Five Essential Ingredients of a Service Provider Marketing Plan, Part 1

Let’s start with the obvious. The demand for hosted services like SaaS, DaaS and storage is steadily growing and so are the number of Managed Service Providers, hosters and channel partners providing these services. This means businesses have more choices than ever and service providers have to work even harder to win new customers and grow their business. In today’s consumer-driven, hyper-competitive market, services providers can no longer rely on just word of mouth referrals, organic leads and “me too” marketing tactics. It’s time to have a differentiated, targeted, attainable and measurable marketing plan. This two-part blog will get you started by looking at five essential ingredients when creating a marketing plan for your hosted services.

Step 1) Find your unique story

I’m a firm believer that crisp, impactful messaging and positioning must be at the root of all marketing plans and tactics. The exercise of writing a messaging guide forces you to think hard about articulating what truly makes the businesses unique, what makes your customers tick, how you can solve their pain points and what elements of your business are essential to reinforcing your story. At the highest level, a messaging document should address:

  • The value proposition – the “so what” that sets you apart
  • Buyer personas, their needs and pain points – who they are and what keeps them up at night
  • Key benefits and how they map to buyers – what triggers them to say “I want that”
  • Positioning statements – headline, short and long versions
  • Competitive positioning – who you run up against, why you win and lose

Step 2) Define the strategy

Before you start thinking about what to do, step back and define what you are trying to accomplish. Is your goal to expand into a new region? Drive demand for a new service? Differentiate and win over customers from your competitor? Each strategy requires a different approach, so have a plan that zeros in on a specific objective. If you have multiple agendas, define them individually rather than trying to boil the ocean with a single marketing plan. Once you know the objective, you can be surgical about which audiences to target and with what tactics and resources. Step 3) Assess your resources and capabilities Having defined the goals and scope for the marketing plan, it’s time to take stock of your marketing content, systems and team capabilities. After evaluating these areas you will have a clear picture on the staffing, time, and costs that the plan requires.

  • Content and collateral – Inventory your marketing resources – videos, whitepapers, presentations, campaigns, etc. – to get an accurate view of where you are starting from. Use this to assess which resources can be used as-is, which ones need updating and what gaps need to be filled with new offers.
  • Systems and platforms – Next, assess whether or not you have everything you need to support the creation, execution and measurement of the plan. For instance, can your marketing team design HTML emails, produce videos or lay out a whitepaper? Are your blogging and social communities already established and maintained? Does your business have an email marketing and CRM system to run a campaign and track leads?
  • Marketing team – Finally, is your marketing team positioned for success to execute the plan? Marketing is often stretched thin by competing priorities and parallel projects, so determine how much of the overall plan your in-house team should own and where or if it makes sense to outsource certain elements.

Are you a small shop lacking marketing systems or even a dedicated team? The same principles all apply—but you’ll need to look outside your organization to get some help. Which brings us to…

Remember, you don’t have to DIY everything

My wife and I love working on our house and we’ve gone through some major projects over the years. In the beginning we tackled everything ourselves, but over time we’ve grown smarter about what we DIY (painting and landscaping), when we partner with contractors (major electrical or windows) and which projects we simply could never take on (a roof).

Marketing teams should embrace this same mentality to work smarter, move faster and maintain the agility to address the inevitable fire drills and side projects that compete for your time. One way is to work with a trusted marketing agency that becomes a virtual extension of your team. Before I joined Merit Mile, I worked for a multi-billion dollar software company with a massive marketing organization. Technically, we could do everything in-house, but we routinely partnered with third parties to form the ideal special teams for a particular project. It was about bringing in the best specialists and subject matter experts to round out our team, and to help us scale and stay focused on the big picture, not the day-to-day execution.

Another way service providers can gain efficiency is to leverage the marketing support from their strategic partners. For example, turn-key resources such as this “Don’t DIY” campaign available in the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Solution Provider Resource Community (SPaRC) or these brandable videos from Citrix are a great way to shortcut the content development cycle.

Stay tuned for part two

In part two we’ll explore the last two ingredients – creating the actual plan and measurement. In the meantime, start thinking about how you can apply these ingredients in your own business and check out some of the great resources from Microsoft, Citrix and HPE. What questions do you have about developing your own marketing plan? Contact me to schedule a time to talk and explore how the service provider and hosting industry experts at Merit Mile can help grow your hosting business.

Scott Lindars
Director of Technology Markets | Merit Mile