Last year, we saw a 500% increase in the number of small IT shops that closed their doors either permanently or rolled over to a competitor who absorbed them. All were small and provided mostly break-fix services with no marketing plan in place and no salespeople.
Simultaneously, we saw a small percentage of the industry (and a large percentage of our Producers Club members) have their absolute best year ever, nearly doubling sales with bottom-line profits to match. The rest, which I dub the mediocre middle, essentially survived by treading water. They lost some clients and lead flow dipped, but they didn’t go out of business.
But the bigger issue is that many MSPs have STOPPED all marketing efforts and haven’t started again. They’re in a slump and need to get a fire lit under their butts to start moving but don’t know where to start or what to do. Many businesses get into similar slumps — COVID-19-related or not — from time to time. Sometimes it’s because you get so busy that you stop all marketing. Other times, you lose a major client and funds get tight (although I would argue that’s exactly when you need to start marketing MORE, but that would be the logical response, not the emotional response that most people have).
Regardless of what PUT you into the slump, here are 10 recession- and slump-busting ideas for when you need to kick-start your marketing and sales efforts.
- Segment Your Customers Into Buckets To Determine Something NEW They Could Buy, Then Create A Custom Campaign (Offer) For That Segment. If they are break-fix, try to sell them on managed services. If they are a managed services client, attempt to sell them a phone system or an upgraded cybersecurity solution. If you’re doing QBRs (quarterly business reviews) or TBRs (technology business reviews), you should be uncovering opportunities — but sometimes you need to just create something new and sell it to them OUTSIDE of those meetings.
- Go To Current Clients And Incentivize Them To Give You A Referral. Don’t wait for them to give you a referral. Actively ASK them for an introduction to at least one other business owner they know and put a big incentive on it. Sometimes simply asking will trigger a referral, even if you don’t offer a reward, but I suggest recognizing and rewarding that behavior. What kind of gift? Depends on the client and season. During the summer months, giving away a package of high-end Wagyu steaks can pull them, as can a really nice Yeti cooler or grill. In the fall, you might consider two bottles of wine, bourbon, or whiskey (their choice, and something really high-end).
- Seek A Promotional Partner Or JV. A JV, or joint venture, is where you get another noncompetitive company to endorse you to their members or clients for a purpose of mutual benefit. Sometimes, you pay them for that promotion in a formal sponsorship. Other times, they will promote you because they like you and want to help you (like current clients you have who have clients who could hire you). But another way to do this is to offer to conduct a webinar or seminar or provide some educational, valuable information to their audience. Right now, that could be a report, e-book, seminar, or webinar on “How To Avoid Being A Ransomware Victim” or “What To Do If You Ever Get Hit With Ransomware.” If you’re in a niche, there may be more relevant topics for your industry (like discussing new regulations for medical practices you are well-versed in). Over the last year, I conducted close to 20 webinars for the partners of various vendors in the IT industry on how to market your MSP during COVID-19 shutdowns. I waived my regular fee for doing these sessions and capitalized on the lead generation they provided me.
- Run The ‘9-Word Email’ To Unconverted Leads. An unconverted lead is a prospect that showed interest to some degree — from mild (opting in to your website but not booking an appointment) to HOT (going all the way to the proposal but not converting to a client). One tried-and-true campaign is to send a short, to-the-point email (we call it the 9-Word Email — thank you, Dean Jackson). The subject line is ONLY their first name, NOTHING else (this is important). In the email, it says, “Are you still looking for <<a new IT firm>>?” with your signature. NOTHING else. In the << >>, put whatever it was they were talking to you about or showed interest in. Short and to the point. You will get a response — trust me on this.
- Consider A Lower-Priced, Stripped-Down Offering To Go After The ‘Low End’ Of The Market. Many MSPs make the decision to only sell to larger companies with 50-plus employees. That’s a perfectly acceptable strategy — BUT, if sales are lagging, you might go after the larger pool of smaller clients. I’m not saying your offering shouldn’t be priced so low that you don’t make money. Strip out some of the more expensive services down to a “good” core offering. Maybe monitoring and basic maintenance with all support calls as a billable event. Small businesses (less than 20 employees) are the majority, so you’ll have a bigger pool of clients to go to.
- Ask Your Vendors For MDF (Marketing Development Funds). Many will provide it if you ask. If not money, often they can provide swag of some kind, “door prizes” for events, or gifts to give existing clients and prospects as a bonus for buying, booking an appointment, attending a webinar, etc.
- Hire A Sales Rep. If you’re not recruiting 24/7/365 for good salespeople, you’re not serious about growth. Frankly, if you’re not recruiting for ALL positions 24/7/365, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Great people don’t come around all that often, so if you ONLY start looking when you’re desperate, you’ll end up settling for whatever you can “absorb” from the market at that time. Keep in mind you don’t have to hire all the people who apply, nor do you have to meet with them. I filter 95% of the resumes I get based on the resume, background, and experience (or lack of experience). But keep a line in the water at all times so when the right candidate presents themselves, you get a shot at hiring them.
- Diligently Plug All The Holes In Your Inbound Lead Generation Bucket. Many MSPs have more holes than they have bucket, with no lead capture forms on their websites, no one answering the phones live, no name capture of inbound leads into a CRM system, and no follow-up. If you’re swimming in opportunity and money, you can survive with money slipping out of your hands (although I’m certainly never okay with this, no matter how well I’m doing). But when opportunity dries up, it’s critical that you fix the giant, gaping holes in your lead capture and follow-up.
- Rerun A Campaign You Used In The Past That Worked. Sounds crazy, but often, businesses run a campaign that worked really, really well but then fail to run it again. I’m sure there’s something in your history you did that could be repeating again now.
- Turn Off The News And Turn On Productive, Positive Content. Tigers starve last in the jungle because tigers hunt. Sales slumps and tough periods come from time to time, but they STAY because of the attitude of the sales rep or entrepreneur who slips into complacency. There’s ALWAYS something you can do to improve your situation, to make a sale, and to get leads, sales, and money flowing again — but that won’t happen if you’re in a funk. Turn off the news. Get off the sewer of social media, and start watching, reading, and listening to quality information that will inspire you and instruct you. Yes, you might have to modify your approach, but NEVER modify your goals or ambition.
Want more ideas? Go online to MSPsuccessMagazine.com/6ways to see a NEW webinar I recently conducted titled “6 Ways To Double Your Leads, Sales, And Profits Without Spending A Dime On Marketing.”