In this digital age, your prospective customers may be well on the way to deciding on a new managed services partner (MSP) before your sales team has even knocked on their door. Aware of this, MSPs are increasingly looking to content marketing to influence that decision in the early stages of information gathering.
The creation and sharing of relevant content on the web and across social media using case studies, blogs, white papers, eBooks, webinars, podcasts and so on are all valuable tools that can engage your target audience and build up your profile with them.
But content marketing can also play a key role in whether or not (and how quickly or advantageously), you close a new piece of business, by helping to handle or pre-empt potential objections at an early stage in the sales process.
An article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests that many B2B sellers are using content marketing campaigns to uncover buyer objections early on so they can address these points individually and secure commitment from prospects incrementally to the different aspects of their value proposition. The article suggests that leaving objection handling to the end of the sales process is the worst time to do it as by this point, prospects will often cite a “socially-acceptable” rationale such as price as a reason for not buying- even though this may not be the real barrier to purchase.
It’s worth bearing this in mind when you are compiling a content marketing schedule – after all, you may be able to head off potential objections before they become sales showstoppers.
Producing compelling content that your audience will want to read
There’s a lot of information noise out there and one of the biggest challenges for an MSP is how to cut through all of the distraction with content that is valued by their key audiences.
So how do you ensure a ready supply of appropriate content topics? This is one of the biggest challenges facing B2B marketers today.
You know your market. You know the business and IT issues challenging your customers and prospects; you are attuned to what is happening in their world. You have been round the sales loop many times and are now very familiar with the likely motivations for working with an MSP – as well as the typical inhibitors to doing so.
But sometimes it helps to hear different perspectives.
1. Use all available sources
Customers are an excellent source of ideas for content. The feedback of new customers is particularly valuable: ask them about the concerns they experienced during the purchase process – and see how well your marketing/sales content addressed these issues for them.
Always tap into your sales team’s experiences. They will be very familiar with typical customer pain points and the challenges companies are trying to resolve by partnering for managed services. Sales people encounter these every day.
Your technical staff will also be a valuable source of concerns that crop up regularly among existing customers – after all, your target prospects are likely to share these too.
Outside of your company, there is a lot of freely available material which can be recycled to provide content: industry bodies such as CompTIA, whose regular and insightful research can be a goldmine as a basis for content production, as well as specialist MSP websites such as Channele2e.com.
You can build on typical worries, voiced in surveys and other articles: fear of losing control of IT operations, scepticism about cost benefits, fear of disruption to the business during onboarding, to name but a few. But don’t forget to address the objection so it becomes a non-issue.
2. Know the type of content your prospects value
86% of buyers say content is neither useful, relevant, nor aligned with needs of people in the buying decision.
Why this disconnect between what buyers want and what marketers offer?
One reason put forward is that many marketers seek ‘thought leadership’ in their industry when developing a content strategy. Buyers, on the other hand, want information they can use. They want to learn something new – but it must be something that is actionable. In-depth content that simply shows how erudite you are is unlikely to satisfy them – or move your sales process forward.
3. Don’t underestimate the value of customer experience
We have already mentioned customers as a good source of content topics, but their comments on your services and shared experience of partnering with you is invaluable in giving prospective buyers an insight into what could lie ahead for them. Customer testimonials are probably the most effective way of handling sales objections.
Draw on your customers’ experience. They are the ultimate experts in your services. Use them as a resource for case studies, podcasts, webinars, live events, blogs and social media, focusing their comments around potential ‘objections’ whenever possible.
4. Reuse and repurpose content
As you are unlikely to have an unending supply of marketing and copywriting resource, make sure you sweat your assets as much as possible by reusing and repurposing the content you have already produced: blogs and white papers can be derived from surveys or research; case studies or commentary pieces developed from webinars or other events; and third-party material can be combined with your commentary to promote a particular point of view.
Gauging the effectiveness of your content marketing
It is essential to track content marketing campaigns and measure the results so you can adjust content or schedule if necessary to achieve your goals.
You may simply count click-through, downloads, acceptances to event invitations and responses to other CTAs – or you may use one of the increasingly popular sales and marketing support tools which deliver highly sophisticated content tracking and analysis. It is important to check that each piece of content is moving your prospect through the sales process.
One such tool is Mindmatrix. This software is focussed on the MSP marketplace and provides visibility into prospect activity. Using lead scoring metrics, it determines how interested prospects are in signing up for your services. Your sales teams benefit from having insight into which leads are the most active – and therefore more likely to be receptive to a sales pitch. Less time is wasted calling prospects who are not sufficiently engaged. It also offers a 360-degree view of prospects, providing details of the type of content your prospect is engaging with at any given time – and which of the CTAs they are taking up. This gives sales the opportunity to follow up with targeted messages, appropriate to the action taken.
Another such service is provided by Presstacular. Within this solution you can view an activity timeline that reveals the interests of each member of your audience. By identifying the article topics and CTAs that capture their attention, you are better placed to target specific campaigns to maintain their engagement.
Managing content marketing alongside your day job
Many MSPs have limited sales and marketing resources in-house – indeed in smaller businesses, the owner or MD is often responsible for these activities alongside the running of the company. And if you embark on a content marketing strategy, you need to be able to maintain a regular flow of relevant material. Your audience will expect it: visitors to your website will notice if the latest blog or news item posted is actually several months old.
Happily, you don’t have to go it alone. If you lack in-house resource or expertise there are many marketing/sales support agencies offering IT marketing support who will work with you. Indeed several of these specialise in working with MSPs. Two have already been mentioned.
Mindmatrix has developed the MSP Advantage Program, which combines sales and marketing enablement technology with the strategy and pre-packaged content MSPs need to create a comprehensive marketing and sales programme.
Presstacular’s content library gives access to hundreds of pre-written articles that can be edited to reflect your own services. Templates are provided so your IT marketing newsletter and blog can be created instantly and analytics show who is reading and clicking through your content.
Marketopia is another agency that supports MSPs and VARs with marketing and lead generation capabilities, including content creation.
And there are of course many more.
According to research from Forrester, 82% of buyers viewed at least five pieces of content from the winning vendor during the purchase process.
So while the need to constantly create and publish compelling content is a huge challenge for MSPs who typically lack the time and resources to keep the content production line running smoothly it must not be neglected.
The modern MSP needs to be a sales and marketing-driven organisation. Effective content marketing can play a vital role here in enhancing your brand and introducing you to prospective customers – as well as driving sales leads and helping with objection handling in the early stages of the sales process.
If you would like to free up more of your time to focus on business development, let us take on the strain of delivering your Service Desk and NOC Services.
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