easy msp marketing

MSP Marketing: The Allure of the DIY Approach

Let’s say you’re thirsty at the end of a long day and you really want a cold beer. 

If you’re a denizen of a first-world nation, you have several ways to satisfy that desire. You might be able to go to your fridge and grab one. You could hit the corner store and pull a six pack out of the “beer cave”. Or you could head over to one of several nearby bars and have an imported lager drawn into a frosty mug. 

Different options, different experiences, different costs. Regardless, taking any of these roads will result in getting that drink. 

These days there’s another option that more and more people are opting for. You could craft your own beer. Imagine that! Not only enjoying that crisp, refreshing beverage, but being able to control every aspect of its production, tweaking the recipe, designing your own label, and telling all of your friends that you are the brew master!

Sounds great — so let’s say you opt for that path. You watch a few YouTube videos, read tons of blogs about brewing equipment, and place an order for everything you need. You source the best ingredients. You start designing a cool label. The equipment arrives a few days later and you start processing the ingredients. 

Four to six weeks later, you’ve got that beer in your hand. Assuming you got it right on the first try and it doesn’t taste terrible, you’ve earned the right to call yourself an amateur brewmaster and you get to kick back and savor the suds of your labor.

This is every bit as legitimate a path to get to that ice cold beer, but it’s a wildly different alternative to going down to your local or buying a six-pack from the Wawa. 

Every option carries its own benefits and costs, obviously. If you want a beer right now, the absolute worst way to satisfy that desire is to embark on a protracted craft brewing journey.

It takes longer, requires significantly more investment of time and brainpower, carries a learning curve, and leaves too much room for mistakes.

But if that’s the case, why do 1.1 million people in the U.S. craft their own beer? Simply because they’re satisfying a different set of needs versus the person who steps into a bar and orders a Budweiser. 

Now think about how this applies to MSP marketing. Can you think of any MSPs who are desperately thirsty for new business? And how many of those choose to “brew their own” marketing strategy?

What this illustrates is a common disconnect between the need and the solution. 

MSPs need a solid, process-driven marketing strategy. They need that strategy to drive growth. Just like the beer example, the fastest route to satisfying that need is to go to people who already have the tools, experience, talent, and knowledge to deliver that result.

That said, many MSPs choose the alternative — the “craft brewing at home” path. Doing so adds huge time and resource costs to getting to that result. It introduces an immense learning curve that leaves a lot of room for human error.

Looking at it purely objectively, there’s no logical reason to choose the long, complicated path of figuring out how to become a brewmaster rather than just going to an accomplished brewer who already has beer on tap.

But, again, MSPs keep choosing this option.

There are two reasons why this decision is made — and they’re not entirely logical. 

The first reason is a failure to recognize the actual need. A desire for growth or a knowledge that marketing needs to be improved can be easily misinterpreted. Such misunderstandings aren’t really the fault of the MSPs, but usually driven by marketers or “gurus” who are handing out incomplete information:

  • Sure, an MSP can do their own marketing…but the reasons why most shouldn’t try to take it on themselves are conveniently left out.
  • MSPs are sold flashy tools, but the vendor doesn’t explain how complex the utilization of these tools actually is.
  • Discussion of time is distorted. MSPs are told that they can do their own MSP marketing “fast” or “in a few minutes a day”, which makes it seem like it can deliver quick results. They fail to explain that marketing strategies take time to fully execute and realize results, so the more time is spent learning or making mistakes, the longer it will take to actually generate ROI.
  • All the tools in the world can’t replace the skills and talents specific to a successful marketer. Creativity, lateral thinking, and deep knowledge of marketing as a craft can’t be packaged. While an MSP can earn some of these as they go, it’s a race they can’t win against marketers who have spent their entire lives in the business.

So the need for growth becomes misinterpreted as a need for marketing. As soon as that error is made, the entire decision making process breaks down. Anyone can “do marketing” just like anyone can brew beer. But if you want a specific beer and you want it fast, without hassle, and without wasting money, you don’t try to make it yourself. You just order one at the pub. 

There’s also an allure to making this mistake — which is all the more reason why it’s made so often. DIY is sexy. It’s empowering. The idea of doing one’s own marketing seems fulfilling, and the idea of cram-learning a hundred years of marketing wisdom seems like an opportunity for personal growth rather than a massive hurdle that needs to be cleared. If you do your own marketing, you maintain complete control. You might even get bragging rights. 

But are any of these things all that compelling if the marketing doesn’t work? Would you spend six weeks brewing your own beer if you knew that the final result would be a bottle of flat, tasteless barley water? Certainly not. 

And that’s where the “Great Marketing Lie” hurts so many MSPs. The idea that it’s all so easy to do yourself, that expertise and experience aren’t necessary as long as you buy Tool X, and that there’s some kind of simple checklist that can be followed to the Lead Generation Holy Land. 

The idea that marketing is easy sells very well. My industry loves to perpetuate that myth — as long as it can profit from it. But the myth lives through misdirection. They want you to focus on what’s exciting about their tool or group or whatever, but leave out the important parts:

  • I already don’t have time for marketing…so how does a tool that requires any of my time actually solve the problem? More work is more work, even if it’s optimized work. 
  • This solution gives me access to prospect contact data…but how many hours and how much guesswork is involved in doing anything with that data? Getting contact details is the easy part — there are free tools that do that — it’s how you use that information that matters.
  • This SEO tool or service will drive traffic to my site…but is my site even set up to leverage that traffic? SEO is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
  • This mastermind group lets us brainstorm our marketing ideas…but does putting ten people with the same problem in a room solve the problem? No. If I have questions, I should be seeking out someone with answers, not brainstorming with people who have the same questions.

…and so on.

If you can wade through the sales pitches and evaluate these options rationally and from a position of full understanding, you’ll truly see where some of the most popular options fall flat.

Which brings me to the second misconception about DIY marketing: that it’s cheaper. 

Many MSPs feel like they have no choice in the matter because they can’t afford paid marketing or expensive tools. Perhaps, but if that’s the case, then their number one priority should be freeing up 12-15% (or more) of their annual revenue to invest in marketing. The answer is not to take it on themselves. 

While 12% might sound like a lot of money, compare that to how much it costs to miss out on growth opportunities for several years while you’re learning and building everything from scratch. Compare it to how much it costs to buy your own tools, join peer groups, and spend twenty hours a week reading blogs and watching videos to try to learn as you go. In truth, you want to be in a position where you can delegate your MSP’s marketing because your time is too valuable to do otherwise.

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