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Inbound vs. outbound marketing: Which is right for your MSP?

Inbound vs. outbound marketing: Which is right for your MSP?

MSP marketing

MSP marketing

As a small to mid-sized managed service provider (MSP) owner, you’ve probably relied heavily on word-of-mouth referrals. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Word-of-mouth is the best lead generator – it shows you do great work, prospects are already excited to talk to you, and there’s a good chance you’ll turn them into paying clients. The issue is word-of-mouth will only get you so far. Sooner or later, scaling your MSP will require you to build a marketing campaign.

From a bird’s eye view, there are two major categories of marketing tactics: inbound and outbound – sometimes referred to as “push/pull.”

Both tactics are necessary in an MSP marketing strategy, but there’s a time and place for both. My MSP marketing company – Tech Pro Marketing – uses a combination of these two to earn leads for our clients.

In this article, I want to explain the differences between these two approaches and provide a rough idea of what a sound MSP marketing strategy looks like – now and in the future.

Let’s get into it.

What is inbound marketing for MSPs?

Inbound marketing is all about establishing yourself as an expert in your industry – with the goal of attracting clients naturally.

Common inbound marketing tactics include blogging, podcasting, search engine optimization, guest posting, webinars, content marketing, and much more. In other words, inbound marketing involves building up brand assets that people begin to trust and, subsequently, end up paying for your services.

If you’re reading this post – and other useful articles on SmarterMSP – you’re reading inbound marketing material. I’m writing this post to showcase my expertise on a website that many of my target clients read.

Pros of inbound marketing

If done properly, inbound marketing will add long-term credibility to your brand name. People will see your logo and marketing materials and instantly know that it represents high-quality IT services.

You’ll have a following that keeps up with your blog, podcast, or any other marketing channel to get valuable insight. Ideally, some of the people will become your clients. This is all done without needing an advertising budget to get your name out there.

Cons of inbound marketing

Time is money, and inbound marketing takes a lot of time. As marketers and business owners, it’s discouraging to invest a lot of time and resources into marketing and not see results immediately.

MSPs need leads now.

Inbound marketing is like planting a garden. It takes time, patience, and consistency to see the blooms. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

The reality of inbound marketing is that you will be looking at an empty plot for a bit. The results will come as long as you use high-quality soil, plant the seeds properly, and give it regular attention.

What is outbound marketing for MSPs?

Outbound marketing is all about putting yourself directly in front of your target clients instead of clients coming to you. For MSPs, the most common outbound marketing types are targeted email campaigns, digital advertising, and cold outreach (email, social media, etc.).

Pros of outbound marketing

The biggest advantage of outbound marketing is timeliness. Unlike inbound marketing, you can get results overnight. This immediacy is ideal for new MSPs who do not have much authority in the field yet and need to increase visibility and revenue quickly.

Precision is the other major benefit of outbound. For example, with digital advertising, you can target specific demographics, industries, and even individual companies, ensuring your message reaches the people who need your services most.

This targeted approach means that every dollar spent has the potential for a high return, as your campaigns are targeted to the right people.

Cons of outbound marketing

The biggest downsides of outbound marketing are cost and commitment.

You will only get visibility for as long as you run your campaigns. In terms of commitment, you need to be monitoring your outbound campaigns like a hawk (or pay a professional to do it for you).

This is essential if you’re doing any type of digital advertising. You can’t just set up a campaign and assume the leads will roll in. It’s a constant game of running campaigns, analyzing the results, and adjusting be more effective.

Another thing to keep in mind is people have developed a hard shell to many forms of traditional advertising. For example, cold calling is not nearly as effective as it was 20-30 years ago; most people don’t even answer the phone to numbers they don’t know.

The best outbound marketing campaigns are designed to be more personalized and less intrusive to the recipients – which adds another layer of complexity (and costs).

Should MSPs invest in inbound or outbound marketing?

Both – but it’s not 50/50.

If you’re an MSP who has primarily relied on word-of-mouth for leads, I’m going to discuss the ideal way to approach an inbound and outbound marketing strategy.

Start with outbound

As a growing IT company, you can’t just wait for customers to find you. You need to reach out, make noise, and get seen. Invest in both inbound and outbound marketing but invest more in outbound during the early stages.

Think about where your potential clients hang out and hit those spots hard. This might mean advertising on LinkedIn, doing email marketing, etc.

Inbound: The long game

As you ramp up your outbound campaigns, let your inbound strategy work in the background.

Develop content that showcases your expertise. Be the helpful guide, the problem-solver. Let your knowledge and approachability shine through. Inbound is all about building trust and credibility, slowly but surely.

Create a blogging calendar for your website anywhere from two to four posts per month. This is for SEO purposes. Contribute guest posts on a website that your target customers visit. Consider writing an eBook about cybersecurity for small business owners, and so on.

Striking the balance for your MSP marketing strategy

Initially, go heavy on outbound. You need those quick wins to keep the lights on and the momentum going. As your inbound marketing efforts start gaining traction, and you’re attracting organic traffic (and leads) to your website, you can start easing off the outbound accelerator.

Eventually, you’ll find the sweet spot: a healthy mix of both. Outbound for immediate results and inbound for sustainable growth.

It’s not just about spending money on your MSP marketing strategy; it’s about investing in your company’s future. Every dollar and hour spent should bring your MSP a step closer to being the go-to IT company for your target clients.

Final word

Getting the marketing engine started for an IT company is a big step – and it’s not a cheap one.

Once you start doing some research, you’ll quickly ask: what can I do in-house versus what can I outsource to a professional?

Here’s the thing about marketing.

As consumers, we’re exposed to high-level marketing almost every minute of our waking lives in some form or another. It’s easy to look at polished marketing campaigns and think we can do the same for our own business. What we don’t see is all the work that went into that campaign such as market research, data analysis, creative, and much more.

Whether you’re doing inbound or outbound, or a combination of both, you can’t run campaigns on assumptions. Every move needs to be calculated and measured.

If you’re hoping to ramp up your MSP marketing in the new year, I can help you. My company specializes in marketing for MSPs, specifically. Even if you don’t have a big budget, I can point you in the right direction to get your feet on the ground. Send me a message on LinkedIn or reach out to me.

Photo: Anton27 / Shutterstock

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