74 minutes | Jan 5th 2021

Episode 60: SPECIAL: An in-depth MSP marketing consult

In this week's special episode So you've heard Paul talking about how MSPs can be better at marketing. But would you love to know how to practically apply his ideas to your business? MSP owner Tom Fisher wondered exactly that. And this special episode is dedicated to the 121 marketing consultation he won with Paul Listen to hear Tom align his life goal with his business goals. Plus discover how he plans to maximise his available time and resources to execute a new marketing plan designed to achieve his goals This first episode of 2021 is designed to help you look forward positively, with a show packed full of practical advice and thought-provoking tactics. Even though it's about Tom, you will 100% hear strategies and tactics that you can use in your business Show notes Out every Tuesday on your favourite podcast platform Presented by Paul Green, an MSP marketing expert For this podcast special, the whole show is dedicated to the recording of an MSP marketing consultation. Paul conducts a one-to-one with Tom Fisher from The Tech Frood During the marketing consult the following books were mentioned The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber and Built To Sell by John Warrillow Paul mentioned the outsourcing services fiverr.com, Upwork.com, PeoplePerHour.com & copify.com The CRMs mentioned were Mailchimp and MailerLite Find out more about Paul Green's MSP Marketing Edge The technology news resources for helping to generate social media content included CNN and The Verge (you could use the likes of Hootsuite or Publer to schedule it) On January 12th Paul hosts another podcast special, all about the best 3-step strategy for an MSP's marketing Please send any questions, ideally in audio-form (or any other feedback) to hello@paulgreensmspmarketing.com Episode transcription Voiceover: Fresh every Tuesday for MSPs around the world - this is an MSP Marketing Podcast special. Paul Green: Happy new year. Welcome to the first show of 2021. Last year was a crazy year and we are going to make sure that this year is an amazing one for your MSP. Because we're kicking off this year with a special episode. You see, last year I ran a competition on LinkedIn and it was a chance to win a one-to-one marketing consult with me. The winner was an MSP owner called Tom Fisher. And he very graciously agreed that when we did the marketing consult, I could record the whole thing and play it out to you as part of this podcast special. In the next hour or so, you're going to discover so many ways to market your business. Paul Green: We're going to talk about a whole series of MSP marketing strategies. We're going to look at a series of tactics that you can use throughout the rest of this year. Now let me introduce you now to Tom and let's get started with this marketing consult. So Tom, congratulations on winning the competition. What was your reaction when I contacted you to say that you'd won? Tom Fisher: I was a little shocked. I'm one of those people that, they say it like they just don't ever win anything. Paul Green: You can thank the random number generator, because I forget what common number you were, but we ran a random number generator and it picked your comment. So congratulations. What we're going to do is we're going to run through all of your marketing as much as we can do in a roundabout 30 minutes or so. So why don't you start by just telling us a bit about the business? Give us if you like the basics. Tom Fisher: Yeah. We're in Asheville, North Carolina in United States. Small-ish town, about 100,000 people in the western part of the North Carolina Mountains. We'll be four years old at the beginning of '21. So fairly new, as far as the MSP stuff. I've been in IT pretty much my whole life. Decided about four years ago that I was at a point where I didn't want to work in corporate anymore. Wanted to go out and do my own thing and if I was going to do it, I needed to do it quickly. And here we are four years in. Paul Green: That's great. We call that by the way, the entrepreneurial seizure. If you've ever read a book called The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. He describes it very well and that's a great book to read. Tom Fisher: Well, I wish I had read it before I made the jump. Paul Green: Oh really. Do you know what then, in which case, let me give you the modern day equivalent to that because that's like a 1984 book. Something like that. Have you read Built to Sell by John Warrillow? Tom Fisher: You know what? I own it and it's in my queue. So I haven't got to it yet. Paul Green: Okay. Got it. You've got to read it. It's a slightly more up to date version. I mean, The E-Myth is an amazing book anyway, but Built to Sell is the book... I actually read that book after I'd sold my marketing business in 2016. And I wish I'd read that book before I'd sold it. I think I'd have done even better out of that deal. So if you've enjoyed The E-Myth, you'll love Built to Sell. Similar themes, but with a better ending in mind, being one day, you're going to sell the business. So you might as well build it to sold rather than rush, rush to sell it towards the end. Tom Fisher: Absolutely. Paul Green: So let's talk about your marketing. So what makes a good client for you? So let me put it another way. If the phone rang tomorrow morning and it was a prospect and they'd just been on your website and they said, "Look, we want to talk to someone." What does that prospect look like? How many users do they have? Whereabouts are they based? What verticals are they in? All of that stuff. Tom Fisher: Yeah, and they've changed a little bit since I started, but not a whole lot. I've tried to keep my target market pretty focused on... Actually I started out just doing insurance agencies. That's the background I had. Quickly ran out of those and then I decided, it was a decision, do you keep that very specific niche or do you just branch out geographically? And I thought I would keep the niche and try to branch out geographically a little bit and that didn't work out so well. So I've got some clients, they're not terribly far away, but they're a little bit farther away than I care to have them. So I've just refocused that. I'm trying to get into to more markets that are more local, I guess, is a good way to say it. Paul Green: What drives that, Tom, if you don't mind me asking, because most MSPs I talked to would take on a client pretty much from anywhere because obviously most of it can be done remotely. So do you have a specific modus operandi? A specific way of working that requires you to look for local clients or do you just like having local clients? Tom Fisher: I just like having local clients. You're right. Especially these agents, 99.9% of what you need to do remotely. I'm a little bit old school. I guess I do like having, especially in the beginning, those face-to-face interactions with the prospects. I like to be able to send someone from the company rather than someone I've outsourced to have the street on the feet. Paul Green: Got it. Yeah. You don't want to sit in the car for four hours to go and see a client essentially. Tom Fisher: Exactly. Paul Green: Got it. Okay. I get that completely. So in terms of a good client then, someone in your area do you have minimum maximum users? Tom Fisher: A minimum of about five. I've got a few clients that are a little bit smaller than that, but they pretty much pay the same price as someone with five would be. I'd say the sweet spot would be right around the 15, the 20 mark for us. Our largest is about 40. Paul Green: Okay. And what kind of clients do you love? So do you like B2B, do you like retail, consumer businesses, hospitality, or is it literally a case of whoever's interested? Tom Fisher: I'll talk to anyone once, but most of it's B2B. I try to stay out of retail mainly because it's- Paul Green: There's no retail anymore! Tom Fisher: And the service industry, things that are potentially needing support outside of a 9:00 to 5:00 support window because