If you are wondering how to market your MSP, you should really ask a butcher


If you have ever seen the movie Tommy Boy, you’ve heard him struggle with a sales line: “You can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking your head up a bull’s ____, but you’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.” I was deep in thought about this colorful quote the other day following an afternoon of first-time calls with potential clients about MSP Marketing.

Every single customer that signs up with Pronto Marketing talks to someone, generally me. We serve over 1,100 active MSP clients, and as the VP of Business Development, I have talked to hundreds of MSPs on their way to signing up over the years.

Each of them is looking to use marketing to grow their business. Most have been frustrated with their efforts to execute their marketing strategies and achieve measurable growth. They feel they have gone looking for a T-bone steak the hard way, and the customers are finally ready to talk to the butcher.

But how does that make us the butcher?

By speaking to every potential client, I learn what tools folks are using and what results they have. I monitor trends, the cyclic nature of the business, and which self-professed marketing guru is peddling what Kool-Aid of the day.

What I have found over the years is that the basics of MSP Marketing hold true no matter what. Well, what’s first, before all others?

Lead Channels: How do customers come to your door, and what path do they take to get into your sales funnel?

For most MSP Marketing, there are four main lead channels, and the volume of leads each channel represents is fairly consistent from business to business. A couple of items that are often overlooked include what you need to do from a marketing perspective to support each channel and which one is likely to move the needle for growth.

1. Referral

65-75% of new business for MSPs (and most businesses)

website Referral Program Page

The first (it’s the best, favorite, easiest to convert) and least expensive channel comprising most leads (about 75%) for most MSPs is a referral. Nobody recommends anybody to anybody in this day and age without that person immediately going on their phone, laptop, or tablet to check you out.

To a referred lead, your website needs to be unique, compelling, and a good size with the type of business they expect to work with. My phrase for this is “your website needs to ‘wow and check the boxes.” It needs to alleviate any fears and make the impression that you’re going to pick up the phone, and that you’re the type of business to partner with. Also, your MSP website needs to give this new visitor a clear and easy path to conversion.

Remember, most customers make a decision within seconds before going on-site, so that first impression is important.

So now that you can successfully land a referral lead, how do you scale this beautiful pipeline? Do you have a well-advertised referral program? Do you give your current customers a valuable referral bonus? Is netting a new client each month worth only a gift card or something more?

After working with many MSPs, I am often surprised to find that the vast majority I talk to do not have a referral incentive. So get one. Remind your customers early and often that you appreciate their business and give freely and generously to put their word on the line and refer you as a vendor.

2. Direct Knowledge

10-15% of new business for MSPs

The second most productive and second least expensive lead channel is what I call “direct knowledge.” These leads either met you, got your business card, worked with you at a previous business, got forwarded your email newsletter, or saw your truck. Perhaps they just happen to pass by your office every day.

They’re looking directly for you. When they’re finally ready to talk, they go straight to your website to make sure you are who they thought you were.

In the same vein as the referral channel, they have a good feeling about you, and you’ve got a few seconds to validate that positive feeling by making a great first impression. Make sure to “Wow” them, check their boxes, and give them an easy and obvious path for conversion via a call-click or sign-up call-to-action.

In this case, additional engagement tools, such as informational videos and/or ebook downloads, are beneficial to maximize lead capture opportunities if they need more convincing.

MSP ebook landing page

Lastly, never stop networking. Sponsor a little league team, why don’t you! Someone, somewhere, is going to be glad he or she met you or saw your logo.

3. Organic

10% of new business for MSPs

The third and more elusive (read expensive) channel is organic. When leads need someone just like you but don’t know who you are, they’re going to do what everybody does: Google it.

A few reasons why these people are pushed to this point: their current provider is not picking up the phone, they haven’t been able to get whatever they need working or don’t feel like they can handle a new technology demand put on their business.

Googling is a reflex. Even if customers already think they know where they’re going, they’re still going to do a search and look through the first page or two of results. If a site’s particular message, look, feel, or feature resonates with them, it’s going to go on their shortlist of vendors to call.

It is rare for companies to retain a new IT provider without looking at some competitive bids, so you always have a chance to make a pitch. To make a pitch, you need to be on that first or at least the second page of the results.

As a first step, Google yourself. Where are you coming up in searches that your customers would use? If you are not coming up, you have some options on how to improve.

You can pay someone to do some strategic SEO work. You’ll generally get what you pay for, so no, paying $99 will not get you to #1.

If you want to go the do-it-yourself route, you can start guest blogging and generating links back to your site. You can also explore less competitive keywords and try to target them, especially in major metro areas. For example, “IT support Midtown” is much more specific (and potentially more likely to convert) and way less competitive than “IT support New York.”

The simple point here is that improving your organic visibility is a continual task. Learn where you stand today and start working to improve it. A little can go a long way!

4. Everything Else

5-10% of new business for MSPs

Finally, and by far the most expensive, is everything else. This comprises all other marketing activities: from smile and dial to paid advertising like AdWords, to burning up shoe leather by pounding the pavement. I don’t mean to minimize this and say that the 5% contribution to your business growth is unimportant.

For most businesses, this 5% growth is the difference between The Red and Black. It’s that one incremental high-value customer. This extra, hard-fought growth is also where people risk overspending their time and money. My advice here is to first invest in the basics of referrals, direct, and organic and then focus on “everything else” because the “basics” account for 95% of inbound leads and are quite frankly the low hanging fruit.

When investing in “everything else,” you need to maximize your chances of conversion and put yourself in the best position to see positive ROI. It means custom landing pages specific to your advertising campaigns (don’t send traffic directly to your homepage), call tracking, and tools like Google Analytics to collect data and assess engagement and conversions.


In summary, everybody you find from every lead channel is going to go on your site and check you out. Have a good website: be unique and prepared to convert each lead.

Do not take the “easy ones” for granted. Continue to invest where you are already succeeding to ensure continuous success.

If you’re ready to talk to a butcher about your MSP Marketing, schedule a call today! We’ll help you find an easy way to learning about a T-bone steak.


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