Episode 92: Is it a waste of money to build your MSP’s brand?

Episode 92: Is it a waste of money to build your MSP’s brand?

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Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Episode 92: Is it a waste of money to build your MSP’s brand?
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In this week’s episode

  • Do you want to be the Nike, Apple or Tesla of the MSP world – a brand that people want and talk about all the time? This week Paul talks about branding for MSPs and what you should focus on
  • In a related subject, how do you stand out in a vast ‘field’ of other MSPs? The answer is to be a purple cow, and Paul explains what it is, and how to use it to grab your prospects’ attention
  • Plus Paul’s brilliant guest this week explains how you can sell co-managed IT and work alongside your clients’ internal IT departments

Featured guest

Greg Jones from Datto on Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast

Thank you to Greg Jones from Datto for joining Paul to talk about how MSPs can to sell co-managed solutions.

Greg Jones is Business Development Director for Datto within the EMEA region. He has worked in the IT sector for the past 20+ years, providing clear and visionary management approach to the development of IT in many sectors/organisations. Greg started his career in IT for the public sector after securing a senior IT management position within the local authority he then went on to private consultancy whilst working with many cutting-edge technologies for public and private sector.

Greg is extremely passionate about the MSP landscape & loves working with business owners / Partners of Datto to drive strategy and growth.

Connect with Greg on LinkedIn. To access free business advice from a panel of 40 industry experts (including Paul), you can email mspofficehours@datto.com

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 to another episode of the show. Here’s what we’ve got coming up for you this week.

Greg Jones:
Many MSPs have worked with organisations that have some form of internal IT department or an IT champion within the business.

Paul Green:
We’ve also got a book suggestion from SEO expert, Joey Donovan. That’s going to be at the end of the show. And we’ll be talking about your brand. Now I’m a direct response marketing person. I don’t really do brand building. So we’ll talk today about whether or not your brand is important. Is it just about your logo or is it about how someone feels when they are thinking about your business? That’s coming up later in today’s show.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green:
So tell me, have you read the book Purple Cow by Seth Godin? It came at a roundabout, I think it’s about 2003, so around about 18 years ago. Actually, I was on holiday in San Francisco. I think it was San Francisco, or it was at LA? I think it was San Francisco in California. And I picked it up at a Borders bookshop, and I thought it was amazing. And I’d read it about two hours later, because you know what it’s like when you’re on a holiday, on a vacation, you can just pick up a book and sit and read it in a bar or something like that. And it was such a good book. And Seth Godin is a great author. It’s worth you following his blog. He blogs daily at sethgodin.com. The whole concept of Purple Cow is, if you look in a field and there are a hundred cows and they’re all black and white, it’s very difficult for any one cow to stand out.

Paul Green:
But if one of those cows was purple, that cow is going to completely stand out, and that cow is going to get more than its fair share of attention compared to the other cows. That’s what a purple cow is. And the challenge for you is to make your business a purple cow, because when someone’s looking at switching to a different MSP, there are hundreds of MSPs to choose from, aren’t there? I mean, how many direct competitors do you have just in your town? What about in the next town or the next area? What about national players that are advertising in your area? There’s an absolute plethora of choice for ordinary business owners and managers to pick from. Far too many MSPs. Oh, and do you know what? As well, everyone’s marketing looks the same. If you don’t believe me, just go and look at 10 or 20 websites of you and all of your direct competitors.

Paul Green:
In most marketplaces, most MSPs have exactly the same website. Yeah, sure it looks different and it’s got different words, but essentially it’s saying the same things. There’s no pictures of people. There’s lots of pictures of tech, and servers, and network cables and stuff like that. It’s not very human. It’s written about technology and it’s not written about business growth. And yet that’s what people buy from you. They don’t buy technology, they buy things that allow them to grow and run their business. So being the purple cow is about standing out. It’s about being remarkable. Because the reality is that 80% of what you do is exactly the same as what most MSPs do. So what we’ve got to look at is the 20%. What’s the 20% that makes you different, that makes your business remarkable? Is it the way that you support people? So all MSPs offer support, but do you do it in a way which is more convenient for people?

Paul Green:
Do you offer 24/7 support using an outsource partner? What do you do that’s different? What are the little things that makes your business better, just simply better than all of your competitors? And then you’ve got to look at not just the products, but the packaging, because it’s all very well being different and better, but no one knows about that at the point they’re thinking of buying from you. How can you make your marketing, your packaging better? How can you make that remarkable? If you can weave being remarkable into every single part of your business, this is how you stand out. This is how you become a purple cow. Now I’m trying to recap a book that I read 18 years ago, and I flicked through it before this podcast. I didn’t read it in full again. But you need to read this book. It really is a great book and it will help you understand why it’s so difficult for you to generate leads and why it’s so difficult for you to stand out, because you’re the same. In their eyes, most MSPs are samey, samey, samey, and samey kills sales.

