Many people think that marketing should deliver results immediately: like a light switch, turn it on and get results. That would be nice, but with MSPs and B2B Tech marketing, it’s rarely the case.

Louis Gudema

AUTHOR: Louis Gudema, Founder of Bullseye Marketing

Marketing is an investment

Marketing is an investment in long-term growth. Companies in virtually all industries that market more grow faster. I don’t have data for MSPs specifically, but for software companies in general, those that market more grow up to 5X faster than those that don’t.[1] For professional services firms in general those with superior marketing grow more than twice as fast.[2] Marketing can (and should) include quick response programs like email and search ads. Prospects may also be generated with webinars and other programs. But are they memorable?

So half of your marketing should be focused on building “mental availability”

Ninety-five percent of your market isn’t looking for a new MSP today. They are either satisfied with their current MSP or aren’t looking to outsource their IT management. That could be different next week, or next month, or next year, or two years from now. So half of your marketing should be focused on building “mental availability” – the marketing term for you being top of mind when someone does decide that it’s time to buy your product or service. This goes beyond awareness to the coveted spot at or near the top of a person’s MSP mental shortlist. Because quite often the shortlist is only one or two companies long, if you’re not on it you won’t know about that opportunity at all before another firm is hired.

You build mental availability by being memorable, and that requires appealing to the emotions of your buyers.

The number one multiplier of marketing is the size of the company. One of the benefits of a dominant brand is that their marketing is more impactful. So we’re more likely to remember the marketing of GEICO, Progressive, or Allstate than that of a small insurance company that we never heard of. Big companies don’t sit on that advantage; they market aggressively to maintain it. The typical enterprise firm spends 10-12% of their total budget on marketing. Mature software companies typically spend 15% of their budget on marketing.)

Becoming memorable

You’re probably with a small (under 100 employees) or mid-sized (under 1,000 employees) company. So you don’t have that advantage for your marketing.

But, by far, the second greatest multiplier of marketing is creativity. Creative marketing that appeals to the customer’s emotions with characters, drama, humor, and other distinguishing messages is far more likely to be remembered and grow mental availability than marketing that simply states what you do or says “sign up now”.

The good news (for you) is that few MSPs do good, creative marketing. So there’s room in your market for you to capture that space and stand out.

Anyone can do it

And any company can develop creative marketing, regardless of size.

What’s driving your buyers?

The first step in developing creative, memorable marketing is understanding the emotions of your customers. What is driving their buying? Like consumers, B2B buying decisions are driven more by emotion than logic. For MSPs, buyers may be especially interested in factors such as industry reputation, reliability, professionalism, and responsiveness. Price is usually low on the list.

Remember: you’re not the audience. You’re tech-savvy; your target customers don’t want to hassle with tech. At all. And your marketing needs to appeal to them, not you. So it’s tricky.

What is memorable?

Characters are memorable which is why Salesforce, a tech company with over $25 billion in annual revenue, uses these in its marketing.

Here’s a memorable video ad for a password management program. You can imagine how prosaic it could have been.

Being memorable on a budget

Think you couldn’t afford that? How about this humorous, memorable, and very inexpensive router ad from Cisco. I first saw that maybe 8 years ago and have never forgotten how good it is.

Below is a video ad that I did for a B2B tech company with security hardware. It looks pretty simple, but it was hugely effective. Although intended to build brand awareness with an emotional appeal (danger), It appealed to the emotional drivers of that audience. it also had a great immediate response: 600% higher than any of the product-led messages that we used, some of which were very effective. And it only cost $500 to produce.

Gong is sales software. You’re not likely to forget their name after seeing their 2022 Super Bowl ad. It’s interesting to compare it to their 2021 ad which was more specific about the product features and correspondingly less intriguing and memorable. I’d definitely be more likely to check out the product after seeing the 2022 ad.

Boston Dynamics has been famous for its videos promoting its robots for a long time. This one has gotten over 36 MILLION views in less than 18 months!

It’s a hell of a lot more impressive, interesting, and memorable than watching the robot move boxes around in a factory. The one expensive element would be licensing the music, which I estimate would cost several thousand dollars – well worth it for 36 million views.

Okay, one more. This ad from VW in the UK targeting small business owners barely shows a VW and only mentions the service at the end, but it has a strong emotional punch and it produced 11 times more in sales than it cost to produce and air.

Video is especially effective for communicating emotion and connecting with an audience. You can affordably use videos on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites. Large print ads, like a full- or half-page ad, can carry a punch, too. Small, static digital ads, on the other hand, tend to not have much of an impact, but can be useful for direct response campaigns.

And while creative ads are best, just the existence of frequent, always-on, professional marketing from a company tends to build its reputation and sense of reliability and professionalism.

just the existence of frequent, always-on, professional marketing from a company tends to
build its reputation and sense of reliability and professionalism

If you’re planning on keeping your MSP in business for more than two or three years, play the long game by producing memorable marketing that builds your brand and mental availability.

[1] My research into 351 B2B small- and mid-sized companies.
[2] “High Growth Study 2020, Professional Services Edition”, Hinge Research Institute.

Louis Gudema acts as a fractional head of marketing and marketing strategist for B2B tech firms and is a regular contributor to Modern MSP.