While some MSP business owners entered managed services as entrepreneurs, most were system engineers or IT consultants first.

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So from the standpoint of hiring and managing technical talent, most owners have a pretty good grasp of the skillset that’s required to satisfy various clients’ IT needs.

Why is the Entry-Level Technician Managing the Fortune 1000 Data Center?

For example, a managed services CEO would know better than to send a newly-trained CompTIA A+ or Network+ certified technician to manage a Fortune 1000 data center with billions of annual revenue and tens of thousands of employees’ productivity at stake.

But that scenario is largely what we see happening when MSP owners hire their first full-time marketing person. There’s a complete disconnect between the skillset that the MSP actually needs and what the MSP business owner ends up hiring.

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The HIPPO Rules the Roost

At the root, there’s an enormous chasm between goals and budgets. This usually happens because the level of marketing literacy among MSP business owners is astonishingly low and stuck in another era.

However, it’s not actually the low level of marketing literacy that causes the real problem. It’s arrogance and ego:

“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” (Mark Twain)

For example, many managed services CEOs:

  • Have no idea just how low their monthly website traffic is

  • Think it’s perfectly OK to publish content on their websites that have been published elsewhere, on dozens or hundreds of other MSPs’ websites (Has anyone ever heard of duplicate content?)

  • See buying a list and emailing that list as a perfectly acceptable shortcut. (There’s no way to sugarcoat or rationalize it. It’s spamming!)

  • Believe cold calling is effective for generating leads

While just like the Twain quote, there’s controversy about the origins of “In God we trust; all others must bring data”, it describes how most MSP owners should be approaching marketing: making data-driven decisions.

Without data, essentially, it’s just the HIPPO (highest paid person in the organization) who sits at the table and essentially allows their personal beliefs to guide marketing strategy: “I only use Facebook to look at my grandkids’ pictures, so we’re not spending any time or money on social media. Period.”

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Why Entry-Level Marketing Hires at MSPs Face an Uphill Battle

So for the 5 to 25-person managed service provider, the entry-level marketing hire is basically doomed before he or she ever walked in the door for the interview. Here’s why:

The owner has very little time to invest in learning about marketing and may as well cast his or her beliefs about marketing from 10 or 20 years ago into stone. (Phone book advertising anyone? How about a bigger trade show booth? Or catchier radio jingles?)

The MSP is highly invested in one of the two leading professional service automation (PSA) platforms and mistakenly believes that these packages are customer relationship management (CRM) and Inbound marketing software.

The MSP business owner has failed to differentiate their offering from the dozens of other firms in their local community selling nearly identical managed services.

Lead generation is an afterthought because the owner believed he or she would have a bottomless supply of word-of-mouth referrals.

Of the low volume of generated leads, nearly all are received at the end of the sales cycle when engaging in brutal price wars is the only way to win.

The MSP business owner mistakenly believes that their prospects don’t look for vendors via search engines and social media.

The MSP business owner has a lousy understanding of their target market and believes they’re simply trying to reach “small businesses” (with a one-size-fits-none message).

The MSP business owner doesn’t have a grasp on key metrics such as cost of customer acquisition (COCA), lifetime value (LTV), sales cycle milestones, sales cycle days by persona, web-to-lead conversion rates, sales opportunity to client close rates, retention rates, and churn rates – to name a few.

The owner has a very aggressive growth goal, for example doubling or tripling the revenue within one year, but has a ridiculously delusional budget. (This is kind of like trying to move a 5,000-square-foot office on your mini-scooter rather than hiring a moving company.)

The new hire has never held a marketing job and mistakenly believes their personal experience with social media makes him or her very well qualified to double or triple the company’s revenue within 12 months.

The new hire has never worked in the IT services industry before and thinks to themselves, “Gee, they just fix broken computers. How tough could this be?”

The new hire has no one with seniority within the company that actually “gets” modern Inbound marketing with traffic generation, lead generation, sales cycle acceleration, and closed-loop reporting. So virtually any new idea that’s presented to the owner is highly likely to come down to a HIPPO-based standoff.


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How to Best Utilize the Entry-Level MSP Marketing Hire

That said, there are a number of very valuable projects that the entry-level MSP marketing hire should be engaging in:

  • Interview existing customers to create engaging blog posts and develop ideal buyer personas

  • Interview internal subject matter experts, again for both content creation and persona development

  • Build offline relationships with local associations that existing customers and ideal buyers belong to

  • Cultivate relationships with local reporters and journalists that cover topics that your existing customers and ideal buyers are most interested in

  • Book the MSP owner for local speaking engagements and media interviews

  • Engage with existing customers and ideal buyers on social media, so there’s more conversation as opposed to just new content publishing announcements

  • Mine existing PSA and CRM frequently asked questions (FAQs) to create more valuable content for each ideal buyer persona and lifecycle stage

  • Support the owner and internal sales reps with print and online collateral that helps to educate prospects and accelerate the sales cycle

  • Generate more impactful and benefits-rich proposals that allow the owner and sales reps to have deeper discussions with prospects and help them gain trusted advisor status – crucial for closing managed services sales at higher prices

  • Collaborate with external marketing partners such as marketing agencies


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Are MSP business owners expecting way too much from entry-level marketing hires? For the most part: Yes!

In the same way that most would rather have an experienced neurosurgeon perform brain surgery than a recent nursing graduate, MSP CEOs need to be realistic about what’s possible and isn’t from their newly hired marketing coordinator or marketing assistant.

In a larger organization, the CEO might choose to pair up the entry-level marketing hire with a true marketing manager, marketing director, VP of marketing, or chief marketing officer (CMO).

However, the more cost-effective solution for small- to mid-sized MSPs is usually outsourcing: a value proposition that most managed service providers should be exceptionally familiar with and fond of.

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The Optimal Hybrid Combination that Delivers Leads, Clients, and ROI

So pair the entry-level marketing hire with a much more seasoned multi-disciplinary Inbound marketing agency team to give the best of both worlds.

The MSP gets great value from their entry-level employee without needing to recruit, hire, and retain a more seasoned marketing leader, who’d command a salary two to four times higher than that of the entry-level marketing assistant or marketing coordinator. At the same time, the MSP owner doesn’t have to worry about power struggles that inevitably come from recruiting a “big name” marketing executive to a relatively small company.

And the entry-level marketing hire is much happier and more successful too. By collaborating with the multi-disciplinary Inbound marketing agency team, the entry-level marketing hire grows professionally faster – rather than banging their head against the wall with no results – and eventually quitting or getting fired.

In much the same way that MSPs do best with small business clients when there’s a great internal champion – such as a CFO or operations manager – MSP business owners need to stop thinking that their recent marketing grad, who was waiting tables or working as a retail clerk 6 months ago, can carry the weight on their own with extremely aggressive growth goals.

(And while we’re at it, entry- and mid-level MSP sales hires can’t either, without strong lead generation and lead nurturing.)

The answer isn’t an “either-or” scenario. The optimal combination is the hybrid and collaborative partnership between the entry-level MSP marketing hire and the more seasoned multi-disciplinary Inbound marketing agency team.

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Where do most MSP business owners get off track when hiring their first full-time marketing employee? And how has your firm divvied up what marketing responsibilities stay in-house versus what’s outsourced? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.

To begin sketching out what roles and responsibilities need to be covered to really accelerate your company’s growth with website traffic, leads, and clients,  be sure to enroll now in our free 7-day eCourse: Go-to-Market Strategy 101 for B2B SaaS Startups and Scaleups.

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