Paul Green:
Read this book by Seth Godin, become the purple cow, and then you will be the standout MSP in your area. The rewards will be absolutely plentiful.

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

Paul Green:
So if you need to change the packaging and improve the packaging, part of that of becoming a purple cow is looking at your brands. Now your brand is not your business’s name or your logo, and it’s not really you or your staff. Unfortunately, your brand can’t be as tangible as that. No. Your brand is, get this, it’s the emotional and psychological relationship that you have with your clients and prospects. It’s a completely intangible thing. What that really means is your brand is the emotional reaction that someone has when they come into contact with your business. So look around you now, have a look at the logos that you’re surrounded by. Maybe you see a logo on your phone or on your computer. So let’s say you’ve got an iPhone. What do you feel about Apple? When you look at an iPhone and when you see the Apple logo, what do you feel?

Paul Green:
So me, I’m a complete Apple fan boy. I’ve got an iPhone, I’ve got an iPad, I’ve got a Mac. I’ve had several of these. We have an Apple TV. The only thing I don’t have is an Apple Watch because I’m just not a big fan of smartphone watches. But I am an absolute Apple fan boy. And so when I see an Apple thing, or if I even walk past an Apple store, I feel good feelings. Yes, I know I’m overpaying for tech and I’ve convinced myself that I won’t get a virus on my Mac. But it’s the emotional reaction, that’s the whole point. Whereas when I see the Microsoft logo, I feel distress. I mean, it’s been years, it’s been nine years since I switched from PCs to Macs, but I feel, I know Windows pays your mortgage, but when I think of Windows, my emotional response to it is, eh, that it’s difficult, that it’s a distress thing.

Paul Green:
But we have a PC in our house again. My daughter got a secondhand gaming PC. And Windows 10 is actually really great. I mean, the last time I used Windows, it was Windows 8. But Windows 10 is great. But it still throws up random boxes, and blue screens of death and all of this kind of stuff. Maybe Windows 11 will fix that. Anyway, when you see those kinds of logos, how do you feel? However you feel, that is the brand. If you look at a logo and you think, oh, that’s cheap and nasty that is, then that’s that brand to you. Now, typically well-built brands mean the same things to most people. So the vast majority of people, certainly the customers of Apple, when they look at the Apple logo, they have very positive thoughts. They’re so positive that, well, this is one of the reasons why Apple is one of the world’s most valuable brands, the products it makes is only part of the overall experience.

Paul Green:
But the brand isn’t just the logo. Please don’t think that I’m saying it’s just about the logo. It’s so much more than that. The logo just represents your brand. So how important then is building a brand for most MSPs? Realistically, not that important at all. It’s got to be done. There’s got to be a certain amount of it, but it’s not that important. Let me qualify that. So having strong brand is important, but there are so many more better marketing activities that you could do that would make a bigger difference to the business, in terms of winning new clients, keeping clients and getting them to spend more. Because building a brand is a long-term activity. In fact, it’s happening right now, whether you’re working on it or not. Just being in business means that you build a brand in the minds of your clients and your prospects, but because it’s a long-term thing, it doesn’t get clients in today.

Paul Green:
Having a great brand where everyone thinks that you’re the best IT support business in town, well, that’s no use to you at all if your order book is empty, is it? And since most business owners don’t spend enough time on marketing, the time that you do have to spend on growing your business should really be invested into activities that get you new clients, get existing clients to buy again and increase your average spend. If you only have a few hours a week to spend on marketing, don’t worry about the brand. Focus instead on generating new leads on tightening up your client retention on making your consultants and technicians better salespeople. These are the things to do. So the brand is important, yes. And if you run a big, big business, you should be investing some time and energy into building your brand. And that might be doing community work. It might be on other marketing activities. I’m never going to come up with a list of suggestions for you to build your brand because I’m not that kind of marketer.

Paul Green:
Go and employ a marketing agency to do that for you. But if you’re like most MSPs that I talk to, and it’s just you and a handful of people, 5, 10, 20 people in the business, working on your brand is just not as rewarding, ultimately as actually building the business and getting new clients in today.

Voiceover:
Paul’s blatant plug.