we don't do 24 hour support currently. So I try not to put people in a position where I wouldn't be able help them outside of our regular business hours. Paul Green: Sure. So obviously B2B then fits very nicely within that. They tend to do the same hours as, as you're doing. I would imagine you're also not really interested in manufacturing clients, engineering firms, who would have perhaps some legacy systems that they might want you to look after or complicated things. I'm guessing you just want nice, straightforward, Microsoft 365, a fairly standard setup. And I guess you're also looking for clients who are willing to respect you. So they listen to you and they pretty much do what it is that you ask them to do. Tom Fisher: 100%. I feel like I've done a good job at weeding out the ones that haven't are pretty early on. I'll do break/fix for them. But as far as the managed stuff, I want a company that sees the value in the IT services that we provide for them. Paul Green: Sure and that was actually going to be my next question was, do you do any break/fix or is it just purely managed services? Tom Fisher: I'm trying to do less and less. We're probably about a 25%. Paul Green: As an aside because I've worked with loads of MSPs that have an element of break/fix. And it's kind of a drug because obviously work turns up and you know you're going to get money from it instantly. And that has a certain wonder to it. But it's like all drugs, it's not particularly healthy. And I think long-term Tom, as we're going into a new year now, if you can say to yourself like, "Do you know what I'm not taking on any more break/fix clients." So break/fix work that turns up from previous clients, absolutely I'll do that because it is quite hard to transition those people onto a contract. Paul Green: But you can almost say to yourself, "Right. I draw the line 1st of January, 2021, that's it. We're not doing any more break/fix for new clients." And part of that is almost an emotional and a mental thing for you. If making a decision, I want to grow the recurring revenues in this business because that's ultimately what's going to grow the business and help me achieve my goals, which is what I'm going to ask you about in a second. Does that feel like a comfortable thing to do or would that be too scary at this stage? Tom Fisher: It's a little scary, but it's not scary for how you put it. It's not the instant money where I ... That's not the allure to me to take it on break/fix work. Normally in my mind, I'm looking at it like, I want to do break/fix for them now, and then hopefully convert them into something managed and recurring down the road. Although, I haven't been successful in that very well, either. Paul Green: Do you know what, many other MSPs and the hundreds and hundreds of people listening to this will be shaking their heads saying that had exactly the same thing. Converting break/fix clients to managed service clients is really difficult. It can be done, but you tend to find that typically the vast majority don't switch over and there could be a number of reasons for that. It could be down to the fact that break/fix is actually good value for money. That's how they see it. Now, you and I know you're charging however many hundred dollars an hour for the work you do. But from that point of view, some people just don't like getting into subscriptions, they don't like getting into contracts, and they perceive that they're saving money. Paul Green: Because of course, and I don't mean this offensively to your end clients, but business owners or managers are a bit stupid and they don't realise that actually they should have someone doing a whole load of proactive work so they don't get into problems. They shouldn't be sitting there with operating systems that haven't been updated for six months. When I say that they're stupid, I don't mean they're actually stupid. I mean, they just don't know this stuff. They don't realise the benefits of having all of their services being managed for them. The other aspect to it is whether or not they trust your business and see your specific business as a managed services firm. Paul Green: If someone's first relationship, their first transaction with you is they pay you some money and you do something, then it's a different business to a managed services company. But there we go. Anyway, that's a by the by. What kind of marketing are you doing right now to win new clients? Tom Fisher: As in right now, right this minute, I'm pretty much empty on the marketing. 2020 has been a little slow on the marketing. A nice way of putting it prior to that, the majority of the marketing we were doing was direct mail. Paul Green: Love, direct mail. So what kind of stuff were you sending out? Tom Fisher: Well, it's weird. So what would happen is I would do a direct mail. I would get a little busy with fielding the results from that. What happened and I probably started and stopped cycle probably three or four times. Do the mailing, get some results from that, get busy from the results from that. And then such a long period of time will go by because the first thing I was sending out was an introduction letter. So I'd send out the introduction letter, get the responses, pick up the clients onboard and all that. And then so much time would go between those two things. I'd be like, "Well, the people that I sent it to three months ago, they might not remember." So I would send out the intro letter again, update my list a little bit, but I did that stop and start about four times, but I was happy with the results each time. Paul Green: Well, this actually has a name, it's called boom and bust marketing. You literally have just described it perfectly where you haven't got enough work on so you do some marketing and there's so much work that comes in from that, that you stop doing the marketing. And then what happens again is exactly as you said, a couple of months down the line, you think, "Oh, I haven't quite got enough work." So yeah, that's classic boom and bust. Tom Fisher: I'm glad there's a term for it. Paul Green: The good news is Tom, that means it's normal. What you're doing is normal and you're doing what thousands of other business owners, not just in our world, but outside that world do. It's a really common thing. There's something we're going to come back to later on and explore, which is you did some direct mail marketing and it worked. And we're going to come back to that because the challenge for me in helping you is I've got to help you find a marketing strategy, which you can do consistently, but which is possible for a one-man band, such as yourself to do consistently. Because I could talk about this stuff for about 62 hours nonstop. I'm not kidding. This is my passion. This isn't just what I do to make money. I literally love this. But I also know that you have to work in the real world sometimes. Paul Green: Had you been an MSP with 15 staff, you were doing a million bucks a year and you were personally spending 20 hours a week growing the business. We would be having a completely different conversation. But you're not. You've presumably got a little bit of help and I don't know if you do any outsourcing or use anything like continuum or anything like that, but I appreciate there's a tiny, tiny amount of your time that's available each day to do marketing. So we've got to work within that. If I was in your area and I was looking for a new IT support company, why would I pick you? Tom Fisher: Personal service. I really do think that's why a lot of people have started out with me. Being a one man band definitely has its drawbacks, but one of the benefits of it is my clients call, they're talking to me. They need something, they're talking to me. They know me. Paul Green: You don't use any outsourced help desk or anything like that? Tom Fisher: Not currently, no. Paul Green: Tom, what are your goals for life, the business? What do you want to do? And let me set some context with that. Some people just want to make a living. Four years ago you were working for someone else