I try not to write about brand and branding too much. Partly because I prefer to write about a more effective form of marketing, called direct response.
That's where you do a piece of marketing, and it either puts people in your funnel or moves people down your funnel towards a sale. Generally, direct response marketing is a proactive piece of action that brings new leads, and eventually new sales into your business.
But there does come a point where actually you do need to address your brand. And the mistake that most MSPs make is to think that their brand is about their logo, or is about the way that their website looks.
Actually, your brand isn't just those things. They're only a part of the mix.
Your brand is about everything
It's about all the tiny little things that make up your business: Your marketing; your people; your interactions with prospects and customers. Every little thing, right down to how you answer the phone.
And all those things added up together become a feeling. Your prospects and customers develop a feeling about your business. That feeling is the brand.
This is a critical feeling, because most decision makers don't know how to tell a good MSP from a bad one at a cognitive level. Because they don't know enough about tech. So have to fall back on making emotional decisions.
Put another way, they pick the MSP they feel the best about.
Let me demonstrate this to you. I want you to think about a big company that you love. You adore everything they do and stand for.
For me, that's Tesla. I know the cars themselves are a little bit clunky and not built very well, but I love everything about Tesla.
And when I think about Tesla, it's not the logo; it's not the actual cars themselves. It's the way Tesla makes me feel.
Because when I think about Tesla, I think fast, sexy electric cars. I think of Elon Musk, a risk-taker, a true once-in-a-lifetime entrepreneur, a man on a mission. A guy that will save mankind with his rockets and his plans to backup humanity on Mars.
I think of the charging network and the fact that I will be able to charge my Tesla at a unique charging point while all the other electric car drivers are sharing a whole series of points.
I think about the shop, which is just 15 minutes from my home in Milton Keynes, and how I like to go in and give the Teslas a good lick sometimes.
All of this merged together in my heart, is Tesla's brand to me. Because a brand is not a universal experience, it's very much a one-to-one experience.
Let's take another one, Apple. Now, I know you may have very strong opinions about Apple one way or another. I know a lot of the MSPs I work with laugh at me when they see me giving my MacBook Air a cuddle in the mornings.
But to me, Apple represents something exciting; something freeing; cutting-edge. And that's because I'm not a technical person, I'm just an ordinary consumer, and I like the premium feel of Apple.
For me, the brand feel of Microsoft is clunky, difficult, problematic, and expensive. OK, they figured out the expensive one, they fixed that with Office 365 subscriptions. But I still feel annoyed when I have to interact with Microsoft's auto updater. Even signing into my daughter's Minecraft account makes me see red.
I would expect your feeling about Microsoft to be a lot more positive than mine. Because for you, Microsoft is a revenue stream.
Do you see the point I'm making? Looking past the fact that everyone has different opinions on these brands; the opinions are based quite dramatically on feelings
So the challenge for your MSP is to change the way that people feel about you.
That means a certain level of consistency. Yes at a certain level it means you need to be all over the visual look of your website, your logo, your branding, and whatever goes on the vans and on the building.
But you also need to get all the other little things right. Like the way that people answer the phones; the things your team are writing in tickets. The voice in your emails and in your marketing communications (by voice, I mean the personality of the business as expressed by the communications).
I once rang an MSP that had a very impressive looking website and marketing. It certainly looked like the kind of company you'd want to do business with.
And when I called to speak to the owner, a 12-year-old tech answered the phone in a bored, monotone voice.
Now, that may have been just the one and only time that day that that person answered the phone.
But what if I had actually been a hot prospect and that was my first true interaction with the business? Not a great feel, not a great consistency for that brand.
There's an estate agent's shop near my home, which for years has subjected pedestrians walking past to a very leaky gutter whenever it rains. Right next to their front door and display window.
I've noticed this for years because you can see people dodging around it. In fact, talking to a friend recently about which estate agent we were going to use to sell our houses, the friend said: "I certainly won't be going to the estate agent with the drip."
And rather than talking about the brand, and the name, and how good that estate agent might be at selling houses, we were talking about the agent's leaky gutter.
I appreciate it's likely to be their landlord's problem. But that leak's been there for years. People are judging the agent by their inability to fix a leak from their own office. They should just get a maintenance guy up a ladder to seal in the gutter.
So how do you change your brand?
How do you get it to where you think it should be? Well, I would start by surveying your existing customers.
You could send them either a Survey Monkey or CrowdSignal (which is the new name for PollDaddy) and start by asking them some open questions.
- What is it they like about what you do?
- What makes them feel happy?
- How do they feel when they have to speak to you? (bearing in mind that 9 times out of 10, when they speak to you, it's because something's broken. Or it's because they're going to have to spend some money)
You could look at every single interaction that you have with people on your website, in your social media, with email marketing. What can you do to make it consistent? What can you do to make sure what's written in the tickets has the same voice as what's written in your emails and what goes into your social media?
Remember, it's all about feelings, not looks. Getting a good brand and a good visual look is just part of the mix. But overall, it's how people feel about you.
One thing I do in my business to achieve a consistent voice is to do all of the communications myself. So I write all of the marketing emails. I write all of the website content. I do all of the social media and all of the videos.
Now, that happens to be one of my superpowers; the ability to churn out a high level of content. But because it's physically one person creating it, it all has the same voice. It has a consistency to it.
The price I pay for this is that I must get other members of my team + outsourced help doing all the other things that don't really matter so much. Like admin, invoicing, etc. Actually, that suits me, because I enjoy marketing and I enjoy content creation.
In your MSP, if you don't enjoy that content creation (and I've met very few MSPs that DO enjoy marketing and content creation!), then that's the thing you would outsource.
But you need to make sure it has that consistent voice. Normally, that means finding your power team and sticking with them long-term. One designer, one website person, and one content person.
You can find these kinds of people on Fiverr and on PeoplePerHour. The easiest way to find new suppliers like this is to give the same job to three people and see which one you like the most. And then that person becomes your content person for the next five years or so.
But one final note on this, you've got to remember that your brand is only part of the overall marketing mix
It's a one-off job to get it right.
What's most important is direct response marketing. Focusing on getting your brand right isn't going to grow the business, it's just going to smooth things along the way.
Mucking about with your logo and the design of your website isn't going to get you new business by itself. It's just going to smooth things along the way.
What gets you business is doing LinkedIn every day. It's building your audiences. It's sending out promotional emails. It's doing activity on social media. That's what brings the business in.
And if you've only got a finite amount of time, that's really what you should be focusing on.