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What TV Can Teach You About Planning Your Marketing Efforts for 2019

Craft a marketing campaign similar to how a scriptwriter builds excitement in planning a favorite television show's season. Start strong, finish stronger, and make the ride varied enough to hold people's attention as it builds to the finish.

A few days ago, I was on a conference call with a client I've recently started working with and we were taking a few minutes to kind of get to know each other. I always feel that personal connection is important to what we do in terms of marketing for MSPs. I have to know as much as I can about your business to help you achieve your marketing outcomes, certainly — but I also need to know about the people behind that business, too.

The topic of discussion quickly turned to something that I, at first, thought was a little bit lighter than marketing. We began discussing some of the television shows that we're excited about for the upcoming fall season. Shows like "The Walking Dead" and "Better Call Saul," the latter of which feels like it's racing toward an inevitable-yet-incredible conclusion. We were talking about where those shows ended during their previous seasons, how we loved that standalone episodes still felt like they were a part of the larger story, and more. We took the opportunity to really "nerd out," more or less, which is always welcome.

That, of course, is when it hit me.

We'd never actually stopped talking about marketing.

Because the more I talked about how a season of television flows and evolves over a series of weeks and months, the more I realized that those same rules applied to the MSP marketing discussion that we had theoretically "taken a break" from.

This idea kept needling at me even after I'd hung up the phone, and the more I dissected it the more I realized it made perfect sense — especially as people begin to plan their marketing efforts that will carry them across 2019 and beyond.

In fact, there are a lot of different things that the fall television schedule can teach you about planning your upcoming marketing campaign that are certainly worth exploring.

It's About More than Just the Destination

For a moment, think back to any full season of your favorite television shows over the years. Season two of "The West Wing." Season four of "Seinfeld." Season six (or season five, part two, if you will) of "Breaking Bad."

Yes, it's true that all of these examples seem built around two key points: where the season started, and where it ended up. On "The West Wing," we begin in the immediate aftermath of season one's incredible mass shooting cliffhanger and end with the potential that President Bartlett may not run for re-election because the world has discovered he concealed his multiple sclerosis during his previous campaign. On "Seinfeld," we have George and Jerry pitching (and eventually filming) their sitcom — "Jerry" — to executives at NBC.

On "Breaking Bad," we begin with Walt's DEA agent brother-in-law Hank discovering that he is, in fact, Heisenberg (see below). We end in spectacular fashion with Walt, a pack of neo Nazis, a set of keys and a mysterious device in the trunk of his car (this one may be too recent to spoil here, but let's just say ... watch "Breaking Bad." You're going to enjoy yourself, I promise.)

All three of these examples start strong and finish stronger, but this isn't the entire story. If anything, these are just a small fraction of it — and none of these points would have been half as incredible as they are without all the work that was done all year long to meaningfully connect them.

On "The West Wing," season two is all about a few central themes: with "perseverance" and "fortitude" being chief among them. Bartlett and his staff go through an incredible amount of adversity over the course of 22 episodes. They suffer political defeats. They lose family members. But through it all, they continue to fight and they make it over one obstacle after another . . . until they're hit with the biggest obstacle of all, with the revelation about Bartlett's MS.

During "Breaking Bad's" final eight episodes, it, too, has a central theme or premise running throughout every minute of it — that everything Walt has worked so hard to build over the past five years is slowly but surely taken away from him. His criminal empire. His reputation. His health. His family. In the end, he's left with nothing — and has nothing to lose — which is why that series finale is one of the most powerful in television history.

These are the lessons you need to keep in mind when designing and planning your marketing efforts for the coming year.

Plan a Marketing Experience, Not a Marketing Campaign

We've written in the past about how your marketing efforts should be purpose driven — that is, you know where you're starting and where you want to be, so you need to create a campaign that connects those two dots as efficiently as possible.

But that through-line needs to be created with more than just your business in mind. You also need to think about how it will be perceived by the people who will actually be interacting with your collateral.

In other words, think about your marketing campaign like a season of a hit television show.

Start big — you need to get people's attention in a way that not only gets them interested in who you are and what you have to say, but that also guarantees they'll come back at least once.

But next "week," don't go for the climax. The second episode of "The West Wing's" second season isn't a frustrated Bartlett, in a cathedral, yelling at God about how he's been forsaken in Latin. It wouldn't work. It wouldn't feel earned. Even if it were the exact same script with the exact same performances, it wouldn't have the impact it ultimately did as episode 22 — because the groundwork just wouldn't be there.

Instead, writer Aaron Sorkin returned to those themes of adversity and perseverance in a series of episodes about setbacks during the midterm elections, a lame duck congress and eventually the State of the Union address. Only once his central premise for the year has been stated, affirmed and reaffirmed does he begin to build to that finale — members of the administration's staff are slowly introduced, one at a time, to Bartlett's condition until everything builds and crescendos into a finale that you literally can't take your eyes off.

This is what your marketing needs to do, too.

Start your campaign in a big way that grabs people's attention, then work hard to hang onto it. Pull things back a bit in the immediate aftermath, taking the time to come at your central "premise" from many different angles.

For an MSP, this is about more than just saying "here are what my services do." It's about slowly, organically and meticulously stating "here are what my services do for you" again and again and again. Every piece of marketing collateral that you design, be it a blog post or a white paper or something else entirely, needs to be able to stand on its own, sure. But by making sure that everything ties back into that central idea, you can also make sure that each piece flows logically into the next — each containing an important piece of the larger story that is being told right in front of your prospect's eyes.

Then, once that groundwork has been laid, you can start to build to your season finale, the point where you ask for the sale. There are other highs along the way – television has "sweeps week" about three-quarters of the way through a season; you can have emotional peaks as well – but nothing should be as powerful as the conclusion that you've been working toward this entire time.

That last piece of content that someone consumes at the end of your campaign – and at the end of their journey – won't just help convince them to take your desired action. It'll make sure that they won't be able to help themselves. It'll make that sale a question of not "when" but "if" and it'll have happen because your marketing took the time to earn it. You worked to create a sense of momentum and then you rode that wave into the outcome both you and your customer needed.

Then, do it all again next year. And the year after that. And the year after that, following the same structure, taking people on a similar journey and achieving the same outcomes along the way.

If Aaron Sorkin can write something as good as season two of "The West Wing" while also writing "Sports Night" and battling with some pretty significant personal issues, all at the same time, you can do it, too.

Nate Freedman is the owner of Tech Pro Marketing, where he helps MSPs and other IT service businesses develop the types of marketing campaigns that prospective clients can’t keep their eyes off.

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