VAR & IT Channel Marketing

You’ve realized it’s time to outsource your marketing, so you start examining your options. You ask your peers for references, search on Google, and skim through a few agencies’ websites.

But choosing an MSP marketing partner is a big step — the future of your company rides on it — and making an informed decision can be a challenge.

At YSE, we’ve learned quite a few things about forging healthy relationships between marketing agencies and MSPs over the years. Not everyone is a good match for various reasons, and there’s much to be said about making sure that there’s a true synergy in play.

With that in mind, here are our recommendations for finding the best MSP marketing company for your business:

1. Look at how they market themselves.

This is a pretty obvious first step, but it’s often overlooked because people who are shopping for marketing help don’t always know how to gauge another company’s marketing.

Look at the agency’s own marketing assets — particularly their website — and really examine how they present themselves. This is how they are going to present your company.

The most important thing to look for is their branding. Does this marketing company look unique and compelling, or do they look like every other marketing company you’ve checked out? If they don’t have the creativity and skills to differentiate themselves and contextualize their own offerings, they certainly won’t be much help to you.

2. Examine their processes.

Success is built on processes. If a marketing agency can’t clearly and concisely explain their processes the moment you ask about them, you’re probably in for trouble.

Yes, marketing is a dynamic and highly-customized offering, but we manage to be extraordinarily creative while still adhering to proven and established procedures. This allows us to offer a high level of service, consistent results, and organized management of your marketing.

Without processes, you’ll probably be dealing with someone who likes to throw things against the wall and see what sticks. This is not the ideal approach to effective MSP marketing.

3. Investigate their culture.

A business is only as good as the people that make it function, and aspects like leadership, employee turnover, and morale play a huge role in how effective they can be.

Don’t take a company’s culture at face value, because anything they present to you is going to be filtered and polished. Seek out real information from the source: employees and former employees.

Before working with a new vendor, we always check out their reviews on Glassdoor. This website allows employees and former employees to leave reviews about the workplace and you can often find a great deal of insight from their feedback.

(Be sure to read all of the reviews. Some unethical companies go to great lengths to bury their negative reviews.)

Look for trends in what former employees are saying. If several people are pointing out the same problems, there’s a good chance there’s legitimacy to the claims. When you see a large number of negative reviews regarding disorganization, bad leadership, low morale, or high turnover rate, you can bet you’re going to feel the same pain if you choose to work with that company.

4. Get to know their reps.

Marketing is a human endeavor — don’t let anyone who is obsessed with technology tell you otherwise. What we do is all about people, and we do the best work when we can mesh with and work collaboratively with our clients.

If possible, speak with the people who will actually be handling your account. It may be an account manager, someone far removed from those you’re speaking to during the sales process.

In our case, it’s the leadership team of Your Sales Energy that you speak to from the very beginning. When you meet us the very first time you call us, you learn exactly who you will be working with in the future.

5. Ask the right questions.

You probably have questions in mind already, but there are few things you should know that will prove important down the line:

Do you have experience outside of the IT Channel?

Real marketing expertise transcends industries, and you definitely don’t want to end up with a “marketing expert” who only knows how to crank out the same work over and over again for multiple MSPs.

Experience outside of the MSP space means that the agency will be able to bring fresh, new ideas to your marketing.

How are you going to produce results?

Ask about the agency’s processes early and hold their answers to a high standard. If the agency rep can’t give you a clear answer regarding their approach to taking on a new client and delivering results, this is a sign of poor organization and a careless operation.

What will be my MSP’s involvement in your process?

Effective marketing comes from collaboration. If the agency plans on onboarding you and “running you through the playbook” without getting to know your company, culture, goals, and values, there will be problems ahead.

Most likely, the problem will be ineffectual marketing that is a carbon-copy of what they’re doing for everyone else.

What won’t your company do for me?

It’s important to know what your marketing agency won’t be able to do for you. They should be willing to openly and assertively explain the limitations of your agreement.

You need to know any gaps that exist between what you want and what you’re going to get. It’s also good to know that the agency in question is confident enough of their service to clearly explain what they’re not going to do.

If the agency replies to every one of your requests with “Sure, we’ll do that” or “we don’t normally do that, but we can probably make an exception”, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a marketing company that has very little focus.

Worse yet, they may just be telling you what you want to hear to get you to sign a contract.

6. Opt for expertise and assertiveness.

This part can be tough for business owners.

You should be looking for someone who can effectively guide your marketing, not an agency that just yields to your requests and defers to your every whim.

You’re hiring a marketing company because you recognize the value in outside expertise. If your chosen expert simply lets you walk all over them with your own ideas and demands, they’re doing you a disservice.

The best agency will have the courage to tell you when you’re wrong, offer you alternatives, and make sure that they’re steering the ship in the right direction. This doesn’t mean they should just trample you, of course. There needs to be a mutual respect and a good amount of back-and-forth. 

7. Make sure there’s a way out.

We’re bothered by marketing companies that lock their clients into contracts. As we’ve proven time and again, marketing agencies don’t need to do this when they provide a truly valuable service.

In very rare cases we will work out arrangements with clients for short (usually three-month) agreement terms — and it’s only to accommodate the client in some way.

Otherwise, we’re willing to earn our fee each month. We consistently deliver value from day one of taking on a new client, so we don’t need the comfort of long-term contracts. This allows us to function as a more integral part of our clients’ organizations as well.

If you’re considering an agency that requires a long-term commitment, make sure you fully understand your options for ending your relationship.

Ask about any procedures that they have in place for seperating from a client. Do they have processes for handing off CRM licenses? Will you get your full and up-to-date email list back? How about your website or graphical assets?

8. Consider your budget.

These days, there really are marketing options out there for any conceivable budget. Agency fees run the gamut from extremely affordable to astronomical, and MSPs on an extremely tight budget can usually find experienced freelancers or consultants for next to nothing.

The important thing is not to make your choice based on cost alone. What truly matters is what the provider will be able to accomplish at their price point — whether it be low or high.

There are agencies in our space that charge extremely high fees and produce very little in the way of results. At the same time, there are extremely effective marketers who price themselves low.

Due diligence is key.

Choosing to work with an experienced MSP marketing agency can be one of the best decisions you ever make for the future of your company.

This potential can only be realized if you partner with the best MSP marketing company for your business — one that recognizes your uniqueness, works with you to achieve your goals, and has the high-level marketing knowledge and creativity to make everything come together.

J.P. Roe

J.P. is the Marketing Director and managing partner at Your Sales Energy. He has been marketing since 2003 and has extensive experience in small business development, advertising, video production, and behavioral science.

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