Why clients stick with their MSP, even if they're unhappy

Episode 16: Why clients stick with their MSP, even if they’re unhappy

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Episode 16: Why clients stick with their MSP, even if they’re unhappy

 
 
00:00 / 00:27:54
 
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In this week’s episode

  • It’s massively frustrating for a promising new deal to evaporate because the client has decided to stay with their incumbent MSP, but it happens all too often. Understanding why this happens is the key to overcoming the issue and Paul has some fantastic insight and advice
  • It may not be great for your waistline (!) but Paul also explains why making regular bookings for the best placed table in your favourite local restaurant could make the world of difference to your MSP’s net profit
  • Also in this week’s show, a listener asks if physical direct mail has a place in the modern world. And Glenn Robertson from Purechannels is back with an update on the millions of pounds of free marketing money that you could be tapping into

Show notes

Episode transcription

Voiceover:
Made in the UK, for MSPs around the world. This is Paul Green’s MSP marketing podcast.

Paul Green:
Hello and welcome to the podcast. Here’s what’s coming up in today’s show.

Glenn Robertson:
Vendors want to sell as much of their stuff as possible and the MSP or the partner that can help that is going to be the one that’s well-treated.

Paul Green:
We’re also going to look at why you should be taking your clients to lunch at least once a year because it’s the most direct and reliable way to sell them more of your stuff. And i’m going to be answering a question from an MSP about whether or not you should be using more direct mail.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP marketing podcast.

Paul Green:
So currently the greatest stress in my life is the fact that I’m moving house. Sold my house back in November, found a lovely place to live in a little village just outside of Milton Keens in the UK and that’s all fine. It’s a very short chain. There’s only two transactions in the chain, should all have been done back at the beginning of February and it’s still currently going through and it’s still a little bit of a nightmare.

Paul Green:
Now the problem isn’t me because I’ve bought and sold several houses. I’ve got some investment properties. I understand houses. I know what the risks are. It’s not a great deal for me. It’s just finding the right place and making it happen. The people that I’m buying from equally, they’re in their sixties. They’ve bought and sold many houses. Everyone’s just quite relaxed. The problem is the people who are buying my house are first time buyers and they are… Well, there’s a phrase a friend of mine use, she said that they’re scared of their own shadow.

Paul Green:
So these people they’ve rented for a while, but of course we all know that renting gives you a security blanket. There’s a safety net, there’s a landlord that is there if anything goes wrong. As they’re going through this process of getting the surveys done and just thinking about things, they’re scaring themselves. The conversation I keep having with my estate agent is that they are scared and they’re trying to mitigate their risk. We have gotten to the point now where actually they’re trying to mitigate risks that exists just owning a house.

Paul Green:
We all know owning a house is a risky thing. I was reflecting on this at the weekend and it occurred to me that for them buying this house is the biggest, most dangerous, most scary thing. They want the house, but they’re also terrified of what owning the house might mean. When someone switches from one MSP to another, it is a house purchase size deal to them.

Paul Green:
Let me explain what I mean. When someone is with an MSP, even if they’re not happy with that MSP, there is a certain level of trust because from the point of view of the ordinary decision maker, the ordinary business owner or manager, the MSP has the power to destroy their business completely. Now they don’t necessarily think of it that way, but if you think about it from their point of view, they don’t really understand technology. They don’t really understand computers, hardware, software systems. They don’t have the ability to just jump in and fix stuff like you do.

Paul Green:
You are controlling their productivity. You’re controlling their ability to get things done. You’re controlling their access to their own data and their own information, and so for that reason, the MSP that they choose is a really big deal for them. Now, this is one of the things which makes the MSP sales cycles so slow. I’m sure you have previously had great in depth conversations with prospects who you’re convinced switch over to you because they’re really unhappy with their incumbent. Then you go a few months down the line, very frustratingly for you, they decide to stick with their incumbent for some bizarre reason. Even though they’re unhappy, they’ve stuck with the devil that they know. Better the devil they know.

