In today’s competitive landscape, IT companies like managed service providers (MSPs) have the unenviable challenge of trying to stand-out from the crowd.
Well, there are just so many competitors offering similar — if not identical — services to the same core market.
To get a sense of how many IT companies there are in the world, just think of how Microsoft alone has 640,000 vendors, MSPs and distributors in its Microsoft Partner Network.
Let me repeat that again. Six hundred and forty thousand.
From marketing mobile device management (MDM) services to configuring cloud systems to IT or cyber security consulting, there aren’t many ways to explain the benefits of your services and differentiate yourself from hundreds, if not thousands, of competing players.
That said, an effective digital marketing strategy can help bring credible leads to your doorstep (or inbox).
It’s no surprise that practically every major MSP has an online presence of some kind — MSP Marketing is just obvious at this stage.
However, with so many IT companies also building digital marketing assets, standing out from the crowd is still a challenge.
So, what’s the solution?
Marketing MSP Strategies for IT Companies are not Easy
You will have likely come across many blog posts about IT industry marketing trends that outline the barebone essentials of a digital marketing strategy; “do some search engine optimization (SEO), write a few blog posts, use the social media, etc.”
This is NOT one of those blog posts.
The truth is, such posts are outline the basic requirements of any digital marketing strategy, and, to be frank, lack actionable strategies relevant to marketing for IT companies and MSPs.
Read on to see what you can do today to cost-effectively acquire credible leads for sales.
Don’t Rely on Only Short-Tail Keywords
Let’s start with some SEO.
You’re aware of ‘keywords’, yeah?
These are essential to ranking on Google.
But all keywords aren’t equal. There’s a huge distinction between short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.
This concept actually comes from statistics.
If you look at the chart below, you’ll see that the shortest keywords individually get the most traffic. However, they only constitute some 20% of overall search traffic. 70% of searches come from many different long-tail keywords.
Short-tail vs. Long-tail Keywords
Source: Raven Tools
One example of a short-tail keyword would be “IT services” — a one or two-word search term which generally sees the highest number of searches per month compared to longer ones. In this case, “IT services” is searched 22,000 times per month.
That’s a lot.
So you might feel tempted to focus on that short-tail term.
But this isn’t necessarily a good idea.
Short-tail keywords are extremely competitive, and a new page has a very small chance of ranking at the top. If you try throwing money at that term, you’ll end up spending a high $14.56 for each click (i.e., cost-per-click: CPC).
If it takes 100 clicks to get a lead, then you’re spending $1,456 per lead. Depending on how many of these people become clients, and depending on how much you make from clients – this might be very unsustainable.
On the other hand, long-tail keywords — while not as individually popular as short-tail — reflect the problems of your target market. Moreover, they typically cost less than short-tail for PPC.
For example, “types of ransomware” has 590 searches per month, but has a CPC of $4.85.
You can rank for these long-tail keywords and generate lots of traffic by offering useful content such as blogs, eBooks, whitepapers and podcasts to the readers using those search terms.
In this case, you could have content offering detailed insights about ransomware attacks.
Use Long-Tail Keywords to Produce Compelling Content
It’s true, long-tail keywords like “types of ransomware” rarely correspond to your service pages.
In most cases, these terms reflect early-stage questions about a problem and, as such, users are looking for informative answers, not a sales pitch.
So, why focus on readers not looking for your services?
Well, the reality is that 90% of searchers haven’t even made up their minds about a particular brand (Status Labs, 2018 via HubSpot). If you ignore these people, then you’re ignoring almost every prospective client because they haven’t been qualified yet – from a purely sales point-of-view.
However, by getting your content to rank on Google for these terms, you’ll start seeing both an increase in traffic and quick, low-cost leads.
Sure, the leads are at a much earlier stage in their buying process, but you can nurture them over the long-term.
However, this is only a part of the battle.
You must ensure that your content tightly responds to the pain-points of the reader.
If you want someone to convert on your website, then your blog about ransomware should do a great job at answering the question and gaining the user’s confidence.
This requires in-depth research of your target audience.
Yes, there is the traditional market side of understanding their collective wants, but in digital marketing, there are multiple layers at play.
The content you produce for each keyword must match with the search intent. For example, some long-tail keywords, though promising on first glance, might involve questions that have little to nothing to do with your services.
Someone searching for “types of ransomware” could easily be writing an essay for a paper.
