Many MSP business owners struggle with how to craft content for their marketing programs. There are many great books on the topic, but in this blog we hope to answer a very basic question: what is an easy, step-by-step approach for me to build my editorial calendar?
It’s About Trust and Authority
First, it is important to explain where we are coming from. In our view, the best way to market your MSP business is to become a trusted expert on technology in your target market. Whether you are laser-focused on a single metro area or on a key vertical, it is vital to build up a reputation as a trusted authority on information technology, cyber security, and technology services. You need to be perceived as the “go-to” guy or gal in your target market. If you have a solid library of blogs, videos, webinars, seminars, and trade show presentations where you have shared your advice and insights, you and your brand will become magnetic to your target market. But how do you consistently develop great content?
The key here is to lead with educational content in your marketing programs. Whether you are building your blog, whitepaper and eBook library, or webinar program, you should first look to educate your target market. Every client or prospect is struggling with how to grow their company, mitigate risks, and improve their bottom line. They are also concerned about practical topics, such as employee productivity, cyber security, and how to leverage technology to adapt to the rapidly changing business landscape. Your prospects will have basic questions and big-picture issues. Your job is to produce a steady stream of informative content that answers their burning questions.
You Have the Answers Already
Before we get into the step-by-step approach, most MSP business leaders need a confidence booster. You should realize an important fact: you are already an expert and have the answers your prospects need. It is built into your DNA as a technologist and entrepreneur. Getting results just requires a small change in your thinking. Realize that giving answers and educating prospects is the best way to draw them into your orbit.
In nearly every MSP, the business founder or owner is the lead and best salesperson. At least in the early days of most businesses, nearly all MSPs grow with “principal-led sales.” That is, the business principals are at the front lines meeting with prospective clients and closing new business. This process works extremely well because enormous trust is built during the sales process as the prospect asks a steady stream of questions and the business owner gives the answers. This process establishes trust and authority, but in a sales process, it can only happen one client at a time.
Marketing is all about taking this same process and scaling it up. Flipping the model around means building your marketing program by answering these burning client questions and delivering the answers in a one-to-many fashion, via blogs, whitepapers, videos, webinars, and other compelling content.
To build great educational content, it pays to simply start with the questions your prospects and clients are already asking. Here’s how to do it.
1. Business Owner Brainstorming - Build a List
Don’t overthink this step. Simply shut down all distractions and focus. Put the cell phone on silent mode and open a spreadsheet. Just start brainstorming out all the questions you get asked by prospects on a daily basis. The questions can be basic or complex. Some of them may even seem trivial to you over time, but if you hear the same questions over and over again, other prospects are dying to have them answered. Write each question down. What are some of the fears or frustrations prospects have? Why are they leaving their prior provider and what do they want to know about your capabilities, processes, or approach to technology? What is keeping the prospects and clients awake at night? What are the pricing, packaging, and service guarantee questions you get from decision-makers? What are the escalations your VIP clients are getting to your desk today?
All of these questions should be written down in the spreadsheet. In our experience working with most MSP business leaders, this list can easily grow to fifty or even one hundred questions after just an hour of brainstorming.
2. Gather Your Leaders and Ask Them
The next step is to gather your leaders and have them do the same process. Your CTO, vCIOs, lead engineers and salespeople should all sit down and spend an hour building a list of common questions from prospects and clients. Because of people’s unique roles, responsibilities, and personality profiles, you get additional perspectives and questions. Often, the questions asked to the lead engineer or salesperson will be different than those asked of the president or CEO.
After you have involved four or five additional folks, you will now likely have over two hundred questions. The next step is to add some columns to your spreadsheet and define some macro and micro topic areas. Then sort the spreadsheet. Next, you can start devising a thesis statement or title for each question and then put a stake in the ground whether you are going to answer the question with a blog, whitepaper, eBook, webinar, video or another content asset. It is really that easy. Don’t overthink it.
3. Analyze Your Support Tickets
To take this process further, it is important to understand that every MSP is sitting on a gold mine of insights and knowledge in your ticketing system. Most MSPs are already laser-focused on leveraging insights from your ticketing system to discover common issues or complaints and to devise proactive solutions to common technical problems or challenges. Now the next step is to leverage these insights in your marketing. What are the common reasons people call the help desk? What are the everyday frustrations for users with passwords, cyber security solutions, or getting their jobs done? What are the escalations and priority tickets? Your goal is to translate these insights into more questions and then answer them with your marketing. If your clients have issues and frustrations, so do your prospects. And you want the prospects to know that you have the answers to their burning questions.
4. Do an “Ask Campaign”
The last step in the process is to simply ask your clients and prospects for more questions. Asking questions shows a habit of listening. At every touchpoint, it is worth asking, “what else is on your mind?” How is business going? What are you struggling with? Where do you feel like you need to improve? And they will come back with some answers and more questions for you. The key is to give your prospects and clients multiple avenues to ask their questions. Look in the call notes of your account managers, vCIOs, and account executives. Check out the chatter on your social media pages and YouTube. Study the Q&A log from your webinars. After a webinar or event, send a survey and ask for more questions? What did you fail to address in the webinar? And the list goes on. Finally, you can even leverage your email marketing platform to do periodic “ask campaigns” where you try to discover additional areas of concern, worry, or latent pain. Everything you gather should go back in your master question log and flow into a quarterly planning cycle for your blog, webinars, and other content assets.
In summary, build your MSP marketing by answering your prospects’ most burning questions.
They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today’s Digital Consumer, Marcus Sheridan
Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype, Jay Baer, Marcus Sheridan
Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, Jay Baer