Tic toc, tic toc, tic toc…

That’s the sound of your watch, reminding you how little time you have to do everything that needs to be done today or any day for that matter. From managing schedules and employees to financing and billing, supporting clients to meeting clients, pitching contracts, and closing more deals, a small business owner’s life is hectic. We get that. And although you know how important marketing is, it often gets dropped to the bottom of the to-do list.

Many of our partners have tried a few tactics themselves or hired a marketing professional. Expectations are often very high when that pro comes onboard. But I’ve seen too many instances where goals weren’t measured, marketing tactics were done without purpose or even when presidents thought their marketer would change the business sales cycle overnight.

When push comes to shove, MSPs usually turn to marketing agencies. That’s the world I come from. I used to do the internal marketing strategy for the agency, build the content funnel, qualify new leads, call them for a connect call, and try to close the sales on annual contracts. I know how marketing agencies think. And since I’ve made the move to internal marketing in IT and started to meet our partners, I’ve seen my share of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and disappointment. Quite the old married couple, IT and marketing!

As someone who’s been sitting in both worlds for over a decade now, I thought it’d be useful to simplify a few points on how to work with a marketing agency successfully if you’re in IT.

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What to know before choosing a marketing agency as an MSP:

  1. They will ask many questions on the first call. That’s normal. Be cooperative. You might feel very exposed when you meet them, and they ask questions like, “How many clients do you close?” or “What’s the lifetime value of a client?” It gets real personal, real fast for a first date! They’re just trying to cut right to the chase because they know your time is valuable, and so is theirs. They’re trying to figure out if you both are a good fit and how they can help you quickly. You want your IT clients to answer your questions when you do an assessment. It’s the same with the agency. When they ask about your budget or sales cycle, they’re only trying to understand your model so you can see some return on investment.
  2. They will try to sell you their monthly package. If you moved from break/fix to MSP, you should be 100% aligned with what they’re trying to do and why. Your business model is their business model. The truth is that persistence and consistency is key in marketing. You can’t run an AdWords ad for an IT company and think it’ll change the world as you know it. People won’t come running for your services with just that. You need a complete marketing strategy that considers everything you do and measures the impact. Course correct if necessary! Marketing is a lot of trial and error. It’s perfecting and tweaking. It’s science AND emotion. A long contract is the best way to see good results.
    1. *Boop boop* RED ALERT: That said, if your marketing agency tries to reel in a website redo in your annual contract, that’s a hard no. Your website MIGHT need a redo (and honestly, it probably does, sorry!), but make it a separate contract. If you sign an annual contract that includes the website, I can guarantee that the agency will work overtime and bleed money on your account for the first three months, then barely talk to you or touch your strategy for the remainder of the year. That’s how they buffer their loss over the year. You can’t have it all for 3k/year. Redo the website, pay for it separately, and make your annual contract count toward actual marketing strategy.
  3. They will also talk about sales. If they don’t, find another agency that will. A good marketing agency cares about your strategy, your brand identity, your positioning, the channels you pick, and also if you close the leads that come in. You can’t think marketing without sales, especially since it’s tied to your ROI. You want your marketing funnel to connect with your sales funnel. You’re looking to convince more clients to move to the cloud. Be prepared to have them sniff around your close rate, the number of leads in the past year, etc. You want them to care about these. Believe me!
  4. Be very clear about your goals and expectations. Just like in any relationship, open communication and properly setting up expectations is the way to go. They want to help your business thrive. That’s what marketing is! But they need you to talk. And you need to tell them what you need from them. What do you want? How much time do you have to give them? What SMART goals are you trying to achieve? Are you looking to get more clients on a recurring revenue model? Or is getting new leads more important? How do you pick a vertical? You can’t hire them and ask them to do “marketing.” It’s not a verb for a reason!
  5. Be prepared. Before agreeing to meet in person, do some thinking, and gather information. Ask them what they would like to know. Do they want your client list segmentation to understand potential vertical strategies? They should! You can be prescriptive. If you have that data, come equipped. Another excellent source of information for marketing strategies are questions your clients and potential clients ask most often. Does 30% of your client base want to know more about how the cloud can make their business more secure than an on-premises solution? Are they trying to understand everything that Teams do? Yes? Then build around that. The agency will try to understand your business and how it solves your clients’ pain points. The questions they ask will be part of those first few steps.
  6. Start with a strategy kick-off workshop. Engaging in a half-day or full-day workshop with your agency will kickstart your partnership on the right foot and help them understand everything unique to you. Usually, with good agencies and consultants, these are mandatory before getting started on the tactics. Either pay separately for the work session as a one-time fee to start your professional relationship, sort of like a candlelit dinner where you’ll talk business and UVP, persona, and smart goals or have it included in the contract. Don’t overlook this. They will need to figure out a strategy before going into tactics, and the more time you spend together at the beginning, the more it’ll pay off later.
  7. Pick a lane: acquisition, conversion, or growth. Yes, I know, I know. You WANT THEM ALLLLLL! But to be efficient and bring fast ROI, it’s always better to pick one, and that’s typically your low hanging fruit. Which one is the least broken and the quickest way to money in your wallet? The questions and work sessions will help identify these paths. As you continue to work with your agency, over time, you’ll end up checking all those boxes and get to a cruising speed of optimization across all three lanes.

It might feel strange at first, but marketing agencies are there to help. It takes time. Be patient, and be prepared for your next steps! As mentioned earlier, sales and marketing go hand-in-hand. If things go well, you should see an increase in leads or sales, depending on your goals. Did you think the entire funnel through? Make sure you have everything set up to handle the leads, triage them, qualify them, convert them into clients, and more. A good CRM is a great place to start if you don’t have one. You’ll want to track email sent, conversations, contacts, and such.

Next time, we can address buying marketing lists to build your funnel: yay or nay. Sound good? You can also get in touch with us about any other subject you’d like to read about.

Finding the right marketing agency is exactly like picking the right partner program. You want a business that cares about your own. Someone who will be dedicated to your success and understanding what makes your business tick. Want to know more about what you can achieve by partnering up with Sherweb and how our offerings can complete yours? Check out the different ways we can partner up together here.

Written by Maude Tanguay Employee @ SherWeb

Maude lives and breathes partner acquisition, onboarding and success. She works closely with different departments across SherWeb’s ecosystem to ensure customer experiences are optimized and valuable. Her professional experience comprises more than 12 years in IT marketing, including past roles in copywriting, graphic design and inbound. A strategic thinker, Maude excels at both project management and execution, making her a strong asset for any initiative she’s involved in. When she’s not leading the charge to help partners achieve their sales and marketing goals, Maude enjoys playing video games, spending time with her daughters and enjoying a glass of wine—but not necessarily in that order ;).