2020 MSP Marketing Guide Part 1 of 4: Your Marketing Budget
In this four-part blog series, we’re going to talk about what it takes to market and grow your MSP. We’re going to look at this from the perspective of a small IT company, but expand outwards to be inclusive for more established managed service providers.
Throughout this series, we’re going to cover the following topics:
- How much should MSPs spend on marketing and what to do when there isn’t a marketing budget.
- What’s the bare-minimum marketing infrastructure you need to grow beyond just being a referral-based IT company.
- How to budget and effectively launch aggressive, targeted campaigns
- How to plan and justify the costs of marketing and get a return on investment.
For a lot of MSPs, trying to determine where to allocate your marketing budget to get the best return on investment can feel like herding kittens. We all have limited marketing budgets and don’t want to choose a method that isn’t going to show a return, so it’s easy to feel like we need to be choosy when we pull the trigger on marketing services. Let’s talk about how to determine your marketing spend, and what to do if your budget isn’t very high (or doesn’t exist yet).
How Much Should My MSP Spend On Marketing?
As a general rule of thumb, new and growing companies should plan on putting around 20 percent of their gross revenue into marketing. That number can start to go down for more established companies with massive brand recognition, but if you want to grow, be prepared to put effort into it. This is especially true when word-of-mouth growth starts to stagnate.
What If My MSP Doesn’t Have a Marketing Budget?
When times are tight, 20 percent can feel like a major barrier. For small one-man shops, growing your business might mean a lot of hard work and sneaker marketing. Sneaker marketing is where you are spending your evenings going to chamber of commerce events and taking prospects, clients, and referrals out to dinner. In other words, whatever it takes to physically get in front of the people you want to do business with.
At the very least, you need to be active in the places that other local business owners are, making friends and sharing business cards. Drive people back to your website, and make sure the content on your website reflects the conversations you are having. There’s no easy way to say it; if you aren’t able to pay for marketing, you’ll need to bustle to get in front of people.
Granted, thanks to COVID-19 and the global pandemic, this has put a damper on a lot of face-to-face meetings. That doesn’t mean sneaker marketing is dead in the water. Some organizations are still holding networking events, either with very strict safety precautions or via digital efforts. If your local chamber of commerce or other local peer groups haven’t adopted virtual events, a local IT expert such as yourself might be able to help them. It doesn’t hurt to offer your time to run events.
Here are a few other things you could be doing.
If you are doing great work for your existing clients, there is no shame in asking for referrals. If you get one, whether you asked for it or not, make sure you thank your client with a thank you note. Including a gift card, box of cookies, or gift basket is an encouraged touch as well. Do this even if the referral doesn’t turn into something.
FREE DIY REFERRAL CAMPAIGN FOR JOOMCONNECT CLIENTS
If you are using JoomConnect or any of our marketing services, be sure to check out this free referral campaign found in our knowledge center. You’ll need to log in to access it, as it’s only available to clients.
Get Your List into a CRM
Even if you don’t have any budget whatsoever for marketing, you need a place to organize your contacts. For us, we use ConnectWise, which makes a lot of sense for us since we also manage our tickets, projects, schedules, agreements, and billing through it. There are plenty of other CRM platforms out there, but if the software you use to manage the rest of your day can let you categorize and organize prospects and leads, use it.
Of course, we save ourselves a lot of steps by integrating ConnectWise into our website using JoomConnect. When a prospect fills out a form on our website, it can generate service tickets, schedule activities, add new companies and contacts, create opportunities, and add that user to marketing groups and tracks. This automation helps keep our system organized and fluid.
Above all else though, make sure you take really good care of your contacts list. Leads and prospects need good notes, and organize them into groups based on their industry, size, requirements, solutions they might need, and more.
Touch your leads regularly, either with an email or a phone call. Even if you can only make time for 2-3 leads per day, that ends up being 40-60 follow-ups per month, and a quick check-in can turn into a lot more on the right day.
Start this habit early, because as you start building out your marketing, you’ll really wish you had been taking good care of your lists.
Get Free Marketing Resources or Marketing Development Funds from Your Vendors
Your vendors would love it if you moved more of their hardware or licensed out more software for them. They love it so much, many of them probably have ways to help you do it. It’s not always clear on their website, but if you talk to your account manager or log in to your portal with certain vendors, you might find some resources that you can use.
Other times, a vendor might be able to give you funds towards marketing. They’ll make you do all the legwork, but at least they will cover some or all of the cost of marketing. We’re very familiar with working with clients and their vendors in this way. In fact, we’ve also worked with several vendors in the IT channel to help them build out campaigns to give to their partners, who sometimes then rely on us to fulfill the campaigns.
One more thing, as a side note, we have often made decisions based on whether or not a vendor has marketing materials or offers MDF funds. If two vendors offer about the same thing, the one that also has some marketing/sales material always breaks the stalemate.
Some Other Free Resources We Offer
Speaking of free stuff! We’ve got some resources for you too! Definitely be sure to grab these:
If you have one of our Ultimate MSP Websites, a part of your monthly agreement includes access to our MSPW Library. Each month we add several pieces to this library, typically in the form of a small campaign. You are free to use those, and if you need help fulfilling the campaign, just reach out.
A few examples of these mini-campaigns:
- Windows 7 End of Life Campaign
- Data is a Commodity Campaign
- Value of Managed IT Services Campaign
- Identify a Cyberattack Campaign
- IT Strategy Campaign
(These campaigns are for JoomConnect clients who have an active MSP Website agreement. If you are an existing client and would like us to resend these campaigns to you, just reach out to us.)
I’ve Got a Marketing Budget, What Should I Spend It On?
In our next post, we’re going to talk about where your MSP marketing budget should go, first by establishing a base of the bare-minimum ongoing marketing designed to sustain your brand presence, and then by exploring what the one-off, aggressive marketing tactics would look like to actually convert more and grow your MSP. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss it!