Before I sat down in my chair in that tiny shared office space in South Jersey and typed out what would be the first article ever to be published on this site, I had only ever met a few other MSPs. I was not born of this industry and of the mindset that MSPs have. I am a Marketer and will always be one.
The more I met and talked to MSPs, the more I learned, not just about the mindset of an IT Founder but also about myself. For me, creating marketing campaigns is like fuel. It’s the gas that I put in my tank and as long as I have something to grow, I can “go” forever.
Most IT Founders that I have met over the last few years do not share this gene. I don’t mean that as a negative thing, but what I mean is that their fuel is something different entirely. For many it’s technical problem solving, connecting things, and making things work that shouldn’t. I get this. It’s what I love about MSPs and it should never be changed.
I once was on a Zoom call with an MSP who said “If it wasn’t for marketing, my business would be huge.” I laughed, but I also realized he was kind of right.The truth is however, no matter who you are, there is always going to be some opposite force that just constantly pulls you back down to earth and keeps you from growth. The people that end up being successful are the ones who never stop applying counter-pressure until they eventually break free.
Here are a few ways you that you too can be one of those people:
Take Ownership Of Your Growth
The hard truth about marketing is that you can’t just pass it off to someone else and pretend it doesn’t exist. Whether you insource or outsource your marketing, it’s always going to be “your problem.” To say that it is someone else’s simply because you pay them, is one of the most common things that leads to inconsistencies, vendor-hopping, and generally un-inspired work.
The other risk in lack of ownership is that you may be giving outside partners pseudo-decision-making power within your organization. I am all-for the gig economy and leveraging outside talent whenever possible, but the internal stakeholders should always remain in the driver seat. Otherwise, you may wake up one day without those resources available to you and you will have no idea where you are and how you got there.
Make Your Brand A Reflection Of You
There are very few things that get me fired up more than the idea that a company’s brand should somehow portray them as more or different than they really are. In my opinion, you can take any brand and make it look “bigger” simply with attention-to-detail, consistency, and good taste. Watering down the way you present yourself to appease the masses (yet never actually being visible to the masses) is just not a good strategy.
Whether you are a $10 thousand per year or $10 million per year MSP your brand should always be a reflection of you. You should be proud of it because it’s a reflection of who you are, what you like and what you stand for. As your company grows and time passes, these qualities will change. At that point, just update your brand to reflect the moment. You wouldn’t buy a shirt today that you think will fit you 5 years from now, so why dress your business the same way? Yes, you will eventually grow out of this brand (if you are lucky). So what? It’s a good problem to have.
Be Conscious Of Your Momentum
During the pandemic I hit a bit of a low point. I had just launched my book and once the excitement wore off, I found myself just not knowing what to do. I became numb to anything that was exciting to me before (like growing our subscribers, or new opportunities) and since I didn’t have a new high to chase I kept moving backwards. Eventually I realized that momentum is everything. When the highs are too high and the lows are too low it can lead to a lot of activity but little to show for it. My focus now has become less about chasing new highs, and more about slowly moving forward.
The same idea can be applied to you and your quest to market your business. If you want to keep growing forever, you need to make sure your momentum is sustainable. The faster you are moving, the farther backward you will go when the next collision happens. These collisions are the inevitable failures you will face (campaigns that go bust, losing customers, etc.) Know that they are coming, and always have something positive in motion to offset them.
Keep Realistic Expectations
Another part of managing momentum is in the expectations that you keep. This can make a success look like a failure internally, when in reality it’s not. Part of the problem with false expectations when it comes to marketing is that we tend to only see the successes. For example, we see viral videos on social media that are just exploding with impressions and now suddenly we have different expectations of what is possible (and realistic).
What we don’t see is the hundreds of pieces of content that person put out before one eventually went viral. Or the fact that the content was actually published months or years prior to almost no response but through some miracle (or influencer) suddenly found new life and a new audience. This is the realistic view that most experienced Marketers have and some IT Founders don’t. The work you put in today is not going to yield a tangible benefit until weeks, months or even years from now. You need to accept that and be willing to just keep working anyway.
Look For Inspiration Everywhere
Whenever you see a really well executed marketing campaign, chances are that it draws inspiration from outside whatever the product or service is and uses that to connect with the individual consuming it. Afterall, your customers are businesses and those businesses are made up of people and those people care about more than what you sell (a lot more). This human-centric approach to marketing is something that we are currently teaching in our brainstorming sessions and for many who have participated, it has changed the way they look at their customers.
The simplest way to apply this to your business is to constantly look for inspiration in everyday things that you can adapt to your marketing. Constantly ask yourself, “Why am I reading this article? Why did I watch that YouTube video? Why did I buy that SaaS product?” The more you ask yourself “why” the more inspired you will become to replicate these things with your own business. If you just let these things happen to you with no sense of awareness, you are missing out on the most effective (and free) courses on marketing you could ever take. In my opinion, this is a quality that most Founders have, but some just need to slow down a little bit to make it part of their everyday thinking.