• Charles Comenos

4 Ways MSPs and VARs Can Streamline Their Content Budgets

For a growing technology services firm that’s just starting to take marketing seriously, the cost of content marketing can be daunting. First, there’s the cost of hiring someone to create high-quality, original content, which is considerable by itself. You may also want a SEO professional to ensure you’re making the most of that content, a company to manage your social media channels, oh and a graphic designer for infographics, someone to do strategy, and ... you get my point.

Content promotion has changed a lot over the years
Content promotion has changed a lot over the years

Though conceptually content marketing is simple, making it work takes concerted, strategic effort applied over the long time. That equates to investment. All marketing should be done with a “jog, not sprint” attitude to ensure your marketing efforts survive long enough to see a return on your investment, and this is especially true of content marketing.


Here are some tips that small managed service providers and technology services firms can use to start content marketing with little budget, and establish a good foundation for future development.


1) Tell Your Own Story – Have you looked inside your company for stories to tell? Even with very little budget, you can have an employee interview you and turn that interview into either a piece of video content for your website, or transcribe it and turn it into a nice piece of written content.

Personal stories are very attractive as marketing collateral, especially in the managed services industry, where differentiation can be a real challenge. In the often dry world of B2B technology marketing, adding a human element to your branding can instantly catapult you past the majority of providers that don’t take the time to tell that personal story.


Note: Talking about yourself is a good way to get started, but you’ll want to connect to the needs of your customers and start talking about their needs soon after. All successful marketing should be about your customers’ pain points and needs — not just your own expertise.

2) Write In-House, Get it Punched Up – Do you have a junior tech in the office who’s a good writer? Maybe he or she has some time when they’re not busy? Give them a chunk of time in their work week to produce a substantial 1000 – 1300-word brief on a topic that’s relevant to your prospects' pain points. What matters most is that their writing is arranged in a logical order, and that the points are be supported by research or data from authoritative sources.

Then have a copywriter give it a few hours of reworking to give it a proper headline, flesh out the body copy, and ensure that the content is optimized to sell. It might take a while to turn this method into one smooth workflow, but once you do you now have a branded 2-3 page briefs on a topic that you can use as leave-behind collateral, promote on social media, or “gate” behind a form on your website to capture email information — all for a fraction of the price of having the whole thing outsourced.

Note: This system requires that you have a decent writer with time to spare on staff. It also tends to work better with long-form pieces of content, and less well for short form content like blog posts. Why? The back and forth of exchanging draft versions of small pieces of content can be a time-sink, and the cost of doing the editing work — especially if the original draft isn’t very good — can quickly become unsustainable.


3) Share Materials with Another Firm (MSP) – This isn’t a common route, but I’ve seen it work before for small managed service providers (MSPs) that are just getting started with marketing. Do you have a friend running an MSP in another market? Is there a hot topic that both of you want to run a campaign on, but you can’t afford the cost by yourself?

You can split the cost of creating those original materials by hiring a copywriter to create the content you need. Once the white paper, landing page, or brief is finished, each company can tweak the copy to suit their business and use their own graphic designer (you have one of those, don’t you?) to brand the content. If each MSP is only targeting prospects in their own region, then they’re getting the content they need for a portion of the full cost.


Note: Because Google’s algorithms don’t like duplicate content, this won’t provide any of the SEO bump that most people look for from their content. That makes this is a good solution for small shops that are just getting started out with marketing, and are planning to promote the content directly to prospects in a unique region. Established MSPs will want to invest in original content.

4) Grow Evergreen Content – Although ideally every firm would have a collection of great content on the latest topics to bring to every sales call, for many small firms that’s simply not realistic. What you can do instead is identify topics that are central to your customers’ concerns and create some great content around those topics that you think will be relevant over the longest possible time possible.

Once you have those materials, you can repurpose those pieces of content into smaller chunks and use those to fuel ongoing marketing efforts for months, even years. Just one informative white paper, for example, can be split up into three, four, even five different blog posts, if it’s done in just the right way.


Conclusion

Always keep in mind that when it comes to marketing content, quality trumps quantity. Ten blog posts in a month that are poorly written, haven’t been propped up by the right keyword research, or don’t fit into your long-term strategy can be a demoralizing waste of time that sets you down the wrong path. They’re also likely bad for your SEO. In contrast, just one high quality piece of marketing collateral that you can confidently show to a major prospect can be the difference that closes your next sales call.


Don’t be another undifferentiated technology service provide. Think where you want to take your business in the next five years, develop a clear vision of your ideal customers and their needs, and most of all stay consistent with your marketing — no matter how modest it may currently be — to ensure you don’t burn out before the benefit reveals itself.

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