and now you're doing your own thing. So I suppose you've ticked that box, but are you happy just doing that for... how old are you, Tom? Tom Fisher: I am 48. Paul Green: 48. Okay. So it's a good age. I'm 46. I like to think late 40s is a good age. Tom Fisher: I agree. Paul Green: Obviously, we're tired all the time, but we tend to ignore that, don't we? Pretending it's just this week. It's just every week. It's just COVID. That's all it is. Are you looking to just carry on as you're happy doing what you do. I know you love the work because you've chosen to set up a business doing it, but you just like to make perhaps a bit more money or just to have a bit more time, or are you looking to build this and get some staff on board, turn it into, and I'm going to use a phrase and I don't want you to think it's meant offensively because it's not, but to turn it into a and putting it in inverted commas, a proper business. So a proper business being where Tom can take a week off and the business carries on, or are you looking to build an empire? Do you want the 15, 20 staff and you want something that's very sellable, which of these scenarios best fits what you want to do? Tom Fisher: I want to grow it like you said, to a point where it is a proper business and I can go away for one, two, three weeks and worry minimally about, are the customers being taken care of? Is the business running? Are there people in place to do everything that needs to be done? And as the business grows, hopefully I can be cliche, but I would definitely like working on the business and the less I can work in the business, down the road, the better. Paul Green: Perfect. Okay. That's really good context for me, because that helps me to advise you in the best way I possibly can. Talk to me about your website. Now, I haven't actually looked at your website and obviously this is an audio thing. Tom Fisher: Good. Don't. Paul Green: Okay. That in itself tells me everything I need to know. So is the website... I guess that it's quite techie, hasn't got any pictures of you. It doesn't talk about you and humans and people, but it talks about technology and it's a bit out of date and you're a bit embarrassed by it? Tom Fisher: But yeah, pretty much all those things. And it was the one question I had coming into this talk with you was where does the website fit in? Is it silly to do all this other marketing where it's going to lead people to the website and they're going to see it and be totally turned off? Paul Green: See, that's actually a really good question and we're going to tackle that because yes, essentially, you have to get your fundamentals in place first. Well, I think the right approach for you, Tom, and this is what we're going to talk about for the rest of this session. First of all, we're going to talk about resourcing because I think as a one man band and particularly a one man band who has previously fallen into the boom and bust pattern, I want you to look at how you're going to resource your marketing. And partly, that's going to be a little bit about you. Paul Green: Partly, that's going to be a little bit about getting some help, and we're not talking about hiring someone as in taking on an actual proper member of staff. We're talking about using the amazing world of outsourcing out there that's going to help you and there's a whole network of people that can help you. And we'll come onto that in a second. Then we're going to look at getting the basics right. So things like your websites, your LinkedIn, I'm going to ask you a little bit about your fundamentals, like any CRM or anything like that. It's not going to be a huge number of things for you to do, but definitely some things to get right. Paul Green: And then what I think we're going to do is we're going to look at what capacity you've got for new clients. And we'll see if we can put together some marketing, which you can do rhythmically. Rhythmic marketing is where you're doing something preferably on a weekly basis. Weekly is always better than monthly because when something's done a weekly, it's just what you do. Every Monday morning you do that task. I'm sure you do this with your tech work. Monday, Tuesday mornings there must be a day where you proactively run some tests or you run some checks or I'm not a tech, I don't know what you do, but you get the idea. Tom Fisher: Absolutely. Paul Green: Yeah. Whether maybe it's every day, maybe it's one day a week and you do that rhythmically and you very rarely miss it because it's a rhythmic thing. And the very best marketing is also rhythmic. If your goal is to build this into a and again, let's put it in inverted commas, a proper business. A business that allows you to take a holiday. The first thing I think we've got to do, and this is almost about getting the marketing mindset, right, is you've got to stop thinking of yourself as a one man band. Paul Green: And you've got to stop describing the business as a one man band business. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a one man band at all. I work with MSPs, I work with multimillion turnovers down to one man bands and everything in between. And there's a lot of advantages to end clients and working with one man bands. There's lots of advantages to the one man bands. You don't have people to look after, teams to look after, but there were lots of downsides as well. From a marketing point of view, if your sweet spot was that, I think you said 20, 30 user business, they are very much less likely to hire a one man band because their perception will be, you can't cope. Now, you and I know that you can look after 20, 30 users just as easily as you can, two or three users. Paul Green: Obviously, if they have a major ransomware attack and the entire place gets encrypted, then you reach out, you can get some help because it becomes physically too much for one person to cope with. But that's a very rare exception for that to happen. You've got to start to imagine that you've already got staff that you're going to hire in the future. You could almost go as far as, and this might sound a bit weird, but go with me on this, you might almost find pictures of two or three people on the internet and you print them off and you think of them as your staff. So you might think, "Well, do you know what, my next hire or my first hire might be a first-line technician." So I'm going to find a spotty 20-year-old geeky looking kid on the internet, I'm going to print him off and I'm going to attach them to the wall and I'll give him a name. Paul Green: I'm going to think of him as a member of the team. I haven't actually hired him yet, but I will be hiring him at some point. And then it will probably hire a second line tech at some point, because I'm guessing you really should be focusing on the third line work and obviously growing the business. So again, you might do a second line tech, then at some point you might hire an admin person. And of course, none of these hires need to be full-time. They could be part-time, but you might have a lady in her 50s say who's got tons of experience and she comes in and she does two, three hours a day just come off at the admin, make sure all the invoicing is done properly, all of that stuff. So you might find again a picture of her and printer off. Can you see if you like the, the mental advantages of doing something like this? Tom Fisher: Absolutely and that's half the reason why I have an office. It just gives me that mindset of being something a little bit, I won't say bigger than I am, but I guess that's it. Paul Green: You're almost setting out your ambition with having that office, which is wonderful. I'll tell you something I did. So I started my first business in 2005, which was a marketing company. I worked from my bedroom, literally my spare bedroom for the first year and nearly killed myself. Made loads of money, but there's just too much work. But right from the get go, I actually... This is a bit weird. I created characters and so if a client emailed and said, "Can I have a copy of the invoice?" Then a character