One of the most challenging aspects of running an MSP is finding new customers. While this is not unique for MSPs, the amount of competition MSPs face is relatively higher than most other businesses, primarily because there isn’t a tremendous amount of differentiation between service providers. The challenge is how you get prospects to truly understand that your services will be better than other MSPs in your geography.

How to get MSP clients

Among the MSP community, it’s widely acknowledged that selling is a very different skill set from running an MSP. One contributor to an MSP chat site stated “Sales is a special skill. If I had it, I would have my own MSP.” Selling means trying to find companies switching to an MSP for the first time or trying to pry a customer away from another competitor — both real challenges.

We looked at MSP sales advice on the web and found it commonly fell into one of three buckets:

Referrals

One of the best sources for new customers is a referral. Referrals are free, come from the heart (and pocketbook) of existing clients and are based on real knowledge of your products and services. ClubMSP advises, “Offer incentives to your current clients, such as discounts, movie tickets or other gifts, to thank them for any referrals that they might send your way.” Referrals are not only cost-effective, but also a powerful means of generating new customers. However, you must proactively and consistently work on them to generate value. Here are a few ways you can grow your referral base without seeming too pushy or needy:

  1. Do a great job: This may seem obvious but the best way to get your customers to refer you is to do what you do best by providing exceptional IT services and support. This often goes beyond reactive break/fix support. Your offering should provide strategic value to your customers’ business. More than 80% of consumers are willing to refer after a positive experience, yet only 29% actually do. This may be because you didn’t ask, or the referral process is complicated and time-consuming.
  2. You have to ask: Despite 84% of B2B decision makers beginning their buying process with a referral, only 11% of sales professionals ask for one. If you’ve received great feedback from a customer after a meeting, phone call or quarterly business review (QBR), use that opportunity to ask if they would be willing to spread the word. Work the ask in your conversation and keep it casual, but direct and sincere. This may be as simple as saying something like “I’m thrilled to hear you’re happy with our service. Who else do you know who might benefit from working with us?”. You’ve likely heard “no” or “let me think about it” often, but stay persistent. If they are able to give you a name, thank your customer by making it incredibly easy for them to connect you with their peer(s).
  3. Do the heavy lifting for them: Your customer is doing you a favor by referring you. Make their job easier by providing ready-made referral templates that make it straightforward to plug in the right information and press “send.”

Use a variety of delivery methods to ask current customers

Once you have conceived your referral program, there are a number of ways to get your ask in front of your customers. Some ways include direct email campaigns, phone campaigns, invoice inserts, QBRs and email signatures. Of course, you must have clients to get referrals, which makes this a tougher challenge for new businesses.

There is a Reddit thread where contributors discuss how best to find prospects. One piece of advice on getting referrals includes offering heavily discounted services to not-for-profits. The hope is to get referrals and then market that you are a good member of the community. However, there is a warning from those who have done this in the past. “There can be a lot of complexity with nonprofits, from funding sources to resource allocation. Get used to long timelines for payments and filing invoices.” Another stated “I like the idea of starting with a nonprofit, as long as they don’t only refer me to other businesses saying, ‘this guy’s services are cheap.’” He continued, advising to make sure your invoice includes the real price of your services with the discount listed. This way, they are reminded they are getting a deal with every bill.

Networking

This is a labor and time-intensive approach. You have to attend meetings to let people get to know you, and this will take you away from running your business. You have to invest time for this channel to pay off. Some good advice offered is “if the group isn’t generating business after a period of time, then change the group.”

You may want to join groups with other business owners, such as your local Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and others. Social clubs like the Rotary may also provide a more relaxed setting to meet and establish relationships with prospective clients. Many of these organizations offer networking lunches or dinners where you can develop relationships and spread the word about your services. Even if you don’t come away with a referral, well-structured peer groups provide a great opportunity to practice talking about your organization and services and hone your messaging.

A common sentiment is the need for you to have a solid elevator pitch. You should be able to describe and differentiate your offering in one sentence, 30-seconds, one minute and two minutes. Your pitch should focus on how you make your customers’ lives better, why your services stand apart, and less on you and your background.

