For most MSPs, 2018 and 2019 were stellar years, thanks to Windows’ end of life and an increase in data privacy and protection regulations. In fact, quarters three and four in 2019 and the start of 2020 delivered more work than many could even handle — fish jumping into the boat, making for a very lucrative, prosperous period. Of course, now that’s not the case, with many MSPs flat or in decline and only an elite few with significant increases in sales.
Although it’s cruel and heartless to point out, many (but not all) of those who went out of business or are suffering right now brought it entirely on themselves by having no reliable marketing systems, no salespeople to hunt, and their businesses chock-full of “cheap” clients. They were dependent on projects and break-fix clients and had no sufficient monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and long-term contracts in place.
And while the closures have slowed, there are still many out there barely hanging on or, at a minimum, huddled in a corner licking their wounds. How much they recover and how fast is entirely on them. But here’s what I can tell you:
Success in business right now demands 1) an aggressive, focused, disciplined effort on sales and prospecting for new clients, and 2) going to the marketplace with something of specific and unique relevance and importance to a chosen target market, NOT an ordinary and mediocre product, service, or marketing message. Provide that or perish.
Obviously, if you had marketing and sales systems in place, a quality list, and choice clients, you are starting on higher ground than someone who’s neglected this aspect of their business for years, but everyone is having to work harder and smarter right now to secure pre-2020 sales and profits. With that said, here are the three fastest ways to fuel a cash surge and kick-start your marketing efforts in 2021.
1. Go BACK To The Well Of Existing Clients And Unconverted Leads.
One of the most overlooked and underutilized areas for additional sales across the board for MSPs is within their existing list of clients and unconverted leads. Most MSPs are woefully underselling their current clients. Why?
1. The MSP has a secular “religion” that all their clients are cheap, all their clients won’t spend money, and all their clients already said “no” to _______, whatever blank is. Here’s what I’ve witnessed: Over 90% of the MSPs that send out the email campaigns we give them to their clients to upsell and cross-sell additional services (managed services, phone systems, upgraded cybersecurity protections, etc.) actually get positive responses from clients who are interested and end up buying the service.
2. Because of the above belief, they don’t send any marketing to them and make no attempts to puzzle out a new service or a new promotion to send them. Just because a client says “no” today does not mean “no” forever. Situations, budgets, and attitudes change all the time. If you’re not going back to them several times a year to offer additional services or even the same services, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of new sales.
3. The MSP’s marketing is terrible. If you cannot convey the value you’re offering or don’t know how to communicate the benefits of what you’re selling, of course your clients won’t buy, end of story.
And finally, another reason for their lack of success may very well be that they aren’t delivering an exceptional service and are neglecting their clients by ONLY engaging with them when the CLIENT reaches out with a need. Not good. Remember, your clients can throw a proverbial “Google” stone and find 20 or more IT firms who would LOVE to take them as their client. If you truly want to keep your clients and grow, you must invest time into quality communications with regular frequency.
2. Tighten EVERY Screw In Your Sales And Marketing Funnel.
The Costco-size buckets of money that routinely leak out of most IT services businesses due to 1) the gross negligence of capturing any and all inbound leads into a marketing system and 2) nonexistent follow-up is almost criminal.
A while back, a client requested an appointment with me to go over the “failure” of his website to generate leads.
While I was on the phone with him discussing his website, I completed a form for a lead generation offer he had put up there. After completing it, I received a landing page that still had “Insert Logo Here” and bracketed copy to [Insert Phone Here] and [Insert Some Verbiage About Your USP Here].
My first question was this: How long had this hot mess been “live”? He sheepishly admitted it had been up for at least nine months, possibly longer.
This was my second question: Where’d the lead go (my form fill)? He said it was supposed to be emailed to him, but he hadn’t seen it come through yet. We waited. Ten minutes … 15 minutes. I filled out two other forms, including the “Contact Us” form. Any leads? Nope. I had two employees get on the site and complete them. Any leads? Nada. The call lasted about 45 minutes, and he had finally admitted that something was “broken” on his end. Perhaps this is a reason for the zero leads?
I had one last question: What happens when a prospect calls? Without a doubt, leads that call in are the hottest and need to be nabbed fast … as in the minute they call in. I Slack-messaged an employee of mine to “secret-shop” him while we were talking by calling the number posted on the site. The phone simply rang out, no live answer. When I told him, he casually said, “Yeah, something’s wrong with our phones today. I’ve got to look into that.”
This is such a blatant waste of opportunity that I could spit. If you’ve ever struggled to pay your rent and had to steal food to survive like I had to at one point in my life, you tend to be more diligent about not letting a single dollar escape, and you’d be as incredulous as I was about the complete lack of concern over all of this. It’s the epitome of entrepreneurial laziness and sloth. Entitlement.
3. Double Down On Marketing.
But the reality is that competition is thin right now, and nobody seems to be selling anything. Most MSPs are doing nothing, promoting nothing, and selling nothing. Their marketing budgets have been slashed, many of their salespeople lost their jobs, and their leaders are holed up in their closets with their masks on, clutching a bottle of Lysol. Marketing is so pathetic right now that simply making sure people know you’re open is a big deal.
Since the shutdowns, there are some businesses that I’ve stopped patronizing. You would think they’d be coming out of the woodwork to try and get me back, but that’s not the case. Sure, I’ve gotten the occasional email and have been prospected some. But our phones should be ringing off the hook from vendors and suppliers we are customers of, attempting to drum up additional business. But far too many are slashing marketing budgets and doing nothing.
Here’s an example: Every Thanksgiving, we send out corporate gifts to over 1,000 clients. Nice gifts. I also routinely send out really nice gifts to a list of family members. You would think that at least a few of the half-dozen vendors I’ve ordered from in the past would go out of their way to get ahold of me early to win that big chunk of business. Want to know how many actually did? Zero. As in none. Not a single one!
The two banks I deal with that could offer loans, lines of credit, and other financial services have not bothered to do a single promotion to me. Nor have our insurance brokers, payroll company, events vendors, etc. I’ve bought five BMWs from the local dealer, but I haven’t gotten a single call, email, or mail piece trying to get me back in the dealership, even though my car is over three years old (which makes me a prime candidate versus someone who bought a car recently). Such neglect! And there certainly is opportunity to be had in this business (IT), particularly with the recent turn of events and shutdowns.
And Now, The BIG Question
What will you do? Not think about, not talk about, not consider. Do.
Now more than ever, it’s critical to focus on what you can control. Clearly, none of us can influence or change the virus, the political agenda woven through all of this, the news, the widespread fear, the economy, the shutdowns, etc. But what you can pour your energy into is controlling your attitude about it all and your response to it.
I’m as annoyed as anyone over everything that has happened; candidly, I have a lot more to be grumpy about than most businesses, given the direct hit our events have taken. We have been prevented and shut down from delivering what we sell due to no fault of our own. But what’s the point in moping about like a giant sourpuss? I’ve got a profit to turn!
Einstein was right when he said that in the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity. But finding it will require action and letting go of the belief that nothing can be done. It might require you to do things you had not planned on doing — things you might not necessarily like to do or find interesting and exciting to do. Complicated things that are inconvenient.
Sorry, Charlie, I can’t help you with that. That is the naked, harsh truth about all great opportunities in business. They are not found in the convenience store.
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