called Natalie would email back with the invoice. Natalie didn't exist. There was no Natalie. She was me. So I had a series of different emails, but what I didn't want was I didn't want my clients thinking that I was doing everything. Paul Green: I never lied to them. I never ever said, "There's loads of people on the team." But if they emailed in and it was a functional thing, then Natalie got back to them. And the first business I started, we did PR. So we did public relations. So when, for example, we got some results, a different persona, was it Caroline? I think I used to say, we'd send them over their results. So again, they would think it was a member of the team. The main reason I did that apart from trying to look bigger than we actually were, was also, I wanted to maintain my expert status because the expert, the person at the top, who they should rely upon as the strategist who they should rely upon as the number one knowledge source in that business. It's like, if they see you on the floor in their office and they can see your ass crack, while you're plugging in a network cable, you lose that if that makes sense. Paul Green: If you're changing their password, then you lose the ability to sell them a cybersecurity package next month. And so I think obviously at the moment, it is just you, but there's going to come a point where it's not just you. So I think whether you actually go as extreme as having personas, actually doing emailing, which is a bit weird, or just to have it in your mind to imagine that you've got a team, this is starting to change the way you think about the business. And then you can start to change the way that you do your marketing. So your website, which obviously will need to be revamped and looked at and have some attention paid to it, it talks about Tom and the team. You never introduced the team, but you say Tom and the team and people will make their own emotional leap. Paul Green: They just assume you have a team which then automatically opens up these bigger clients to you. And as much as you can look after a three user businesses as well as a 30 user business, there's more profit in the 30 user business because there's a certain burden isn't there of just every single client has a certain burden on you. And there's a finite amount of clients that you can have which obviously reduces the number of users that you can take on as well. So the other thing that goes with that is starting to actually add members to your team straight away. I want to introduce you to a concept. You may have heard me talk about this on the podcast. It's a concept called DOA. So if you're watching CSI Miami, one of the cops says, "Oh, he was DOA." What do they traditionally mean? Tom Fisher: Dead on arrival. Paul Green: Exactly. And as business owners, especially 48-year-old business owners, that's what we'll be if we continue to try to do everything in the business ourselves. So I renamed DOA is delegate, outsource, automate. And your mission for the next two to three years, Tom, is to take everything in the business, which you're currently doing, which really someone else somewhere could do for you, which by the way, is basically 80% of everything you're doing now. All the first line work, much of the second line work, all the admin, much of the marketing and a lot of the faffing. The faffing that just has to happen each day for the business to do what the business does. Someone else somewhere can do that for you. And it might be a member of your team who printed up and posted on your wall, it might be someone outsourced. Paul Green: You can either delegate those jobs or you can outsource them, or in many ways you can automate them. And we have some amazing technology these days, which will allow things like your PSA to talk to technology like your CRM or your social media scheduling tool or whatsoever. There's so much automation that could be done and you guys are the best in the world using APIs and putting them together. Let's talk about resourcing. So when you were doing your marketing and you were doing that boom and bust marketing, and you were sending direct mails out, who was doing that? Was it physically you, or were you roping your family and to help? Tom Fisher: I roped family in. If I showed you one of my mailings, you'd see exactly who I modelled with after, but it involves a red envelope and handwriting on the addresses. So I roped my daughter who has the most amazing handwriting I've ever seen in my life. I don't know where she got it from. Paul Green: Okay. I know exactly the marketing you're talking about and it's good. It's good stuff. Okay. So, you got your daughter to help you and the advantage of that obviously is you've got the beautiful writing on the envelopes, but also you personally didn't have to do all of that work. So I think the trick for you as you are going forward now is to start to pull together a collection of people who can help you with various bits and bobs. Let's take, for example, the website. I assume you're not a confident writer, so you may have written your website, but perhaps you look at it and you wish someone else had written it for you. Would that be a fair thing to say? Tom Fisher: I least wish that someone told me what to write. I'm a pretty confident writer, but it's just a matter of knowing what to write not the writing. Paul Green: We'll see if we can address that in a second, but many MSPs, especially one man bands design their own websites because it's computers. And of course it's not, it's marketing. It just happens to be done with the computer, but everything's done with the computer these days. It makes more sense to find someone out there who can design your website for you rather than you. Is it a WordPress site? Tom Fisher: No, it's worse. Paul Green: Joomla or? Tom Fisher: Weebly, that's what it is. Paul Green: Ooh, dear, Weebly. Tom Fisher: Yeah, I told you it was so bad. Paul Green: Well, but I don't know. A Weebly website is better than no website at all. Tom Fisher: I suppose. Paul Green: If you think of it that way. You just don't have the levels of control that you have in something like WordPress. Tom Fisher: Oh, no. Paul Green: Let's say, for example, you decided, "You know what, I need a brand new site from scratch. I'm going to go with WordPress or whatsoever." There are literally 100,000 people out there who will build your site. Some of them will charge you $50,000. Some of them will charge you $50. There are various levels for everything that you need to be done. There's a kid in college, who's 16 who could build you a perfectly good website and he will be delighted to take $100 off you to do so. Because all he wants to do in the evenings is build websites anyway. And being paid by local business to build their website is literally the best thing in the world for him. Now, there are lots of downsides to hiring a college kid for $100 to do that, which is you're not going to get great customer service and there's going to be a certain amount of faffing and call of duty is also one of his favourite passions. Paul Green: But at every level, for every little thing that needs to be done, there's someone out there and you can hire very, very good experts and pay a lot of money. Or if cash is tight, it's surprising how, when you work your network, that there's always someone there to do a job from your daughter or addressing envelopes to a local back to work mum who will make some phone calls for you for a couple of hours a day now and again. Your mindset as you start to set up this marketing stuff, I want you as much as possible to ask yourself, "Do I Tom, really need to do this or can I find someone to do it for me?" And this is a great way of thinking. It really is because what you start to do is you start to put in place a team of people. Let's say something like the website and you wanted someone just to put some content on the website for you every week. We'll come on to whether or not you would want to do something like that. The answer is, yes. Paul Green: You have a choice of, "Can I find a