If you spend any time online, you’ve seen articles about “best kept secret” restaurants and travel destinations. These are typically lists meant to expose people to undiscovered places that are great but don’t have a lot of brand recognition. While the ideas are always fun – I love going to places that are off the radar – you really don’t want your managed service provider business to be a candidate for a list like this.
The struggle for any business is figuring out how to break through the noise and get the message out. This is true for the big national brands as well. At my last job, I ran the Marketing Department for two years, and we were awarded the Social and Digital Marketing Partner of the Year from Cisco. My team was able to get the message out by following a few basic principles. While the following ideas aren’t necessarily novel, it’s a good list of approaches that we found successful when we executed against a plan and stayed consistent.
Here are four steps to help improve your approach to Marketing:
1. Let the customer tell your story.
Research shows that buyers will listen to a complete stranger before they will listen to your salesperson. That may seem counterintuitive, but you’ve probably seen it in action. People go to Yelp or Facebook all the time to look for recommendations from total strangers even while ignoring calls from knowledgeable sales reps. The guard against this is to let the customer tell your story on your behalf. You have no greater sales team than your own customer base. Go out and interview your customers. Get them to provide testimonials that explain how your services allowed them to reach their business goals. These testimonials should then be distributed across various marketing channels: put a video testimonial on your website, create some written collateral, write a blog about the customer, distribute the story through social networks. Take every opportunity to allow your customers to be your mouthpiece.
2. Get social, both literally and technologically.
While we typically think of “social” as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, don’t neglect the traditional meaning of social where you encounter people face to face! There are industry groups, community service groups, and technology accelerators in virtually every city. Get involved! Customers want to do business with people that are invested in the community and these type of social activities demonstrate exactly that.
All that being said, you should be engaged on the social media side as well. A good practice is to use each of the various platforms for a distinct purpose. For example:
- Twitter: Distribute your message and engage with others. This is a great channel for your success stories and customer testimonials.
- Facebook: Drive employer branding. Give customers and prospective employees visibility into the company culture. Show them what’s going on behind the scenes.
- Instagram: Show your business “in action.” Whether you’re having a community service day, an internal training event, or a customer event, post pictures to keep your branding top of mind and give people a window into all that you do in the community and for customers.
3. Give something of value for free.
This is hard for service providers because free doesn’t typically help the business, but research proves this is a strong way to build up your customer base. If you’re offering something of value for free, you immediately create affinity for the brand. Your competitors are asking for something from the prospects. If you’re giving instead of asking, it completely changes the dynamic of the relationship.
4. Start with your customer’s needs first.
I cannot stress this enough. Too many sales people and organizations go into a sales call pitching instead of seeking first to understand. That means prospects are left sitting there saying to themselves, “I see why this is good for YOU, but how is this good for ME?” Your marketing message absolutely must start with the customer needs first. Demonstrate an understanding of their position and struggles, and then offer your services as a solution.
While these are just a few ideas improve your marketing strategy, you still need to do a good job Marketing 101:
- Who is your target audience?
- What do you want them to know about your business?
- What would you like them to do: Take a meeting? Attend an event? Sign up for a demo?
- Where do you find prospects like this? How do you locate them?
The art of Marketing is continually evolving. You must diligently test and constantly iterate on your approach to improve results. Simply providing a great service and excellent customer support is not going to be enough. You have to let your audience know about your company. While it’s cool for that out-of-the-way Italian restaurant to be on the “best kept secrets” list, you don’t want your company on a list like that! So get out there and let people know about your business!