Before you read any further, I want to start this article by saying this:
“You don’t have to be a good Marketer to grow your MSP business, but you do have to make good marketing decisions.”
There has long been a debate between whether MSPs should outsource their marketing entirely or do-it-themselves. It’s no surprise that the stance people tend to take on this issue has more to do with what they’re buying or selling than what is best for your unique situation.
The truth is that this is non-binary. The answer is always both. Some things you will have to do yourself (like generating referrals) and other things you will have to outsource (like writing or creative work). The MSPs that have the most success are the ones that can see the big picture and make the right decisions as to what they will keep in-house and what they will offload to freelancers or agencies. They manage these projects effectively and put all the ingredients together to make a perfect stew.
Marketing Results Have A Delayed Response
The “stew” analogy is intentional, because that’s very much what the marketing process looks like. You start with a few ingredients and add more and more over time, tasting constantly along the way and making adjustments as you go. Much like yielding marketing results, this process takes a very long time and requires an incredible amount of patience to wait for the perfect moment when all the flavors and textures are just right.
One of the reasons MSPs struggle with marketing decisions is that they don’t have this level of patience to let the ingredients come together and/or they don’t “taste along the way” to look for signals of the results to come. This would be like saying you want to make the perfect stew but you only have an hour to do it. After an hour you finally taste what you’ve made, decide your meat was too chewy or your carrots were too hard, and thus you blame the ingredients, not the process for the result.
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Bad Marketers Use This As A Hedge
If you are one of these “insta-pot” MSPs, I don’t blame you. You’ve been burned before by bad marketers over-promising and under-delivering on results. The reason no one buys the whole “it takes patience” crock-of-stew is that this has long been used by agencies and those selling marketing services to warrant long contracts and hedge against poor results. That’s not to say there was any malice involved, but under-performance is still a bad result and therefore should always be questioned.
Those who make good marketing decisions learn from these experiences. They understand how to hold these marketing vendors accountable in shorter windows while still giving them time they need to produce results. A well constructed marketing funnel has multiple steps and therefore there are always signs of progress along the way. For example, if you are getting a lot of traffic but no conversions, then you know the area of focus should be on improving the offer. It doesn’t take months to iterate on these things and find areas of improvement. This could be done in weeks or less. As a marketing decision-maker, you just have to know when to be patient and when to enforce action. Signals, signals, signals!
The Tech Stack Has A Steep Learning Curve
In a perfect world these positive and negative “signals” would be easy to spot and they would come in the form of digestible insights that explain exactly what is happening and why. This is not at all what happens in today’s marketing. Marketing analytics is becoming more complicated by the day and every time there is a privacy change anywhere in big tech it sends ripples through the results. Even I get lost trying to navigate through Google Analytics, Tag Manager, Data Studio, and not to mention all the tracking pixels and data-centric technologies (like CRMs) that you need to effectively track behavior.
While setting these things up used to be an afterthought and was as simple as installing a quick piece of code, it’s now a full-on project that should be treated with just as much attention as designing a website or launching a campaign. Those who do-it-themselves often risk spoiling their data quality and as a result may be trusting results that aren’t quite accurate. If I can make any recommendations of where to outsource, it’s to find a third party freelancer (not your agency or anyone with stake in the game) to set up your lead tracking and do it based on insights that will allow you to track progress that is important to you.
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The Left-Brain / Right-Brain Theory
Much like outsourcing your analytics, there is a consequence to every one of these actions. When I decide whether to outsource or do something myself, I tend to look at what the quality of the result will be in each scenario. For example, I tend to excel at more creative work and can do these things with ease, whereas I tend to struggle with more technical and logical things. When I outsource creative work, I sometimes get frustrated knowing that I could have done it better or in less time. At the same time, outsourcing technical work typically produces a better quality than I could have ever done myself, and has always proved to be worth investment.
This comes down to the left-brain vs. right-brain theory that was first introduced in the 1960s by Nobel Prize winner, Roger W. Sperry. Put simply, Sperry thought that our behavior is largely controlled by the side of the brain that is the most dominant. In this case, the left-brain tends to favor mathematics, facts, and logic and the right-brain favors imagination, creativity, and visioning. I would say that marketing as an activity is probably 75% right-brain and 25% left-brain and by nature MSP Owners and decision makers tend to be the complete reverse of this. To be an MSP, you would almost have to be technically dominant in thought and therefore this does not exactly lend itself to making keen marketing decisions.
If you take anything away from this it’s that marketing decision making in itself is a skill that can be improved. The more self-aware you are about the decisions you make, the more you will be able to refine them. Your biggest leaps forward in this area will be from learning from your mistakes or learning from others. The more you can surround yourself with better marketing decision makers, the more likely you are to absorb their experience and ways of thinking. Dedicate yourself to improvement and your marketing will follow the course.