To differentiate duds from promising search-terms, you need a full-time SEO team to look at where that keyword is being used and to find out the kinds of searchers using it.
After all, there’s no point in dealing with a keyword if it’s being used by students.
You want IT Directors, Vice Presidents, Senior Managers and Project Managers.
If you’ve found the right searchers and long-tail keywords, then you must invest in producing excellent copy. These users expect a certain level of quality and, above all, answers for their problems and help for their personal goals.
Not only should you understand your buyer persona (which you should do by combining market research with the knowledge of your sales staff), but invest in high-quality blogs, infographics, eBooks, whitepapers and other forms of actual content.
Take a Multipronged Approach
You should target for both short-tail and long-tail keywords.
Just keep in mind that short-tail keywords will take much more time to show fruition in terms of traffic, ranking and conversion.
That said, when creating service pages for short-tail keywords, you should be careful and not assume that your persona knows as much as you about the technical side of IT. For example, you know what SECaaS is, but this term is completely foreign to a Company President.
Instead, you should focus on “keep your business safe from hackers” and other commonly used search terms. Ultimately, the people using them need SECaaS, but they don’t know the specific terms necessary to articulate that solution.
You Can’t Just Wait; You Need to Reach Out Too!
A strong inbound strategy (i.e., SEO, content, etc) will help, but it isn’t enough.
Online, there are always going to be bigger and better-funded competitors who will outrank you and capture more of the attention and, in turn, the leads.
This is why you must complement your inbound marketing strategy with an outbound one using account-based marketing (ABM).
Touching on the discussion above (about the maturity of new industry terms), you can employ ABM to clearly explain the problem and solution your leads are facing. You can respond to their pain points and offer answers by using your inbound content.
On this point, our CEO at Jumpfactor, Zamir Javer, noted:
“We work with our clients to ensure that there’s a hybrid strategy that merges digital inbound marketing with account-based marketing.
The whole point of this is to ensure that you’re re-leveraging your content. In combining ABM to inbound, we’ve found that there’s typically a 2-3x increase in overall lead flow.
However, when relying on just one, you’ll have trouble even generating a third of the results. So the sum of combining is more than the individual parts.”
Understand the IT Industry’s Dynamics
Because this is a competitive space, it’s unwise to spread your digital marketing strategy — and your business model at large — thin across many sectors. Rather, you should pick a vertical or a market segment, and focus in on a niche within that segment.
For example, you could focus on the healthcare IT vertical, but specialize in providing managed IT services and IT consulting to healthcare organizations with fewer than 50 seats. This helps in terms of carving out an area online where your content does rank strongly and where you could dominate in terms of acquiring credible leads. It’s also where the big players are usually absent.
The IT Sales Cycle is Very Long
The sales cycle for B2B IT is very long. It can take months (and in some cases, over a year) to push credible leads into signed contracts.
Thus, you must ensure that you’re constantly getting leads and — through ABM — pushing older leads deeper through the sales conversion process.
By committing to this, you’ll continuously find sales-ready leads following your efforts on every previous lead. In other words, you’ll always be engaged in getting business.
Next Steps For The IT MSP Marketing Strategy
It won’t be long before you find that each of the above steps requires a considerable amount of testing and trial-and-error.
You might not capture the right long-tail keywords being used by your buyer persona on the first attempt, but to get those insights you must invest in the content and SEO work anyways.
Likewise, even if you do manage to get some traffic (which will be relatively low because of the narrow focus of your content), then you could be at risk of not converting readers into leads. In Jumpfactor, it took us years to understand what offers worked in different situations.
For example, how will you decide between offering a cyber security checklist over an audit when trying to convert readers into leads for your SECaaS solution?
Starting from scratch will distract you with building capacity, instead of getting leads.
Instead of going it alone, you can leverage a digital marketing agency that already has the team, experience and insights to attract and convert leads for IT companies. Doing so will equip you to attract readers, generate leads and pursue sales right away with a shorter lead-time.
Moreover, by working with an agency and its team, you will also have the opportunity to put all of your marketing spend on pursuing leads, instead of building a team.
Jumpfactor is a domain expert in providing full-service digital marketing support to IT/MSP companies. We have veteran specialists on-hand to provide search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click (PPC) management, marketing automation and content marketing support.
Contact us today to get started with generating credible sales leads for your IT company.