While you may be busy providing technical support and nurturing client relationships as a managed service provider, the content marketing road is one you’ve got to travel. In June 2000, there were fewer than 8 million websites. Today, that number is greater than 177 million active websites, according to Netcraft.com. The volume of content on websites–from white papers, blog posts and ebooks to videos and webcasts–is strewn across each side of the road like flashing signs alerting your customers and prospects to important traffic information ahead.
In a recent Forrester survey, 74% of business buyers reported they do more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. That’s why you’ve got to provide helpful information–or flashing signs if you will–to facilitate the users’ research and decision-making processes along their buying journey. If you don’t, your competitors will.
But the road to content marketing is not only about giving it a test drive; it’s also about developing a strategy and roadmap to navigate it. As a managed service provider, you must take this road to place in the race for consumer business.
A recent Hewlett-Packard (HP) whitepaper, Survive the Market Storm, reports that “11 out of the top 25 fastest-growing technology companies are service providers,” but also that “market consolidation will displace up to 25% of the top 100 IT service providers” by the end of this year.
This white paper suggests three key ways to improve your chances of being one of the IT service providers who survive and thrive through the changes. They suggest that by creating strong differentiation, optimizing company culture and positioning for growth, today’s IT service providers improve their odds.
But the rubber hits the road with delivery of one-of-a-kind, quality content that focuses on the buyers’ journey and guides them through how your unique services can help their businesses run smarter. It has gone from a one-way road to two-way–and the customers have taken over the wheel.
Here’s how to avoid being a backseat driver, and ride shotgun to your customers and prospects:
Watch for Customer Signals
Modern managed service providers are shifting gears and getting behind customers in their lane, on their social media channels. Forrester’s report, “The Multi-channel Maturity Mandate,” states:
“Today’s customer has much more control over the buying process than today’s marketer does. Now that the Web and social media are part of virtually everyone’s daily life, buyers have more choices (more sources, more outlets, more offers) and more opinions (from pundits to peers) to consider.”
So be where your customers are, and listen and look for their needs, likes and dislikes in their Facebook comments, Twitter posts and LinkedIn questions. While the customer does all the tweeting and posting, the smart managed service provider takes note. These notes help MSPs create relevant, useful and in-depth content that can answer customers’ problems and provide a lifeline while they’re out on the Web doing research. Managed service providers that understand this are there to tow in the customer when they’re ready.
Don’t have time for social? Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion has a suggestion: “Write down the 50 most frequently asked questions your salespeople get from prospects and buyers. Now write 50 blog posts.”
According to an April 2013 CMO Council and NetLine survey of B2B decision-makers worldwide, 60% of respondents said online content had a “moderate effect” on what vendors they chose to work with. Another 27% said that it had a “major impact” on what they decided to buy. Only 13% were indifferent.
Still strapped for time despite the content marketing proof? Use PicMonkey.com to create text images of each of the 50 questions. Post a short answer with each picture, and provide a link to the detailed solution page on your website. Post one a week on the same day. Mix content up with a 2-minute video answer to some of the frequently asked questions. Think you can’t write? “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley will help you get over it.
Open the Care Door for Your Customers
Once your content marketing road signs lead prospects into your car, you can get them where they want to go. But don’t make it an awkwardly silent road trip, or they won’t invite you in at the destination.
Get to know your customers and prospects–not just where their office is located. Find out their pain points, asking open-ended questions such as, “What’s the cause of the problem?” « How much are you spending to fix the issue?” “How much time are you spending trying to solve the problem?”
Stay on the Road to Success
You may be close to being invited into the destination by your customers or prospects. But how do you truly know? You’ll have to track the path they traveled. Search is still important, and any plan to connect to customers and prospects should first involve asking the search questions they ask. Here’s a map to measure the buyer’s journey.
It’s a crowded road, but being aware of the bumps and using a bit of creativity should get you–and your prospects and customers–where you need to go.
Shay Moser is a marketing specialist at Insight, managing the organization’s digital content. From blog posts to video news segments, she shares the intelligent technology conversation–connecting clients to news that helps them make smart business decisions. She is passionate about sharing the story behind Insight and its partners. As a Fortune 500-ranked global provider of hardware, software, cloud and service solutions, Insight’s 5,400 teammates provide clients the guidance and expertise needed to select, implement and manage complex technology solutions to drive business outcomes. Through world-class people, partnerships, services and delivery solutions, Insight helps businesses run smarter.