couple of hours a week to source some content and write it or can I find five minutes a week to brief a local journalism student over the phone about the content I want or brief someone on fiverr.com or upwork.com or peopleperhour.com and brief someone somewhere and get them to write some content for me, and then get, again, another 17, 18-year-old to actually put the content onto the website for me," et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So the trick is to not let yourself be held back and not let the business's marketing be held back of the lack of your own personal time. Because actually in the spirit of you should only do what only you can do. And there are a number of things that only Tom Fisher can do. And right now, those things are all the technical things. Paul Green: Those things are the servicing of the customers, keeping the clients happy. You can hire other people to do all of the other stuff for you. And yes, there's still a burden of making sure they do it. Although typically the more you pay, the easier it gets to get jobs done. But I've mentioned those networks like Fiverr, like Upwork, there's an entire bunch of kids sat in college right now, or sat at home if they can't go to college who are happy to do stuff like that for just dollars. There are tons of back to work moms. How many people have been fired in your area in the last six months because of COVID? Loads of people. How many people have lost their jobs? How many people have decided just to work from home? How many people in your area have decided they're going to be virtual assistants? The number of virtual assistants, which is where someone sits at home and works for you on an hourly basis. Paul Green: It's almost like break/fix for doing stuff. The number of virtual assistants has exploded since COVID came out on the scene because you can work from home while your kids are upstairs, doing whatever they're doing. And you can do lots and lots of stuff for other people on a per hour basis. I've got three virtual assistants now, which makes me sound greedy, but rather than taking on full-time staff, we've got three or more full-time staff. We've got three virtual assistants doing a whole plethora of jobs. And it's amazing, I've got one who's really good at financial stuff. So she does that. I've got another one who's great at customer support and dealing with tickets because she supports our clients and does our first-line work for us. Paul Green: And we've got third one who reads all my emails for me, organises my life. I must admit, she helped me buy Christmas presents. I'm still using her. Yeah, almost like a personal assistant, but they did things that I didn't want to do. And it allowed me to do more things that I do want to do, which is in my business is looking after my clients and creating content and that stuff. So in terms of resourcing, as we go through this I want you at each stage to think, "Cool, like can find someone to do this." And remember, we're not hiring people, we're not giving out contracts and jobs. You're literally hiring people by the hour. At any stage, I am no more than 30 days away from losing every single person who works with me or for me. Paul Green: The exception being my staff, because I'm in the UK and the staff a hell of a lot more protected than the employer in the UK. But the vast majority of people that work with me do so on a freelance basis or they do so through an agency or whatsoever. And at any point I'm 30 days away from getting rid of all of them. That sounds really brutal. It makes me sound like a right git to work for. But the reality of me doing that is if it all went wrong tomorrow, I can lose my overheads like that and I'm not expecting it to all go wrong tomorrow, but I like that. And I think it keeps everyone on their toes as well. And you know what, if I started over again tomorrow, well, I did. I started over again a few years ago. I sold a business, had a great exit, and I started this business. Paul Green: And I decided right from the start, "I don't want an office. I don't want staff sitting doing nothing all day. I'm going to hire great people and I'm going to pay them well." These guys all get paid well, but I'm going to do so as, and when we need things and we can all work remotely and we can all do stuff remotely because that's a very, very efficient way of doing it. And I think it meant I could add resources as I needed resources. Tom Fisher: That's a good idea. Paul Green: I didn't have to have... And you couldn't have done this 20 years ago. 20 years ago, this physically wasn't possible. Well, one of the many advantages of lockdown and COVID is that suddenly there's so much more resource available. There are so many more people out there who cold do stuff like this. Let's talk about the fundamentals. There are some, at least two basic things that you must have in place. You're absolutely right that the website needs to be as good as you can make it. And the other thing that you must have in place is LinkedIn. So we'll come up to LinkedIn in a second. Let's talk about the basics on your website. Paul Green: Whether you do it in '21 or in 2022, at some point you, you need to transition away from Weebly. Actually I'm kidding. Wix.com, Weebly, there are loads of others. I think Squarespace has a website builder as well. These are absolutely fine for your first couple of websites, but there comes a point where you just need a higher level of control and Wordpress is the answer. Something like four out of five websites are powered through WordPress. You can either go down the route of wordpress.com, which is where they host it for you, or you just get your own WordPress, your own hosting or use some somebody called Pressable. pressable.com for hosting our websites. We've got a lot of websites with fairly major traffic. I mean, that might be overkill for a small side, but with WordPress, you just have a massive level of control and it allows you to be limited by your imagination and not limited by technology. Paul Green: But that's a longer term thing. I don't think it will be a game ending thing to stick with your Weebly website. But what you need to do is make sure that that website is talking to people and it's a person to person conversation. So ordinary business owners and managers who don't know anything about technology, they don't buy from IT support companies, they buy from people. And so we're going to have to use you, Tom, we need to get you onto that website if you're not already on there. So a number of different approaches, if I was working with you and advising you, I'd say, "Look, Tom, put yourself on the home page. Have a professional photo of yourself taken if you don't have one." Paul Green: Even during COVID professional photographers work, because you can socially distant quite well when you're taking a photo. You just put a big lens on and get a nice photo taken, make sure you've got a really iron shirt, that day shave, do your hair, all of that stuff. Get several different variations of the same photo plop a photo on the homepage of you and you have a really good headline that catches their attention. Here's why more and more Asheville businesses are choosing us for that IT support. And that's a great headline. What would be even better version of that headline would be, here's why 312 people rely on us every day to run their business in Asheville or 312 Asheville people rely on us every day to run their business. Paul Green: And that would require your user number, which I'm not going to ask you to tell us, but if you've got a user number that's over a couple of hundred, then I would go with that specific route because typically the more specific you are, the more believable it is. But if actually your user count, you don't think it's really anything to shout about then just go with that general, "Here's why more and more Asheville businesses trust us for their IT support every day." And then you have that photo of you underneath that headline. And this is really unusual what I'm about to suggest but this works really