Bootstrapping Has Its Pros & Cons

I was scrolling through LinkedIn one evening and came across a stunning piece of data that I knew I had to share. Matt Solomon, a well known thought leader in the IT Channel and active VP of Business Development for Kaseya shared that in a recent poll of over 400 MSPs during a live ID Agent webinar, almost half of the respondents claimed that the Owner was chiefly responsible for the marketing of their company.

In a way this was no surprise. I talk to MSP Owners each and every week as I coach them through their company’s growth initiative, many of whom take a very “bootstrap-like” attitude to the process. This is an attitude I am all too familiar with, primarily because it is my default setting as well. What I have learned through this process however is that while it is a sure-fire way to control your destiny, it is also a devastating weakness at times.

Thinking about my own work, I found that I tend to take a DIY mentality to the projects that are the most far-fetched. My subconscious tells me that “there is high likelihood that this will not work the way you want, therefore you should do this yourself to offset the risk.” While I have turned these low probability projects into viable successes in the past, I have often found that my doing the work myself was not the reason. More often than not it was simply a combination of information I consume, the intimate knowledge of my audience and their behavior, and a stubbornness to bring the idea to reality. These are all high-level tasks that require more thought than energy, the type of work an MSP Owner should be focused on in my humble opinion.

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Have Confidence In Your Approach

The key to sitting on the sidelines and watching your team win without you is confidence. Taking the information that is available from others (sites like this one for example) and mixing it with your own experience will allow you to create a strategy that is both unique and probable. From this point forward it is primarily about how confident you are in your ideas that will determine whether or not your plan succeeds.

One thing that it is important to remember is that marketing plans are designed to fail the majority of the time. For example, 100% of the people that read this article will not immediately sign up for our newsletter (even though they should????) . In fact, the percentage that will sign up is relatively small (3-5%) and the overwhelming majority of times this equation will fail. However, the combination of time and repetition has allowed us to put hundreds of thousands of readers through this funnel to produce the thousands of subscribers that we now have. This is a perfect example of accumulating short term failures to produce long term success.

First Party Input / Third Party Output

Since most marketing initiatives involve some type of content, it can be frustrating to work with third-party providers only to be let-down by the quality of the end result. This is what often lets the air out of the confidence “balloon” as I mention previously and leads to MSPs rolling up their sleeves and doing it themselves. For example, they might know for a fact that their existing customers would be interested in reading blog articles about add-on services (which might lead to upsell opportunities) but that doesn’t make these easy to produce. Technical accuracy often gets in the way of good content in Managed Services, a problem that has existed in the industry for years.

Now that you know this is and will always be a challenge, look to develop a system of providing first party input to talented third party creators and let them output the work to your specification. Content creation (and marketing in general) should not be a binary concept, meaning it is never all outsourced or all insourced. Even the most mature MSPs use a combination of freelancers, vendors, and staff members to produce the brand that you see in front of you. You can do this too, but it starts with providing the right balance of first-party input to set up your “taskers” for success. As you continue to build onto this machine, you can gradually replace yourself as the mouthpiece, but the less vocal you are about what you want, the less likely you are to get it.

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Resources Are Everywhere You Look

I had an eye-opening experience recently when Paul Green and I were putting the list of providers that we would include in the MSP Growth Guide that was released last month. Our first thought was there would be roughly 30 providers of MSP Marketing, Consulting, & Communities that we should consider including. Once our research was complete, we realized that were almost 70 providers in total, all of whom have legitimate businesses that add to the fabric of the industry. Each appears to have their own specialization and fit for MSPs that want a specific level of service, which to me indicates that the industry has matured to the benefit of the consumer.

The point of me mentioning this is to help you understand that help is out there and in a capacity that even I underestimated. Contacting 5-10 of the providers in our guide and having a conversation is a good start in helping you determine your own overall strategy. You might even be able to leverage these conversations to learn what is working right now and use your own freelancers to execute. The point is, there has never been a better time in the IT Channel to soak up free resources and information that will give you the confidence you need to offload your marketing burden. Make this year the year to do it!