3 Essential Marketing Strategies Every IT MSP Must Use to Grow in 2023
Many IT Managed Services Providers (MSPs) struggle with using marketing to grow. And it's not surprising!
Because if you search Google for “marketing strategy ideas,” you’ll often get ideas like “post on social media,” “run LinkedIn ads,” or “create content for SEO.” But here’s the problem: None of these are marketing strategies. They are marketing tactics – what we like to call "random acts of marketing."
This approach fails to attract and convert leads into sales and can be unsustainable in the long term. Without a solid marketing plan, you risk wasting time and money on tactics that may not work.
One of the biggest challenges for IT MSPs is attracting and converting leads into sales. Referrals are a popular way of generating leads, but relying on them as the sole form of lead generation can be unsustainable in the long term. The sales cycle is often long, especially for those selling complex solutions to larger enterprises. New business is closed over a period of months or even years, not days and weeks. And for this reason, IT MSP leaders often can’t see the results from marketing (or the lack thereof) until after they’ve made significant investments.
That’s why taking the time to build your strategy before making any major investments in marketing is crucial. You can’t afford to spend 6-12 months or more being uncertain if your marketing investment is going to pay off. (And it’s why every time we work with a new IT MSP client, we start by creating a marketing plan.)
But what types of strategies are most effective for IT MSPs? And what is involved in each strategy? We’ll share the three strategies every IT MSP needs to grow – but first, let’s start by explaining the difference between strategy and tactics.
What is Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Tactics?
Many marketers and leaders confuse marketing strategy with marketing tactics, but they are two different things, and understanding the difference is crucial to your success.
Marketing strategy is your overall game plan for how marketing will accomplish specific business goals.
Marketing tactics, on the other hand, are the specific actions you take to execute your strategy.
To be effective, your marketing strategy should flow downward from your overarching business goals. For example, if your goal is to increase sales by 10% for your cybersecurity offering, your marketing strategy might be to "Build awareness for cybersecurity offering through inbound and outbound marketing."
Supporting tactics for this strategy could include publishing white papers, creating blog content, improving SEO, running advertisements, and sending marketing emails to your list.
By aligning your marketing tactics with your overall business goals, you can be sure that every marketing activity is working towards a specific objective. This approach will help you achieve better results and avoid wasting resources on ineffective tactics that don't contribute to your overall business success.
IT MSP Marketing Strategy 1: Stay in front of your customers with Outbound Marketing.
Outbound marketing is the traditional method of marketing, involving your company pushing messaging out to potential customers. It includes things like trade shows, cold calling, buying email lists, direct mail, and most types of advertising. And if you're like many IT MSPs, this is probably where you're starting from with your marketing.
Outbound marketing can be effective, but IT Leaders and Business Leaders alike – in other words, your top buyers – have become adept at avoiding many of these things. Caller ID, spam filters, and ad blockers have all come to fruition for just this reason.
There are even more downsides to outbound marketing. Outbound marketing can be expensive as customer acquisition costs tend to be higher compared to other forms of marketing. Moreover, it requires a significant budget and repetition. If you pause your outbound marketing efforts, such as spending on trade shows or ads, your prospects may no longer see your marketing messages.
Every IT MSP should have outbound marketing among the strategies it uses to acquire new customers and close new business. But it should only be one of the weapons in your IT MSP business' strategic arsenal.
IT MSP Marketing Strategy 2: Attract, convert, close, and delight prospects with Inbound Marketing.
Inbound marketing is a powerful way for IT MSPs to attract, convert, close, and delight prospects. It's all about providing value and building trust at every step of the buyer's journey. This means offering the right content, website experiences, and communication channels at the right time, when your prospects want and need it.
The difference between inbound and outbound: While outbound marketing focuses on interrupting to get someone’s attention, inbound focuses on earning that attention.
The benefits of inbound marketing are clear: it tends to have a lower customer acquisition cost than outbound, and it can build momentum over time as you do more of it. But perhaps the most important reason to invest in inbound marketing is that modern buyers are doing 67% of their research and decision-making independently, online.
If you don't have a great web presence and the right content to help your buyers do their research, they'll turn to your competitors instead. And in today's hyper-competitive IT MSP market, that can mean losing out on valuable business opportunities.