well because it's really engaging. Paul Green: You essentially write a sales letter to your future client on the homepage of your website. So it would say, "Hi, I'm Tom, and I'm the founder of company name. Every week, we have conversations with businesses in Asheville about looking after their IT support." Nothing I've said by the way, so far is untrue. They will interpret this as you're bringing on new clients all the time. So that's a perfectly acceptable thing to say. And you can say, "If this sounds like your business, we should talk." And then you might list some bullet points and the bullet points are written from their point of view, not from your point of view. Paul Green: So we don't want to talk about technology, we don't want to talk about things that don't interest them, so you might say if this sounds like your business, we should talk. Bullet point. You're really with your computers and your IT. Bullet point. Your team often moaning and complaining about the technology. Bullet point. You're sick of having to work around your technology rather than technology working around you. Dash. It's too difficult to collaborate and communicate. Can you see what we're trying to do here? Tom Fisher: Yes. Paul Green: What we're doing is we're taking the most common complaints that people have about their IT. It's too slow, it holds us back. We can't work properly. And we're putting those complaints right up there at the top of your webpage. Because we want people to come in and instantly they get that headline, they're always flicked to look at you. They see that you're a nice guy, their eyes flick to look at the text and instantly you're talking about the pain they have right now. Now, if they don't have that pain, they're going to go. They're just going to hit the back button and go elsewhere. But that's fine because the people that have got that pain, are they going to be engaged with that instantly, they're going to start to read more. They'll engage more. Paul Green: And then what I would do, Tom, is I would write that letter to them and say, "If this describes any of the problems in your business, you're not alone. In fact, hundreds and hundreds of businesses around here have exactly the same problem every day and yet they shouldn't have." These are some of the easiest problems to fix in technology. Slow computers can be made fast, really easily. We have the best communication and collaborative tools in 2021 than we've ever had available, or even working around COVID shouldn't be a reason your business back anymore. There are so many ways to make it easy for you and your team to work from home. How do I know this? Because my team and I work with some of the best businesses in Asheville. (Ask us to tell you about some of our clients some time they really are great). I'm starting to write this webpage now! Tom Fisher: Yeah. All right. Keep going! Paul Green: Yeah, but you can carry it on that letter then from there. And by the way, Tom, and this is an offer I made at the beginning and I'll repeat it at the end. When we're done recording here, I'm going to give you my private email address and you please use me for support. So if, for example, you go and write this and you get halfway through that webpage and you get stuck, email me and I'll write the rest of it for you and just email you back. Tom Fisher: Oh, excellent. Paul Green: I want to make sure you actually action this stuff, not just stuff that we talk about. Tom Fisher: Appreciate it. Paul Green: My reward for this, seeing you improving your marketing and then getting the clients off the back of it. That's an amazing reward for something like that to happen. So you just keep talking to them. You talk about their business, you talk about how you know, it's 2021, we're in COVID, business is tough right now. We've all got to work just that little bit harder and just that little bit smarter. There's no room for lazy IT set-ups. There's no room for slow computers. There's no room for working from home where you have to work around problems all the time. Then you start to talk about other IT support companies. And you say, because most people switch. You're not going to be most people's first IT support. Not at the level of business that you want. You're one, two man band. Paul Green: Yeah, you're the first IT support company. In the nicest possible way, you don't want to be. It's like, you never want to be someone's first boyfriend. We are harking back in the 30 odd years now, but you don't want to be someone's first IT support company. That's why I said to you at the beginning, you probably want to drop, break/fix for new clients. You don't want to be their break/fix people. You want to be their second or their third. So when your break/fix clients feel that they have outgrown you, they will move to a bigger, better, or they perceive to be a bigger, better MSP because they think they've outgrown you. And that's what you want to be. You want to position yourself up the market a little bit, that you are the people to switch to. Paul Green: So you might say, sure, you've probably got an IT support company looking after you, but how well are they actually looking after you? Do you feel like you're you're a valued client and that on your problems immediately? Are they actually proactively working to stop you having problems in the first place? I love having brackets in sentences. (We fix most of the problems with our clients' computers before they even realised there was a problem.) It's okay to throw in little asides like that when you're talking about other people's businesses. Are you fed up with a different person picking up the phone every time you call your IT support company. Maybe you use someone who's out of town, which seemed like a great idea when you first hired them. But actually for those rare occasions, they do need to visit your office, they've got a four hour drive. Paul Green: Because what essentially we're doing, Tom is where we're picking all the reasons that someone would pick you and then we're putting those in that webpage from their point of view. So your Asheville, they're Asheville, that's a big thing. You're a nice guy. They're going to buy from you anyway. They will buy you or not buy you based on whether or not they like you. All of your clients that have picked you in the last four years liked you. That's why they picked you. Because they can't assess at a cognitive level, whether or not your business is any good at what it does. They simply can't do that because the only people that could do that are other IT people. Even then, that would be a tricky thing to call. And you can be proud of this. They like you, they've picked you. Paul Green: So we've got to get more of you in front of more people and more people will pick you. So you talk about IT support companies, you then throw in at the end of that letter to clients, you throw in a call to action. So a call to action is the thing you want them to do. And the very best call to action these days is your live calendar embedded into the website. In fact, you'd have it two or three times, because this could be quite a long page. One of the things we know about websites is the further down page, a piece of information is, the less likely someone is to actually get there. So things like your call to action, you have that up at the top and you'd have it halfway down the page and you'd have it at the bottom of the page. Paul Green: So live calendar is really easy. I assume you use Microsoft 365 because most MSPs do. There's something called Microsoft Bookings which is included, obviously linked straight into your calendar. And you can just put that onto the webpage. Now it's a bit clunky. It's a classic Microsoft thing that they've got 80% of the way there and they haven't quite finished it. So if you wanted the market leader which is beautiful but obviously there's a cost to that, it's calendly.com. Tom Fisher: I was going to ask you that. Paul Green: Yeah, Calendly is beautiful. The biggest difference is how much control you have everybody looks like