Paul Green:
They’ve done this because it’s less risk for them because even if they’re unhappy with an MSP, they understand what it is that they’re getting. They know where they’re at, if that makes sense. This is why I’m a massive fan of you building relationships with prospects and with leads long before the point that they are ready to switch to another MSP. You might’ve heard me talk on this podcast before about the need to build multiple audiences so you get hundreds, thousands of people to connect to you on LinkedIn. You get hundreds and hundreds of people to choose to join your email mailing list so that they receive your marketing emails. Maybe if your active within specific verticals, you even start Facebook groups or if you’re dealing with retail businesses or hospitality businesses, you build some Instagram profiles as well or an Instagram profile and build an audience there.

Paul Green:
What this allows you to do is to build a relationship with people long before they’re ever thinking of buying from you. In the UK, I do a series of MSP marketing lunches where I go around the country and I meet with prospects and most of the time, not always, but most of the time it’s wonderful that someone walks in the room that I’ve never met before. Nine times out of 10 I don’t really know that person, I don’t know their name and they walk up to me and they shake my hand and they say, “It’s so good to meet you in real life. I’ve been following you for years. I’ve read your book, I read your articles, I listen to your podcasts.”

Paul Green:
What I’m doing and I recommend you do the same, is in a one to many kind of way, I’m building a relationship with thousands of prospects. My podcast, my articles on my website, my book, my LinkedIn following it’s all relationship building because I’m sending out educational, entertaining content and it builds a relationship. A tiny relationship, it’s not a deep relationship, but it’s the start of something. At the point at which people are theoretically ready to start spending money to actually buy something, they feel as though they know me in some way. It’s a foundation to start with.

Paul Green:
You need to do exactly this because so few MSPs do this. In any marketplace, the MSP that builds the biggest audiences, builds the best relationship with those audiences, and then markets them the most. Shakes the tree, commercialises it, sees what money is out there. The MSP that does that is much more likely to go on to be the dominant MSP in that area. Certainly from a marketing point of view. I know that you’re really good at what you do, and I also know that your competitors are really good at what they do.

Paul Green:
The plan and the challenge is to get better at the marketing because the product is probably good enough, but it’s the marketing that makes a substantial difference. The biggest marketing difference you could make in your world is to get better at building relationships with people months or years before they’re ready to even start thinking about switching.

Voiceover:
Here’s this week’s clever idea.

Paul Green:
Of course there’s a chunk of people that you already have a great relationship with and that’s your clients. In fact, most MSPs have amazing relationships with their clients and no wonder this is essentially a service industry. That’s what this is. Now, one of the challenges for you is to regularly tell your clients about new things, either that you’re offering or that they should be buying or just general changes. Things that are shifting within the marketplace and keep them educated and up to date about those things so that they can, if it’s appropriate for them, come on board with them, buy those extra services, protect their business.

Paul Green:
This is why I’m a massive fan of strategic reviews. A strategic review is where you go out on a regular basis. Probably six months or every 12 months and you sit down with your client and it is a forward looking review. Strategic review is not a backwards looking review of tickets or problems or issues because the risk is it could turn into a bit of a moan fest if you do that. We’re not interested in past performance. We’re interested in looking forward. We want to talk about your client’s favourite subject, which is themselves.

Paul Green:
Everyone’s favourite subject is themselves. We want to get your client talking about them, their business and talk about what’s coming up in the next couple of years. What are their plans, how are they going to expand? What new staff are they going to take on? Do they have new premises that could be coming up? Are they going to go and hit some new marketplaces? Does the current technology set up that they’ve got really support the growth plans that they’ve got for the next couple of years.

Paul Green:
Now strategic lunches are in my mind, best done away from their environment. They certainly shouldn’t be done in your environment because there’s a chance you could be distracted by your staff. If they’re done in their environment, there’s a chance that they’ll be distracted by their staff or that they’ll just see it as this 20 minute meeting that their IT company wants. What we don’t want is them sitting behind their desk, one eye on a computer monitor because they’ve got things to do and you desperately trying to talk more and more to keep their time.

