MSP Marketing: The basics of generating leads to grow

A Beginner's Guide to MSP Marketing Strategies for Lead Generation and Business Growth

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You may have worked for years to build the technical capability to deliver IT support services. But without the right marketing approach, you will never grow. Without new clients, your recurring revenue will stagnate, or much worse, dwindle. A good marketing approach will enable you to reach new targets or influence potential customers to reach out to you. The time for waiting around is over, the chance to let marketing drive your future growth is right now.

Right now is also an interesting point in time for the overall MSP segment. According to Statista, the global managed services market valued at 161.7 billion USD in 2021 is all set to double and cross 300 billion USD by 2027. While the Asia Pacific market is growing the fastest, it is North America that remains the biggest battleground for the MSP slugfest. IT MSPs hold the largest share of these services. This sector will continue to burgeon as more and more companies, irrespective of size, continue to adopt newer and better enterprise solutions. 

Even though the IT MSP market is dominated by mega companies with transcontinental presence, there’s still scope for a multitude of small, regional players to thrive. They appeal to a potential prospect for various or a combination of reasons – price, quality, response time, and even localization among them. But if you’re an IT MSP how do you ensure that your potential client  knows you, considers you and eventually chooses you for their managed services? The process that gets the client to your doorstep or vice-versa is MSP marketing.

⁠Why does an MSP need marketing?

Being a multi-service provider in today's times is both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity lies in the growing size of the IT MSP pie. Economies are growing, digital transformation is key for most. Also, a rising number of companies want to outsource functions that are not central to their core revenue-generating operations. 

This means there is a need for an MSP to deliver these services and complete these functions reliably. But this comes with its unique set of challenges. There is cut-throat competition out there with different companies offering similar capabilities at different prices, based out of different locations. While some of them are more efficient, others provide better services at cheaper prices. 

But the main question remains — How can clients know that there is an MSP perfect for their business, budget, and operations when they don’t know how to find one?

This is where MSP marketing becomes important. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a one-man-MSP or a larger one that continues growing and expanding. You can even be a huge IT MSP entering a new market or new segment for the first time. It’s important that potential clients there know that you are offering services for them.

Marketing and lead generation are important for managed service providers of all sizes. So what exactly is MSP marketing? Let us try and decipher the formula of this elixir.

Understanding MSP marketing 

To be fair, the best form of marketing for any IT MSP will be “word of mouth” marketing. This ensures that you won’t need to actively market yourself. But the onus is on you to provide good services to such an extent that your clients are not just happy but delighted with your offering. They in turn become your unofficial brand ambassadors – and sales team – spreading the word about your services and actually recommending you to others in their network.

Of course, this is the ideal scenario but is this even enough if you are a growing MSP with a larger mission? The answer is no. Remember, to grow at a good pace, you need to be known to a lot more people than your client’s circle. Marketing is the magic spell that makes this possible.

Before we begin to understand Marketing for MSPs, let us try to clear the air and create a clear distinction between the often confused MSP marketing and MSP sales. 

The relation between MSP marketing and MSP sales 

MSP marketing and sales have a very symbiotic and dynamic relationship. A good marketing team makes attaining sales targets easier. An amazing sales team reduces the stress on your marketing team. But when there is such interdependence and the company’s revenue targets are on the shoulders of these two teams, it is usually followed with chaos and the arguments over “leads not closing” versus “lack of good leads” is a never-ending one.

Remember, every lead still needs to be closed and converted to generate revenue. So you need to have a solid sales team to back up your marketing endeavors. If you’re a small MSP relying purely on digital marketing, make sure you don’t lose leads by not converting them.

Here, we are trying to give you an idea about a few basic terms connected to MSP marketing, common tools used by MSPs for marketing, MSP marketing strategy, basics of advertising, and finally some plans that will be useful for MSPs of all sizes to start out. So let's begin:

The basics of MSP marketing

The basics of IT MSP marketing are similar to marketing for all service companies. But instead of serving individual customers, here you will be looking to serve entire organizations. Let's look at some common terms:

1)  Leads: Leads are potential buyers who can be converted into buyers. These are people or companies willing to discuss with you a potential deal and interested in procuring your services. The contact details for potential customers are also known as leads and it’s the job of the marketing team to bring these. 

2)  Lead generation: The process of getting or finding a lead is called as lead generation. The term may be misleading as you are not actually creating or generating something new but rather discovering or finding one. This is done by the marketing team. Once they generate a lead, they hand it over to the sales team who follow them with the aim to convert them into a customer. When it's done that’s a lead “closed”.

3) Outbound marketing: A lot of conventional marketing channels and some of the new-age ones are used in outbound marketing – that is you will be putting in the effort to get your message across to potential leads. Lead is a potential customer but when you're doing email marketing or cold calling, these target segments will have potential leads among them. Here you will have a target to reach hundred people and have at least 20 leads from them which will then be converted into at least five customer numbers. This may seem low but is a good conversion rate for an email campaign. 

