Want to get started with content marketing for your MSP business? Keep reading for tips from Thomas Lawrence of Lawrence Systems, a seasoned MSP who has built an extensive content marketing operation. In this article, which is based on an interview with Thomas, you’ll find critical tips on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to content marketing for MSPs.
(You might also want to check our Beginner's Guide to MSP Marketing, where we cover all the bases and offer tips for managed IT providers of all sizes and types.)
Content marketing for small MSPs
Let’s start with the topic of content marketing for small MSPs. Many small MSP businesses are tempted to jump on the content marketing bandwagon, but Thomas says this is often a mistake.
Further reading MSP Marketing Plan for a One-Man Show
The reason is that MSPs that have only a handful of employees usually lack the resources to sustain an effective content marketing operation. The content itself is too expensive (a single article typically costs at least $250) if you hire it out, and content creation is too time-consuming to do in-house (Thomas estimates that he spends half of his working hours on content creation -- hardly a practical proposition if you are also running the rest of the business by yourself).
If you are a small MSP, Thomas advises that you invest in growing the business before you try to do content marketing. You’ll also probably then have more revenue to invest in content marketing because your business will be larger.
Further reading Marketing Strategies for Growing MSPs
Getting started with content marketing
When the time is right to begin MSP content marketing, Thomas offers the following advice on getting started:
Look around to find out what others do. Read mainstream magazines, stuff like Forbes -- they do some technical articles that are good examples of content for you to emulate. Take some articles, rewrite them a little bit -- it’s almost cheating, but it’s necessary if you’re starting out, because finding someone to create an original article from scratch is relatively expensive.
Keep in mind, too, that you can outsource your content marketing to a content marketing agency, if you prefer not to create the content yourself. This is more expensive, of course, but it may be worth the cost if you just don’t have the time or writing skills to create content in-house.
Further reading The Power of Content Marketing for MSPs
What type of content should you create?
Successful content marketing requires more than just writing articles on random topics, putting them on your blog or social media channels and calling it a day. Instead, the articles must be relevant and informative for your target audience if you want readers to pay attention.
Also critical is to make sure the topic you write about is relevant to your business. You want readers to come away with the understanding that you can help them solve the kind of problems discussed in the content.
Further reading 100 MSP Content Ideas
The main mistake MSPs make is that they want to talk about a trendy topic like security or backups. But that only works if it’s a problem readers actually care about, as well as a problem you can solve. You need to have deliverable solutions in addition to relevant topics.
Another vital consideration is originality. Don’t regurgitate information that has already been covered ad nauseam, and don’t write high-level content that doesn’t say anything interesting or original, even if the topic itself is compelling.
As Thomas puts it:
Facebook is filled with videos like “1 out of 10 companies get hacked.” That’s great, but no one cares. We all watch the news, and we all know companies get hacked. An article with actionable advice about hacking, such as “5 tips to improve your security,” will be more original and compelling to your audience.
Check out these marketing templates that we created to help MSPs sell backup services, including a promo email, customer presentation and a leaflet:
Engaging the audience
When you are getting started with content marketing, it’s common to worry that people won’t be interested in your content or won’t care about the things you do.
Get ahead of that issue by making sure that you give your audience a reason to engage with and trust you; show empathy and a readiness to engage and support your readers. Be sure to respond to their comments -- even critical ones -- in a balanced, open-minded way.
You want people to feel like they can open up and engage with you. You want them to feel that you’re there in front of them, not some random voice on the Internet.
A common mistake that technical content creators make is to feel as if they can’t reveal the full details of what they are writing about. They worry that if they explain fully how to accomplish a technical task or how to solve a technical problem, readers will use the article to get what they need, and won’t bother working with the business that supplied the article.
This is a mistake. The point of content marketing is not to tease your audience, but to get them to trust and engage with your business. Your content should be as complete, as detailed, and as transparent as possible. And if you’re worried about giving away too much information, remember: technical knowledge that seems second nature to you is hardly so obvious to your readers. Thus, even if you explain everything in full detail, readers will still need your help to apply the information.
Social networks for MSPs
When you set up your MSP business, make sure to create social media business pages for communicating and engaging with followers. You don’t need to create a page on every social media platform out there, but be sure to have a presence on the big ones. Thomas says Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are the most important, generally speaking.
I get a lot of leads just because I am on Facebook and include all of my personal information there: Who I am, where I work and so on.
For the record, Thomas feels that LinkedIn is overhyped, and he comments that it has “become a place for spam".
As for YouTube, Thomas says that distributing videos on the platform can be a great way to reach a larger audience, but only if you are prepared to create quality videos. Don’t overestimate your public-speaking or video-production skills.
Other critical advice from Thomas on social media content marketing includes:
- Be present: Respond to questions and engage in conversations.
- Don’t be rude: Cultivate a positive, friendly image. Trashing people or ideas, even if you think it makes you look funny or clever (and even if they are your competitors) will not pay off.
- Don’t show off: You want your audience to see you as helpful and supportive, not self-promotional. It’s OK to celebrate your company’s successes on social media, but do it in a humble way.
Social network ads
MSP leaders who are new to social media marketing may think that establishing a presence on a social platform is as easy as buying some ads.
That might be true if ads were affordable, but they are not. Paid ads on platforms like Facebook and Google can cost tens of thousands of dollars a month if you want to run enough of them to have an impact. They’re thus out of reach for many MSP businesses.
That said, paid ads may make sense in some cases, if you have the budget for them and truly believe that they will amplify your social media presence. But don’t underestimate the cost -- or, for that matter, the complexity of creating effective ads and configuring display parameters to ensure that they reach the right audience.
Content marketing is hard work. From building the content itself, to deciding where to place it, to planning ongoing engagement with your audience, successful content marketing requires a tremendous commitment of time and effort. But as Thomas’s own content marketing success shows, it’s all worth it, as long as you approach the challenge in an effective way.