in your website. Microsoft Bookings is lots of extraneous information you don't need and you can't take it out. But just to get started, Bookings gets you started. So the other thing that goes into that webpage is lots of social proof. Social proof are testimonials, case studies, reviews. So basically, where your future clients can see what your existing clients think. And the quickest and simplest ways you can social proof is just to ask your clients. Literally, send them an email and say, "Guys, coming to the end of the year, I've loved working with you again this year. Paul Green: Thank you so much once again for your custom. We're revamping the website early in the new year and I need some testimonials because as we all know, we're more influenced by people like us. You're a great business owner." It doesn't matter whether they're high profile or not. "You're a business owner, can I ask a favour, please? Would you mind just hitting reply and telling us what you think about our service?" If you ask 10 clients, half of them will do that. Tom Fisher: I'm glad you're saying this because I've got a bunch. Paul Green: Oh, perfect. Tom Fisher: And I actually include them. I include like a one-pager with maybe a half a dozen snippets of what they've said, like little quotes. Paul Green: Well, have a testimonials page but also put the testimonials on every page. So certainly on that homepage, you'd break up that letter with every now and again, there'd be a box and it would be, do you know what would be really cool Tom, is a screenshot of the email that they sent you. That looks more raw. You almost want your testimonials, your social proof to look more real and more raw and not slick. Because you could just copy the words and put Bob Smith of so-and-so company said this, or you could actually do a screenshot of the email and a screenshot of literally them saying, "Hi Tom. Yeah, no problem. Here's a testimonial for you. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Because everyone knows, you've asked to the testimonial. So there's no harm in displaying them, replying to an email saying, "Yeah, here's the testimonial. Paul Green: And if you can leave on the name and leave on the company name. Obviously blank out any contact details, anything like that. That works really, really well. I have lots of Google reviews. We have about 30 positive Google reviews because I ask my clients for them. They don't just happen. I solicit them and the vast majority of five star and thank you to my clients for doing that. And we screenshot those Google reviews and I put them across all of my websites and I always attribute where they've come from. So I'll put a little link back to my Google reviews section and say from Google reviews, but they look amazing. Because it's clearly a Google review and everyone knows you can't edit a Google review. You have a right to reply, but you can't edit it. So that almost makes that more powerful than even a testimonial. Tom Fisher: Great. Paul Green: So those are the basic ingredients of your website and now you really talked about your homepage there, the other page you definitely want to have is your About us page. Because people typically, the vast majority of your traffic is on your homepage and/or your about us page. They want to know about you. It just goes to prove that people buy from people. So your about us page, you can do a version of the homepage, but you can go a little bit more into your story. And I would tell the story that you told us at the beginning. Literally, you worked in IT for 20 years. You love IT. You jump out of bed every day, but then back in whenever, it was 2016, you had an entrepreneurial seizure and you realised you wanted to start your own business. Paul Green: And you could talk about how you talked it over with your family and it was a big risk but you wanted to do it. You could talk about how you won your first client in 90 days. You can have a photo of your spare bedroom where you started the business, and then you could have a photo of the office today now. Photos of offices don't make people buy, but it shows the journey. And you could say, "Today, we've got a team based at our office in so-and-so building. And again, I know that's slightly untruthful, but it's showing that the business is progressing and the business is changing. Because people do like a bit of nostalgia. Paul Green: You could even put a photo of yourself as an 18 year old on your ZX81 or whatever it was you had back then. If you can find something just to show that you are a tech guy through and through. Because even though they don't understand technology, they still want to hire an expert and nothing beats the IT guy who's been in IT since he was 18 or 21 or whatever age. That can go really well with it. There's lots and lots and lots of details to get right but those are the basic building blocks. Focus on people. Make sure there's a photo of you, social proof in the form of testimonials and a very clear call to action. And whatever the state of your website right now, that will just make such a difference. Paul Green: So when you do start driving traffic to the website, people aren't going to be put off because the website it's the shop window. And we've all seen shops that fail and often you can tell which shops are going to fail in the street couple of years before they actually fail because the window starts to get dirty, doesn't it? And the sign doesn't get painted. You see generally in businesses where the owner has stopped taking care of the business. And it's indicative of a business that's going to fail. And your website is exactly the same. So if you're not happy with it, and this applies to everyone listening to this podcast. If you're not happy with it, you've got to fix the website. Paul Green: It is literally the most basic marketing tool you have. And if it's cr*p and unengaging, then you are driving potential clients away. The second thing to do is your LinkedIn. The basics on LinkedIn, you can use the same photo on the website. You might be able to get away with pasting, essentially the homepage story into LinkedIn. I can't remember off the top of my head what limitation there is, or you could do a truncated version of it. A shortened down version of it, but on LinkedIn again, and this should be your own personal profile. We don't do business profiles on LinkedIn. We do personal profiles because if you look at LinkedIn's feed, you see updates from people, advert. People, people, advert, people, business update. People, people, people, advert. Paul Green: So LinkedIn, which is essentially, they've copied the algorithms of Facebook, or they've attempted to. Again, Microsoft modus operandi is look at the market leader and copy the market leader, which is actually a pretty good business model if you think of it. So they've copied how they think Facebook works and LinkedIn works in a very similar way to Facebook algorithmically. I'm sure they're completely different algorithms, but essentially with LinkedIn, just like Facebook, it's all about getting in the feed. And the way to get in the feed is to do updates and things from people. So you want to work on your own personal profile and just make yourself warm and friendly because ultimately LinkedIn is a great tool to reach people. Okay. That's one of the basics as well. There's some basic tools that you need. Do you have a CRM at the moment, a customer relationship manager? Tom Fisher: Not really. We're getting onboarded with ConnectWise right now. Paul Green: Okay. So ConnectWise obviously, as is a PSA and you wouldn't use ConnectWise or Autotask or any of the other PSAs as your CRM. The difference between the two is something like MailChimp, for example, mailchimp.com or mailerlite.com. Those are the kinds of CRMs that are perfect for you. And in fact, both of those they're free up to a certain level. There's certainly more than enough to get you going for what we're about to talk about. But yeah, completely different to your PSA. So you use ConnectWise to essentially service and look after