Over the last few years I have stumbled across a maximum of maybe 5 MSPs whose brands had what I can only refer to as a “wow” factor. It’s hard to describe exactly what characteristics actually cause this reaction, because in many cases these brands couldn’t be more different. But that’s kind of the point. What creates pause is the realization that you are looking at something that you’ve never quite seen before and it grabs your attention as you try to put your finger on what exactly that thing is.  

Whenever I find myself in these situations I always go digging to find out who is exactly responsible for this magic. This is when the common threads start to appear, as in every case that I’ve come across, the MSP has an in-house marketing talent that is contributing to and constantly shaping this brand. Once I meet that person, as I often make it a point to do, the pieces suddenly come together and it starts to make sense. Is hiring in-house the secret ingredient? Not necessarily, because not all Marketers are created equally, but there was a single trait within these Marketers that I’ve met which I believe was responsible for producing these results. Here is what it is… 

When Hiring-In Makes Sense 

As I mentioned before, deciding to bring your marketing in-house is only part of the equation. Not every business can support an in-house marketer, no matter how talented that person is. It takes a while to recoup the expense of this relationship as marketing is at the very top of your customer journey. Unlike hiring a salesperson, there is a much longer delay to see financial results, which is why many MSP Operators simply can’t stomach it long enough to produce the desired outcome. 

Hiring in-house makes sense when your business looks better from inside than it does from the outside. What does this mean exactly? It means that you’ve got all of your ducks in a row, your processes are ironed out (such as onboarding), your contracts are profitable, you have sound bookkeeping, and you have budget for not only additional payroll for your Marketer, but also for their spending on tools, ads, and everything else. If the least mature part of your business is how you represent yourself to the public, then it’s time to hire an in-house marketer. 

Why In-House Relationships Fail 

I’ve been a spectator to quite a few in-house Marketing relationships and I can honestly say that the majority of those relationships end up churning over. While every employment relationship is bound to churn eventually, it’s the way that these situations ended that was the problem. One or both of the parties was ultimately frustrated with the situation that they were in, the results that were being achieved (or not achieved), and there were mis-aligned expectations and poor communication on both sides. 

You can’t hire a Marketer with decades of experience executing campaigns and strategic marketing projects and suddenly expect them to roll-up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. At the same time, you also can’t hire someone with zero Marketing experience that is willing to do the dirty work, but has no base for strategic decision-making. Ideally, you want to shoot for the middle, and have all of that wrapped into a very specific personality. 

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Uncovering These Rare Attributes

Marketing is hard. Some would even say that it’s mental warfare. The work you put in now almost never pays off in the short term and thus you must have either complete conviction or a passion for what you are doing to carry on. This is the ingredient that you need to find. It has nothing to do with business experience (although that helps) and everything to do with energy. If the person you are hiring to transform your brand and market your business gets energized by doing so, then all you need to do is provide the resources and boundaries for them to work from. 

The trickiest part of discovering this trait is that it often can’t be found in their work experience and anyone being interviewed is likely to just tell you what they think you want to hear. This is why it is best to direct the conversation away from work and into the personal arena. People that have a passion for marketing often don’t get completely fulfilled by their day job and it spills over into their personal life. They have side projects that may not be financially relevant to their income but scratch the itch to create and market something that is completely within the domain of their control. These are the things that they probably don’t want to tell you about, or think they shouldn’t, but they ultimately tell the story of who they are. 

Redirecting Creative Energy

Good marketing people are often creative and creative people are often “different.” I don’t mean this negatively, but more so to establish the expectations that boundaries should and will be tested. This is what good marketers do and to restrict this is only putting you in a situation where both of you will fail. The perfect situation is one where you can take the bottled up energy that this person has and redirect it toward your brand. Let them work on side projects for your company and things that may never see the light of day, but ultimately help them harness the energy that they have and put it into something that you can somehow benefit from. Your responsibility in managing them is to find the common denominator between what they like doing and what you can directly benefit from. If you figure out this balance, you will get more out of the relationship than you could have ever imagined. 

We had a ton of interesting side projects at my MSP that did very little for our bottom line, but definitely contributed immensely to our culture. For example, we once developed a 5 level platform-style computer game with our company mascot which we all played for a few months in order to see who could get the highest score. This was also available on our website, but in reality, we made it for us not for our customers. Why? Because we could, and it was fun. Sometimes it’s that simple. 

To summarize, the formula of the ideal In-House Marketer is this: 

  • Find someone with a lot of creative energy that puts it into marketing anything and everything they can. 
  • Hire that person and help them redirect that energy toward things that you can directly or indirectly benefit from. 
  • Reward that person with more freedom over time, which to true Marketers is more valuable than money. 

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