Running 20 Years WITHOUT A Marketing Plan
As husband-and-wife cofounders, we just celebrated our 20th year in business this July. My husband, Page, wears both the tech and sales hats while I have always donned the business administration hat. In 20 years, we have evolved from an e-mail delivery firm (2001) to an IT networking break-fix company (2003) to an MSP (2007). We also grew Focus Data Solutions to a $3M-a-year organization WITHOUT MARKETNG! ALL of our growth came from referrals and upselling existing clients.
But without marketing, plateauing is inevitable. For two years, we had been STUCK at the $3 million mark. And we were staring at our third consecutive year of no growth. Despite struggling with sales, we never gave marketing any serious thought. A client newsletter here and there, blog posts when we found time to write them, sponsorships and a lot of community involvement. That’s about it. It was obvious to my husband and me that simply HOPING and WAITING for referrals was no longer an option. We just weren’t getting the sales at the speed we wanted.
What We Needed Was A Marketing SYSTEM
No business lasts for 20 years without solid systems in place. Our team had systems throughout our business – for operations, for onboarding new clients, for triaging emergencies – but never a MARKETING SYSTEM we felt would consistently bring in new opportunities, leads and sales. We needed a system that could jump-start our marketing efforts, give us a specific plan and help us refine 20 years of mixed messages.
For at least 10 years, we had been receiving (yet IGNORING) Robin Robins’ marketing. We set up a sales call, signed that day and jumped into her virtual Rapid Implementation Workshop two days later. As seasoned veterans in IT, we were complete newbies when it came to marketing.
Baby-Stepping Into The Right Mindset
When we first started working with Technology Marketing Toolkit, two things became key for us. First, we have had a significant presence in the Virginia and Washington, DC, area for two decades. That’s far more than most MSPs in this area. Therefore, we have an established brand and culture that we work on constantly. In order to best preserve the Focus Data Solutions brand and culture, we wanted to do our best to make Robin’s marketing our own.
Second, I knew that since our leadership team has been driving our company for years, they were somewhat set in their ways. But I also knew it was important to embrace many aspects of Robin’s program. Therefore, we would have to work slowly, step-by-step, week-by-week, to bring them all along.
How was it initially received? Well…
“Have You Lost Your Mind?”
We’ve always worked with professional firms, including law firms. However, in our 20+ years, we’ve NEVER had a target market. Upon going through the Rapid Implementation Workshop, it was clear we would need to focus on a single target market: law firms.
I’ll never forget Page’s reaction. His jaw dropped as he said, “Have you lost your mind?” And our leadership team, who have been with us forever, were like, “What are you doing?” Their fear was that we would suddenly have 25 law firms piled on top of us in one day. So, yes, there was a little hesitation about embracing the new. But I didn’t back down as I told them, “This is what we are going to do!”
How Important Is Your Unique Selling Proposition?
We Are STILL Perfecting It!
Last fall we hired a business development manager, Paul McClure. The first thing he asked us was, “What differentiates Focus Data Solutions from the competition?” We botched the answer. Our stock response could have applied to any MSP in the area. Paul told us right away that it would be hard to grow if we could not successfully answer that question.
We came face-to-face with that same question by trying to define our unique selling proposition (USP), as well as our What Makes Us Unique marketing piece. We worked with Technology Marketing Toolkit’s VP of Mastermind Division, Ryan Markel, to help us really figure out what was unique about our MSP. It did not come easy. In fact, we are STILL working on it. Because every bit of copy we write, everything I draft, goes through three people internally to ensure that what we promise perfectly aligns with the services we provide. Today, I’m confident THEY DO!
Running With The Band-Aid Campaign
Living in the Washington, DC, area, we knew that putting any kind of aspirin that could be misconstrued as white powder in an envelope wasn’t going to fly. Instead, we thought Robin’s Band-Aid campaign more closely fit with our target market. We first scrubbed a list of 980 unqualified prospects to narrow it down to 283 qualified leads. We also added 76 new law-firm leads during the Rapid Implementation Program.
