to our clients we had many year relationships, “I’m sorry. We can’t come on site.” “What do you mean you can’t come on site? Your office is three blocks away.” I said, “It’s just the way the industry has changed.”

Harold Mann:
So it has had a bigger impact. I explained to them all the reasons why. And look, unemployment is very low. And so the talent pool is sort of ruling. They’re making the rules right now. And so, we’ve had to say to clients, “We’re going to be a remote partner for you, even though we’re right down the street.” And we can tell them all the benefits of it. A lot of them are still locked into the paradigm of, “I need someone to come on site and just help.” So we’ve made some changes to our business. We have clients sending us all of their computers, which is pretty cool. So we have all these laptops in our office, which we prepare and send out to their employees.

Harold Mann:
But, the idea, the old days which they call the truck roll, the days of the truck roll, I think, are numbered. And, it’s starting by, the canary in the coal mine is the disgruntled IT person who quits, and the customers are going to need to learn one way or the other. Now, they may find a one or two person shop that’s happy to come on site. And, some MSPs love the white glove treatment, and that’s a very viable business. And then there’s other ones that are more hybrid, which will come on site if absolutely necessary, but most of the time are remote. And then there’s some MSPs which are purely remote, and they already get this, and they’ve already cultivated client relationships that support that. But in the meantime, there are a lot of companies out there that are going to need to learn that you just can’t have someone come on site the way you used to.

Paul Green:
Yeah. So do you think this is something that, as a channel, we need to educate normal businesses about? Because I think what you’re saying here, there’ll be, I’m going to take sort of a gut feel on this, that there’ll be a whole load of people listening to this, sort of nodding their heads going, “Yep. Completely agree with you, Harold. We don’t like doing anything unless it’s remote. It’s so much easier. We’ve been able to hire this guy here and that guy there, and it’s been so much easier.” And then there’ll be a bunch of other MSPs, shaking their head saying, “No, no. This guy’s wrong. He’s got it wrong. This is how we offer the premium to our clients. Because none of the other MSPs want to be on site anymore, because they all want to do it remote, this is how we can stand out and be different.” And that’s fine. This is debate. This is the whole point of a free society, that we can have that debate.

Paul Green:
But do you think, because I would imagine, and certainly from rereading your article just before we did this interview, I can see that you think this is going to be a permanent change, that this isn’t going to be… We’re not going to go back to how things used to be, in a couple of years time. Just in the same way that every time technology has changed every seven to 10 years, you never really go back to the way it used to be. I’m making this the longest possible way to ask a question, but do you think we, as a channel, need to educate normal business owners that this is how it is from now on?

Harold Mann:
I mean, I think a good MSP is always educating their clients, and they’re always having an open dialogue. But the reality is, this is, I think, the new normal. I don’t know if it’s permanent. It’s certainly happening as we speak. And, what was surprising to me was the discrepancy between companies coming back to work, wanting it the way it used to be, and IT people not coming back to work, enjoying this new way of working. And, what’s really fascinating is, I have employees who now go on vacation and work part-time, and it’s awesome.

Harold Mann:
The idea of “I need to come back to the office” sort of got obliterated because they can do so much from remote work. At the end of the day, if you are a business that’s going to have employees, you have to make it work for your employees. Otherwise, you’re just going to have a revolving door. And I’ve lost too many good people over the years. I’m tired of losing good people over avoidable issues.

Harold Mann:
So, what did that mean? That mean, I had to say goodbye to a whole bunch of legacy clients. And fascinating side note, I had the talk with them, and then many of them would come crawling back on, “Oh, okay. Well, we can work remotely with you. Can we please come back?”

Paul Green:
Yeah.

Harold Mann:
“Or, could you keep us?” And I had ex clients calling us, sort of like ex romantic partners, calling back going, “Hey, we were just wondering if you’d be willing to work with us again.” And of course, they’re desperate for someone to come on site and help them.

Paul Green:
Yeah.

Harold Mann:
And, the reality is, if me sending someone to your office, or to your home office, is going to burn out a good employee, I’m sorry, I can’t do it. In the old days of DSL, when they had DSL service, someone from the phone company would come to your home and set up the equipment for you. And the phone company learned, that was a very expensive thing. A truck roll is very expensive. So they eventually figured out how to do a self-install, where they would just send you the kit, you install it, and then call them to activate it.

Harold Mann:
So I think what we’re going to see in IT, and I got three decades of perspective on this, I think what we’re going to see is sort of a bionic approach, where you’re literally going to ask the customer to point your phone at the router and say, “Nope. Pull that button, or press that button, or pull that cable.” I think we’re going to see a lot more telehealth type of method in our business. But the days of sending someone there just to sort of be there, I don’t see it coming back anytime soon.

Paul Green:
Yeah. No, I think you have a very good point there. Just for anyone that’s listening that wants to get in touch with you, because I know you’re the kind of guy that you like being in touch with other MSPs, what’s the best way to find you and talk to you, Harold?

Harold Mann:
Yeah. LinkedIn is great, Harold Mann, and Mann Consulting is mann.com. For the Mac people out there, we have a great Jamf practice. We’re managing over 10,000 devices with our Jamf business. So, happy to work with MSPs who want to sort of extend that for them. But, yeah, I’d love to connect with your folks. I’m a big fan, Paul.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s.

Voiceover:
MSP Marketing.

Voiceover:
Podcast. This week’s.

Voiceover:
Recommended book.

Brian Gillette:
Hi, I’m Brian Gillette from feelgoodmsp.com. The book I recommend is The Speed of Trust, because it solves a problem that most MSPs have, which is communication and trust amongst our internal teams. It’s a great way to upskill your employees, and make sure that they stick around with you longer.

Voiceover:
Coming up.

Voiceover:
Coming up next week.

Nate Freedman:
Hi, my name’s Nate Freedman from Tech Pro Marketing. I am going to be on the show next week to talk about email marketing. I’m going to reveal three things about deliverability, about email newsletters, and also about cold outreach that we’ve found with our clients produce the best success.

Paul Green:
Make sure you subscribe wherever you listen to this podcast, so you never miss an episode. Because also next week, we’re going to be talking about jargon. Now, most of the time, with your clients and your prospects, you should be avoiding jargon. But there is a moment where you should pile the jargon on. I’ll explain what that moment is next week. We’re also going to be talking about admitting faults. No one is brilliant at everything, so it can be a very powerful marketing strategy to admit the things that you’re not good at. Join me next Tuesday, and have a very profitable week in your MSP.

Voiceover:
Made in the UK, for MSPs around the world. Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

 

Get your FREE MSP Marketing magazine mailed to you today
(no cost to you, not even shipping)


MSP Marketing magazine mailed to you today | Paul Green's MSP Marketing

In this free magazine, you'll discover how to generate more leads and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Inside you'll find:

  • An insight into how ordinary business owners and managers buy IT support (and how to influence them)
  • The world's most powerful MSP marketing strategy
  • A case study of how an MSP owner fixed his marketing

Comments 2

  1. Great interview, Paul.
    Harold is so right in saying that it’s worth losing some legacy clients, who demand on-site visits and other obsolete services, in order to attract quality employees.
    And as the quality of employees is improving, those better employees attract better clients.

    1. Post
      Author

Leave a Reply