Paul Green:
That’s not the point of this, In fact in a good strategic review is an 80 20 talking rule. They do 80% of the talking, you do 20% of the talking. No, I think if you’re going to do the best strategic review, you’ve got to take them out to lunch. You may find yourself getting fatter as you go out and do two or three lunches a week depending how many clients you’ve got, but nothing beats going out to lunch and buying lunch for your client, which essentially buys them a little bit of extra loyalty and buy 60 to 90 minutes of their valuable time.

Paul Green:
Now you might find a local restaurant, not a chain, so you can be seen to be promoting and endorsing local businesses and you might even do a deal with them where you say, “Look, I’m going to be coming in here 40 times, 50 times in the next year, maybe even more, and I’d like a deal please Mr and Mrs. Owner. Could you do me a deal where I get a 20% discount? Perhaps even you bill me once a month or something like that.” You’d be surprised how many restaurant owners are open to a deal like that.

Paul Green:
You can even dictate which table you’d like to sit down. You might permanently reserve that table for your lunches. I would recommend a table at the back of the restaurant. When you come in, you seat you with your back to the wall so you can see the restaurant and you seat your client with their back to the restaurant so they can’t see what’s going on. The reason for doing that, is so they can’t be distracted by things that are happening within the restaurant. The real purpose of the strategic IT review then is to ask a series of open questions.

Paul Green:
You’re trying to identify opportunities within that business. Opportunities really for you to sell them more stuff. You might ask things like, since we last met or had an in depth talk, in the context of your technology, what’s gone well? What’s not gone so well? What do you think is holding you back right now? What do you predict could be holding you back in the future? Looking at the business overall, what do you think your priorities will be in the next 12 months, 24 months, 36 months? What’s keeping you up at night? What do you think is going to keep you up at night? What do you think is likely to be your biggest headaches? Then the very best question, what can we do to help?

Paul Green:
These are some very powerful questions and your client is going to spend most of this lunch talking about his or her business and what they want to do with it and their plans and their dreams and their hopes and their fears. All of these things give you opportunities to satiate those needs, to fulfil those wants and also to protect them more. If they’re going to grow a little bit more and they might need X, Y and Z and you’ve got a specific technology stack that would help them to do that, that’s where you can have that conversation.

Paul Green:
Off the back of those strategic lunches you should be going away and doing proposals and ultimately following them up at a specified time. Let me get that to you by tomorrow afternoon, shall I give you a call on Friday and we can run through it. That kind of thing. Some of my clients that I worked with in my MSP mastermind do strategic reviews with all of their clients and two out of three times they really do well. They sell a lot of extra stuff to their clients and there’s all month the recurring revenue services.

Paul Green:
This is not about generating project revenue, which is fine if you need that project revenue, but the real power is generating more monthly recurring revenue. That is what you need more of and you know what? Your clients are very happy to give it to you when they can talk themselves into it because this is the real power of the strategic review. The strategic lunch is not about you selling stuff to them, it’s about them realising their life will be better if they buy this stuff. They do all the selling to themselves.

Voiceover:
Paul’s blatant plug.

Paul Green:
Quick shout out for my MSP marketing edge service because it is the most popular thing that I do. We’ve got more than 150 MSPs around the world now using this. It is primarily aimed at UK MSPs and also US MSPs. You can see all the details at mspmarketingedge.com. In a nutshell, it’s a whole bunch of content that we give to you every month so that you can use it to get more new clients. We’re talking a video, we’re talking an educational guide, promotional emails, social media content. There’s a sales letter and there’s a load of freebies as well.

Paul Green:
There’s a book called Email Hijack that you can put your name on the front and say it’s your book. You can edit the inside if you want to. You can get it printed. There’s also a ‘Have I Been Pwned’ plugin which goes on your websites and it acts as a form of data capture for you. It’s a whole bunch of stuff and it’s really dirt cheap as well. It’s £99 a month in the UK, $129 a month in the US. You can cancel anytime as well. There’s no commitment.

