I’ll consider it serendipitous that this email from Digital Marketer’s Ryan Deiss arrived just as I was wrapping up this post. He says:
“Branding is the ultimate force multiplier. Better brands experience more organic traffic and word of mouth, lower costs and higher relevant scores on their pay traffic campaigns, and higher email open rates.”
This is not news to me, nor is it revolutionary in the marketing business. I’ve been telling MSPs about the importance of branding for years, and there isn’t a respectable agency in the world that would speak a bad word against the value of brand identity and messaging.
But if that’s the case, why are there THOUSANDS of MSPs with no branding beyond a logo and (maybe) a tagline? Why are so many paying thousands of dollars for marketing services and tools without first figuring out how their marketing should look and what it should be saying?
In short…why are so many MSPs making the GIGANTIC mistake of not taking their brand seriously?
Common Reasons Why MSPs Aren’t Branded (or Their Branding Sucks)
IT professionals tend to be technically-minded. Branding is not so much a technical concept as it is creative and emotional. It’s not about what numbers you can influence, it’s about building real and perceived value into your business’ identity. That being said, highly technical people either a) ignore branding altogether, or b) try to do it themselves without really understanding it.
One of the biggest challenges of my profession is convincing business owners that creativity and innovation are more valuable than how many emails and Facebook posts you can send out in a week. Your business not only deserves a proper brand strategy, it will NOT reach its full potential without one.
I’ve spent my entire adult life in sales and marketing, so to me it seems like a no-brainer…but most people still need convincing. You know what that’s like. How many clients have you talked with about the importance of cybersecurity? How many of them “got it” and how many just shrugged it off and said “I don’t see a need for it”?
Your brand is the sum total of your customers’ perceptions, notions and experience. It is the face, personality, and the values espoused by your business – and everything in between.
Branding and creativity can’t be easily measured. It’s easy to produce charts and graphs of engagement rates, conversions, website traffic, and email opens. The payoff of building a real, relatable brand is not so easily quantified. Branding is a long-term investment that WILL make all other marketing stats improve if it’s done well. (And then you run into the big question of defining “done well”. We have ways of measuring brand efficacy, but I’ll save that for another post.)
The “leg-work” aspects of marketing are easy to understand; effective branding takes specialized expertise and creativity. As an MSP, you’re exposed to tons of marketing pitches. Most of them are about things like SEO and email sequences. Very few, if any, marketers are trying to convince you to actively address your MSP’s branding. Why? Because SEO and email campaigns are easy to sell.
What they usually don’t tell you is that all of these marketing “tangibles” like your website and emails will be three to four times more effective if they’re backed by a solid brand identity.
And for MSPs that are churning faster than before, plateauing on growth, or seeing little or no results from their marketing, I recommend taking a serious look at your position in the market. Do you have a compelling brand image? Have you identified an audience and tailored your brand to relate to that audience? Do you have any real differentiators, or are you just one out of twenty identical providers in your ZIP code? Does anyone really have a reason to work with you over another company? (No, seriously…is there a reason?)
We do a lot of marketing and sales enablement work for MSPs and Channel vendors, but if I had to single out the most important thing that we do, it’s develop brands. Our ability to make MSPs more competitive through branding is one of our key differentiators.
Branding takes time and collaboration. You can’t brand a business in an hour — it would be insulting to even try. Your brand identity encompasses everything your company is, does, and will become. It should be thoroughly explored and clearly defined. This takes some real work and creative effort. Hell, I’ve been doing it for over a decade and it’s still challenging. It’s challenging because brand identities are complex, creating differentiation in a homogeneous market is rough, and each unique client takes time to fully understand.Here’s the simple truth from an insider: Anyone who says they can create your brand strategy after a couple of one-hour conference calls is either screwing with you or has no clue what they’re doing. Trust.
Your Brand Should Be Your Advantage
Nothing drives and aligns an organization like branding. It really is the biggest “secret weapon” a business can leverage, and it’s becoming even more important as the Channel matures. (Before market saturation, MSPs could get away with using generic templates and copycat marketing.)
These days, consumers can easily find a dozen or more local MSPs with similar websites, the same offerings, using the same messaging. It’s a bunch of text and pictures of guys in suits with their arms crossed. Nothing engages them emotionally. Nothing looks remotely interesting.
What do they do when all of their options look the same? They look for the cheapest one. (Would you expect otherwise?)
When we work with an MSP to brand them, there are typically a host of positive benefits:
- First and foremost, we make sure they stand out from the crowd. We do NOT want someone to see their website and think “hm…another one of these. I’ll keep looking.” Innovative imagery combined with audience-specific messaging makes bounce rates go down and engagement go up.
- Overall value perception increases. Marketing assets are more expertly and consistently branded. We strive to get you out of the price competition black hole.
- Highly targeted messaging throughout the buyer’s journey increases conversions from Awareness to Action.
- Long-term strategic planning increases the overall effectiveness of marketing. There’s far less confusion and guesswork and far more proactive marketing.
- Staff members throughout the MSP will almost always react positively to the new brand. It’s exciting and shows forward momentum — and when the brand is fun or empowering, employees get behind it. (This does wonders for building that sales enablement culture that we’re always talking about.)
- Opportunities for referrals and upselling increase.
- Sales increase. Usually, the quickest improvement in MRR comes from the sales enablement aspect of what we do (branding is a big part of this, too).