Q&A | May 29, 2014

From ASCII Columbus: Creating An Effective Marketing Plan

By Jim Roddy, president, Business Solutions magazine

Effective Marketing Plans For VARs and MSPs

You’re a total solutions provider? Good for you. Your customers are thrilled with your products and services? Good again. So why are you struggling to grow? Probably because you’re great at IT and a novice at marketing.

Helping solutions providers create and execute an effective marketing plan was the focus of an energetic presentation by Herman Pool at the ASCII Success Summit in Columbus, OH, on May 28. Pool is the president of both Internet marketing company Vertical Axion and MSP DBS Technologies headquartered in Rockport, TX. He is also a recipient of multiple Best Educational Presentation awards from past ASCII conferences.

“Marketing is the difference between guys who are succeeding and guys who are failing,” Pool told the nearly 100 channel executives in attendance. Pool said that his MSP business experienced 300 percent sales growth after implementing a consistent marketing plan. “I did everything the same as an MSP, but the difference was marketing,” he said.

I won’t be able to communicate here all the valuable advice Pool shared with the ASCII attendees — he’s a whirling dervish and marketing master on stage — so I’ll share with you only the backbone of his presentation. Pool outlined a four-step plan he called a “Super Easy Marketing Plan Template.”

1. Who are the prospects you want to target?

The more specific you are with your target audience, the better your chances are of successfully marketing to them. You won’t be effective if your target audience is broad (i.e. “everyone” or “business owners”). “Business owners with more than 10 PCs” is more specific while “medical business owners with HIPAA compliance problems within a 60-mile radius” is an even sharper focus.

2. What action do you want that audience to take?

Awareness of your company is fine, but you should also nudge prospects to take a specific action. Buying your product is the end goal, but that’s not likely the first action a business-to-business buyer can take. Examples of actions you might want a prospect to take are visit a product demonstration at your office, opt in to your email newsletter, or agree to a face-to-face appointment.

3. What is the unique problem and unique solution you provide?

You and your staff might have an answer to this question, but Pool recommends asking your customers about the problems you have helped them solve. This can be accomplished via direct conversations with customers or an online survey. Pool recommended Survey Monkey, a free and easy-to-use online survey tool. Your marketing message should address how your target audience feels about the problem and how they will feel after it is solved. That will help your marketing message make both a logical and emotional appeal.

4. What tools will you use to carry out your marketing?

Pool and the attendees mentioned many of the typical marketing tools you’re probably aware of already: TV, newspaper, radio, Yellow Pages, your website, social media, email blasts, and email newsletters. The suggestion I found most intriguing for local media coverage was writing blog posts (or having them ghost written for you) about a newsworthy IT topic and emailing a link to that post to your local media outlets (newspaper, TV, and talk radio). Those media outlets may interview you for more details on that topic.

In the end, Pool said your marketing plan should sound something like this:

The objective of my marketing is to set appointments with 10 prospects in the next 60 days. The target audience I want to reach is durable medical equipment (DME) companies with at least 10 employees in a 60-mile radius. We help DME companies who are concerned about their HIPAA data compliance issues so they can focus on serving their patients. The marketing tools we will use to reach our prospects are websites, social media, blogs, and email marketing.

The ASCII Success Summit – Columbus is being held May 28-29 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Columbus, OH. It is one of eight solution provider-focused conferences ASCII is hosting in 2014. For more information on ASCII, go to www.BSMinfo.com/go/InsideASCII

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