The marketplace for MSPs and VARS remains crowded. With the growth of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, software-defined networking and storage, and all of the other emerging technology the opportunities for growth and profitability are endless
Gartner predicts global IT spending this year will reach $3.7 trillion, an increase of 4.5% over 2017 spending projections.
The question remains, how do you get your share of this exponential growth? The key is differentiation. But before differentiating your brand, it’s important to realize all powerful brands have strong marketing systems at work behind everything they do. To truly extend a brand, your firm would do well to implement basic marketing best practices.
That’s why we’ve put together our list of the top five marketing tools you need to implement digital marketing best practices to set your business apart. We’ve noticed many MSPs and VARs have some components of the following tools at work in their businesses, and they don’t see much success. To achieve your goal of developing a steady stream of new, qualified leads, it’s critical to have all five of these tools at work.
How to Attract the Ideal Customer to Your Brand with Digital Marketing
Before we take a look at the marketing tools essential to digital marketing success for MSPs and VARs, there are two elements that these five tools depend on that you’ll need to know about.
First, personas. We can’t say enough about developing these for your business since every element of digital marketing is touched by an understanding of who it is you’re targeting with your marketing efforts. If you don’t understand the ‘who’ of the equation in digital marketing, the entire strategy for approaching the IT channel with your offerings would fall apart.
Next, you’ll want to have a strong understanding of the buyer’s journey. Once you have your buyer personas set, you’ll want to develop ways to communicate with them during the three portions of the journey they’ll take to move from not even knowing about your brand to becoming huge advocates of who you are and what you do. The three ‘stops’ on the buyer’s journey are as follows:
Awareness: The buyer knows they have a problem, and they’re looking for information to better define what the pain point is in their business. In this area, you’ll provide blog posts, social posts, and videos bringing attention to the challenges.
An example in the IT channel would be overcoming limitations with flash storage or ‘Warning Signs: How to Know When It’s Time to Move from Tape to Flash Storage.’
Consideration: The buyer has a better understanding of the challenge, and now they’re focusing on general solutions.
An example for the IT channel in this instance is, “7 Best Practices in Flash Storage Implementation for Enterprises.”
Decision: The buyer is actively looking for a provider who can offer a comprehensive solution to the challenge(s) they’re facing.
IT channel example: “Top 3 Vendors for Enterprise Flash Storage Solutions” or “Top 3 Features of XYZ Vendor’s Flash Storage Offerings.”
Once you have a decent following, as evidenced by a growing email list, a solid following on social media platforms, and a steady stream of visitors to your blog, you’ll want to begin focusing on creating ways to get your personas to consider you as a solution to the challenges they face. The final element in the buyer’s journey is to move your marketing conversations from having your personas consider you as a solution to giving them resources to help them envision actually working with you directly to solve their challenges.
Now let’s move on to the tools you need to make this vision of digital marketing success a reality for your firm.
Top 4 Essential Tools for IT Channel Digital Marketing Success
It’s important to approach digital marketing with the understanding that this isn’t a plug-and-play process. It takes thought, strategy, and an intentional approach to building a marketing system that produces results long term.
With that said, the foundation of a solid digital marketing strategy are the appropriate tools for the key parts of the strategy.
You’ll depend on content to create a strong voice for your brand at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Good content pulls the right persona to your website. The bottom line is, word travels fast when a company is providing practical, real-world information about an industry. Examples of content include blog articles, email newsletters, social media posts, videos, infographics, ebooks, white papers, and podcasts. And within each of those types of content, there are worlds of options for creating a strong story that attracts and moves your buyer personas through the buyer’s journey.
You’ll need a solid tool to manage all of the content you create. There are several options available. Just make sure whichever option you choose offers:
- SEO/Keyword management – Any platform worth its salt will help you organize content around topics or ‘content clusters’ to make what you create attractive to search engines such as Google.
- Blogging – Whether you create videos, infographics, or podcats, the content you create will find its home on your blog. Be sure the content management tool you choose has a solid blogging platform that allows for creativity and variety in content development, creation, and distribution.
- Campaigns – A world-class content management tool will have functionality for creating campaigns to organize your content around a strategy for engaging with your buying personas. This helps you track the effectiveness of the social media, email marketing, and other means you’ve used to bring attention to your core content offerings such as high-value infographics, white papers, and ebooks.
- Email Marketing – No matter what content you develop email marketing will always be a cornerstone of any digital marketing strategy. Focus on getting the emails of your buyer personas and then email them when you have new content available. Email shows no signs of slowing down in terms of effectiveness for producing digital marketing results.
- Social Media Marketing Management – Another core element of content management is an intentional and focused strategy for integrating social media into communications. Not only will a strong content management tool allow you to publish to the main social media platforms from its system, but you should also be able to measure results of social media posts through the system as well.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
All of the content you create to attract your potential customers will create a flurry of activity. You’ll need a tool to manage all of that.
A robust CRM will help you track your communications with existing and potential customers and manage engagements with those contacts based on your previous history with them. You can tell organizations that use their CRMs to their fullest capabilities. The communications from these firms are always focused and relevant, which forces the recipient to pay attention and respond to those communications.
A note on CRM Sales Management: Well-executed, a good digital marketing strategy will keep your sales team quite busy. Effective management of leads gleaned from digital marketing requires a tool designed specifically for online campaigns. When looking for the best sales management tool for digital marketing campaigns, be sure it offers:
- templates for one-on-one communications with leads
- functions to track all sales communications including phone calls
- lead-to-customer conversion tracking
- tracking for multiple deal pipelines
This is just a sampling of what a true sales management tool can offer when enhancing your sales activities in the channel. Some firms become overwhelmed with all the features available to them. The key in these cases is to perfect the most relevant features to your organization and then expand as you begin to see results from those efforts.
The advantage of digital marketing is you can use tools to automatically conduct functions that would normally require you to manage them by hand. This becomes tedious when these are repetitive tasks such as sending out emails or social media messages announcing a new blog post. An effective marketing automation tool handles these types of functions with ease, once you set up rules and templates necessary to remain consistent with strategic objectives and overall branding.
When identifying a strong marketing automation tool, look for a resource that provides:
- Lead scoring – This gives you the chance to apply a suitability score to each contact based on how they interact with your digital assets. For instance, a prospect who has read four of your blog articles would receive a higher score than one who has simply opened an email. Once a prospect has engaged to a certain extent, that person then becomes a solid lead for your sales department. A robust marketing automation tool instantly applies these scores by using technology to track a prospects interactions.
- Campaign management – Marketing automation also includes grouping of specific marketing activities under one marketing push or ‘campaign’ to coordinate efforts, easily implement a strategy, and measure the campaign’s subsequent results.
- Reporting and analytics – With all of the flurry of activity your content will kick up among your ideal customers, it’s important to occasionally take a step back and review the results of the strategy you’ve implemented. Powerful marketing automation tools make it easy to take a bird’s eye view of the campaigns you’ve created and how well they’ve performed over time. The report includes blog visits, social media audience growth, downloads of content offers, among others.
The Most Effective Tool in Digital Marketing: An Experienced Partner
Taking an incremental approach to digital marketing can be prudent, but it also yields incremental results. For those committed to gaining the benefits of digital transformation, they would do well to partner with an organization with proven experience in digital marketing that also understands the industry.
Source: Gartner, “Gartner Says Global IT Spending to Reach $3.7 Trillion in 2018” ://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3845563