Outsourced Or In-House, MSPs Can’t ‘Abdicate’ Their Marketing Strategies

‘A lot of MSPs want to take marketing off their plate. They want to have someone else—in-house or not—do it, but I can assure you that if you do that, you will not be successful,’ says one MSP during a panel discussion at Xchange March 2023.


Whether an MSP chooses to outsource or build an in-house team to handle marketing, neither approach will work if the MSP remains hands-off, according to a panel of executives at CRN parent The Channel Company’s XChange March 2023 event.

A marketing strategy is necessary for MSPs, but figuring out exactly how and where to allocate and invest in marketing resources can be a challenge. Joe Ussia, CEO of Rockville, Md.-based solution provider Infinite IT Solutions, admitted that while marketing wasn’t in his wheelhouse he knew it had to be done and he “tried it all.”

“I tried hiring a marketing department, we tried campaigns, we tried hiring telemarketing firms, we tried so many things. Nothing ever returned results,” he said.

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[Related: How A Little Threat Intelligence Can Go A Long Way For MSPs, Says ConnectWise Exec]

That’s until he started working with Ascend Strategy & Design, a provider of marketing, design and sales services. “There were a lot of conversations before we finally signed up, but it’s been like drinking water from a firehose,” Ussia said. “It’s been a great experience.”

Lakeland, Fla.-based MSP Alltek Services, on the other hand, sees the value in strong content creation and was “let down” by its attempts to outsource its marketing. Instead, the company has gone in-house and brought in an account manager and marketing coordinator dedicated to specific projects and campaigns. In the past three years since the company made those changes, revenue has doubled, said Taher Hamid, vice president of business development at Alltek.

“We’re not a big MSP, but we’re going to get to $10 million and we’re going to get there quicker than if we didn’t make some of those massive changes,” Hamid said.

But marketing strategies shouldn’t simply come down to an in-house or outsource decision.

“A lot of MSPs want to take marketing off their plate. They want to have someone else—in-house or not—do it, but I can assure you that if you do that, you will not be successful,” Hamid said.

MSPs can’t “abdicate” the responsibility of marketing to an outsourced company or even to an internal marketer, said Anne Shenton, CEO of Ascend Strategy & Design. “The thing that I think the three of us agree on is that at the end of the day, you’re a business leader and you need to step up as the leader,” she said.

MSPs have their hands full handling their customers’ IT needs, Shenton said. “Think about it. You are giving them peace of mind, you are preventing them from having downtime, from succumbing to phishing attacks. The business owners that you work with need to understand how important it is what you’re doing for them.”

Holyoke, Mass.-based Advanced Systems Integrators doesn’t outsource its marketing or have an in-house marketing team. Instead, the company has relied on customer referrals—of which there have been many—over the last 35 years that Andrew Bialock, owner and managing partner of Advanced Systems Integrators, has been in the IT business.

But the company is currently standing up a managed security practice so now is the time to “formalize” its marketing strategy, Bialock said.

“I want to dive into more marketing because I want to move quick with managed security,” he said. “The marketing effort to do that isn’t there and you can’t wait on [managed security] because people need it now.”

Outsourced IT teams, or MSPs, shouldn’t be thought of as completely separate entities from their customers, and the same idea applies to marketing, Shenton said.

“You don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do we,” she said.