Let’s face it – marketing sucks! Especially when you’re a small firm with the weight of the business world on your shoulders. I’d say it’s actually more time consuming than difficult, and time is something very few IT service providers can afford to spare.
Not all MSPs are blessed with fully staffed marketing departments. Some are run by small teams up to their necks in plugging in cables, troubleshooting technical mysteries, and catering to client needs. They’re IT people who’ve adopted passable customer service skills for no reason other than it comes with the territory. No matter how dreadful the process, marketing is critical to the growth and success of any business. It’s the ticket to keeping the momentum rolling and getting back on track when business gets slow. Without it, a fall from grace is inevitable.
A marketing list is the most effective way for technology-driven businesses to keep clients up to date with service offerings, industry trends, and the latest company happenings. Nurtured just right, a healthy list can work wonders at boosting sales and building client relationships. But it’s not as simple as rounding up some email addresses, clicking “Send”, and firing away pre-scripted messages. There’s an art to list building. Fundamentals to bringing out its true potential. On to the best practices …
Find a Marketing Partner
Technology companies rely heavily on partnerships. If juggling a marketing list is on your “list” of objectives, then you’ll definitely need an experienced partner at your side. I like to keep things simple, so I’d say you’ve got two options here: partner up with a traditional email marketing firm, or break bread with a partner that takes a multi-layered approach to marketing. These prospective partners can both help you achieve your list building goals – they just sorta kinda go about it in different ways. I’ll explain.
Email service providers (ESPs) like Aweber and Constant Contact are best known for their email marketing services. They provide software that lets you easily design newsletters and marketing campaigns, create email surveys, and implement those fancy opt-in options we talk about later.
Companies like Connectwise specialize in business management solutions. They offer email marketing capabilities in addition to CRM, help desk, and other software tools organizations need to manage their IT environments. At the very least, you can count on these vendors to deliver features that help you keep your marketing lists clean, accurate, and well maintained.
Either option will provide the tools necessary to make list management a doable task for businesses of any size – even the one-man IT shop. You’ll obviously get extensive campaign creation and management tools from an ESP. The multi-channel solution will deliver tighter integration with existing IT systems. Autotask, for example, offers integration with software such as Microsoft Dynamics, Labtech and even StorageCraft solutions like ShadowProtect. There’s no right or wrong. In the end, it’s all about finding something that best complements your current situation.
Never Do SPAM!
Email is the most commonly used vehicle between the marketer and the people on their coveted list. And of course you can’t talk email marketing these days without talking spam. We all know that spam is incredibly annoying. If you’re using email as your marketing vehicle, you must know that it’s also illegal. Sure, the digital channel is like the Wild Wild West when it comes to law enforcement or lack thereof, but this isn’t something you want to gamble with. The suits Utah ISP Xmission recently filed against three different companies is evidence of how sending spam (allegedly) can land you in legal pickle.
Luckily, avoiding reprecussions of the infamous CAN SPAM Act is fairly easy. All you need to do is commit to marketing to people who actually want to be on your list. You can be absolutely sure by getting them to “opt-in”, which is basically a formal way of giving you permission to send email. Some marketers go one step further by exercising a double opt-in. In the latter case, you ask subscribers to express their interest a second time, usually upon sending your welcome email. While you’re requesting that people take an extra step, it’s worth it because it means they’re coming on board with a very high level of interest.
Keep Direct Mail In Mind
The same know it alls who said social media would kill email marketing are probably the same geniuses who swore email had made direct mail obsolete. Those wise guys were wrong on both accounts. The fact of the matter is that direct mail is alive, well, and something MSPs need to consider adding to their marketing arsenal. Done right, it is an easily measurable and highly effective strategy that can deliver a fantastic return on your investment.