Paul Green:
We only sell it to one MSP per area. The best thing to do is go in and check to see if your area is still available. It’s mspmarketingedge.com.

Voiceover:
The big interview.

Paul Green:
This week I’m delighted to welcome back one of my guests. He was actually the interview I did in the first ever podcast back on November 5th.

Glenn Robertson:
Glenn Robertson, MD of Purechannels. Purechannels is B2B marketing agency with a difference. The difference being that whilst we provide all of the services that you would expect from a regular B2B marketing agency, we do it with a hundred percent dedication and focus on the channel.

Paul Green:
So Glenn, the reason I wanted to get you back on the show is because you’re just a great big tease. You reckon that an MSP can get all of their marketing done and generate brand new leads and it doesn’t cost them anything?

Glenn Robertson:
Yes.

Paul Green:
How do you do it?

Glenn Robertson:
It’s been a while since I’ve been called a tease! As I’ve mentioned, we’ve been going 15 years now, nearly since 2005 and over that period we’ve worked with a number of what you would probably call the world’s biggest brands. Okay. That does include Samsung, Vodafone and Microsoft and Fujitsu and Nordson and Symantec and various other very well known brands. What we’ve done for them over this period is we’ve done a number of partner surveys and those partner surveys have been locally in country, regionally across the Emea and globally as well.

Glenn Robertson:
One of the things that we found is that, as a result of all this data that we’ve got, there genuinely is a misalignment within the channel. That misalignment exists between sales and marketing. You might think, oh well that’s the same as every business. It’s the same as every environment. Sales and marketing historically and typically don’t get on. But in the channel it does actually cause some of the issues because they… Sales and marketing is complex enough relationship anyway.

Glenn Robertson:
But then when you stack phone in different layers like that we have in the channel becomes even more complex. Where this misalignment exists, we have partners, we have MSPs that exist to sell as much stuff as possible and we have vendors who push down messages of please can you go and do some marketing? They’re asking these… They’re asking partners, they’re asking MSPs to do marketing. Famously they’re not particularly great at that activity because they want to focus so much on sales. Within the MSP community, there is naturally a lack of…

Glenn Robertson:
I don’t mean to be disrespectful to anybody of course, but it’s a fact that there is a lack of knowledge, expertise, resource, time that is available to go into marketing. To answer that question Paul, the way that we can do that is there is this funding available via vendors called MDF, marketing development fund. It’s supplied to partners in order to generate activity. But what we also find is that sometimes there’s not the right people, or the right knowledge or the right time or the right focus that can go into marketing activity.

Glenn Robertson:
What we’re saying is it’s very possible to outsource that marketing. Let’s be clear as well, there can be a perception, impression of outsourcing where marketing managers can think that they might lose their jobs or that the agency is going to take over, which is absolutely not the case. When you engage with an agency of good sorts, they would only be wanting to work with you in a way that compliments your activity and actually spends all of their time making you look good.

Glenn Robertson:
So marketing managers could be super relaxed about engaging with an agency in the same way that you would outsource other things. Let’s be clear here, what is the MSP model, right? You’re outsourcing. You’re encouraging people to outsource. That’s what we’re doing. So you have social marketing and you get it all done. At that point, from that marketing because it’s got such a good link into sales and once you’ve got a good understanding of that relationship, that marketing turns into lead gen. Then that lead gen turns into from an MQL into what we’d probably call an SQL. Then that has an effect and an impact on pipeline and then that has an effect and impact on revenue.

Glenn Robertson:
Once you’ve outsourced your marketing to a good agency that has an understanding of the channel, what you can do then is you can actually go back to the vendors that you’re working with and you can show them your plans, and you can show them your activity and you can actually apply for funding to carry out this activity. Once you’ve done that, you can offset that money against the money you’ve spent outsourcing the agency. Actually Paul, go back to the tease. What you’ve done over a period of time, this isn’t an overnight fix. This is a commitment maybe three, six or 12 months, and you can simply get all of your marketing done, executed, delivered, generate new leads and actually it won’t cost you anything.