Paul Green:
I wonder if another MSP has beaten you to it already. What am I talking about? It’s my core service. It’s called the MSP Marketing Edge, and we only supply it to one MSP per area. We give you a ton of stuff, marketing tools, marketing content, and an extraordinarily large amount of business, growth, advice, and direct support. And it’s an absolute steal at just 99 Pounds a month in the UK, or $129 a month in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. Oh, and we’ve made it completely risk-free as well, because there’s no contract and you can cancel any time. But as I said, it’s only available to one MSP per area, because it wouldn’t work otherwise. So the first thing for you to do is check whether or not your area is still available. And you can do this at mspmarketingedge.com.

Voiceover:
The big interview.

Greg Jones:
Hello, my name is Greg Jones, Business Development Director at Datto within the EMEA region. I’m one of the product evangelist of Datto, but more importantly, my role is about supporting the MSP community. Before Datto, I spent many years on the MSP side of the fence in a number of different roles, from Sales Director, Head of Technical Services and Chief Technology Officer, and then prior to that in local and central government for many years.

Paul Green:
It’s an absolute delight to have you on the show, Greg. Thank you so much for joining us. What I want to talk about with you today is a subject we’ve never addressed before, because it’s so completely different to what we normally talk about on the podcast. I want to talk about selling co-managed IT. Or if we define that another way, where you’re selling your services to someone that already has an internal IT support function. Now, the reason I say this is completely different to normal marketing is that you’re selling to people who understand our world. So they understand technology, they attend events, they read the things that we read. Whereas of course the people you’re normally selling to, business owners and managers, they don’t know what they don’t know about technology. So Greg, have I got that completely right? Is it the case that when you’re selling co-managed IT, you have to approach it from a completely different angle?

Greg Jones:
Yeah. Absolutely, Paul. We are seeing a huge uptake in the co-managed environment at the moment. And that is relatively a new name in terms of co-managed or co-mixed. However, it has been around a long time. Many MSPs have worked with organisations that have some form of either internal IT department or an IT champion within their business. However, there is huge opportunity on the back of the current health pandemic, and we are seeing explosive growth within a number of our partners. So real big opportunities at the moment, Paul.

Paul Green:
Now one of the MSPs I worked a few years ago described to me how they support co-managed IT departments. And they described it as like a donut, where you had the internal IT person in the middle, and they were either helping them above, which was with strategic advice, or they were helping them below, which was of course help desk support, and then they were helping them at the sides of the donut with some other sort of consultancy and projects as well. So essentially they were sitting as a protective ring around the internal IT team. Is that a good analogy?

Greg Jones:
Yes, it is. Also if an organisation has an internal department, but they’re needing cover around maybe holidays or sickness, that each side of the donut analogy then becomes the full donut really. Or as I say at the moment, we’re seeing lots of even smaller organisations looking at co-managed environment right up until the enterprise space, really. And that’s really come off the back of the health pandemic, because many organisations are now starting to realise that they, coming out on the back of the health pandemic and COVID, they are more profitable and they are more productive through the use of the correct technology within the business. Interestingly, when we actually look at many organisations now, the ones who are more profitable, more successful were the ones before going into this health pandemic, were the ones who were pushing back saying they could not possibly operate remotely or give many excuses to their MSP why they couldn’t implement certain technology solutions, really. So they’re really starting to wake up and see that technology is great for their business and they can do ultimately more with less really, Paul.

Paul Green:
So how would you as an MSP even get started trying to win some co-managed support contracts?

Greg Jones:
I would say really go back to basics and look at your internal offering as an MSP. Because when we look at the MSP spectrum, it is very diverse in terms of different business, operational maturity levels. So first of all is understand what you do as an MSP. Do you just provide maybe ad hoc services? Is it break, fix? Or is it true MSP where you do a whole piece of work for clients? And then look at what is actually profitable for you as an organisation. So look at your existing customer base and truly find out what is a great account, because what I see in terms of, from a Datto point of view and a many years doing consultancy with MSPs, is many MSPs rush out to get a new business without truly analysing what is a good fit for them. So really define a target customer profile that is good for your MSP business, because we all know that not all businesses go business, it can actually create you more problems or headaches further down the road.

Greg Jones:
So when looking at defining a target customer profile for co-managed, you want to be looking at the kind of verticals that you specialise in, that you can add certainly business value, but also look at the kind of size of organisation that you think would be a good fit for your business. And going back to what you alluded to earlier, Paul, it’s not about doing everything in a co-managed environment. It’s either taking some of the low end work to free up the internal resources within that organisation so that they can do possibly more exciting things or training and development. So you’re taking off maybe patch management, the things that are time consuming and maybe a laborious task, but really critical and important. Or the very high end of the spectrum, which is more complex, technical solutions or projects, really. So I would say, first of all, start in-house, see what is a good customer for you and build from there, really.

