After talking with dozens of IT managed services providers and analyzing more than 500 MSP websites, we have a pretty clear understanding why the online marketing of MSPs has been broken. If you are reliably and predictably generating the right leads then you can skip this - just check the short MSP website grader at the bottom. Otherwise stay tuned and read this short article.
Before we start, we need to establish one thing: "Clients we desire do not have IT problems anymore."
If they have visible IT problems, they are not good for us. Why? Well, if in 2015 a potential client has not been able to find someone who can take care of their basic IT needs we have to watch out. They either have not been able to or have not wanted to spend on IT.
Our best customers are the ones who understand IT and want more services because they think technology can deliver value to them.
The only way we’ll see qualifying prospects with visible IT problems in a given department is when the IT provider has been dropping the ball continually, and we all know this is happening less and less frequently.
Most potential clients have solved the MSP 1.0 problems: infrastructure, networks, devices, virtualization, and some cloud. We need those people because they want to move forward. These are our "best potential clients." Unfortunately, they have solved the traditional problems with someone else, but that does not dictate that they have to continue to solve their next challenges without us.
If we agree on this, we can now start analyzing why our current websites are not working.
First Sin: Tech content instead of business content
Tech content makes us service techs . It was great when people needed those tech people, but now they need more intelligent, trusted advisors, and IT consultants (even if they don’t know it). Now the client's problem is not that the server is slow, but how to integrate the whole ecosystem, how to get out better information out, and other non-technical issues.
Your current website is talking about technology if there is a visible support number, a dazzling picture of fancy servers, or your Microsoft Golden partnership.
It demonstrates the wrong value proposition. It shows that if they have an IT technical problem, you are the best candidate. Of course you are, but you should not limit the value proposition.
Your potential value proposition should be: my company will make you more competitive. Your clients hardly think a better server will help them beat their competition, so the content should focus on business, talking business lingo like cash flow, finance, sales enablement, collaboration, etc; If you think this way you may be surprised how much more effective your website and social media campaigns can be.
Remember, your prospect is not the office manager, but the CEO of a potential company. A CEO who has successfully solved the MSP 1.0 problem, and yet does not know anything about the new wave of services about IT management.
TODO: Change your value proposition to something more modern, better reflecting needs now and in the future.
REFERENCE: Check out the MSP 2.0 value proposition blogpost about ways of communication.
Second Sin: Talking about me instead of them
Most IT managed services providers are talking about themselves. Just look around, check your site. My services, me, our team, our skills, partnerships, certifications, our support hours, our 24/7...
Nobody understands MSP services better than the CEO of the MSP, whereas most of the support people do not understand the concepts, whys, and the service offering. Further most clients have only glanced through the services and signed the contract without understanding the details.
Our MSP website is not there to educate them; it is there first to create desire and engender action, and secondly to give them the necessary information to support the decision.
Problems and opportunities drive curiosity and desire.
Problems include the changing workforce, control of the workflow among people and in collaboration, communication breakdowns, too many emails in the inbox, broken processes, and lack of automation.
Opportunities include increasing better customer satisfaction with customer loyalty application, faster sales cycles with well implemented CRM, and better information distribution with online dashboards to name a few.
These topics can help you develop the stories about your clients you discuss, assuring them that they’re being understood. Through social media, you can get much better traction with that style of communication.
TODO: Change the conversation from us and our services to them and their goals, opportunities, and problems.
REFERENCE: Check the marketing library for infographics and ebooks you can use for engaging conversation.
Third Sin: There is no Call To Action
Most of those 500+ MSP websites we analyzed do not let the prospect go through a natural process. The site does not help them get to the right content, show them value, get some interest and then let them make the next step. 95% of the blog posts made by MSPs have no clear Call To Action.
The blog is an investment of time, skills, and commitment. It is created for a reason. Managed services providers run business blogs with business goals and, like the blog you are reading now, they serve a purpose. You read it to get the concepts that hopefully prepare you to move to the next step. The next step is to move forward by clicking one of the Calls to Action and to discover more about the topic. My duty is to create a text that you like, and give you that next step. Of course, that next step has to be followed by another next step.
