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How many times have you seen a post spring up on social media warning MSPs about a marketing company that should be avoided at all costs?
We see them all the time. (No, not about us.)
“Waste of money!” is usually the rallying cry around these posts, and most of them garner more than a handful of confirmations from other MSPs who’ve had the same experience.
What we rarely see after such a post is anyone discussing how you avoid other bad marketing solutions in the future. What kind of decision-making process will keep you from finding out the hard way? What red flags can an MSP scan for and easily identify?
Here’s the quick preamble to set the stage. I’ve been a marketing professional for nearly 20 years. As such, I’ve encountered more tools, solutions, hacks, tricks, magic formulas, and gimmicks than any human being should ever have to. Yeah, I’m talking about it like it’s a frustrating nightmare because in many ways, sorting through all of the junk out there is a frustrating nightmare.
- Step One: We consult with you to find out your ideal audience.
- Step Two: We create creative content for your LinkedIn campaign.
- Step Three: We set up targeted campaigns.
- Step Four: We launch, and you get tons of new business.
… then I walk away. Or run, if I’m wearing appropriate shoes.
Why is that so bad? Because if you read a few dozen of those digital marketing agency “processes”, you’ll see they all pretty much say the same thing. And they’re not describing some proprietary, strategically-superior methodology — they’re just describing what every single person does when they try to generate leads on LinkedIn.
In other words, if that “system” could get someone 20 leads a month, everyone would be swimming in so much business that marketing agencies would cease to exist.
It’s just like we teach MSPs. It’s what we do for our clients. Unique value is the key to standing out in your market. If a marketing agency can’t even make themselves look uniquely valuable, there is no chance they’re going to do it for you. The lame, copy-paste, ineffectual marketing agency will only succeed at making an MSP look lame, copy-paste, and ineffectual because that’s the proven limit of their capabilities.
Now, part of the problem here is that MSPs — indeed all business owners and entrepreneurs — want to believe that the common processes will work. Confirmation bias sets in, especially when they’re being promised big numbers and a huge ROI. But the reality is far more complex than that.
You might hear that LinkedIn marketing is great. Maybe someone told you that they generated a ton of leads from LinkedIn, so they can vouch for its efficacy. Then someone comes along at just the right moment and says, “We do LinkedIn marketing,” and your expectations have already been set — these guys are going to get me tons of new business.
But effective marketing is not an A+B=$ formula. There is no checklist of common tasks that, once completed, results in growth. Again, if that were true, marketing agencies wouldn’t exist and every MSP would be a billionaire. There is an X factor to effective marketing — several, really — that needs to be part of the equation before your investment pays off.
Detailing all of those X factors is beyond the scope of this article, but I’ll summarize quickly. (You can read or listen to my other articles, or read my book REMIX Marketing, if you want to explore them fully.)
- Effective marketing takes a unique approach, either through channels, delivery, process, positioning, or a mixture thereof. There are diminishing returns on all “systems”, and the more often a marketing method is used, the less effective it will be (for a while). For example, LinkedIn marketing was the holy grail for all of about eight months — now it’s already falling apart because it became the “everybody should do it” marketing approach and consumers really dislike having ten thousand companies run the same lame playbook on them every day.
- Effective marketing must be creative. One reason why some people succeed with a method and others fail is the quality of their messaging or delivery. Digital marketing agencies are notorious for skimping on this part — and their results tend to show it.
- Effective marketing must be researched and strategized. There’s a very good reason why we spend a minimum of four weeks strategizing with a new client before we start their marketing campaigns. Because good marketing demands it. Sorry to say this, but if you expect out-of-this-world results after a one-hour “strategy call”, you’re not taking the depth and importance of marketing seriously enough. That’s just how the game works.
- Effective marketing must be tested and refined constantly. Our agency has an always-be-testing culture. Not because we love statistics, but because testing has and always will be a critical part of marketing. If an agency doesn’t test and test and test some more, they’re not doing it right.
I’ll be the first to tell you that the marketing industry has become exploitative and unethical. You can avoid the many pitfalls by being diligent in your search for solutions and applying some simple logic — like the examples above — to your vetting process.