It’s very possible that we will soon enter a recession. This can be a great growth opportunity for your MSP business.
Technology and cybersecurity needs don’t end with a recession
The need for MSP services is hardly going to be less in a recession. Organizations still need networks, applications, security, and so forth. In fact, security issues often increase in recessions when companies have more disgruntled current and former employees. And the data shows that even a small company can suffer a couple hundred thousand dollars in damages from a single breach; for large companies, it can be in the millions.
That should always get a company’s attention.
Marketing your MSP during a recession
From decades of experience, we know one thing is certain: companies that maintained or grow their marketing during a recession gain market share. Period. Mark Ritson, a global marketing consultant to major brands, recently wrote:
“There is an idiot move at the top of the agenda of all those who do not understand history. They see marketing as a cost. Advertising as a luxury. And brand building as the ultimate vanity. Ergo, when times get tough it’s obvious that the first thing to go is the esoteric brand budget and not performance [direct] marketing with the proven and immediate ROI.”
It turns out that is exactly the wrong move. In case studies going back a century the story is always the same. The companies that maintained ad spend, or even increased it, during a recession saw little advantage during the hard months of the squeeze. But the minute the green shoots of growth appeared their growth was spectacularly superior to competitors that cut back during the recession. Maintain the longtail effects of your marketing your MSP, because its impact is delayed but substantial and it will kick in exactly when you need it as the recession ends.
Maintain the longtail effects of your marketing, because its impact is delayed but substantial
How should you market your MSP?
There are two types of marketing: brand marketing builds awareness of your company so that when a company needs a new MSP they will immediately think of you and reach out, and direct marketing is intended to identify the companies that are in the process of hiring a new MSP now. While it might seem that direct marketing is more important, in fact, you need both in roughly a 50/50 balance. Research across hundreds of industries shows that the companies that do more and better brand marketing outgrow those that only do direct marketing.
Companies that are noisier than their competitors tend to grow the fastest.
The marketing law is called Extra Share of Voice (ESOV) – companies that are noisier than their competitors tend to grow the fastest. Specifically, you should have more share of your industry’s noise – emails, events, ads, blog posts, newsletters, videos, infographics, etc. – than your market share. And, lucky you, since most MSPs are bad at marketing or do very little of it, and in a recession will probably even cut back on what little they are doing, by marketing your MSP consistently and well through the recession you can gain a huge ESOV advantage.
Company size is the biggest multiplier of marketing, and in the short run, you can’t do a lot about that. But creativity is by far the second biggest multiplier of marketing your MSP. So don’t do boring marketing!
>> Here’s an example of creative marketing directed at MSPs: a cyber threat report from Connectwise.
>> And a State of Startup Security report from Vanta.
What valuable content could you create for your target market?
You could host an event for potential customers. Customers love hearing from other customers instead of from the company that’s trying to sell them. In its early days, Salesforce very successfully marketed itself by hosting events in which virtually all of the speaking to potential customers was done by current customers talking about their challenges and how Salesforce helped them meet them.
Of course, it’s summer so you can have an event that’s just fun. Maybe take your customers on a cruise, or host a barbecue for them. If it’s outside even the ones who are cautious about COVID may be willing to attend. I head up a professional group called Sales and Marketing Innovators. In April we had our first in-person event in two years. I didn’t realize how much I had missed getting together with people in person until then – I loved it. It was like breathing fresh air.
Customer testimonials & video
Speaking of customers (or of having customers speak about you) having videos of customers telling their story are highly effective. The form of these is pretty straightforward: first, they describe their business and IT challenge, then what you did for them, and then the difference that it made. Typically, you don’t need these to be more than 2-3 minutes long.
Here are eleven ways to use video:
1. Company profile
2. Service overview
3. Customer success videos
4. Online ads
5. Whiteboard tech talks
8. Live stream talks that you’ve given at conferences
9. One-to-one personalized sales videos
10. Videos that are personalized at scale
Increasingly, people are consuming online content in video format, so producing these is likely to get attention.
No doubt there are countless topics you could write about in blog posts and newsletters. If you can’t think of any, look at what other MSPs are writing about to start sparking some new ideas. I’ve found that once you get in the habit of writing, the ideas pop out from everywhere. You want to create different content for prospects and customers. Customers need deeper content, and they expect it. They’ve earned it.
You want to create different content for prospects and customers.
Infographics: people learn in different ways and respond to different types of content. Some will gravitate towards print, some video, and some infographics. So produce content in many different formats.
Digital ads & social media
Ads can be targeted very effectively on social media like LinkedIn. You can upload an email list and the social site will match it with as many members as it can. Then you target them with your ads. On LinkedIn, you can also target by industry, company size, geography, person’s title, and other factors. These ads are a great way to build awareness and stay top of mind. Pro Tip: Make sure your ads have at least a “Learn More” call to action (CTA) and button; in my experience having even such a simple CTA can increase clicks throughs to your site by 5-10X. But watch your stats: often ads will be exhausted after 1-2 months and need to be replaced with new creative.
Email marketing is especially effective and cost-effective: it costs virtually nothing to send out. And people are looking at their email inbox all day every day. Be sure to use a list that you’ve built; I’ve never seen a good response to emails sent out to a bought list. You can use email to promote and amplify all of the types of content that I’ve listed above.
The more places that people see your messages, the more impact they will have. So don’t just do one thing.
So in reality, MSP marketing in a recession is not different than marketing at any other time. You need to do it. But by marketing through a recession, if we have one, you’ll gain even greater benefits if your competitors aren’t.
So don’t be shy! Make noise! Market aggressively and keep it up whether or not we have a recession. Your bottom line will thank you.
Louis Gudema acts as a fractional head of marketing and marketing strategist for B2B tech firms and is a regular contributor to Modern MSP.