Doubt the efficiency of this primitive marketing vehicle? Feast your eyes on these direct mail statistics:
- 55 percent of recipients look forward to receiving mail
- 67 percent of recipients believe that direct mail is more personal than email
- Direct mail outperforms email and other digital channels by nearly 700 percent in the way of response rates
- Direct mail outperforms most other marketing channels in terms of ROI
- 82 percent of marketers expect to maintain or increase their use of direct mail in the near future
It may be an archaic tactic, but taking advantage of the mail system gives organizations an opportunity to stand out from all the clutter in the mailbox. I think the key to success is understanding where its true strength lies. While direct mail isn’t necessarily the best way to reach new customers, it’s a great way to stay in touch and nurture relationships with existing and past customers. Keep this in mind while capitalizing on that personalization aspect recipients crave, and your mail pieces might be something they look forward to.
Scour the Social Space For Leads
Say what you will about social media, but it’s a powerhouse of a marketing machine. And the big dog, Facebook, may not even be the best of the bunch. For years, LinkedIn has been widely recognized as one of the most powerful lead generation platforms around. LinkedIn is great at targeted list building because by default, the people you connect with already have some level of interest in what you have to offer. As an added bonus, integration with email marketing tools like MailChimp means you can export your LinkedIn connections to your existing database for seamless list management.
Don’t count out Twitter for lead generation, either. The massive audience and fast-paced nature of the tweeting platform gives you the ability to assemble a marketing list quick, fast, and in a hurry. Twitter also has some exclusive features that are seemingly custom-made for this purpose. For instance, the Lead Generation Cards feature is designed so interested parties can easily share their contact information with you in a few clicks. No leaving Twitter and no filling out lengthy forms that might change their mind.
In order to make the social media plunge worth the risk, MSPs must shift from the mindset of gaining the most fans and followers to building a list of qualified contacts. From there you will have a much better chance of converting those contacts to leads, followed by sales and eventually loyal customers.
Mingle in Groups
In a previous post, we examined the importance of groups and how MSPs can use them to their advantage. Be it online or out in the real world, groups are a gateway to connecting with industry peers and thought leaders, obtaining valuable information, and gaining robust support for business development. Additionally, they provide what is essentially a ready-made network of business contacts that can be useful in helping you secure new clients.
Groups such as the ones you find on LinkedIn or down at the local chamber of commerce are ideal places to mingle with professionals who will fit right into your network – and on your marketing list. Just make sure you get in with the right group. Targeting is a critical component of marketing, and the same applies when it comes to these group ventures. If you’re eyeing specific clients, technology companies, for example, look for a a local association in that field so you can join and start connecting with members.
Push Good Content
The end goal of the marketing game is generating sales and that’s how tech companies have traditionally approached it. As an MSP, you’ve probably made investments in advertising, sponsorships at industry events, and other endeavors in hopes of attracting new clients. You’re basically depending on the strength of your offerings and whatever brand awareness you’ve created to secure new business. A better approach would be mixing those same components with delectable content assets that sing to your target audience.
Content marketing is all about creating and promoting material that not only highlights your brand, but understands and addresses the needs of your audience. This program is designed to reach, engage, and encourage paying clients to act – and appeal to the influencers who can connect you with those active clients. The sky truly is the limit because today’s content comes in many forms. It can be a blog post. A tweet. A YouTube video. An infographic. A little of everything. Make your content irresistible and people will rush to join your list!
Work the Event Scene
The power of offline groups and associations speaks to the importance of good old fashioned networking. Between technology conferences, trade shows, and product launches, there should be enough functions on the calendar to keep you busy all year. But you can’t just show up. You need to arrive ready to network with grand plans of bolstering that list on your mind.
There are essentially two ways to approach list building on the event scene. If you’re leasing a booth, you can have people opt-in to win a cool prize you put together for this special occasion. In the event that you’re just attending like everyone else, work the floor and exchange business cards with other guests in attendance. It would be great of those cards directed fellow attendees to a web page where they can subscribe to your mailing list with little to no hassles.
Dealing with a marketing list can be a tad bit intimidating. A real drag but not an impossible feat by any means. Take these best practices to heart, and that list will earn its keep as one of the most valuable commodities in your portfolio of assets.