To get started with inbound marketing, begin by identifying your top two to three buyer personas. Who are the key decision-makers and influencers in your target market, and what are their pain points, challenges, and goals? Once you have a clear understanding of your buyer personas, you can create a content map that outlines the types of content you need to create and where they fit into the buyer's journey.
Conduct a gap analysis to identify where you're missing content at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel. For example, do you have enough educational content to attract visitors to your website and build awareness of your brand? Do you have enough mid-funnel content to help prospects evaluate your solutions and make a decision? And do you have enough bottom-funnel content to help close deals and turn prospects into customers?
Once you've identified the content gaps, focus on creating high-quality, relevant content that addresses your buyer's pain points and provides value. This might include blog posts, eBooks, white papers, webinars, and more. And don't forget to optimize your content for search engines to ensure that your prospects can find you when they're searching for solutions to their problems.
Be sure to align your inbound marketing strategy to how your MSP goes to market. For example, if you focus on serving a local market, then local SEO and related content is going to be essential.
On the other hand, if you serve a national market within one or more specific verticals, then instead you'll want to create content specifically related to the IT problems and challenges your ideal customers in that vertical experience. A pro-tip for those MSPs serving vertical markets: look at the unique software tools that customers in your vertical use. There may be gaps in the content that's out there, where you can quickly gain top rankings and share helpful content that helps your buyers who are having software issues!
IT MSP Marketing Strategy 3: Accelerate sales and close more deals with key target accounts using Account-Based Marketing.
Inbound and outbound marketing are like casting a big net in the sea – you'll catch all types of fish, but you may not catch the specific one you're looking for. Account-based marketing (ABM), on the other hand, is like spearfishing for a very specific type of account. It's a strategy that is highly targeted and personalized, designed to accelerate sales and close more deals with key target accounts.
For IT MSPs, the challenge lies in identifying those key target accounts. Depending on the way you go to market, you may either address a local geography or sell into certain vertical segments regardless of geography. To build a target account list for ABM, you need to identify the specific characteristics of your ideal customer profile (ICP) based on your sales history and market research. If you are targeting a local geography, you'll need to look at companies in your area that match your ICP. If you sell into a specific national vertical segment, you'll need to identify companies within that vertical that match your ICP.
Once you have identified your target accounts, the next step is to personalize your marketing efforts towards them. This includes tailoring your messaging, content, and outreach to address the specific pain points and challenges of each target account. Personalization is key to ABM - it's what sets it apart from traditional marketing methods and helps you stand out from the competition.
ABM is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, and it requires a significant investment of time and resources to execute effectively. But for IT MSPs looking to accelerate sales and close more deals with key target accounts, it can be a highly effective approach. By identifying and targeting the right accounts with personalized marketing efforts, you can build stronger relationships with your prospects and ultimately drive more revenue for your business.
Adopt These 3 Marketing Strategies to Grow Your IT Managed Service Provider
Focusing on only one or two of these marketing strategies can mean falling behind the competition and missing out on potential customers. The most successful MSPs adopt all three key strategies: outbound, inbound, and account-based marketing (ABM), to maximize their growth and stay ahead of the curve.
Today, the most successful MSPs are adopting all three of these strategies to maximize their growth. By having a strategy for outbound, inbound, and account-based marketing, you can build better awareness among your target customers, build a stronger pipeline for your services, and ultimately drive more sales and revenue.
At Aspire, we specialize in helping IT MSPs grow their business through effective marketing strategies. We offer a complimentary assessment to help identify areas of opportunity and create a tailored plan for your business. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you reach your growth goals.
- What is Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Tactics?
- 1. Stay in front of your customers with Outbound Marketing
- 2. Attract, convert, close, and delight prospects with Inbound Marketing
- 3. Accelerate sales and close more deals with key target accounts using Account-Based Marketing
- Conclusion: Adopt These 3 Marketing Strategies to Grow Your IT Managed Service Provider
Aaron Marks is the President and Founder of Aspire Marketing Group. A digital pioneer with nearly two decades of online marketing experience, Aaron has helped organizations ranging from fledgling startups to Fortune 500 enterprises, and global manufacturers to U.S. Presidential campaigns, get the marketing and business results they needed.