Another issue is that IT companies are often driven to seal the deal as quickly as possible. They give the prospect 3 to 4 hours to evaluate a strategic relationship. They send a 2 to 20 page offering contract, assume the client understands everything and is immediately qualified to move forward. This process is not suitable for a trusted advisory relationship; only to evaluate a simple process.
Putting together the issues of the lacking next step and the rush to close we see are missing a natural process in a short sales cycle - it gives us the chance to change this practice at once.
The Calls to Action have to be relevant to where you are, what you see and to your prospect's persona. Most managed services providers have a Call to Action which is general to all. Free consultation or free network assessment is not compelling enough to somebody who is not ready to buy. We all know these are sales calls. We need some softer approach to nurture the prospects. From the prospect’s point of view there is no visible IT urgent pain right now. Our thoughtful leadership and our business content is the key to moving forward.
The process has to ensure we get to know each other and that they feel they want to try before they buy, but we do not need to give anything away for free. We have to give them a chance to slow down and work together before they commit themselves..
TODO: Plan a natural buying process as a prospect and implement the proper Call to Action to support it.
REFERENCE: Check lead magnets that are little tools you can implement onto your site for this reason.
Fourth Sin: Assuming they get the idea
No. They do not. They do not understand how unproductive they are, how much time they are spending in meetings without follow-ups, or proper documentation of the tasks. They do not know how much information there is in the system that could help them make better decisions or enable their people with the right collaboration tools to kickstart productivity. They do not understand how technology can make them a better, more profitable, cooler, more agile, valuable organization.
They think IT is infrastructure elements: their desktops, plug-ins, network devices and servers. Of course, these have nothing to do with the topics we’ve mentioned.
Your role is to enlighten them about the huge potential competitive advantage IT can be.
One way is to educate. It is good for the people who are interested and thoughtful to understand how IT can be more than just devices. They can access information like ebooks, blogs, articles, etc;
The other way is to challenge and involve them in a conversation. Make it interactive and present a current problem and let them measure how they are performing and how much they know about the topic. This is a more involving element needed to break away for the status-quo indoctrination of IT. We have to inspire them, but not necessarily convince them right off; just make them curious to learn more.
To learn more from us personally, join a webinar, workshop, or 1-1 session to meet with a thoughtful leader - the guru who knows what is next.
TODO: Create interactive discovery tools for the prospects to dig into the topics on their own and at their own pace.
REFERENCE: The little surveys called 'Graders' are designed to ask questions and let them "grade" themselves and get scores about different areas of their business.
Bonus Sin: No automation, no systems
Very few managed services providers are using marketing automation. One reason is that these are expensive tools, and it’s a fair amount of work to put together the necessary automation. However, these tools are necessary to engage the clients in the long run.
The prospect may come to our website for the first time because of a Pay Per Click ad, a reference, or more likely following some interesting content. They come and check things out, and sign up for something easy to get like an ebook, or to solve one specific problem, subscribe to our blog or just complete a little Grader, calculator, or download an infographic. Then they leave. Of each hundred visits only a small percentage will follow through to any higher engagement. Without automation none of the rest will ever come back.
If we want to have a more predictable sales funnel, we have to nurture leads. If we send back regular emails regarding where they;ve shown interest - not sales filled emails, but email courses, more ebook offerings, invites to webinars, lunch and learns, your LinkedIn group, and your community, they will respond more favourably.
The nurturing approach is a great tool once they are in our MSP sales process. Our MSP marketing communication can help our sales resources. They can send more relevant content to the prospects during the process, helping them solve some problems in a general way, showing the talent of the company and earning trust sooner.
TODO: Set up workflows and marketing automation that compellingly nurture the client.
REFERENCE: A couple of ideas about why marketing automation works for MSPs.
These five sins stem from one root: how MSPs have traditionally sold services when flawless IT infrastructure was scarce. If IT infrastructure is the only commodity this model doesn’t work. Addressing this problem is not a daunting task or a large investment though: MSPs just need to reframe themselves first and then start reframing their clients so IT is not seen as a commodity but a great potential competitive advantage.
You can participate in the MSP website benchmark to see how your site is performing regarding traffic, social media, and rankings. Also, you can get insights into how your website compares to your competition locally. We need you and your competitors URL and we do the analysis for you. Sign up for the Private Workshop now!