Paul Green:
It’s very smart. So your taking those pots of money which you previously said in one of our previous podcasts that there are millions of pounds of MDF sitting unclaimed. You’re taking that money which the vendors are going to spend anyway, they’ve committed to spend it and you set up… So you set up good marketing first through an agency and then essentially you go ask and you say, all right, who’s going to fund this of all of your vendors. It’s actually quite a smart way. Sometimes there are very creative solutions to things which are almost experimental. Is this one of those experimental solutions or is this something that’s starting to actually get some traction?

Glenn Robertson:
Well it happens. MDF is something that has existed in the channel for many years. It’s something that is spoken about an awful lot. The best ways to do it, the best process to go through. Who’s got the best platform? Do we need to develop something new? Is it about personal relationships? Forrester, Gartner, serious decisions, they talk about it all the time, especially with the emergence of what we call the shadow channel as well.

Glenn Robertson:
MDF is absolutely a thing. You know what, it’s a huge thing and you’re absolutely right there’s huge amounts. There’s millions and millions of pounds available to partners to apply for. What we need to do is we need to help partners, help MSPs, the community out there to understand the best way of accessing that funding and there’s some really simple ways of doing that. You speak to your cam or your pam, so your channel account manager, your partner account manager or your BDM, business development manager. There’s a lot of acronyms for these guys but basically they are main point of contact to the vendor.

Glenn Robertson:
You establish the contact, you make sure you’ve got a good plan in place. Vendors like to see a good plan. They like to know that what they’re doing is essentially a sure bet. So if you’ve written a well-constructed plan around the activity that you’re going to execute, then that’s stage one done. Then what you need to do is you actually need to execute that activity. What you say you’re going to do, you actually have to do it.

Glenn Robertson:
This does sound a little bit like egg sucking but you’ll be surprised to how these simple steps don’t get followed and it does have a huge impact on the end result. What have we got? We’ve got established contact. We’ve got write your plan. We’ve got execute the activity. Then the next one, believe it or not is the one that almost always is the main culprit forget and forgotten. That is report and ROI.

Glenn Robertson:
Once you’ve planned and once you’ve executed, you then need to track a report on the results that the activity got and then just simply pass them back to the vendor and say, thanks very much for paying for this activity. It well, we generated this many leads and actually that’s looking to attach X amount to our pipeline and hopefully we’ll be able to do some decent revenue off that. If we’re looking for a number, it’s okay to look for or hope for somewhere between 15 and 20 times spent on ROI.

Glenn Robertson:
It’s just a rough figure. Sometimes it can be an awful lot more. Sometimes it can be less. But what this is about is about maintaining good relationships. Vendors want to sell as much of their stuff as possible and the MSP or the partner that can help that is going to be the one that’s… well-treated should we say.

Paul Green:
Now you mentioned something at the beginning of your answer, which sounds like it’s straight out of a cold war spy novel. That’s the shadow channel. What’s the shadow channel?

Glenn Robertson:
There’s an emergence of what we’re calling the shadow channel. This is where there is a reselling community that is been created through non-typical or non traditional resellers or VARs or MSPs. You’ve got the likes of consultancies or even agencies that are emerging into the channel as a very valid, very real route to market for vendors. It’s like, you’ve got this typical and you’ve got this traditional channel that we all know and love. Then you’ve got this new shadow channel that is emerging, which is the likes of consultancies and the likes of accountants in professional services in things like financial software.

Glenn Robertson:
Then you’ve got even things like marketing agencies dare I say for things now like Microsoft software, some of the cloud activity and some of the other platforms that are being pushed is available real and a relatively new thing. Just to throw something else in there. I personally believe that there is an emergence of what I’m calling the reverse channel, but maybe we’ll talk about that in another podcast.

Paul Green:
There’s a tease. Talk about teases, there is a tease for the future. We’ve got to get you back on that. Obviously your business Purechannels. I mean we were talking here about marketing done for you, with someone getting the funding. I know that that’s a core competency of your channels. What’s your website address? What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Glenn Robertson:
Just go to a purechannels.co.uk.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP marketing podcast. Ask Paul anything.

