Change the Channel’s second episode offered a wealth of practical advice for managed service providers (MSPs) on building their brand and marketing strategies to drive growth. Hosts Dux Raymond Sy, AvePoint Chief Brand Officer, and Janet Schijns, CEO & Co-Founder of JS Group, shared their extensive expertise on current best practices for MSPs to give them a playbook on how to grow their brands in today’s dynamic business environment.
Here is an in-depth recap of the insightful discussion, which built on our inaugural episode focused on the insights MSPs need to thrive (to hear directly from Dux and Janet, you can watch the episode on-demand).
MSPs Face Marketing and Sales Challenges Today
Janet outlined the tough marketing climate many MSPs operate in today. Citing a recent survey, over half of MSPs said their marketing pipeline was worse than expected given economic conditions. An overwhelming 81% reported slower than anticipated sales velocity. However, 15% of MSPs said their pipeline was better than projected. Why? These MSPs adapted to changes in the customer journey.
Historically, buyers spent 51% of their time meeting with sales reps. That has plunged to just 17% today. The rest of the time is self-education through digital channels – online research, social media, communities, reviews and more. This demonstrates marketing now plays a bigger role earlier to spark interest before sales engagement. As a result, MSPs need to evolve strategies to connect with modern buyers.
Start with Your Target Customer Persona
Janet stressed the importance of first defining your ideal customer persona before any marketing. Identify both current happy customers, and who you want to attract. Gather insights into their demographics, common challenges, motivations, where they get information, what messaging resonates and more. This understanding should drive content creation and brand positioning tailored to your audience. Without this tight focus, marketing efforts will be off target and waste resources.
Dux shared AvePoint as an example, which sells solutions to advance the digital workplace through managing cloud collaboration apps like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Salesforce, and others. Their content focuses on issues like data backup, security, compliance, automation, mobility and more – topics their audience cares about deeply. This relevant content draws in qualified organic traffic by answering the questions they search.
Become a Thought Leader with Helpful Content
Dux explained that with people increasingly self-educating online, MSPs must position themselves as thought leaders sharing expertise rather than product pitches. Create blogs, eBooks, webinars, and more assets centered around challenges your audience faces. Educate them on how you can help solve problems. This demonstrates understanding of their world, which builds trust and relationships.
For instance, if people unfamiliar with your company search for questions you can answer and make sure your content appears at the top of searches organically. Providing this helpful knowledge, not hard sells, endears your brand to potential customers as you move them down the funnel.
Participate Consistently Online and In-Person
Janet also advised engaging your audience regularly wherever they spend time, both online and offline. This includes industry forums, LinkedIn groups, Reddit threads, Quora, Spiceworks and more. Contribute value consistently to build familiarity. Attend local in-person events like Chamber of Commerce meetings that attract your buyers. The more touchpoints, the stronger your brand can become.
Dux recalled speaking at local project management meetup groups regularly when he started his MSP prior to joining AvePoint. In these meetings, he shared tips on using SharePoint without pitching his services. Members got to know and trust him over time by providing helpful advice, which led many to ultimately hire him for the SharePoint services he offered.
Track Brand Marketing Performance
Janet emphasized the need to measure marketing efforts to gauge effectiveness and optimize activities. Track metrics like website visitors, media mentions, social followers, and engagement. Surveys can quantify brand sentiment over time. Set specific Key Performance Indicators for each initiative, analyze results continually, and adjust underperforming efforts.
Dux suggested monitoring brand awareness (do people know you?), engagement (do people love you?) and advocacy (are people promoting you?). Metrics for each indicate where you stand, and the progress you have made. Ongoing performance tracking – and making sure your executives are all aligned to what you are tracking – is crucial.
Implement Social Selling to Boost Branding
Social selling leverages sales teams’ personal brands and networks to drive awareness and sales. Janet shared an MSP example where their seven sales reps committed to regular social outreach. By implementing social selling, they increased revenue 311% in one year.
Steps to take to build your social media presence include optimizing profiles, sharing helpful content, engaging prospects online, and connecting. Dedicate time for social media, provide content to share, and track progress. Salespeople active in social selling perform markedly better. This free brand building activity can offer immense marketing returns – and sales.
Take a Hyperlocal Approach
Janet also recommended local partnership initiatives to build community goodwill and gain brand exposure. Identify influential local businesses, leaders, and partners, and then cross-promote each other. Support local charities and events as well to further ties. The more embedded locally, the higher the trust.
One MSP listed 20 respected local businesses on their site with links back. In exchange, these firms hosted banners promoting the MSP. This simple reciprocal outreach netted a 40% increase in leads for the MSP, demonstrating local impact.
Test and Optimize Marketing Efforts
Dux stressed not to abandon marketing initiatives that don’t immediately succeed. The key is to continually test, measure results, gain insights and optimize efforts. Refine messaging, platforms, tactics, content and more until you find your groove. With persistence and a data-driven approach, you will make progress.
Janet built on Dux’s point by describing an MSP who wasted money on ineffective branded cow blankets. This highlights the need to gauge outcomes and redirect spending away from poor performers. Leverage what resonates and expand those programs. If over time other approaches are not working despite attempts to optimize them, redirect your efforts to what is successful.
Start with Your Marketing Plan
In conclusion, Janet emphasized first developing an integrated marketing plan focused on your target audience before launching branding activities. This provides strategic direction and priorities to guide your efforts and spend for maximum impact. Clearly define your objectives, strategies, metrics and more upfront.
This episode of Change the Channel homed in on the fact that MSPs must adapt their branding, marketing, and sales techniques to connect with buyers in the digital age. The hosts shared numerous field-tested best practices and real-world examples of effective approaches. By truly knowing your audience, providing valuable content consistently, taking a hyperlocal approach, embracing social selling, and continually optimizing efforts based on data, MSPs can find ways to expand their brand and their practices in this dynamic business landscape.
Make sure to catch up on past episodes of Change the Channel on the AvePoint YouTube channel. Details about the third episode in the series will be shared in the coming days. Keep an eye on the AvePoint LinkedIn page for more information about the next insightful session so you can learn winning strategies for MSPs in today’s business environment.
You can also visit the AvePoint Partner Program website for more details on how AvePoint helps partners and their end-user customers modernize their digital collaboration security.