2 things only successful MSPs understand

By Scott Millar •  Updated: 07/27/22 •  7 min read

Many MSPs I speak with have the same problem – they’ve tried lots of different marketing tactics and services, and nothing has worked.

It was only just yesterday I was speaking with a U.S. MSP that had blown $50,000 over the course of a year on marketing activities only to see no sales or leads.

The marketing company in question explained that if they wanted leads, they would have to spend more money! – crazy, right?

In another instance, a well-known UK MSP owner confided in me that they’d spent £20,000 on a Facebook marketing guru that specifically worked with technology business.

Not one lead!

It’s no wonder many in the space have such a hard time getting away from the owner-operator model and breaking the seven-figure barrier.

There are two fundamental reasons your marketing is failing in your technology business.  

  1. You must have a sales-first focused approach to marketing.
  2. You’ve not found your dog whistle. 


Sales first focused approach to marketing.

Speak with any successful I.T. business owner, and they’ll tell you it’s their sales team that grew them to the size they are.

You must realise that no matter how good your marketing is at conveying the value you bring to the market, I.T. services are largely seen as a cost.

The next marketing lead magnet you set up on your website, the next email marketing campaign you launch to your list will get the word out about what you do, but you will be hard pressed to find someone that raises their hand and enters your marketing funnel in search of a managed services contract.

Those instances are rare and not worth the time perusing.

We all understand the cyber risks, and how technology should be seen as an investment however, our potential customers categorise us next to the toilet cleaner – a business cost.

Instead, you must have a sales focus approach with a list of prospects you are actively marketing to and working through your sales process.

Your marketing is only there to support you and position you to these prospects as the trusted technology leader.

This is a hard pill to swallow.

Most MSPs business owners love technology and tools – and all those marketing tools tempt many but with little results because they lack the understanding that there’s a hard reality which requires them to work a sales process.

A great sales coach I know in the space refers to marketing as the colouring in department and that us marketers (me included) play with our crayons, and the real business of business is in sales.

I’d say he’s 80% correct in this statement, as marketing does have a place in your technology business but not in the way you may have been led to believe.

The Trusted Technology Leader

Your marketing has one function – to position you in a way that your prospects perceive you as someone of authority who can be trusted. The technology is secondary.  

Notice how I did not mention your business – but you. 

People buy from people and not from businesses. 

Remember this – it’s crucial in all the marketing content you publish to the world.

I will give you the perfect example of this based on three headlines from three MSP marketing content providers.  

1 Headline from popular I.T. Business community:

The best ways to breathe life into an old computer

This is a great subject matter for residential clients – and those types of businesses that are penny pinchers – always looking to save money instead of investing in technology. However, it lacks and form of thought leadership in business – it’s positioned for the individual, not the business owner that’s on a mission to grow and increase profits – in fact, a growth mindset business owner would ignore this headline entirely.

2 Headline from U.K.-based MSP marketing content provider:


The I.T. support buyers guide

This headline has had much more thought put into it – however, there’s a problem, business owners not going out of their way looking for help on how to buy technology services. 

While the content would work wonderfully well as a lead magnet and support the crucial decisions when a buyer is almost at the point of changing provider, it will not fill up the top of the marketing funnel with fresh quality leads.

3 Headline from I.T. Rockstars premium white label content

“3 unusual examples that will double your businesses profit using technology”

This speaks directly to the type of business owner that has a growth mindset –the headline uses what I call a dog whistle. It’s only going to attract business owners that are focused on building their business. Not the penny pinchers looking to speed up an old P.C. We use the dog whistle technique across many of our communication channels it works amazingly well to attract a high-quality source of leads.

The dog whistle in action:

An example of this is on I.T. Rockstars homepage is the sentence “We only work with MSPs. Our philosophy is simple; we only work with managed service providers. If you are still providing break-fix charge by the hour I.T. support, this is not for you. Working with MSPs allows our marketing system to be hyper-focused on the managed monthly recurring revenue I.T. buyer.”

As you can see from the sample above we automatically discount those I.T. service providers still doing break-fix – it is, as you know, a lifestyle business. Those that provide break-fix usually don’t have the commitment for a sales-focused approach to marketing managed services.

How should you use the dog whistle?

Have a think about the worst customers you have and the best customers you have. How could you use the dog whistle technique on your homepage to immediately call out to your ideal prospect and discount those that you want to avoid?

Think about the size of the business you want to attract.

If you are operating in a particular geographic area, you should include this in your dog whistle. The same is true if you are operating purely in a particular niche.

We go into this extensively within the IT Rockstars membership – one of the many benefits of using the dog whistle is that you can price your business accordingly. If you know that your marketing is positioned in a way to attract a particular type of business owner, then when it comes to quoting your I.T. services, you have much less friction when it comes to charging higher prices.

Final thoughts on the trusted leader.  

Remember this – your marketing is there to support and elevate your personal status in the marketplace and to support your sales process.  

Results in advance.

One of the most admired marketing people I know is a guy called Frank Kern – he coined the term “results in advance” this is the type of marketing that will get you trusted as you go out of your way to give your prospects insightful, helpful information that they can take away and use in their business immediately before they’ve even met with you.

If we take our example headline, “3 unusual examples of how to double your business’s profit using technology” we have the opportunity here to give examples of how we’ve provided technology solutions that have directly increased the profits of our customers.

There are many examples we could use, but if we wanted to be helpful, we could discuss both the technology and how it was implemented – this gives the reader some insight on how they could implement a similar solution with similar results.

As you can imagine, this type of content is miles away from our penny pincher looking to speed up an old P.C.

Remember: Your marketing content must position you as a trusted technology leader to your ideal types of customers. This combination of marketing content is a winning formula and should be applied to your hot list of prospects that you are actively in your sales pipeline. Sales first, marketing is secondary.

Scott Millar

Scott Millar has helped over 300 IT service businesses transform their marketing and position them as the local technology leaders in their area.