Does a Smiley Face on My Invoice Count as Marketing?

Welcome to the tenth issue of ignITe — a newsletter with facts, trends, and strategies for IT service providers serving small and medium-sized business (SMB) communities throughout the United States.

Many IT service providers are small businesses that simply don’t have room in their budgets for a full-time marketing director. Some may attempt to contract with local marketing agencies, but these firms’ business-to-consumer (B2C) experience is different than the channel’s business-to-business (B2B) environment. As a result, many IT service providers resign themselves to “word of mouth” advertising, which relies on happy customers making recommendations to new prospects. The problem is that, in some industries, having a finely tuned IT infrastructure creates a competitive advantage that customers want to keep to themselves. Without a regular influx of leads, it becomes nearly impossible for IT service providers to project sales revenue, make hiring decisions, and confidently add new IT solutions and services to their portfolios.

Although marketing can be an intimidating topic for many IT providers, whose comfort levels dwindle the moment the topic moves away from technology, creating a metric-based marketing plan is a non-negotiable requirement for survival in today’s competitive IT landscape. The best way to overcome this fear is to break down your marketing plan into smaller, more manageable steps. Here is an outline you can use to build a successful marketing program:

1. Design a marketing plan. The primary role of marketing is to provide your sales team with warm leads so that they don’t waste time chasing prospects that aren’t a fit and/or aren’t looking to buy anytime soon. With that in mind, IT providers should think about the kinds of leads they’re looking for and the different types of activities they could do to attract those leads. In addition to listing specific marketing activities (e.g., webinars, email campaigns, customer surveys, lunch and learns), it’s important to estimate the cost of the marketing activities and the number of leads expected. Before accurate figures can be determined, resellers need to know two things: how many leads are needed per month, and what is their lead conversion rate? If you’re new to metrics-based marketing and unsure of proper conversion rater, the industry average of 10% is a good starting point. To answer the other question, resellers need to know their average contract value. For example, if the average customer is a 50-person shop and a particular IT solution costs $10 per seat, then the average contract value would be $500. If a reseller needs to sell 5 new solutions per month, it will need to generate 50 leads a month.

2. Determine funding sources and budget. Once the costs of the marketing program have been determined, those figures need to be compared to the available budget. Typically, the money needed for marketing is more than what the available budget allows. This doesn’t mean marketing plans should be abandoned or even compromised; it simply means you may need to look outside your organization for support. As with other challenges outlined in past ignITe newsletters, vendors, distributors, managed service providers, and/or franchise partners can be an invaluable resource as these entities often have marketing programs or co-op marketing funds available. Plus, having a detailed marketing plan is an important first step to be considered for any available funds.

3. Manage the execution of the marketing plan. One of the main reasons resellers should track the details of their marketing plan is to ensure they make intelligent updates over time. For example, maybe after a couple of months it becomes apparent that one type of marketing activity is outperforming all the others. Take the opportunity to assess what’s working and what’s not and make adjustments accordingly. With enough data points, it becomes much easier to identify areas that need to be addressed.

Marketing strategy and budgeting is just one of the many challenges facing IT providers — and if it’s not properly addressed, it can cause a company’s sales to stagnate or even decline. If one piece of advice could sum up the challenges, however, it’s this: The most difficult channel obstacles are most easily resolved with the help of a viable business partner that understands the challenges faced by small business owners, is committed to serving (not competing against) IT service providers, and has a proven track record in providing those providers with what they provide their end-user customers, which is solutions.

With over 139 units run by 125 franchise partners, CMIT Solutions is in the top 5% of Managed Service Providers (MSP) nationwide. We offer proactive, preventative IT solutions at an affordable price, allowing small and medium-sized businesses to enjoy superior service and support.

John Byron
Business Development CMIT Solutions, Inc.
500 N. Capital of TX Hwy. Bldg 6, Ste 200
Austin, TX 78746
Toll Free – 1.800.710.CMIT

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