4) Inbound marketing: This marketing technique draws the customer to you instead of the opposite. You can work with your marketing team for creating digital experiences, research papers, blogs, and other valuable content that draws potential customers in from the web. Creating an online authority in your IT MSP domain or your client’s domain is one way. Once they consume your content or become part of your community, they will feel connected to your brand and can be converted into customers easily. Content marketing, social media events, webinars, video marketing, etc work for this.

So now that we know what marketing is and why it's needed, we will look at a couple of ways you can do it for your IT MSP.

MSP marketing strategies

An MSP marketing plan is made up of two things:

The brainstorming and planning part is called a marketing strategy. Does this define who your potential customer is? Who will you market to? How will you market? What channels will you use? And most importantly, what is your USP that you will highlight in your campaigns and showcase to your potential customers?

Budgeting usually happens at the strategy stage. While MSP marketing should involve both online and offline marketing, we will focus more on digital marketing here as it's important and accessible to IT MSPs of all sizes.

The second part of the marketing plan is action and tools. Here you use the strategy to market your MSP using tools and channels. 

Digital marketing for MSPs

There are multiple channels, tools, and aspects of digital marketing which apply to IT MSPs. Used carefully together, they can actually help you grow at a great pace organically. Here are the most important digital marketing channels and how to use them: 

Your website: It’s true. The first step in digital marketing for MSPs is to create a great website. Your website is not just the image of your MSP to the world and a marketing brochure that’s responsive; it's more than that. It's your doorway for inbound marketing and queries. It's your safe space for blogs, articles, and infographics and can be made a vassal for taking a potential lead to closure. 

  • Make sure that your website is always optimized for speed and reliability.

  • It should be SEO-optimized to show up in searches.

  • Your latest contact details should be prominent on the website and there should be a clear CTA (call to action) in your copy and design. 

  • Don’t make potential leads work or search for details. Every extra step between them getting to your website to contacting you is a point where their interest can wane and they can drop off.

  • Make the design responsive and use simpler language without jargon.

A good website is  key to getting a lot of inbound queries. It’s better if your website displays customer testimonials too.

  • SEO: Search Engine Optimisation is tied into your website. SEO is all about getting your website to show up higher in search rankings. Almost 95% of all online interactions between brands or service companies and customers begin with search engines like Google or Bing. It's imperative that you rank higher in these results.

  • Online reviews: These can be considered the digital versions of the word-of-mouth referrals we talked about earlier. People would definitely want to avail the services of a company that has been rated highly by their peers.

    This is a double-edged sword though. You can have an amazing product but what happens if your customers have had a terrible experience? Nowadays, people tend to report bad experiences more than good ones. So if they decide to take time out to share their bad experience then every potential customer who reads that review may lose interest in doing business with you. 

    Even if your product is average, you can still provide a better customer service. And if they have an amazing experience they are more likely to write glorious reviews for you on websites, Google, and online forums comparing similar products.

    This in turn can get you a lot more inbound queries from people who are looking to find similar experiences from their MSPs. So this is essentially a customer service function and a UX function.

    This makes it imperative for you to build an effective and long-lasting relationship with your customers — their comments on social media can make or break you. Make sure you have good and positive reviews highlighted across your website and social media pages. Always interact with reviewers on communities like G2 and Capterra and make users see that you care.

  • Content marketing: As an IT MSP, your potential clients are more tech-savvy than the usual web browsing audience. They are usually online looking for specific answers and to gain some value and knowledge. If you can offer them what they’re looking for, it will be a great rapport-building exercise for your MSP. This in turn can progress to become a long-lasting relationship.

    This can be done in the form of creating blogs, white papers, infographics, and research that is useful to the customer that comes onto your platform. Once they find the content useful, they may have a better approach toward your services and brands. They can then consider the idea of actually making a trial that can potentially lead to a conversion.

    Remember this is not limited to your own websites, blogs, or social media pages. You can also get guest articles published on peer-reviewed websites or in industry magazines, host webinars, and conduct training.

  • Social media marketing: Yes, SMM is not dead. And even though we are not sure whether Facebook or Instagram are suited for you, we are really keen to bet on LinkedIn which is basically a large business event. Always all around the world. Social media marketing is not just about sales. It's also a great way to create a community and nurture it online.  

    Most social media platforms provide great tools for managing and growing communities and they will definitely add to your presence even in places beyond LinkedIn.

    What applies to your website also applies to your social media page. Keep it simple and display your contact information prominently. Keep a tab on your competitors, but differentiate yourself very clearly, and be consistent with content. You can even have customer testimonials and collaborate with industry stakeholders and celebs on social media. 