You may also use networking to reorient your prospects. A business currently looking to hire system admins or an IT team provides you with an opportunity to explain how your services are a better fit, more cost-effective and more flexible than keeping an IT team on staff in-house.

Marketing and advertising

It goes without saying that marketing and advertising are a must for any business in order to thrive, and MSPs are no different. Your MSP must invest in marketing and advertising to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. A good marketing strategy not only helps attract new customers, but also retain existing ones. There is a sea of options for marketing communications, channels and strategies to choose from that your MSP can capitalize on to gain a competitive advantage. That said, your marketing activities will greatly rely on budget, resources and time.

Marketing and advertising are much more complex than they sound. Listed below are some strategies that will get your MSP up to speed.

Define your goals: Before you start your marketing initiatives, it is vital to set your goals. What is it that you are trying to achieve — brand awareness, leads or revenue? Once you have set your goals and identified the target audience, you must come up with a specific idea and messaging that will drive the marketing campaign.

Select marketing channels: In today’s digital age, there is no dearth of marketing channels — right from your company’s website and emails to social media — they serve as a powerful medium to promote and market your products and/or services.

Word-of-mouth marketing: “The secret to marketing success is no secret at all: Word of mouth is all that matters.” – Seth Godin. Word-of-mouth marketing is organic, inexpensive and perhaps one of the most effective of all marketing strategies. It is also one of the most difficult to execute and requires consistent effort. This also means going the extra mile to support your clients. It is an experience that your current clients share with other businesses. You must encourage your clients to share their stories with you, collect client testimonials and share them on your website and social platforms.

Content marketing: One of the best ways to boost visibility and entice prospective clients is through content marketing. This can be done through blog posts, eBooks, videos, case studies, webinars and podcasts, to name a few. This marketing technique can be applied to all the three stages of the buyer’s journey — awareness, consideration and decision.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): As Andy Crestodina says, “It’s not the best content that wins. It’s the best promoted content that wins.” The internet is a crowded space, and it is very easy to get lost. SEO is the best digital marketing tool that you can leverage to position your MSP, make your content more visible and attract more traffic to your website.

Well-established organizations and larger MSPs utilize both an in-house marketing team as well as external marketing agencies to promote their business. Your MSP can choose both or either of the two, depending on your budget and resources. Having an in-house marketing team will give you greater control over your marketing campaigns. By hiring an external agency, you can also leverage the expertise of professionals who specialize in marketing.

Supercharge your sales and marketing with Powered Services

Your technology vendors should be able to provide support beyond simply their technology that allows you to differentiate yourself and accelerates your go-to-market (GTM) strategy. This enables you to overcome the costly challenge of developing collateral to obtain new customers while simultaneously allowing you to deliver more effective, lucrative services to expand your existing client base.

Unitrends MSP offers such an approach by delivering real sales and marketing support through our Powered Services organization in addition to enabling you to offer superior business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) services to your clients. Powered Services is designed to close content marketing gaps and nurture your sales organization to help you grow your monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

Powered Services provides our MSP partners with fresh marketing campaigns each month, with a content library of more than 2,000 sales and marketing assets to help you sell your complete managed services offering, not just Unitrends. Highly customizable, we take the heavy lifting out of generating marketing content, so you can easily brand and tweak assets to match your brand, style and value prop. Beyond marketing, you will get to work one-on-one with a dedicated MSP coach to help you further develop your sales, events, trainings and more.

Sound interesting? Check out Powered Services Pro for MSPs. We believe you will like what you see and join our ever-growing community of supercharged MSPs.

About Adam Marget

Adam is a Technical Specialist on the Unitrends marketing team supporting digital and in-market events. Over the last 4 years with Unitrends, he has been delighted at the opportunity to work with customers, prospects, and partners alike to help solve challenges around data protection and business continuity. Adam joined Unitrends in 2016, bringing with him experience working with variety of manufacturers’ technology from edge to core as a coworker from national IT solutions provider CDW.