your existing clients. The CRM is purely for prospects. It's a completely separate tool. Can you use APIs to get them to talk to each other? Yes. Would you? No. That's a faffing job and I've worked with MSPs that have done that. There's very little benefit. Tom Fisher: That was my question. Yeah, it was if it was even worth. Paul Green: Well, if you were winning five new clients a week, you could automate moving data from MailChimp into ConnectWise, but you'll win one client a month and that's all you need. You don't need more than one client a month. So I would just go get MailChimp. In fact, just go straight to MailChimp. It's a great bit of kit. It really is. And it's not going to cost you anything for some time. The reason you have a CRM is to store your prospects. Before we start doing marketing, we need a database. Somewhere to keep them. Now you may already have an Excel sheet or something somewhere. Tom Fisher: For direct mail that we do, I've got about 100, 120. Paul Green: Okay. And where is that list stored? Is that just in...? Tom Fisher: It's in Excel. Paul Green: In Excel. Okay. So you can import that Excel into a MailChimp. The main reason to do that is what we want to do Tom is we're going to use that direct mail that you used to use and adapt it and update it and all of those kinds of things. But also if we can, we're going to start emailing people. And the reason to use MailChimp is just to keep track of... Well, it's an easy way to send them emails, but you can keep track of what they've opened, what they've clicked on. It also makes it easy for you to add people into that list. So I would go get MailChimp, import that Excel in there. Do you have email addresses with those 100 people? Tom Fisher: I have a lot of email addresses and I guess that was one of my concerns was, "I've been direct mailing these people and there's no real laws against at least in the states direct mailing people without their permission. I've been a little nervous to hit a lot of these people up via email because I don't have prior... Paul Green: Permission. So what I'm about to say will make... In the EU and in the UK, there's a law called GDPR, General Data Protection Racket or something like that. And I know in Canada, you actually get shot. You literally get shot by the special data police if you email someone without their written permission signed in blood. I'm only half kidding. It's quite a law there but in the good old US, screw it. Just email them. I'm being flippant, and I know you've got like things like the CAN-SPAM Act and stuff like that. So all of these laws, these data privacy laws are aimed at stopping the scumbags who send out 10 million emails a day, pushing Viagra or whatever the modern Viagra email is. I'm out of date with my spam emails. They're not aimed at stopping a nice normal business owner in a nice town from emailing some people. Paul Green: Let's say you import those 100 people into MailChimp and you send them an email. First of all, only about 20% are going to open. That's the first thing because open rates, anything over 20%, you're doing well these days. It's just the way of email marketing. Email marketing is epic and amazing. It's also just getting harder and harder and harder, but that's not a reason not to do it. Two or three will unsubscribe. One of them will hit the spam button. One of them might even reply to you and say something rude. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter because a lot of that depends on what you put in that first email and the very best content to send out is educational content anyway. If you just email them all the time, buy from me, buy, buy, buy, then of course they're going to get annoyed and they're going to unsubscribe. Paul Green: Whereas if you actually teach them things and educate them about things they didn't know, some of them will appreciate that. So yeah, just bang those in. The other thing, Tom is you will have within your email probably four years worth of other prospects that you haven't done anything with yet. So if you think back to every single conversation you've had with anyone in the last four years, so it could be someone you've met at a BNI meeting or a networking meeting of some kind. It could be that person that rang in once, because they were looking for someone to replace the screen on their iPad. And you don't do that, but you had a little chat to them and it turns out that they own a little print shop somewhere. And you just wrote down some notes. Essentially everything, every single conversation you've ever had, every single one of those, they go in your database too. This is the data equivalent to putting your hands down in the back of the couch and finding dollars, finding coins. Paul Green: This is the data equivalent. Every single MSP that I've recommended this to, especially those that say, "Ooh no, we haven't got anything like that." They're already in the database. They're really not. This is the beauty of having something like MailChimp. Is it forces you to centralise all. New Speaker: of your data in one place. And just go and grab people. I mean, there's only going to be 20, 30, 40 of them, but again, look even if there were 50, we've just grown your database by 50%. And again, some of them will get angry and some of them will shout and scream and it doesn't matter. You worry about the clients who shout and scream. You don't worry about the prospects who shout and scream. Tom Fisher: So that first email, what would you, I mean... Paul Green: Yeah, it's really good question. The worst thing you could do is say, "Hi, we're going to start sending you emails." In an ideal world, and you're going to have to work up to this because this is that resourcing thing again. In an ideal world, you would have a nice weekly rhythmic marketing system where you and your outsourced people do some stuff every week. So for example, one job every week is to send an email out. Is to create a bit of content for your website, and then to send an email out. The content is educational and we'll talk in a second about how to actually create that because that's actually easy without having to write it yourself. But that very, very first time you send them an email, you just send them out a piece of content. Almost as if you've been emailing them for years. Paul Green: Now, that will feel weird. And you will find yourself trying to type the keys, to type, "Hey, we've started an email newsletter or whatever." I mean, you could put some message on saying, "We talked in the past." I suppose you could do something like that or you could just email them. I mean, you could do a split test. A split test is where you try two different things at the same time. So half the database, you could just send it to them and the other half you could say, "Hey, we had a conversation a few years ago." I honestly don't... And it could be wrong on this because a lot of this isn't about what I think. It's about what people actually do, but I honestly don't think it makes a difference. Paul Green: So I would just send them that email and those that are going to unsubscribe or/and subscribe. In fact, in the first three or four weeks, a number of them will unsubscribe. And then after that, it'll just settle down and it'll be fine. And we're not talking thousands here. So MailChimp shouldn't shut you down if you do get someone subscriptions, they hate spammers. If you get like 10% unsubscribe or hit the spam button, you've got a problem and they're going to shut you down, which isn't the end of the world, because you can still get your data out. But they're not going to do that. You're not going to get 10% sending out an educational email. So let's talk about the rhythm then. So every week, if we were to look at jobs to do, and again, you've got to work up to this number one job is to create a piece of content for the website. Paul Green: So you need to blog on your website. You need to add content onto it because Google, which obviously controls how much search traffic is g
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