Paul Green:
That’s really good advice. So looking at things from a practical point of view, where would you get started? Do you try and talk to the presumably swamped internal IT managers who are probably quite naturally suspicious of you because they think that you might be trying to replace them, or do you go above their heads and start with the directors of the business who maybe have board responsibility for IT, but they don’t actually have any IT experience or knowledge? Where would you start, Greg?

Greg Jones:
What I would say is, understand that the sales process is very different around approaching co-managed. And typically that sales process tends to be longer. Typically the 60 to 90 day mark where normal MSP services, the kind of run rate is anywhere from 20 to 60 calendar days. And it’s very much a dual sale. And what I mean by that is, not only do you have to win the security and I guess the buy-in from the C-level executives within that business around business value and the outcomes that you’re going to have, but also, you rightly mentioned, Paul, the internal IT department you need to have for them to understand that you’re not after their job, you are actually going to aid them, help them, help their career progression with taking off that low level work so they can do exciting things or get involved in projects.

Greg Jones:
So it is a dual sale. But typically from the MSPs that we are seeing great success, it normally starts with a C-level conversation. So typically business owner to business owner, and it is not talking about technology around, hey, we can fix this, or we answer the phone quicker than the next guy, or our service level agreement is really great. They’re not interested in that, that is just typical IT sales. What they are looking for is how you can approve efficiency within their business, ultimately how you can move the needle for their business. Many business owners, CEOs, or directors will have a business plan, whether that’s in their head, or written down, or a pipe dream, and it’s about aligning that with your MSP services around co-managed to say, this is where you are today with technology, however, to get to your goal or your business plan, this is what it looks like in terms of technology. This is how you can drive that change within the business, really.

Greg Jones:
Many of the MSPs who are getting great success from this are the ones who are, as I said, not focusing on the hardware or technical solutions, they’re the ones challenging the status quo within the particular businesses. And what do I mean by that? Well, it’s about challenging how they do their business processes. So can technology speed up some of the business processes to free them up? Because many times when you go into an organisation, when you go into the likes of finance or accounts, you will typically tend to see they do certain business processes because they’ve always done it that way. They’re not using the latest technology or advances to improve or streamline their processes, Paul.

Paul Green:
This is such great advice. Thank you so much, Greg. Let’s finish off by talking about Datto’s Office Hours Initiative. It’s something that I’m utterly delighted to be part of. Tell us what it is, Greg. How did you come up with the idea and how can MSPs get help from Datto?

Greg Jones:
Yeah. So this was actually an idea that I struggled with for a while at Datto, in terms of my role is about connecting Datto to the MSP community and ultimately helping MSPs add value to their business. And that is not all about Datto products. I’m not here to sell Datto products. We’re here to support the MSP community and drive growth. But there was many, many questions on the back of many webinars or many sessions, there just wasn’t a place to answer. And it was clear that a lot of MSPs do not use the likes of peer groups or round table discussions. And quite frankly, they struggle with some of the business challenges within their MSP businesses. So I had a thought about pulling a group of experts, not Datto employees, I think there’s only 2 on our panel of 40 experts that we offer to MSP office hours.

Greg Jones:
And ultimately this is a safe place where as a business owner, CEO, or director of an MSP, you can ask a question that you are struggling with within your business, whether that be sales, marketing, tax, HR advice, or even just looking for some support. You ultimately email mspofficehours@datto.com. It comes to a team of three people. We assess your requests in commercial confidence, so none of that information is even shared with any other Datto employees. And then we align you to the best place expert to assist with your inquiry, and ultimately just give you some free business advice to help you out.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast. This week’s recommended book.

Joey Donovan Guido:
Hi, this is Joey Donovan Guido from Cuppa SEO Web Design. And the book I’d like to recommend to you today is called Essentialism, by a gentleman named Greg McKeown. Because it kind of transcends beyond just business or personal, and really looks at your existence as a whole. I read this book at a time where I was trying to declutter my business and my life, and that’s what this book does. It helps you identify what is truly essential and what can be kind of let go of.

Voiceover:
Coming up next week.

Nick Moran:
My name is Nick Moran. I’m one of the co-founders and directors at Powernet. And I’m here next week to tell you how I’ve grown my business as an MSP.

Paul Green:
We’re also going to pick up on something I was talking about earlier. When we were talking about your brand, there is something that you can do with your packaging, with your marketing to improve the brand perception of your business. And that’s all to do with your back story, your origin story, where you came from, how you got into this business in the first place. So we’ll be looking at that next week. We’ll also be asking whether or not you should have the branding of your MSP on your car. Should you have all those stickers and things like wrap arounds, like the radio stations do? Got a specific answer for you, and I’ll tell you all about it in next week’s show. See you then.

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

 

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