Craig:
Hi, this is Craig Sharp from Abussi. Paul, should I send direct mail to my customers?

Paul Green:
Great question, Craig. Thank you. The answer is 100000% yes. Direct mail is beautiful. It’s beautiful because it’s expensive. It’s beautiful because it’s difficult. It’s time consuming. Not many MSPs use it and also it’s beautiful because most of us don’t get much in the post anymore. Go back 20 years, we all had far too much junk mail, didn’t we? Stuff coming through the letter box. It was a nightmare. It was very hard to stand out. Now flip around, 20 years on we don’t have much coming in the post, but we have too much digitally.

Paul Green:
Too many emails, too much on social media so direct mail is the stand out medium. I believe you should be doing direct mail to prospects and to clients. The prospects, you should just routinely be sending them stuff. At the very least, every two to three months you should be sending out a newsletter or just some communications, something to keep you in front of people. You should do everything within your power to keep the quality of that very high. There is a lot of print capacity in the marketplace.

Paul Green:
There were a lot of very mature places to go to get direct mails done. This doesn’t have to be and really shouldn’t be something that you do in house off your own printers. Go and spend the money and get it done well. Sending something out to prospects on a regular basis is a good idea but also don’t forget your clients, because I know that MSPs don’t have issues with retention, but retention issues are caused by relationship more than anything else.

Paul Green:
Someone who’s more likely to leave your MSP and go off to a competitor because of the way they feel about the service more than the actual service itself. It’s all about feelings. I believe that using direct mail is a great way of just keeping in touch with clients and showing them that you’re being proactive and you’re adding new services and you’re training your staff and you’re doing all of these things.

Paul Green:
In fact, you can keep communicating this to your clients. Even just a very simple two page A4 newsletter would be so powerful. Get it done properly. Get it printed on quality paper in full color, get it well designed and send it out to them in the post. That can have a major impact. In fact, as you’re lining up things like your strategic reviews and your lunches, putting stuff in front of clients through direct mail is a very smart way to keep your relationship with them absolutely topped up to the brim.

Paul Green:
Those direct mail pieces will sit on desks, they’ll get stuck on walls, they’ll go into drawers. They’re the things that come back, not quite to haunt you in a few years, but they come back and they make you money down the line. I have a client who sent out a big direct mail piece about seven years ago and even now, still now he’s making money off that direct mail piece because every now and again someone finds it in a drawer or it’s been pinned up to their wall for years and they ring them up and say, look, can we still do whatever it was that they are promoting within that piece seven, eight years ago, whatever it was?

Paul Green:
Direct mail is beautiful because it’s difficult and because it has that standout ability. Your first place to start with this should just be to Google to see who are the direct mail experts in your town. Is there someone here, perhaps it’s a printer or a designer who doesn’t just have the capacity and ability to do this stuff, but has done it successfully for some time. Because if you’re going to do direct mail, you might as well get experts to do it for you so it looks brilliant from day one.

Voiceover:
How to contribute to the show.

Paul Green:
I love getting your feedback on the show and I do read every single email that you send in and I reply to them myself as well. Go on, drop me an email, tell me what you love, tell me what you’d like me to do differently. The email address is hello@paulgreensmspmarketing.com.

Voiceover:
Coming up next week.

JP Kehoe:
There’s a tremendous shortage of cybersecurity talent and skills. That’s one of the key challenges MSPs have today in providing cybersecurity services to their customers.

Paul Green:
That’s JP Kehoe from Skout Cybersecurity and he’s going to be here next week telling you how you can sell more cybersecurity to your clients and prospects. We’re also going to be talking about the need for differentiation at the prospecting stage. In fact, I’ve got a great way for you to stand out from all the other MSPs that you’re up against. I’ve also got a great website for you, for your clients to check the strength of their passwords which will help you to persuade them to not only change their passwords, but to go and buy a password manager from you as well.

Voiceover:
Made in the UK for MSPs around the world. Paul Green’s MSP marketing podcast.

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