With our targeted list cleaned and scrubbed, we started sending out the Band-Aid campaign. Knowing that we need to put regular marketing systems in place, we continue to follow Robin’s process. First, we mail at least 25 letters to new prospects each week. Next, we send a follow-up e-mail and then a follow-up call after the e-mail. Depending on how they respond to the e-mail and phone call, we either book a meeting or put them in an appropriate list to further follow up.
Our first orchestrated and consistent marketing campaign in 20 years, the Band-Aid campaign has generated 17 leads and two first-time appointments. We are growing our pipeline as we continue to work on this campaign.
Pro Tip: To ensure our messaging aligns with our brand, we wanted to keep our call center in-house and not farm out that important role. Therefore, our business development manager takes care of all follow-up calls and does a great job!
Our Best Relationship-Building And Client-Upselling Opportunities
When Robin talked about the importance of quarterly business reviews during the workshop, our eyes lit up. That’s because ever since we became an MSP in 2007, we’ve done them religiously! Of course, we don’t call them quarterly business reviews (QBRs) – ours are quarterly partner reviews (QPRs). No doubt, the time we sit with each of our clients every quarter has become our most significant relationship builders as well as our best source of new revenue!
And we have very specific strategies with these meetings. We take time to review their current IT needs, their chief concerns, as well as any technology or security issues. Next, we road map their upcoming quarter and determine whether any of our products or services will help them work more efficiently or better protect their data.
Bottom line: our clients TRUST us. They know we are advocates for their business. They listen to our recommendations. As a result, we have successfully cross-sold and upsold our customers to the tune of $28,997 in fees and $287,646 in product sales!
Finally Getting A Handle On Marketing After 20 Years
While the majority of our marketing and results circle around our QPRs and the Band-Aid campaign, we are continually adding more campaigns and marketing assets to our arsenal. During Robin’s workshop, we did a riff on her 9-Word E-mail by promoting our security product called Focus Shield to our clients. As a result, we upsold 10 clients to bring in $4,513 in revenue. We’re running a second version of this campaign in this quarter.
To improve our online presence and start generating online leads, we are in the process of upgrading our website and implementing many of Robin’s design and copy strategies. We currently have a landing page dedicated to law firms, whether they are coming to us from our mailers, e-mails or social media.
We are still working through our drip campaign marketing pieces so we can stay at the top of our prospects’ minds when they are ready to consider an IT services company. Finalizing our postcards and our TechTips e-mails, we expect to start sending those before year-end.
We understand the importance of providing a Shock-And-Awe Box to potential clients before meeting with them. Our version is a bit smaller, but we are continually adding marketing assets to deliver a better impression and add to our credibility and professionalism.
Embrace The Process… Results WILL Follow
Yes, I am proud that we were able to grow to become a $3 million business without marketing. But then I wonder…where would we be TODAY if I had discovered marketing systems two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago?
While going through the 12-week Rapid Implementation Program, I walked around the office thinking my head was on fire. There’s so much knowledge to gain it feels like you’re drinking from the firehose. But EMBRACE the process. The more you learn about how to do marketing right, the more you’ll grow. And ALWAYS do your QBRs (or QPRs in our case). There is no replacing that quality one-to-one time with your clients.
So Many Firsts!
For the first time in 20 years, we have a specific 12-month marketing plan in place that will enable us to meet or exceed our goals. We’ve also benefited from the first leads from an orchestrated marketing campaign, had multiple sat appointments and even gained two new clients (with several more opportunities in the pipeline)!
In just the 90 days of the Rapid Implementation Program, we have added two clients valued at $98,280 over their three-year contracts, $297,646 in product sales, $28,997 in project fees and added $3,015 per month for additional services sold to existing clients! Technology Marketing Toolkit and the Rapid Implementation Program has set us on a course to move Focus Data Solutions to our next goal of $5 MILLION in revenue!