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Managed services providers (MSPs) need to be very specific about their inbound marketing strategies.
Why? Unlike some IT consulting firms and computer repair businesses that succumb to “target market creep”...where some of their marketing and client list ends up being more B2C (business to consumer) than B2B (business to business), MSPs need to focus.
What should that focus be? Most managed services providers target the SMB (small- and medium-sized business) market segment.
At the most basic level, SMB clients contract for managed services because they need professional IT services, but lack the means to make this happen in-house with internal staff.
Most MSPs will readily admit that managed services crosses over into many related platforms and IT services categories.
Wikipedia defines a managed services provider as an IT company that “manages and assumes responsibility for providing a detailed set of services to their clients, either proactively or as they (not the client) determine that the services are needed.”
The International Association of Cloud & Managed Service Providers (MSPAlliance) sees managed services as “the proactive management of an IT asset or object, by a third party typically known as an MSP, on behalf of a customer. The operative distinction...is the proactive delivery of their service, as compared to reactive IT services, which have been around for decades.”
Some common categories of managed services include:
Backup and disaster recovery (BDR)
Managed print services (MPS)
Mobile device management (MDM)
Remote management and monitoring (RMM)
Unified Communications UC)
For the past several years, managed services has been one of the most rapidly growing categories of IT services.
What are some of the big reasons why SMB clients are so attracted to managed services?
Predictable costs -- No more paying by the hour or massive budget overruns.
Lower costs -- Compared to the cost of SMB clients building IT services capabilities in-house, managed services have a much lower cost structure because overhead can be spread over dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of MSP clients.
More secure -- In these times, even SMB clients have to worry about IT security. But most SMB clients don’t have the resources to hire an experienced chief security officer (CSO). MSPs, or at least the vendors they partner with, do have these resources to ensure that even SMB clients are well protected from common IT security threats.
Now that you know some of the more common categories of managed services and why SMB clients find managed services so compelling, you need a gameplan for finding clients, retaining clients, and growing your business.
If you’re thinking that marketing is the answer, you’re half right. Why only half right?
Because of the massive increase in social media and mobile device usage, consumers don’t shop for services or buy services like they used to.
Just a few short years ago, it was very common for IT services providers, including MSPs, to use a lot of outbound, traditional marketing to get in front of the decision makers.
This included direct mail, cold calling, trade shows, phone book advertising, and print advertising.
Now granted, some of these marketing channels are still somewhat effective when applied correctly, but that’s really not how consumers or SMB decision makers buy anymore.
When was the last time you made a major purchase decision that was sparked by something you received by postal mail?
How often do you answer your phone, landline or mobile, without first looking at caller ID?
When watching TV on your DVR, when was the last time you watched a commercial?
How often do you pull out a paper-based phone book to look for a vendor?
Do you even notice banner ads anymore on websites?
The world has changed.
57% of the typical B2B sales cycle is already over before potential clients get in touch with your company. (Source: CEB on “Why Solution Selling No Longer Works”)
The only way your company participates in that 57% of the sales cycle is by being found -- which means you need a strong search and social presence...the cornerstones of inbound marketing.
But what about the other 43% of the sales cycle? Are you get any inquiries?
That’s an excellent question.
If, as a managed services provider, your company isn’t found while potential clients’ search for solutions to their IT problems, your company will be:
(a) not even considered (e.g. invisible, basically irrelevant), or
(b) only contacted when the sales cycle is basically over and the decision maker needs to fulfill a due diligence requirement to collect “bids” from commodity brokers -- in other words, your company has virtually zero chance of winning that business.
To make sure that your company gets in front of the right decision makers at the right moment, your website needs to be found prominently during that first 57% of the sales cycle.
Inbound marketing allows your managed services provider business to position itself to:
Attract the right visitors to its website
Convert visitors to leads
Close sales with new clients
Delight clients for long-term retention
Learn more about how managed services providers can use proven inbound marketing services to find clients, retain clients, and grow.