SMBs Increase Their Social Media Marketing Budgets; Did You?

According to AMI Partners, U.S. SMBs with fewer than 100 employees are expected to spend $36 billion on marketing in 2012, up 4 percent from 2011. Now here's the big question: Are managed services providers (MSPs) also increasing their marketing dollars? And if so, where should MSPs focus their marketing efforts? Here are some educated guesses.

First, some more details on AMI's research: While print media still attracts the bulk of SMB marketing dollars, most of the actual growth is expected to occur in the Internet and social media channels. AMI predicts social media marketing spending among SMBs will grow 35% in 2012 and finds that the recession least impacted SMB marketing spending in the Internet channel.

Some readers may think social media marketing consists of a Facebook page with a few photos or the company president posting his thoughts on Twitter. This may have been true a few years ago, but social media marketing is becoming a much more intense (and technology- and manpower-intensive) process.

It's Not Your Father's Social Media

Modern social media marketing includes activities such as regularly scouring major social networks for mentions of your company, figuring out if they are positive or negative, and then if necessary performing damage control. It includes searching for keywords in social networking posts to determine if a potential customer is waiting to be converted. It includes managing contests and promotions that may involve tens of thousands of online participants.

Social media has gotten too big for these types of activities to be managed manually. They must be at least partially automated and managed through specialized software. Many MSPs lack the knowledge or budget to run this kind of technology in-house. That’s where industry pundits with marketing expertise step into the conversation. Examples include:
  • Kutenda, a marketing firm for MSPs launched by managed services veteran Michael Cooch.
  • Pronto Marketing, which assists MSPs with website and newsletter development.
  • Ulistic, which offers MSP marketing and business consulting services to MSPs. Launched by Stuart Crawford, a former MSP who is well-known within the HTG Peer Groups organization.
So, which MSPs effectively build and market their brands? Take a look at masterIT's web site. At a time when so many MSPs use stock photos, masterIT's web site features real photos from within the halls of the Memphis, Tenn.-based company. That's CEO Michael Drake on the home page in a meeting room setting. masterIT frequently hosts a range of gatherings for local SMBs. And masterIT videos highlight the company's professionalism.

Those masterIT videos improve the company's search engine optimization (SEO). Plus, masterIT leverages the videos in email marketing campaigns, which generate click-through rates of as high as 25 percent, Drake mentioned to MSPmentor last week.

First Steps?

MSPmentor can't specifically endorse marketing consulting teams since we don't directly use any third-party services. But we can raise the following questions:
  • Does your annual budget include a line item for marketing?
  • How are you search engine optimizing your web site?
  • What are you doing to promote your company locally (Google Adwords, local newspaper ads, lunch-and-learns, etc.)?
  • What are you doing to gather and leverage vendor co-marketing dollars?
  • Who ultimately owns marketing and branding responsibility within your company?
  • How are you different from an established or aspiring MSP down the road?
As a whole, SMBs are increasing their marketing budgets for 2011, according to AMI Partners. Do you even have a marketing budget? And if so: What are you doing to maximize the ROI of those marketing dollars?

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri. Sign up for MSPmentor’s Weekly Enewsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center. Follow us via RSS, Facebook, Identi.ca and Twitter. Check out more MSP voices at www.MSPtweet.com. Read our editorial disclosure here.
TAGS: Marketing
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