Magazine Article | July 2, 2018

MSPs And Marketing: Is Outsourced Marketing Right For Your Business?

Source: Channel Executive Magazine

By Erin Harris, Executive Editor

A look inside the playbook of an MSP that outsources its marketing to the pros

Marketing is integral to growing and shaping the business, yet its extensive and nuanced nature likely doesn’t fall within your company’s core competencies. As an MSP, you sell your services and expertise to companies whose core competencies are not IT. Therefore, does it make sense to outsource your own marketing department to the pros so you can better focus on why your clients rely on you? (Spoiler alert — it’s not your marketing skills.) David Spire, VP and chief development officer at entechUS, explains why the company turned to outsourced marketing and why they haven’t looked back.

AS SOMEONE WHO OFFERS OUTSOURCED SERVICES, WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR OUTSOURCING YOUR OWN MARKETING DEPARTMENT?

We work tirelessly to serve our clients with excellence. For us in our search for the ideal marketing partner, it boiled down to three primary items:

  1. DID THEY “GET US”? — We wanted a partner who understood our business model, our sales cycles, our ideal buyer personas, and how to penetrate ideal prospects through a multitude of marketing mediums. We aren’t like our competitors, so it was key for us to know that we are going to work with someone who wouldn’t try and apply the same template to our messaging and strategy that they did to the other 50 to 500 MSPs they work with.
  2. BRAND AWARENESS — Part of our journey included redefining our identity. We are a 20-year-old company that pioneered managed services in our community. It was time that we invested the same effort in curve-jumping our brand and messaging, as we have with how we deliver services.
  3. ACCOUNTABILITY — If not purposefully managed and reported upon, we know that marketing can become a vortex of time and money. It was critical to us to find a partner who understood and embraced certain success metrics that were clearly agreed upon from the start. Actionable KPIs — not things like page views or email clickthroughs. We are talking about the ultimate marketing KPI — marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

HOW MUCH RESEARCH DID YOU NEED TO DO BEFORE PARTNERING WITH THE RIGHT MARKETING GROUP?

I’d like to think that we did a thorough due diligence and vetting process. We considered everything from local marketing firms to regional as well as national options. We met with options that focused exclusively in the managed service provider vertical to those who were more horizontally focused. Knowing that this was likely one of the most important decisions we could make in impacting our growth and reaching our business objectives, we wanted to treat the process and decision as such. At the end of the process, it took us about two months, meeting with seven different potential partners, and what felt like 100 phone calls, demos, and meetings.

WHAT IS YOUR EXPECTATION OF THEM?

The same thing our clients expect of us — take the day-to-day burden of tasks and people management off our backs, allowing highly trained and skilled specialists to do what they do best, and deliver results, on time, on budget, and with at or better agreed-upon KPIs. All while we can focus our effort on other business- and community-building endeavors. Having said all of that, another way to frame our expectations would be the generation of MQLs — that’s the ultimate expectation and success criteria.

WHAT IS THEIR EXPECTATION OF YOU?

Timely communication and approvals. Stay out of their way, and let them do what they do best.

Nobody likes “that client” who thinks they know more about IT than our engineers or strategy managers (vCIOs). We are careful to allow our marketing partner the space to apply their system to drive the agreed-upon results. If we mess with their recipe, their cake probably won’t turn out as planned, and that would be on us. Their success is our success.

DO THEY PERFORM ALL ASPECTS OF MARKETING, IN ALL MEDIUMS?

Yes, they are responsible for all of it, and for us, there are a few reasons why that is important. For starters, they actually can do all aspects. They have a staff robust enough to have specialists in each of these areas, driving more value to us as a client. Second, it drives continuity of our marketing plan and message. As an MSP, we generally wouldn’t want to do half a project and have some other firm do the other half, especially if we have the talent to do the whole project. We crave that ultimate responsibility. We viewed this decision the same way. Lastly, we appreciate the “one throat to choke” mentality. They have all the autotomy to be successful and keep us as a long-term client, or they run the risk of not delivering and losing us as a client. We want to give someone every opportunity to be successful doing it “their way.”

DOES YOUR OUTSOURCED MARKETING TEAM PROVIDE THE ANALYTICS ON THE PROJECTS THEY COMPLETE?

Effort without analytics is nothing more than busy work. From website analytics, to email click-throughs, to form submissions, to lead scoring of suspects MQLs, on to meetings, opportunities, deals closed, and deal value. Our marketing partner gives us real-time dashboards to track every aspect of the buyer’s journey to help us not only understand the value of the effort they are investing into us, but also metrics to help us hold them accountable and train our sales team on any areas of weakness when it comes to lead conversion at each step of the sale process. Without the KPIs and BI, we are driving blind. The most important thing they gave us was a guaranteed number of qualified leads within a certain time frame. So we will hold them to that.

IS SALES INVOLVED, TOO? IF SO, HOW AND WHY?

Absolutely. In our world, marketing and sales are interwoven, not independent silos of effort. Really, the success or failure in our business goes down to the lists we purchase, and we all know, no matter how much you are willing to pay, you can’t buy a magical list. You have to build it, nurture it, scrub it, and invest time into discovering qualified contacts from that list. Then you need to take the qualified contacts and educate them and impress them with your knowledge, all with the expectation that one day, when the need arises, you’ll be at the top of their mind as the absolute, no-brainer call to help them fill their current gap. In an effort to keep this short I’ll just say, it’s up to the sales team to help scrub the list, identify the classification of the leads, and understand the unique nature of the business objectives of the prospects. In addition, they must continue to add that “personal touch” to the process through in-person visits, phone calls, and timely, personal email communication. That could be through invitations to events, latest security trends, or just general follow-ups. We believe that the characteristic of a great marketing team is integrated and active with the sales team. That’s the secret that takes them from good to great.

AT WHAT POINT DOES IT MAKE SENSE FOR AN MSP TO CONSIDER OUTSOURCING PART OR ALL OF ITS MARKETING PROJECTS TO A THIRD-PARTY TEAM?

You should consider outsourcing marketing the moment you are absolutely committed to truly growing your business in a predictable manner — when you are ready to move away from the sales strategy of just referrals to inbound leads. It is our belief that most MSPs should get their marketing program in place long before they even hire their first salesperson. If you are fortunate enough to hire a great salesperson out of the gate (which most of us are not), they will be exponentially more successful with the leverage of a cohesive marketing system behind them. Our suggestion would be to build your marketing engine and, when you have the leads flowing in at such a pace that you, as the principal, can’t find the time to follow up on them, consider hiring a sales resource. Don’t fall into the trap of leveraging an intern or shared resource to build your marketing. Remember, this is how your potential future clients will learn about your company and services — it’s very serious. You need to treat it as such. It needs to be professional, engaging, and consistent. Consistency is key.