  • Email marketing: Email marketing is really important to all MSPs. Even though it's not high in generating leads it does help touch base with your community. Email marketing also needs to be done with some restraint.

  • Don't spam - only send emails for important announcements. Track their opening and interactions and avoid spamming uninterested parties.

  • Try and add some value to each email. If your email is something to look forward to - people will surely pay attention your brand.

  • Personalize your emails – don't let it sound like a robot. 

  • Keep it short, get to the point quickly, and don't let your readers go looking for TLDR .

  • Use less, and if possible, no technical jargon.

  • Suggest, nudge, but never “hard sell.”

    Some other methods which can be tried include publishing ebooks where you publish valuable information or guidance as an ebook in return for the contact details of downloaders. This may help you generate some leads but remember the data collected is not really always clean and useful.

    Another method is running offers on the website and social media pages that might attract a client who may have had a limited budget. But one part of the strategy is considered above all these - advertising. 

    MSP Marketing_ Generate Leads, Grow Business.jpg

    Digital advertising for MSPs

    The multiple ways of doing digital advertising and doing PPCs are the most popular. Pay Per Click is when you buy ads on any website or network. You can buy a Google ad or Facebook ad or run a campaign on a particular website that potential users might be visiting, and every time they click your ad you pay them a certain price. Not every click gets converted but the chances are fairly good and the ROI has been historically better than other forms of paid marketing.

    A combination of ads and SEO is used in the SEM (Search Engine Marketing) method. The goal of SEM is to push your website to the top of the search engine results with a mixture of paid ads and search engine optimization. 

    Follow up on good marketing

    Even if your marketing plan has a sound strategy and flawless execution, there is actually no real way to ensure that you get the results you desire.

    Marketing gets you closer to your goals, but it is important that you have a sales team that will successfully convert these leads into business. A lead is only as good as the customer that you turn it into. If you’re losing a lot of potential customers on this journey from qualification to deal, you must analyze the full pipeline to find and plug the leaks. Lead tracking is a great way to retain customers.

    You have to keep track of your leads and research. 

    • Do you understand how many of your leads convert to customers? 

    • What is common among them? What is working and what isn’t? While processing the lead, at what stage do most of your potential customers drop out?

    • Is there a point in the pipeline before the actual closing of the deal, that ensures the deal's finalization and revenue? Find and keep this handy.

A few examples of marketing plans

We are taking a look at various marketing plans that could be useful to IT MSPs. Feel free to adjust marketing plans according to your size, your domain, and your needs. 

For a small IT MSP team, the idea is to capture markets in and around your city. We will use a mixture of outbound marketing - digital and conventional - along with some hacks.

The first thing you should get right is your website – a great home page or landing page with all your services listed, and your contact details shown prominently. There should be a call-to-action and you should be able to collect the contact details of the leads.

If your business is in a certain area or your clients are from a particular region, make it a point to attend all industry events in that area. Every time you spend some money on buying a booth or getting a stall or simply attending a marketing event, you will find that you make much more returns in terms of either sales or contacts. Networking is key. 

You can also try offline advertising in areas where there is high visibility for your potential customers. You need not go ahead and fly a blimp over the city – that comes later ;) Start out by generating brand awareness among potential users.

You can also try to collaborate with other smaller MSPs in your area. For example, there might be an MSP who covers a function that you don't. For a client who needs more things done, maybe you can work together and get that contract. Similarly, maybe your client is farther from you and nearer to your collaborator. Tying up with them will make your on-site support easier and your client happier.

Happy clients → better reviews → more business

Let’s take a look at the marketing plan for a slightly larger IT MSP which caters to companies across the country in different domains and handles a lot of different services. In this plan, there are a lot more steps, effort, and spend. A bigger budget is not a worry for this MSP as the ROI will be good and it usually works with larger contracts.

Understand that this company has already grown to a decent size and is set to grow faster. So apart from maintaining a great website, SEO, and networking, you have to do consistent social media management to create and engage a community and keep the conversation about your services going. Also, buying ads in the right online spaces means you will focus a lot more on search engine marketing.

You can actually work to get better reviews not just on your website and social media, but maybe on G2 and Capterra too. Don't push your customers for positive reviews but offer them a discount or maybe an add-on in return for a genuine review.

Inbound marketing can be utilized by publishing informative and engaging blog posts, articles, research, and interviews with industry stakeholders. Remember to use only your learnings and not your customers’ data without consent.

Video marketing is a great area of interest nowadays. You can create long and short-form videos which may generate a buzz for your services. Continue with offline marketing with billboards, flyers, and posters in places of high visibility in your region. Add email marketing to the mix too - to find new customers and engage the existing ones.

As we said, no marketing plan is perfect but with preparation and effort, you can surely accelerate the growth of your IT MSP business with marketing.


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