The secret to MSP marketing success: Do the grunt work

From 2001 to 2008, two great partners of mine and I built an IT support powerhouse in Calgary, Alberta, Canada called IT Matters.

Were we the smartest technical team in the city? Nope: there are many smarter technical individuals out there and companies that were leaps and bounds ahead of us technically. Were we the top employer in the city? No way: actually, we stumbled and tripped over ourselves many times during our seven-year run.

So what did we do differently than any other IT consulting company in Calgary? We did the grunt work when it came to marketing.

We consistently out-marketed our competitors: we were at every Chamber of Commerce event, we participated in almost every business networking club, and we were well known in the city for our IT expertise. Yes, our technical ability to service our clients was there to back up the awesome marketing engine we created, but we never would have gotten our foot in the door without the marketing we did.

We did the grunt work. We were up at 7 A.M. attending chamber breakfast events, then at lunch at another networking event and then later in the day we were at the evening social events. Every day we were focused on networking and getting our name out there. We did the hard work that no other MSP in Calgary was willing or even able to do.

We grew our business in those seven short years from three guys fixing computers to $5.5M in revenue and 34 employees.  How? We did the marketing hard work.

Here is a list of the stops and starts we mastered to grow our business:

Stop looking at everyone as a potential client and start looking at everyone as a potential referral source:
Yes, the Juice Plus lady, the mortgage broker and the vitamin sales person were potentially not great clients for us, but we didn’t know who they were married to or who they were friends with. We were friendly with everyone and built a solid referral network with everyone we met. Stop looking at people as prospects and start looking at them as potential referral sources instead. Nothing can beat word of mouth.

Stop attending every IT conference and start attending local business events:
Going to the BDR vendor conference may shed some light on how to use their services, but will it get you new business? We made a decision to stop attending every IT event and start participating in the local events our target markets attended. This helped control our travel expenses and time away from the office, and also positioned us as the industry expert.

Stop looking at your competitors as competitors and start looking at them as your partners:
Wait a second Stuart, are you saying I need to be friendly with those I compete with? Yes, that is exactly what I am telling you. Create strong bonds with other MSPs in the area and make packs where you help each other out and look out for one another. This won’t work with all of your competitors but it will help with some, and those are the ones that matter the most.

Stop making excuses and start doing the work:
Nothing we did was easy. We didn’t subscribe to some service that promised us leads or did the work for us. We rolled up our sleeves and did the grunt work ourselves. Get out there every day. If we had an hour between meetings, we drove to a business park and handed out our brochures or visited neighbors of our clients and introduced ourselves. We spread the news about our company every time we had the chance.

Marketing a successful MSP is not easy. You will never subscribe to a service that will help you achieve instant growth.

If you buy into that, I have some land for sale in the Canadian Arctic I would love to sell to you with the promise that you will have a bountiful harvest.

Even with our work at Ulistic, those who expect to “set it and forget it” will be disappointed in the results they achieve. Our clients who are engaged throughout the process, share what is happening, and are open to promoting the great work they do with their clients will ultimately win the end. As for those who just pay for a Web site and then carry on without any other interaction with us.

Marketing is not easy work. Roll up your sleeves and get down to doing the grunt work.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Stuart Crawford
Stuart Crawford
Stuart Crawford is an MSP marketing specialist and coaching professional. He is president of Ulistic Inc., a managed services coaching, mentorship, sales and outsourced marketing services firm. For more info call u 716.799.1999 or email [email protected]

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