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Robin Robins: Tough Talk About Successful MSP Marketing

Vulture marketing is common among MSPs.

Edward Gately

September 9, 2019

4 Min Read
Robin Robins at 2019 Channel Partners Evolution pre-conference workshop.

Pictured above: Robin Robins outlines MSP marketing secrets for the audience at the Channel Partners Evolution pre-conference workshop.

CHANNEL PARTNERS EVOLUTION — If an MSP’s marketing is focused on branding and awareness, they’re just dumping money.

That’s according to Robin Robins, CEO and founder of Technology Marketing Toolkit. She led a pre-conference workshop titled “MSP Marketing Secrets to Double or Triple the Number of Quality Managed Services Clients You Have in the Next 12 Months” at this week’s Channel Partners Evolution in Washington, D.C.

The global managed services marketing is steadily growing, but if you’re not exceeding that growth, you’re standing still, she said.

Craig Venable, vice president of commercial sales for Shentel, an Edinburg, Virginia-based a network service provider. said “we all think we do better than what we really do,” so to hear from an objective individual and an expert is helpful.

“It was thought provoking and gave a lot of great ideas, and in some cases it reinforced kind of what we’re doing,” he said. “So anything that creates new thought is always a good use of time.”

One of the things MSPs struggle with is what marketing is and how it works, Robins said. Marketing is supposed to facilitate and accelerate the sales process by attracting right-fit prospects, pre-selling them and predisposing them to do business with you, she said.

“The two marketing plans I see in the channel are the vulture marketing plan, which is basically wait for something to die in front of you, and then go jump on the carcass and pick at it with all the other vultures, which is basically growing through referral or whatever kind of floats your way,” she said. “The other one is the Plinko game … it’s random acts and hope. And if they want to be successful at growing their organization, they have to have a strategic plan in place. They have to understand what marketing is from the beginning, they’ve got to get out of random acts and hopes, and get into marketing systems. And we call those marketing oil wells. ”

Lots of things get in the way of MSPs executing successful marketing plans, Robins said.

“Sometimes they just don’t know anything about marketing. They say ‘I’m a tech’ and they don’t know marketing,” she said. “There’s ego; they want to look bigger than they are, so it’s all based on who they are. Here’s who we want to look like. We want to look like IBM, we want to look like Microsoft. Or decisions are made on their personal preferences, not on their customers’ preferences. They just need an education about marketing.”

Good marketing requires thinking like an entrepreneur, Robins said. An entrepreneur is engineering who’s their customer, what kind of product or service they can put together that would be most attractive to that specific type of customer, then designing the marketing plan to acquire that customer profitably, grow and develop that customer, she said.

“It’s like anything else, it’s the 80-20 rule,” she said. “If you look at…

…the channel, almost 80 percent of it is under $1 million in revenue so they’re just basically whatever kind of floats their way, easy money. They’re not going out and getting it. Every report that’s out there shows the managed services industry is going to grow, and so you can get a job, you can make enough to make a living if you want to just stay small, if somebody wants to do that. But I’m telling you there’s a lot of opportunity out there, but they have to engineer a plan to do marketing and get the business because it’s not just going to fall in their lap.”

The four foundational pillars of great IT services marketing plans are:

  • Establishing a quarterly business review (QBR) process to sell to existing customers, which involves sitting down with customers, and discussing current service levels and future needs.

  • Establishing a process for inbound lead handing that includes inbound lead to close.

  • A ‘”drip” campaign to stay in front of clients and prospects because not everybody wants to buy.

  • Weekly prospecting marketing, such as direct-mail telemarketing, trade show canvassing or social media, to stay in front of clients and prospects.

“From my experience, almost no MSP has a good customer relationship management (CRM) system,” Robins said. “They have no way of capturing the referrals that come their way. They are getting inbound leads, they are getting referrals, but they’re not capturing it, and putting it someplace and following up. And because of that, they’re bleeding out opportunity.”

And establishing an effective marketing plan doesn’t take a ton of money, “but you do need to know how to do it,” she said.

“We teach them the strategy so when they go spend $1 on marketing, they can get $10 back preferably tomorrow and they have to know how to do that. Before they go hiring marketing people, before they go hiring agencies and start buying ads, they actually have to know how it works,” she said.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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